In the age of the KonMari method and minimalist lifestyles, best-selling author Gretchen Rubin asks these three important questions when it comes to decluttering:
1. Do you need it?
2. Do you use it?
3. Do you love it?
As the mind behind books such as Better Than Before and Outer Order, Inner Calm, Rubin is an expert at finding ways to achieve a more productive and happier life. She talked about outer order in her interview with us, and explained how it affects the different aspects of our lives.
One thing Rubin mentioned that was really striking was that decluttering gives an illusion of productivity. Whether clearing up a mess directly impacts how efficient we are doesn’t really matter much, because she says it’s a ‘helpful illusion’. Yes, having a clear workspace or an organized desktop is not the end goal of working in an office, but it often acts as a vehicle to fulfilling one’s deliverables.
For instance, there’s a study focusing on 80 participants conducted in Spain that looked at the effect of a messy environment on the quality of work. The participants were tasked to input data into a system and the researchers found that more errors were committed when the workspace was cluttered compared to when it was neat.
The first thing that people often realize about physical—or even digital—clutter is that it is very noticeable. It takes up space and sometimes even takes you on a full sensory experience. If there’s a stench emanating from it, perhaps, or when your phone or laptop ping repeatedly. In short, clutter is distracting. Things like this divert your attention away from more important tasks. Time gets divided into those two categories when you should just be focusing on the matters at hand.
That becomes challenging since clutter is hard to ignore so you develop stress and anxiety. Quartz even shed light on email-induced stress, that is, when stress levels intensify as inboxes get flooded by work emails. Many working professionals experience getting 50 or more emails a day, some of which are spam, and that can get demanding.
Employers cannot dictate how a person should fix their desk or sort their files. However, they can normalize the practice of not printing unnecessary amounts of documents or refraining from sending emails after a certain hour. It’s not just for personal reasons, as it makes smart business sense as well. Maryville University details that accomplishing business objectives is heavily reliant on how employees behave. Clutter becomes a serious matter when it deeply affects a person’s overall wellbeing, which then affects their quality of work.
To help with that, try to ask Rubin’s three questions when decluttering. They’re more direct than Marie Kondo’s “Does it spark joy?” You only really need those three questions to bring more order into your life and change it significantly. The secret is not to go down the OCD route, but to be deliberate about the things you keep and the things you discard. At the end of the day, you might just be organizing things that you don’t need to put into neat piles, but you still have the same amount of unnecessary junk.
Rubin also believes that decluttering is also very subjective as well as its effect on people. Steve Jobs liked a little bit of mess on his desk because he believed that it sparked creativity. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as a person can confidently say that the amount of clutter is not diminishing their productivity or happiness. Bringing outer order is ultimately a process of contemplation. Purging unnecessary things from your working environment allows you to focus on the important things and people who matter.
Article contributed by: Amanda Conley
Exclusively for The Science of Success