Friday, January 05, 2007

My war on clutter

My Mom and I are annoyed. We read the article in the New York Times, "Saying Yes to Mess," and we think it's just a rationalization for laziness.

Now, clean your room!

Here's my comment on the article posted on Lifehacker.

Would a ballet dancer perform on a stage littered with dirty costumes and unused set pieces? Would a pianist leave music strewn over the keyboard? A messy desk contains stuff in the wrong space. Storage goes in storage -- only the active project belongs in the workspace.

To those who assert that an empty desk is a sign of an empty mind I reply, my desk isn't empty! It contains only active projects because I can work on a few things at a time. My interpretation of GTD is that semi-active projects, those being worked on today but not right now, go in easily accessible storage, not on the desk.

Closet a mess? Well, that's all right. I put "clean the closet" on the project list and forget it for now. Work space a mess? I clean it up. If that means "Throw everything in the closet," so be it. I can't work in clutter.

As for general neatness, I think "active" clutter is OK -- if it's on its way to the right place, it's not a mess. On the other hand, piles of stuff gathering dust are yucky. Eventually, you want to use the space where the piles live. If you live in a 3000 square foot suburban starter mansion, maybe you can just use a different room. If, like me, you live with a family in a 1200 square foot flat, you need to optimize the way space is used.

And then what happens when you want to have people over? Moving twenty piles to set up a guest bed is a big headache. It's easier to set up for guests when everything is already stowed.

Finally, there's the matter of beauty. I want to live and work in a place that's elegant, that's nice to look at. If I look around the room and see clutter, it causes stress, just like an uncaptured project does. Neatness is the physical analogue to the informational organization of GTD.

- johnmarkos, 12/30/06, 12:27 PM

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