Boxes - Rachel Whiteread EMBANKMENT at London's Tate Modern (courtesy Antony J Shepherd at Flickr CC)Whether it’s piles of clutter in your house, hundreds of unread emails, stacks of paper, folders of photos to edit or WHATEVER….

….the techniques for getting them under control are very similar to classic military counterinsurgency strategies of Clear – Hold – Build (some would add Sustain) plus a little inkblot spreading.

Find one part of the pile, no matter how small, and clear it.

Put practices in place to keep it sorted and clear (hold.)

Spread and grow the little “inkblots of order” until they connect, and you’ll have a tidy part of the desk or section of the room.

Build habits and create techniques that bring tidiness and order into your routine, and sustain them.

Move onto the next messy pile/room/email account and clear – hold – build – sustain.  It’s even a tactic for downtown development.

To make it work, you need systems to sort incoming stuff, you must set aside administrative time to do the clearing and then have the self-discipline to hold onto your newfound orderliness.

One of my favorite references for organizational strategies is Julie Morgenstern – her blog features a recent post by a military woman in Iraq dealing with time management.

It takes planning to make even simple things go smoothly (or as I found while in the Navy, it also helps to marry a fabulous guy who shares the load.)

How do you attack clutter in your life, both digital and physical?

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