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Do you leave things out as reminders? If it’s out-of-sight, is it out-of-mind?

by respaced on October 26, 2011

Can't clean off your desk, because those are all reminders of things you need to do? Image courtesy of Olles Vensson @ Flickr.

Do you leave papers out on your counter as reminders of things you need to do? Are there various items laying around, because you need them to remind you of some task that has to get done? For some people, it’s the pile of baby clothes on the floor of the closet that shouldn’t get put back into the drawers, because the clothes are too small and need to be donated. For other people, it’s the electronic toy or gadget that is gathering dust on the counter, because it needs a new battery or repair. I leave a container of Clorox wipes in my husband’s bathroom to remind him to wipe up the grime occasionally. I’m sure he appreciates that to no end …

These are all visual reminders. For some of us, it’s the only way we would ever get anything done! And yet, if we leave too many visual reminders sitting out, we tend to stop “seeing” them. Their original purpose fades into the background over time. Our houses gets messy, but we can’t put anything away because that stuff symbolizes all the tasks we need to do. It’s a miserable cycle to find yourself in.

Here are some ways to break that cycle:

1. Go ahead and clean out that space. As you come across items that are a reminder of some task you need to do, write down what that task is on a piece of paper. Let the list be your memory guide instead of the object itself! Get a large bin or designate a spot in your house to put the object. This is now your “Items that need attention” spot. If necessary to jog your memory, write down on your list that you put the item in that spot.

2. After you finish writing down the tasks associated with each object, take 20 minutes to organize your list. You could categorize tasks by Errands to Run, Tasks to Do and People to Contact. Or by how long the task will take (eg. Less than 5 minute tasks, 30 minute tasks, and Several hours-long tasks.)

3. Post your list someplace conspicuous, like your refrigerator. Or ditch the paper list and write your tasks on a white board or chalk board that hangs on the wall. Boards have the bonus advantage of being less easily ignored than a piece of paper.

4. For items that are supposed to remind you of an upcoming date, appointment or deadline, write those down on a calendar. Don’t have a calendar? I strongly encourage you to get one, either paper or digital.

5. Some tasks are routine tasks, such as taking outgrown clothes to the consignment shop or Goodwill. Set up a donation spot in your house, so you can pile up those items there. Or consider putting a bin in each family member’s closet for unwanted clothing. Be sure to empty those bins when the pile gets to be large enough. Add that task to your list!

6. Set up a mail system to get those piles of paper off your counter. Get an incline file sorter and six folders. Label each folder with the tasks your mail typically needs. For most people, that’s To Be Paid, To Be Reviewed, To Be Contacted, To Be Filed, To Return, and Calendar. Sort your mail into one of the folders (recycle that junk mail!) as soon as you can. Pop any mail related to an upcoming date, appointment or event in the Calendar folder.

Writing your tasks down and setting up a few simple organizing systems for appointments, donations and mail will help you clear the clutter and reclaim your precious living space. Trust your list and your systems to do the remembering for you, and you will find yourself with a more organized home.

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