Clear that clutter at work and at home

To increase your productivity, create an environment encouraging clarity and focus. Photo: uncredited

WASHINGTON, April 7, 2013 – One dictionary defines clutter as “A confused or disordered state or collection; a jumble; to fill or cover with scattered or disordered things that impede movement or reduce effectiveness.” Clutter in your work or home environment can prevent you from being as productive and effective as you or your boss might like. Clutter can feel like chaos in your mind and stop you from having the clarity and focus you need to successfully navigate through the day.  

Most of us think of clutter as piles of paper or that infamous junk drawer in the kitchen. Clutter can also take a non-physical form such as the thoughts we have swirling in our heads that make us feel scattered, or emails sitting unanswered in our in-box. No matter what form clutter takes though, one thing is certain: there is a direct correlation between clutter and decreased productivity. 

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At work, the time we spend searching for misplaced items, estimated by at least one source to be 4.3 hours per week, can add up to big dollars by the end of the year. In a cluttered environment, employees will find it difficult to keep track of things. In addition, the stress that is related to clutter and the frustration we feel because of it can even lead to the use of sick leave as one way of relieving the tension. 

In a survey by the National Association of Professional Organizers, ninety-one percent of those surveyed said they would be more effective and efficient if their workspace were better organized. 

When I am coaching a client, one of the first questions I ask is, Do you have clutter in your life? Nine out of ten times the answer is yes. I’ll ask them, What do you see when you open your office door or the door to your home? Most people actually endure clutter in one form or another, and for some, answering this question can reveal a hidden problem that they’ve never actually addressed. 

My next question is, What are you holding on to? This is a great place to delve deeper and peel back the layers of the metaphorical “onion” if you want to find out why there may be clutter that’s reached the point where it’s impeding a client’s progress. Getting to the answer will hopefully shed light on issues that are at the center of this problem, and help to halt the spiraling process of clutter before it becomes a critical issue. 

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Common answers to why people hold onto things: they are holding onto memories, waiting for something to come back into style, or they simply don’t have enough time to de-clutter. 

What memories are you holding onto? Understand that you will always have those memories with you, in your heart and your head. Clearing the clutter doesn’t mean you are discarding precious or important memories. Don’t let this distinction confuse you. 

Next, get rid of those bellbottoms! Trust me, they’re not coming back because the retail industry is smart enough to design items in such a way as to keep you buying new things. Think about donating unused or rarely used clothes and other items, or simply bring them to a consignment shop. 

Finally, not enough time? How are your time management skills? An environment free of clutter will allow you to devote your productive time to more important matters. 

To avoid being deluged with clutter, treat your de-cluttering process like you would a medical appointment. Schedule it in your calendar. If it’s too overwhelming to do at once, divide the task down into smaller segments. Chunk it down to what’s manageable and schedule times on your calendar when you’ll deal with each category of clutter. The end result is worth it. You will have more clarity, focus and become more effective. The end result: your productivity will increase! 

Whatever you do, clear the clutter so there is space enough (physically or in your mind) to allow what you do want to come into your life. It doesn’t really matter whether your clutter is paper, old clothes, dated catalogs, or negative thoughts. De-cluttering will give you a sense of freedom and a lighter, less burdensome feeling. It’s positively liberating. And who wouldn’t want that? 

Let me know about your de-cluttering experience. Drop me an email or leave a comment below. Tell me what worked and what did not. I look forward to hearing from you!


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Susan Samakow

Susan Commander Samakow, PCC, is a Certified Business, Life and Leadership Coach. Susan focuses on life and career transition, business and leadership, and confidence and resilience strategies. Susan is also a speaker and facilitator, as well as a Community Content Producer for WUSA 9 TV. She is the former president of the ICF Metro DC Chapter, the largest in North America. Susan’s clients are individuals, any size business and the government. Visit Susan’s website: Susan is on Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In.


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