RULE 4: HANDLE SOME THINGS ONCE
This rule is necessary because of the excuse “for now.” For example, “I will put this jacket here for now,” or “I will put this stack of papers here for now.” This phrase should be forbidden to a known clutterer.
Once you say “for now,” you are admitting that you are going to handle whatever it is more than once. That seemingly innocuous decision increases clutter and at least doubles your work load. What you’re really doing when you utter those forbidden words is putting off making a decision about it right then and there. Don’t be lazy. That decision won’t go away just because you put it off, and it won’t be any easier to make later on. So make your decisions about things right then and there.
Here’s one way to apply this rule: When mail arrives, don’t just idly sort through it looking for something interesting. Instead, stand next to a recycling bin or trash can as you sort. Toss the appropriate pieces then and there. It’s a very liberating thing to do. Put bills in the “Bills” file of your cabinet (we’ll address the cabinet in a later chapter.) Put interesting catalogs or ads with the newspaper and look at them after you read the paper. Then file them as needed or recycle them with the newspaper.
We met a woman who stood at the trash can as her kids brought home paperwork from school. She looked at each paper, made the appropriate comments directly to her kids, and tossed it into the trash. If the paper was special in some way and merited saving, she had a place for it in her file cabinet.
My mother’s repair drawer was a great example of the length to which the “for now” philosophy could be carried. Putting something in that drawer was exactly the same as throwing it away, because nothing ever emerged from it. We just kept more and bigger repair drawers to hold all the stuff.
When the opportunity arises, or whenever you feel the words “for now” starting to form on your lips, remind yourself to handle the item once. Don’t leave it in some temporary holding area instead of where it ultimately belongs.