As freelancers, our office is the “command central” for our work. Yet often this space ends up accumulating just as much personal clutter as business clutter.
When I say clutter, I mean all the “stuff” that doesn't have a permanent home. It is the result of postponed decisions - you’re not quite sure what to do with it, so it sits out in the open, taking up space it shouldn’t.
It can be difficult enough to declutter items you don’t want, like broken pens, business cards you meant to follow up on, or branded giveaways from conferences you never intend to use. The hardest things to declutter, however, are the items you have strong emotional attachments to.
I’m sure you have some of these around your home or office. Drawings made by your children on the back of restaurant menus. A handwritten thank-you note for the volunteer work you did years ago. A small souvenir from a family trip.
The thought of getting rid of these treasures seems heartless, but at the same time, they’re taking up all your office space and making it difficult to get work done. How can you handle this sentimental clutter?
When you’re trying to balance your work and life, organizing your office may seem like something you can put off. After all, it’s not paid client work and it doesn’t have a direct impact on your professional development.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. As freelancers, we constantly juggle multiple projects and clients, not to mention handling all the other tasks essential for our freelance business, like accounting and marketing.
An unorganized workspace slows down all of these tasks. It may not seem like much, but the extra 10-15 minutes you take to shuffle through papers on your desk to find something really starts to add up. In fact, the average person spends 4.3 hours searching for paper every week. You could definitely put that time to better use.
Office clutter can also be distracting. Clutter overwhelms your senses in a manner similar to multitasking. Not only will you lose time switching between focusing on the clutter and your work, but you’ll also find it more difficult to problem-solve creatively.
Taking time to organize your physical workspace is a challenge, but it could have profound impacts on your stress level and overall productivity. Unfortunately, the process of clearing out sentimental clutter comes with so much guilt and hesitation that there it can seem easier to let the items pile up.
Here’s a thought that has helped me overcome the guilt surrounding decluttering sentimental items.
Rather than focusing on the objects themselves, focus on the intent behind each item. You were given the item in a moment of joy. If you’re building up an impassable wall of clutter in your office, you are not maintaining that joy. In fact, you are slowly but surely letting feelings of stress and overwhelm overtake the joy.
It is better to remove sentimental clutter from your workspace rather than continuously experience stress when you see it. Your loved ones (who genuinely care about your happiness) would rather you let these items go at a natural point than feel stressed about your workspace.
Decluttering kid-related memorabilia doesn’t mean I don’t love my kids. I love them very much, but I also need a clean workspace so that I can produce my best work. By working efficiently to the best of my abilities, I can free up more time to spend with them. Ultimately, clearing my space will allow me to focus more on the people that matter to me and less on a pile of stuff in my office.
It’s perfectly natural to feel guilty when letting go of items with emotional significance. However, you cannot let that guilt get in the way of your emotional well-being. Decluttering is a small act of self-care that will benefit you, your loved ones, and your business.
Decluttering was among the topics we covered in my intensive June Time Crunch challenge group this summer (see sample videos on YouTube). Did you miss out on this challenge group? Be sure to subscribe to my newsletter in the box at the bottom of this page for information about upcoming free challenges, Q&A sessions, and other resources.