Janet Fishman, J.D. is the president & CEO of HOPE Organizers, Inc. and is a member of the California.com Recommended Business Program, which highlights only the best businesses in the Golden State. To be featured, each business must be highly regarded, have a unique California story, and make a positive impact in their community.
How does one not see their clutter? There are piles all around the house, but they walk right past, oblivious to the mess. This happens because we tend to visually tune out things we see everyday.
How do you end up with a cluttered house?
The physiology behind this is called adaptation. Our brains cancel out the constants in our lives, so we adjust to what is there and don’t notice things we see all the time. So, if we put a post-it note on the bathroom mirror to remind us of something, the first day it does its job. But if the paper stays there, it becomes a constant, and we begin to ignore it. This same phenomenon happens with clutter. You become desensitized to the environmental conditions of a cluttered home.
Another common example is going to a conference and gathering a tote bag full of brochures, handouts, and promotional items that were very relevant to you during the event. You come home with great intentions to follow-up on these materials, but set the tote bag down next to your desk instead of filtering through them right away. After a few weeks, you don’t notice the bag anymore.
At this point—when you haven’t taken the materials out and the bag stays on the floor for months—it’s become clutter. It’s shockingly easy for clutter to form and once a house or office gets filled up with stuff, it’s impossible to declutter because the person doesn’t even see the cluttered items anymore.
How do you know whether or not you have reached this point of adaptation to clutter?
One way to figure out if you have clutter is to ask a friend to come over and give their opinion about your home or office. Another way is to tune into your physical and mental reactions to your environment. If you start feeling anxious, stressed, overwhelmed, hopeless, helpless, or embarrassed to have family, friends, or clients over but don’t have a medical reason for this reaction, you should start organizing and s—even if you don’t visually see the mess.
Another way to determine if you have clutter is to take inventory of your house. Grab a notepad or clipboard and walk around each room. Write down or draw each space and note:
- If you have bags or boxes on the floor
- Where items are stacked high on a countertop
- Whether chairs and sofas are blocked with heaps of clothing or unopened deliveries
- If boxes are mounted high on top of each other
- If you are unable to sit and eat at a dining table
- And any other obstructions that get in the way of daily life
You definitely want to be mindful of adaptation and whether or not you need to organize your home or office. When many people visit a service professional at their office and notice clutter—where their desk is piled high with files and papers—they don’t hire them out of concern that the business would lose their papers or get them mixed up with another client.
While the professional didn’t see the clutter, the potential client did. Those first impressions—regardless of the intelligence or competence of the person—are very impactful. Don’t lose clients—get organized instead.
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