T.A.M.E. The Clutter Critter

Why does it always seem that the minute you delete a document or throw a piece of paperwork in the trash, THAT’S when you need it? And all those documents you save for years on end, you never need again in your entire career. Maybe it’s just Murphy’s law at work once again. I knew a co-worker who diligently saved a hard copy of every email he received for THREE years! His filing system was impressive in both its organization and its size, but it was a lot of work that was entirely unnecessary, wasted a load of paper, and caused him to replace his printer toner weekly. With current computer systems, you could now have hard copies, digital copies, scanned copies, backup copies and backups of your backups of your backups. So now, instead of simplifying our lives, we’ve made them even more complicated, full of clutter, and a source of stress.

Reducing clutter should be high on everyone’s priority list.

Try using the T.A.M.E. method to get a handle on both your electronic and hard copy clutter:

Trash what you don’t need. Get rid of the duplicates of the duplicates. And quickly delete those e-mails or attachments from your mother or your best friend that you “just have to forward.” Yeah, they’re funny, cute, and heartwarming, but they are cluttering up your life and your inbox!

Act quickly with all communications. That is, decide to DO something with it right away. Now. Delete it, throw it away, reply to it, or file it. If it can be done is less than two minutes, DO IT. You can use the Getting Things Done method and create files such as

  • A projects file
  • Project supported material
  • Calendar of actions and information
  • A “next actions” file
  • A “waiting for” file
  • Reference material
  • A “maybe someday” file

By taking action, even if it’s to decide to defer a task, at least you’ve made an attempt to keep your clutter under control.

Make the time to keep organized. The old saying goes, “Dig your well before you’re thirsty.” Before you get overwhelmed with clutter and paperwork, take the time to create those folders I just listed. It will make life so much easier if you file your documents and you’re easily able to find them later. Make sure you label your folders with an accurate name so that when you attempt to retrieve the information, your labels make sense to you and to others who may need to access your files.

Effective and effortless response. Which is the easiest (and most effective) way to respond to this communication? It could be email, letter, phone, delegation through another person, or eyeball to eyeball? Since most paperwork requires some sort of a response, always use the easiest or most effective way for YOU to respond.

We can click one setting and then trust our computers to save every single document (which is unnecessary), but it’s just as easy to become paranoid and make hard copies of everything, like my co-worker. Yes, it’s important to back up your computer files, but you don’t need a hard copy of every e-mail you’ve ever received. Nor do you need to save every letter you receive or send. To get a better grip on your paperwork, use good judgment, common sense, and the suggestions provided through the T.A.M.E. method.

This was a guest post from Ron Haynes who writes daily at The Wisdom Journal on issues such as wise choices, personal finance, business, and life in general. If you like this article, go ahead and subscribe to his site via RSS or email. It’s FREE!


  1. Thanks for reminding me that I was going to clean the kitchen counter tonight so I could ready the walls for the new tile job!!!

    Actually, my thought was – ok…mine’s not THAT bad! 🙂

    The folder tho that is going to kill any thought of conquering that clutter is the “maybe someday” file…. I need a steamer truck for that pile!

    Summary for me: Trash it. Act Fast. Be prepared to Organize. Most Effortless response. Good plan! Thanks!