He complained to me the other day that he couldn’t find his shin guards because he had put them away like I had asked and couldn’t remember where to. He never had trouble finding them when they lived on the floor at the foot of his bed.
I see his point. I know exactly what is on my desk, even though it looks like a bit of a mess. In my defense, it serves as space for multiple purposes: my work, household bills, homework, knitting projects, a small library.
Today I am working in my husband’s office while he is away for the day. His desk is bare, aside from his keyboard and trackpad, a couple of framed photos and little bowl of office supplies (earbuds, eraser, etc.) He also has an attractive paperweight holding down no papers and a teapot shaped tea bag holder, empty, of course. He’s not quite so fastidious in the rest of his life, but his work space is always uncluttered and tidy.
I can’t help but notice how productive I’ve been this morning. It’s like the lack of clutter in the space, helps create a similar ambiance in my brain. My mind is not cluttered with thoughts, jumping from one thing to the next. I can sit and focus on the task in front of me without getting distracted by random bits of paper that catch my eye.
“Oh, right, I need to pay the propane bill.”
“Oh, look, someone forgot their homework this morning.”
“I haven’t gotten very far on that knitting project; I wonder if I have the gauge right.”
All of that in sixty seconds or less. No wonder an hour can go by before I feel like I have something to show for it.
Like my son, I want to justify my messy desk with, “I know exactly where everything is. The propane bill - here you go. Your homework - yup, I’ve seen it.” And no, no one is asking about the knitting project. My desk may not look organized, but my brain is.
The problem is that I now have all this mind-clutter, mentally keeping track of the precise whereabouts of each unorganized item. A few years ago, I learned how to use a calendar so that I wasn’t keeping track of all my appointments in my head. Once I was able to put down the calendar in my mind, it freed up quite a bit of space in there. I suspect the same would happen if I organized my desk and work area.
I am already anticipating the soothing feeling of a clean and tidy work space. Maybe I can convince my thirteen year old to try it, too.
Where are you noticing clutter in your life? What would un-cluttered look like?
Jessica Curtis is a professional coach who helps people cultivate intention and live from a place of meaning and authenticity. If you think you could benefit from working with Jessica or want to invite her to work with your group, reach out to start a conversation.