1. a crowded or confused mass or collection;
2. interfering echoes visible on a radar screen caused by reflection from objects other than the target.
A minimalist’s living room.
Someone mentions “clutter.” Close your eyes. What do you see? If you’re like most, the image closely reflects Webster’s first definition. Clutter equals junk. It’s stuff that’s all mixed up. Although valid, this illustration is not complete, as it depicts only what clutter is without considering what it does. It portrays clutter as passive, without consequence. Yet clutter does have repercussions. It impacts your life. As articulated in Webster’s latter definition, it interferes.
Clutter diminishes clarity. It occupies space, both physical and mental. It impedes movement and progress, and detracts from efficiency and
Getting rid of clutter is not about cleaning. It is about increasing focus and decreasing interference. Far from a low-level task best relegated to the night time janitorial crew, it is a process whose return on investment grows exponentially the more potential value you have to contribute.
Benefits of Getting Rid of Clutter
PHYSICAL because you have more free space, and it’s easier to find what you’re looking for.
FINANCIAL because you zero in on targets, accomplishing what’s important in less time. You don’t purchase items you already own but forgot you had or couldn’t find and you allocate fewer dollars to unnecessary storage.
EMOTIONAL because you have more energy and less stress and a reduction in the overwhelming feeling there’s no time to do it all. When you are drowning in clutter, the cost to you and/or your company is great on many levels. Once clear, however, you can more easily access the resources, physical and mental, that you want or need at any given moment.
So What Is and Isn’t Clutter?
The bottom line is that clutter is “things that are not where they are supposed to be.” Making this classification is an individual judgment. After all, sometimes the optimal location for an item is the garbage can (or recycling bin.) But who’s to say what belongs in the garbage? As the saying goes … one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
The key is to remember that it’s only clutter if it interferes, and it only interferes if it’s not where it’s supposed to be. Think of it in these terms:
Clutter Is Unrelated Things Mixed Together
It’s certainly not realistic to expect that you will never have papers out on your desk. After all, you have work to do. But clutter is not one project all spread out; it’s when you get unrelated projects mixed together – or various thoughts muddled together. Think how hard it is to move forward when you feel your brain is jumbled.
Clutter Is Things You Neither Need Nor Want
Remember the 80/20 rule: Eighty percent of the value comes from 20 percent of any group. Think about your closet: You wear 20 percent of your clothes 80 percent of the time. Eighty percent of your income comes from 20 percent of your clients. It is even estimated that 80 percent of the papers you file, you never need look at again. There is more information and opportunity available to you or thrust upon you than ever before. That doesn’t mean that you have to keep a copy of all of it.
Clutter Is Things Left Out Because They’re Unfinished
How many times have you said to yourself, “I’ll put it here for now because I’m not finished with it?” As soon as these words leave your lips, you’re challenging your brain to remember this temporary location. Even if you can remember it, why use your creative energy in this way? You have more important things to do. Another oft-recited phrase is “I’m leaving it out to remind me to do something.” Leaving things out doesn’t alert you to what needs to be done. Instead, it distracts you from what you’re doing at the moment.
Clutter Is Things You Haven’t Made a Decision About Yet
Often, clutter results because you’ve postponed making decisions. Like cars being driven down the road, if they all get to the intersection and no one decides which direction to turn, they’re going to pile up. Does that mean that when you first set out on a journey, you know all of the turns you’re going to make? No. It’s just saying that each time you have the opportunity to make a decision, make it.
Where is your clutter? It may be anything from notes stuck to your computer monitor to the extra, ummm, you know, words you inject into conversations to the thoughts and worries buzzing about in your head. It may be in your memos, on your desk, in your computer or in the manner in which you structure your day. Whatever the area, uncluttering it positions you to soar.