Have you ever heard someone use the phrase, organized chaos?
That is how I used to refer to the clutter on my desk. But, really, if I am honest, it was disorganized chaos and it drove me crazy.
I didn’t realize clutter was the cause of so much stress, anxiety and frustration, which naturally resulted in sapping my creativity and all too often caused writer’s block.
A great ride
On Saturday I went for a relaxing drive, and it felt absolutely fantastic.
My car seemed to drive better, smoother and dare I say it even smelled better (it did)!
I enjoyed being out on the road, sailing the streets and listening to rock and roll music.
Even better, as I drove, my mind filled with ideas to write about. Ideas I could grab, hold on to and use. My creativity was flowing right along with the speed of my car down the highway.
It’s the same car I have had for 5 years, but something was different.
For some unknown reason I woke up one day last week with an unrelenting urge to clean it inside and out, top to bottom. So I went and did what I’ve always avoided.
No, I didn’t have the Cleaning Madness fever! (Well, maybe a little.)
Have you experienced cleaning your car and then feel like you’re driving a newer, better one?
It’s this difference that I want to talk about today.
Clutter creates stress, anxiety and distraction
A couple years ago I got tired of all the clutter on my writing desk, and as with my car, I got the urge and cleaned like never before – and I do mean, NEVER before!
I had been considering doing the job for a while and had already purchased, and read, a book on organizing.
The book ended up in one of my disorganized piles and became part of the clutter it was supposed to help with, but when I did get the burning desire to finally clean up, the information the book contained proved very useful.
One of the suggestions in the book was to take before pictures.
Then, when the job was done, to take after pictures.
These pictures play a very important psychological role.
My before photo reminds me of what it was like when I wrote less, when I was more prone to writer’s block, and when I would just sit at my desk staring at the mess. I was doing anything but writing.
My after photo reminds me of the effort it took to clean up and to keep it this way. It is such a contrasting image next to the before photo.
Those photos are now posted on my board above my desk where I can see them whenever I sit down to write.
The difference between a clutter free environment and one that is a total mess can only be described as miraculous. Ultimately, it feels better.
I am far less stressed, anxious and distracted when sitting here.
I am free from clutter at last!
It is this freedom that allows me to not only have more creative ideas, but also to be more effective with my creativity.
In other words, I get stuff that matters, done.
The distraction, anxiety and general stress that a mess creates is far too overlooked in my opinion. It’s too demanding to think clearly, much less put to use any thoughts or ideas when surrounded by chaos.
Out of clutter, find simplicity.
~Albert Einstein (Tweet This Quote)
Why in the world did I not realize this sooner?
All too often I hear creative people saying they have thousands of ideas floating around in their heads, but can’t seem to capture and use them.
I believe part of the problem is our surroundings; at least it was for me.
My ideas used to be like the clutter of piles, I knew something I needed was somewhere in one of those piles, but where?
With my writing area clean and organized I can find things quickly and use them right away.
It was like parting the red sea.
Who wants to clean up that mess?
I know if I keep my desk clear of clutter I will be more creatively inclined and write without distraction.
If I am not writing a blog post, I might be writing a free eBook, or perhaps writing a longer book to sell, or maybe writing a sweet love letter to my wife (she likes those).
Regardless of what I am writing, at least I am writing! (Tweet This)
And I know that’s what you want to do, too.
Clean up when you get up
As creatives it is normal for us to get so involved in what we are doing that we do not realize how much clutter we are collecting around us while we work.
Stacks of papers, books, pens, pencils, cups, dishes, good luck charms, Jelly Beans, tissues (hey, I write some sad stuff sometimes), crystal balls (as writers we gotta have those), and all sorts of odds and ends.
Living clutter free takes initiative. A daily cleanup after working is an absolute must. (Tweet This)
It’s too easy to let it go one day, then two, and then fifty, and so on.
I’ve found that it is necessary for me to routinely clean up whenever I get up.
You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.
~Edwin Louis Cole (Tweet This Quote)
Home office organizing books
It’s one thing to clean up the mess and it’s another to get organized and throw away what you really don’t need.
And trust me, there’s always plenty of what you don’t need.
If you can afford it, hire a professional to visit your home and show you what to do. These folks do this for a living for a reason – it’s not easy, especially the first time.
However, not everyone can afford to hire someone. Fortunately there are some great books which will guide you in your effort to become clutter free and organized, and stay that way.
- Organizing from the Inside Out, Second Edition: The Foolproof System For Organizing Your Home, Your Office and Your Life
- Organizing Do-It-Yourself For Dummies
- Neat and Simple Guide to Organizing Your Home Office
- The Fast and Furious 5 Step Organizing Solution: No-Fuss Clutter Control from a Top Professional Organizer
- Simpler Living: A Back to Basics Guide to Cleaning, Furnishing, Storing, Decluttering, Streamlining, Organizing, and More
- Fresh Start: 31 Days to Simplify, Declutter and Rein in the Chaos
I am a fan of the Organizing Do-It-Yourself for Dummies book.
Once you do get the chaos defeated (and I know you will), spend a few moments every day simply taking in and enjoying your clean and organized work area. This will help remind you why you keep it that way.
So, what about you, how does clutter affect your writing and creativity? Share in the comments.