Should you have an ‘Enter at your own risk’ sign

In a remote corner of our house, I have a comfortable office with a desk and lots of storage space.
One wall is covered with awards from my 25 years in health care communications. Attached to the office is a little deck surrounded by tall evergreen trees.
It should be the perfect place for me to work.
After retirement, I used that office for a few years, but I didn’t like it. It was too remote and too private.
Instead, I took over the dinette end of the kitchen. With lots of cupboard space and furniture handcrafted by my son, it’s a wonderful setting.
What I especially like about my new office is that people come in and out many times a day. That suits my style better than being sequestered in an isolated place.
But there is a serious down side—my office is cluttered with file folders, loose papers, books, and other assorted “stuff.” No matter how much I try, my desk and office area are the only spots in our house that are never tidy.
And all of our guests are privy to my mess!
Recently, I’ve been reading Linda Cobb’s book, “The Queen of Clean Conquers Clutter.”
In her chapter titled, “Enter at Your Own Risk,” she asks a few questions: Is your entry hall filled with day-to-day clutter? Do you sometimes feel that your front door should have a sign posted that says Enter at Your Own Risk?
I can smugly say not true at my house! The entry is impeccable and our living room is welcoming. The only clutter is today’s paper on the dining room table, which usually is graced with fresh flowers.
But when it comes to my office, you really have to Enter at Your Own Risk.
In my jam-packed office, you’ll find a 1975 dictionary and a 1976 World Book encyclopedia—even though I haven’t referenced them for years. There’s also several pairs of shoes, a box of dog cookies, stacks of books, four or five things on their way to another room, and empty coffee cups.
“When you have a home office, it seems to be a clutter magnet,” Cobb says.
I’m not sure, but I think most people have one space in their house that is a “clutter magnet.”
Cobb begins her book with Twenty Questions that are designed to help you de-clutter your “magnet.” Questions like the following: Do you have trouble letting go of objects that have long outlived their use?
Do you organize and reorganize, but always end up with the same amount of stuff? Are there papers on your desk that you haven’t looked through for more than a month?
Or does your car sit outside because you need your garage for storage?
And a word to my men readers–Cobb has more advice than just cleaning up the garage. Take a look in your back pocket. She says men actually can develop back and hip problems from sitting on a bulging, cluttered wallet!
When de-cluttering, start small, says Cobb, and appreciate every little tidy space you have created.
With a little practice, clutter control can become second nature to you. And your family and guests can enjoy your organized and clutter-free palace.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at or visit

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