How Does Clutter Impact On Your Productivity?

I’m not a neat-freak, but I don’t work well when there’s a lot of clutter around me. Like Thursday, I can only tolerate a messy house up to a point – then I find it hard to work at all until I’ve cleared up the place.

Clutter and mess has an impact on your productivity. You’ve probably noticed this yourself: when your desk is piled high and you’ve got books haphazardly stacked on the floor, it’s hard to focus on your work.

I’m going to come onto some of the psychological effects of clutter (and of tidying up!) in a moment, but first there’s a pretty obvious issue to address…

Clutter Means Losing Things

Have you ever spent an hour frantically searching for your passport? Or for that vital hotel receipt for expenses, or those meeting notes that you really need to refer to? Or even your keys or wallet?

It’s incredibly disruptive, and stressful, to find that you’ve lost something important. Even if you know it has to be somewhere in the house, there might be stacks of papers that you need to go through, or heaps of clutter.

Of course, even when you keep your house reasonably tidy, it’s possible to lose things – but it’s going to happen much less often.

Clutter Makes it Hard to Spread Out

When my desk is cluttered – which, sadly, isn’t all that unusual – I find it harder to work effectively. I can’t easily have a notebook open, for instance, or make space to mind-map on a sheet of paper. Granted, most of my work takes place on a computer monitor – but there are times when I need elbow-room too.

If you’re engaged in any sort of creative pursuit at home, you may well need significant amounts of space. If you’ve got to tidy the kitchen table before you can get your craft kit out, then it’s a fair bet that you’re not spending as much time on crafting as you’d like.

Clutter Drags Down Your Mood

My study hasn’t been very tidy for weeks. It got into a bit of a state over the holiday period, followed by a hectic January, and yesterday, I could barely open the door and get to the chair. I had books on the floor, heaps of folders all over the place, bits of paper, old post-it notes, books, CDs…

Often, I blame stress for clutter. I’m stressed and busy, so of course it’s untidy – I don’t have time to clear up. But actually, I think that some of the blame goes the other way – clutter causes more stress. Now that my study is considerably tidier, I feel calmer, more in control of my work.

I expect it’s the same for you – having an untidy house makes you feel a bit stressed out. Just seeing the clutter everywhere seems to sap your energy.

So … De-Cluttering Feels Really Good

When I’m busy, I tell myself that tidying up isn’t very productive. After all, surely it’s more important than I write an article and get paid? The thing is, though, spending fifteen minutes clearing up can make a huge difference to my mood.

Lots of other people feel the same way. Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project) introduces her 10 Tips to Beat Clutter…in Less Than 5 Minutes with:

I’ve found that getting control of clutter gives me a disproportionate boost in happiness, and other people seem to feel the same way.

If some area of your home is bugging you every time you look at it, spend just ten minutes today sorting it out – and see what a difference it makes to your mood and productivity.

(Image from Flickr user pvera)


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