What does clutter look like to you?

Clutter takes on different forms in various environments. Typically, anything that is not needed, not being used or no longer loved can be considered clutter, and ideally should be donated, recycled or tossed.

What items have been accumulating in your home? Piles of paper? Excess clothing? Craft supplies not being used? Overload of books? Toys? Kitchen gadgets?

Did you know that Americans represent 5 percent of the world’s population, but generate 30 percent of the world’s garbage. More than 240 TONS OF GARBAGE were thrown away last year in this country - that’s more than 5 pounds of trash per person, per day - but only about 72 million tons were recycled. Americans throw away enough garbage every day to fill 63,000 garbage trucks, which if lined up end to end for an entire year would stretch half-way to the moon.

Why do we have so much garbage? Because we have too much stuff, plain and simple. We are suffering the consequences of a consumer driven nation. We can’t have enough. We can’t get enough. And yet, we have too much. We are drowning in clutter.

About 35 percent of our country’s garbage is made up of paper. In a computer-generated society that was supposed to be ‘paperless’ by this day and age, we generate more paper clutter than most other countries. Why? We are busier than ever before.

We have access to so much information at our fingertips with no time to read, so we press ‘print’ on our beloved computers and throw the pages onto the endless piles accruing on our desktops. As if we are trying to convince ourselves that ‘when we find the time, we will read it later.’ But, who are we kidding? When do we actually find that extra time? And if we do find some, the last thing on our mind is to deal with a mountain of clutter.

So, what is clutter really costing us?

Clutter costs us TIME and because time can never be replaced, it is so priceless. Americans waste more than 9 million hours just looking for lost and misplaced things. The Average business executive wastes more than 150 hours per year looking for lost and misplaced documents - that’s about four weeks-worth of company time. It’s like spending more time looking for the project folder than actually working on the project itself.

Clutter costs us ENERGY which makes our jobs harder. Getting rid of excess clutter could eliminate 40 percent of housework. And remember, 80 percent of most clutter in homes is a result of disorganization not lack of space.

Clutter costs us FINANCIALLY because we not only pay for the original purchase price, but also storage & maintenance. How many times have you purchased an ingredient for a recipe only to eventually find you had one or even two of them in back of the pantry shelf? Sometimes we pay finance charges and late fees because we couldn’t find a bill lost in the shuffle of household paper clutter.

Clutter costs of PEACE OF MIND. When we walk into a cluttered home or office, it overwhelms us. It’s a burden that suppresses our efficiency, focus and creativity.

But most of all, Clutter causes STRESS, and we all know the harmful effects that stress has on our well being.

So, the next time you can’t decide whether to keep or toss something, ask yourself:

Have I use this item in the past year?

Is it serving a specific purpose for me or my family?

Do I still love it?

Is there a legal reason for keeping it?

Do I have a place to store it where I’ll find it again?

If you can’t find a yes answer, you need to part with it. Stop the clutter. Stop adding to the stuff already in your home and eventually you’ll be doing your part in helping with a global environmental burden by cutting down on garbage, period. Something to think about.

Lisa Lelas is a bestseller author & speaker on productivity and book writing coach. www.LisaLelas.com

Connecticut Media Group