We see how clutter affects our lives — it quickly builds up, creates chaos, and makes things seem overwhelming. But what about in our creative work?
We work hard to clear away the random items that simply seem to appear out of nowhere, blocking our way to the most necessary and practical places in our homes. It’s an everyday battle.
Clutter isn’t just the junk we see piling up on our desks and coffee tables — it is an equal enemy of any creative or risk-taking endeavor.
Before we begin a difficult project, start working on a new piece of art, or begin a new client relationship, we have to clear the clutter — in our minds. Here’s why:
1. Clutter keeps you distracted.
Mental clutter is the ultimate resistance. When everything around you is a mess, you can’t see clearly where to begin. Everything is crying out for your attention, and they all seem equally important. Embarking on a project takes a multitude of small and bold steps, but if you can’t find the right path, you won’t know which step to take.
2. Clutter creates unnecessary stress.
Ever look around a room, and actually feel anxiety over the amount of chaos you see? This is what happens in our minds as well. When we have too much happening at once, we aren’t able to process the information, and we instinctively respond with stress. And stress doesn’t help produce quality work- it does the exact opposite.
3. Clutter throws off your priorities.
We’ve all heard that “good” is the enemy of “great”. In this case, anything that is throwing you off your creative game is your enemy. Focus is so important, and when everything is screaming “Urgent!” you have no space to focus on what’s important. You may end up spend hours working on something that will produce little results.
4. Clutter makes you avoid the real work.
Sometimes, we end up making friends with our clutter. It becomes a part of us — a way to avoid what we really need to be doing. We make a habit of going over it, putting it in neat little piles, and thinking about it constantly. If you have fallen into this trap, you have to ask yourself, what are you afraid of? Clutter is not your friend- it’s keeping you from what matters.
5. Clutter attracts dust and cobwebs.
Just as it does in our homes, too much stuff piled up is just begging for dust and cobwebs to settle. We end up letting creative sparks die and ceasing to think about what is possible. We simply manage the day-to-day buildup, and this is not what we were meant for. We have to break through the thick layer of dust and remember the excitement, the passion, and the joy we get from creating.
How do you clear the clutter?
1. Take an inventory.
What mental clutter have you allowed to build up? Don’t just skirt this process- make a detailed list. What thoughts, issues, or problems just won’t clear up on their own? Where do you feel stuck? Once you write it down and name it, you will see it has less power than you thought.
2. Decide what to trash, give away, and keep.
Think of this step as cleaning out your mental closet. What thoughts, issues or problems are simply a result of negative thinking and need to be trashed immediately? Go ahead and throw them out. Remember, sometimes this can be tricky — there are things we want to hold on to. Maybe they have some nostalgic value, or they feel like a defining part of us. But they are not. They have to go.
3. Organize the keep pile.
Now that you have purged your trash and delegated the rest, you know what you need to keep. These are things that should be your top focus — important projects, client relationships, and creative impulses you need to listen to. Before you dive in, take a moment to organize these and make sense of them. Is there anything that involves a deadline or client expectation? Knock those out first. Consider the remaining items in terms of what brings you the most joy and fulfillment.
4. Delegate and keep things that matter.
There is someone out there who can handle those things that are eating up your time and mental energy. Give them away as soon as you can — and only keep things you really need. Your list should be much shorter by now. You should be left with those things only you can work through.
5. Take a deep breath and enjoy your new space.
Congratulations! You have cleared the mental clutter. Stop for a moment and take it all in. Revel in the quiet and cleanliness of your mental space. And enjoy the renewed focus and excitement you have for what truly matters. Go forth and create.