How to solve any problem with just one core philosophy

August 3, 2020

I'm sometimes asked why I write so much B2B (business to business) content, since I'm best known as an organizer—some say, “The Most Organized Man in America.”

Well, first, Andrew Mellen, Inc. does a lot more than declutter closets. 

We've helped many businesses over the course of 20+ years solve all kinds of problems, from how to organize their files—because yes, we do get our clients organized—to how to streamline their entire operational process.

The core philosophy I’m talking about informs everything I do in my personal and professional life. It is the guiding principle that drives why and how I do what I do and the solutions that I recommend to my clients—and has saved countless hours of wasted time and energy.  

Today, I want to share this philosophy with you. 

And that way, you, too can be more efficient at solving problems, more consistent in how you do things, super clear about why, when and how you do things, and find the simplest, most direct route to any solution … to name just a few benefits.

If you don't have a clear set of underlying principles to inform everything you do, it will cost you. That cost might come in the form of absenteeism, redundancies in personnel or process, or missed opportunities and deadlines.

In the end, these obstacles are all just clutter. And as I say all the time, clutter isn't the problem. You are.

So here's a peek behind the curtain at the core philosophy I use for every decision I make, in my business AND my personal life. It’s the same one I use to lead my clients to lasting success.


As you adapt to the “new normal,” which at this point isn’t NEW and is anything but NORMAL, it's more important than ever to have a skill set that allows you to meet any change or challenge, at any time—no matter what life or business throws your way.  

So what does that skill set look like?

I like to think of it as a recipe. If you’re baking a cake, you need a few core ingredients with the right balance: eggs, sugar, flour, etc.


For me, the perfect core recipe is the cleanest line—the most direct route—to a solution that is humane, expansive, and comprehensive. By "cleanest line," I mean the one with the fewest obstacles or least clutter—think drag and friction.

That's it. That's the guiding principle that informs everything we do at AMI, and everything I do in my personal life. 

When a problem arises, it doesn't matter if it's related to physical stuff, like how I'll organize my ties, or non-physical clutter, like a process redundancy. I apply the same formula to either problem to arrive at the solution that takes the most direct route from Point A to Point B.

And with everything going on in the world right now, you NEED that strong backbone.

This isn't a simple tactic, like how you should organize your files. It's an underlying, grounding philosophy.

So, next time you’re faced with a problem of any kind, ask yourself: Is my current process the most efficient it can be? Where can I remove obstacles that are creating unnecessary drag?

Then, evaluate any “direct line” you’re vetting against your core guiding principles. Here are mine.


Being humane means taking the kindest, most compassionate course of action whenever possible. 

This does not mean making everybody happy. 

For example, I wrote recently about getting the right butts in the right seats. If someone in your organization isn’t pulling their weight, or isn’t happy in their role and is therefore underperforming, the most humane course of action for all involved is to let them move to a role that they will enjoy, and free you up to look for someone who is a better fit.

It's about doing the best thing for your company while keeping the humanity of your employees top of mind.


The principle of expansiveness is all about your growth mindset. Are you acting to expand your business, or acting out of fear? 

Expansion often involves a level of risk, but if you aren’t taking SOME risks, you’re much less likely to achieve the kind of success you’re striving for. There’s always some process that can be improved, or solution that can be tweaked.

Where could your organization exceed your own—and your clients’—expectations?

Remember that all three of these principles should shape all of your decisions. So, for instance, it’s not enough to say that the sales team should grow and adapt, but the finance and HR teams can stay the same.


Let’s imagine that you’re making a decision about the direction to take your marketing strategy. Does your decision cover all bases and apply consistently throughout your organization? 

Comprehensiveness means not only doing your best to consider all the details in advance, but also making sure that every decision will be applied consistently throughout your organization.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about questions to ask before returning to the office. Asking the right questions, and considering every detail beforehand, is a comprehensive approach to a problem. You’re covering all your bases AND acting with consistency.

Comprehensiveness also means that you don't simply take a growth-minded approach in one branch of your business while the others stagnate.


Let me repeat: this approach is not a tactic to get you organized. 

My goal as a coach isn't to equip you with just another method for tidying your closet or evaluating your employees.

My goal is to give an underlying philosophy you can apply to everything.

Imagine how much easier it will be to make decisions throughout your business if you can run all of them through the same formula to come up with an answer.

Put another way, this is a recipe that will bake any cake. Sure, the flavor might change, but the basic formula won't.

This is something you can apply to your team at work and to your family and home life. It will help you act with intention in all parts of your life.

This is why it does matter how you organize your files—and your company. 

Again, it’s a comprehensive philosophy that applies everywhere. How you do anything is how you do everything. Acting with intention in just one area of your business isn’t enough.

If any elements of my core recipe don’t feel right for you, by all means, tweak it. Replace those elements with something that resonates.

The key is to find your perfect recipe and stick to it.


Once you've decided on the elements of your underlying philosophy, don't mess with it.

This principle won’t work if you apply it unevenly.

Your philosophy should drive everything you do. It really is that simple.

When you apply this philosophy in all your decision-making, you stop reacting to situations and start acting mindfully. There's no sense of panic, because you know exactly how you'll handle any situation that might arise. 

You may not know WHAT you’ll do but you do know HOW you’ll do it.

You're grounded. You're in control of yourself. Which, after all, is the only thing you really CAN control.

From this position, clutter won't and can’t overwhelm you, because what's extraneous becomes obvious.

Foster your skills around awareness and attention. Remember: It's not your clutter, it's you. Where are you letting your personal responsibility slip?

Identify those areas that are rife with obstacles. In your business, obstacles are clutter. Tackle them the same way you would a messy home office.

It might sound overly simple, but make this a practice, and I guarantee you’ll see the benefits in your business and at home.
And if you want support in determining what your guiding principles should look like, that’s part of what we do. Schedule a quick and free strategy call with our Senior Coach, to get started.

Declutter Your Life Podcast by Andrew Mellen. Available on iTunes!