The words Clutter and de-clutter weren\’t in my vocabulary six years ago. As with other things in our culture, TV often leads the way in what Americans focus on. The shows, “Mission Organization” and “Clean Sweep” have brought these two words into our living rooms and beyond.

It occurred to me recently that my mind was becoming cluttered. Because I am a Professional Organizer, that bothered me. Even though I have not yet succumbed to the plethora of technology gadgets that are available, I do make use of a few of them. My computer has generated the most mental clutter that I deal with everyday. Just the emails alone for my business connections and friends and family send me into a tailspin when I see the number of messages.

I attend several networking meetings where I capture more information on business cards and get good ideas from the people I meet.

I read business books on organizing and running a business. There is more mental clutter.
When I open my snail mail I have more information to deal with. It makes my brain hurt just thinking about it.

What do you do with all of the mental clutter?

I have discovered a few ways to unload all of this information from my brain. Here are several suggestions:

  • To handle the email messages, I have created several folders in Outlook with names of my webmaster, coach, organizations I belong to, a pending folder, and a Sunday reading folder. These folders are where I store messages that I might need to refer to at a later date. I do not read any personal emails during work time, but save them to read off the business clock. I read the other messages quickly and decide if I need to respond to them or if any action is needed by me. Then I file the messages in the appropriate folders. Of course any spam that gets through the filter is deleted immediately.
  • The Sunday reading folder is a new invention of mine. I receive lots of good business newsletters, but don\’t want to take the business time to read them all. So I put them immediately in the Sunday reading folder. Sundays are my days to relax, read, and socialize with family and friends. I usually read the newsletters on Sunday evening when I am relaxed and not trying to read other messages. It has helped tremendously to get rid of the mental clutter during the week.
  • Another way to get rid of mental clutter is by dedicating a small ringed notebook with dividers for capturing short bits of helpful information. I currently use a notebook and have divided it into four sections. As I think of a piece of information that I want to capture, I write it in the appropriate section. So far my sections include: blogging ideas, tech notes, newsletter ideas, and general notes. The ideas are now out of my head and on paper. My brain feels free again.
  • I highly recommend using a tickler file to capture dated information such as upcoming events, meetings with clients, pending orders, etc. See my article on How to Create a Tickler File on my website for further information.
  • I have seen people use post-it notes on a vision board to get their planning ideas out. You could use them for other information as well, just be careful not to have them scattered all around. That defeats the purpose of clearing out the mental clutter and just makes physical clutter.
  • One final way that I have eliminated mental clutter is by using a good personal planner. I have one from that has a place for my weekly goals, daily to-dos, and appointments all on the same page. I love it. I also include directions and addresses to places that I will be going during the week. It takes me about 15 minutes on Sunday night to fill the planner out for the coming week. Appointments have already been scheduled. I create the to-do list and weekly goals.

I am sure there are other ways to clear out the mental clutter, but these suggestions have helped me tremendously. Check out my article on Time Management in the Office for other ideas regarding capturing information. You can look on under articles.

Barbara Boone is a Professional Organizer specializing in paper management and file systems for small businesses and home offices. She helps professionals and home owners get organized in their offices and will create customized file systems that increase productivity and reduce stress. As a teacher for 25 years with the Baltimore County Public School System, she organized curriculum, student files, lesson plans, and classroom furniture. Barbara is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers, the Maryland Association of Professional Organizers, and the Baltimore chapter of NAPO. She is on the board of the National Association of Women Business Owners and the current Vice-President of the Timonium Friday Morning Chapter of Business Networking International.