Why is it so hard to avoid the mountain of papers and random items that swallows up our desks and kitchens? I have struggled for years to banish the clutter monster that takes over our counter top, seeming to give it a life of its own. How many times have I walked in at the end of a long day to find it impossible to eat on a clear surface? And I am really not a fan of crouching over my plate on my lap like some sort of hoarder.
I find it strange that we are so functional and organized with other people's businesses and "important" papers, but our own bills and late-payment notices that could really make our lives far from blissful if ignored or lost, are buried at the bottom of a mountain of less-important items that are still too important to throw away. They have no "category" that indicates some other place for them to reside, so there they land.
For those of us that don't have an extra room to designate for this nonsense, and for those that do, I have a better solution than moving or sacrificing space to a lost cause. I call it "Command Central." It is so simple it will make your eyes roll, and it takes up less than 3 square feet of any flat surface. We have the perfect little area of less-than-useful counter space in our kitchen that now has a new and very important life.
Here are the five components of "Command Central":
1. A two-tier desk tray for letter size papers and smaller.
2. An organizer that holds sticky notes, scissors, a letter opener, stamps, paper clips, etc.
3. A favorite mug or other container for writing utensils.
4. A small phone charging station.
5. A small picture ledge. (This one is from Ikea– http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/20126065/)
Basically, my system works like this:
The picture ledge mounts to the wall above everything, but still at a convenient level for easy viewing on a walk-by. This is used for bills that need to be paid, or things needing attention in the immediate future or ASAP. The top tier of the letter tray is for things that are pending. They need attention or will be useful soon, but are less urgent or sort of in limbo until another event happens that will bump them to the urgent ledge.
I also find that, since ledges are usually plenty wide enough, staplers or business cards that need keeping can reside on one side without encroaching on the urgent side. (Don't be tempted to overload it with junk, though!) The lower tier of the letter tray is for things that need to be filed. Everything else goes in the "round file." No, that does not mean next to the letter tray in a brand new pile. Resist the urge!
I am not going to say this doesn't require constant monitoring and genuine diligence. It takes about two and a half seconds for our counter top to get swallowed back up by a pile of fresh mail. It just makes it easier to keep it under control if you have a plan and a system to follow. If the vicious cycle starts to take over again, even a once-weekly sort and dump can make it all right again. Just keep in mind this is much better than sorting a month's worth, and far better for your credit rating, trust me!