Celebrating World Productivity Day: How to Cut Out Clutter Across the Board

Increasing productivity has become both a very common and highly coveted goal in our culture. This goes for CEOs, employees, students, teachers, parents, kids - you name it. It’s no wonder we crave this, living in an age with more digital distractions at our fingertips than ever before. That’s tough to overcome on its own - let alone when combined with juggling competing priorities of work, family, school and social lives. Any way you slice it, the average American family is busier than ever.

What many don’t realize, though, is the detrimental supporting role played by clutter in the household. Messy living spaces are a major productivity drain. Research has proven that clutter actually competes for your attention, which affects your ability to focus and process information, increases stress and hinders productivity. The good news? Clutter is something you can easily conquer. In honor of World Productivity Day, we rounded up our favorite tips to help you reduce clutter and really uplevel your productivity, once and for all.

Take stock of the biggest contributors to your clutter monster

If you had to guess, how many items do you think you’ve accumulated in your household? A couple thousand, tops - right? Most likely, not even close. The research argues there are, on average, 300,000 items in the typical American home. A big reason you’re underestimating the number of belongings you have is likely that most of them are rather forgettable. Many of the items in your home aren’t essentials or even things you’ve collected on purpose. Think old clothing, gifts and souvenirs, papers and memorabilia, outdated electronics cases and cords, magazines, etc.).

Start a box for items that can be donated and another for those that should be recycled or thrown away. Try the method of thoughtfully adding, instead of trying to eliminate cold turkey. This sounds counterintuitive, but it works. Rather than carefully considering each item to choose what to throw out or donate, gather up all of the random items in your home and place them in a box out of sight in a non-central room. When you realize you need an item, collect it, use it and return it to the place in your home where it belongs. If it doesn’t have a designated place, it’s crucial to find one and return it there every time you clean up. After a month or two, revisit the excess clutter box - whatever is still in there should probably be added to the donation box or tossed.

Save space and stress by going digital

Bills, sensitive documents, tax and insurance forms, receipts, children’s artwork, homework, school newsletters, sentimental notes, cards, product manuals, pamphlets and photos - what do all of these items have in common? They are essentially just paper. Unfortunately, paper clutter is one of the largest underlying causes of a messy home. Given some of these important files can’t simply be thrown away or recycled, try storing and organizing them digitally.

A digital filing system not only reduces clutter, but it eliminates the chances of losing or misfiling important documents. ScanSnap scanners have awesome built-in features like OCR (optical character recognition) enabling you to add keywords and create searchable files. Scan old photos to save a high-quality version and preserve your memories from wear and tear. Digitize important personal, household and business files and upload them to your preferred cloud-based software. Our scanners have direct-to-cloud compatibility with Google Drive, Evernote, Box and others.

Commit to going clutter-free everywhere

A common mistake many people make is tackling only one category of the clutter slowly taking over their home. In fact, Marie Kondo’s tidying up craze that took over the nation earlier this year addressed this very issue. When you set out to get organized, it’s common to tire out - or feel just accomplished enough - after tackling an obvious category, like your closet. The issue is that all of the other causes of clutter in your home - books, magazines, paper, memorabilia, even toiletries, kitchen and pantry supplies - still exist. Once the initial “high” of decluttering wears off, you’ll realize you have a lot of other stuff still poisoning your potential newfound level of calmness and productivity.

What’s more, staying organized and decluttered is a habit you and your family can (and should) form together. If you only tackle one area, you’re not fully embracing the practice or benefits of living clutter-free. Plus, once your family commits to decluttering, it’s key to go through everything at once to ensure you’re providing yourselves with a clean slate - and a sanctuary. At first, eliminating clutter will take work. Once you get past the initial challenge, though, you’ll soon find it simply becomes a part of your smoother, stress-free and more productive lifestyle.

Any other productivity hacks you swear by? What areas of household clutter do you find to be the toughest to tackle?