Clutter Archaeology - A study of modern mess and organization
Like archaeologists digging through layers of earth and rock, many of us have been excavating spaces in our home or office we’ve long forgotten about. These “dig sites” might include our closet, garage, desk (“Where did I put those files?”), break room or even pantries (“When did I buy sun-dried tomatoes?”).
Normally spring cleaning is a welcomed way to rid ourselves of bulk and rationalize new purchases. When you spend a lot of time at home, it can almost turn into an Olympic sport. The drive to liquidate unused square footage and make what we have work for us can be liberating and maddening at the same time. Nowhere is this more evident than with exercise equipment:
You started off going to the spare bedroom every morning to lift weights, go through a yoga flow, or log 45 minutes on the rowing machine that folds up in the corner. You were doing great! Then life happens: that big project’s timeline shrinks, your kids’ sports season starts, or a new hobby usurps the novelty and thrill of a morning workout. You pile boxes and clothes and other pet projects on or in front of them until their use is no longer part of your daily routine. Then the itch to tidy up hits you and in an afternoon you reorganize your garage and do the laundry and clear out your inbox. The next morning you are both mentally and physically free to resume your morning exercise with gusto. That's the reason we keep these totems, because we don’t want to give up on our goals, on our future, on the vision of our better selves, and with a little organization we can get back on track.
You may have bought that bench and free weights to workout, but now the most use they get is acting as a flat surface to fold laundry on. As you’re going through things to sell on Facebook marketplace or set out on the curb, you’re looking at these obelisks and asking yourself, “Why did I buy this?” The quick answers pop up and flash by - “It was on sale”, “my friend said they really liked theirs”, “It had good reviews on Amazon”, leaving you with the true motives behind your purchase - “I want to be healthy”, “I want to feel young”, “I want to feel like I can do anything.”
What do you do with all of those half-finished projects, old clothes, books, and seasonal tools that block you from getting to your exercise equipment? Boxes are a classic solution, but offer little help with finding what you need.
Organization should do two things: keep clutter at bay and make it easy to find what you need when you need it.
A clear plastic tub is a step up from the opaque cardboard box in that it keeps your space clean AND lets you see what’s inside without digging for hours.
This cycle of an object’s usefulness being tied to the space it resides in, then on a Saturday afternoon being liberated and made convenient once again is absolutely not limited to workout equipment. Grab your phone and count how many apps you have downloaded or how many links you have saved as bookmarks over time. A study last year found that the average user has around 80 apps downloaded on their mobile device, but only used 9 of those apps on a daily basis. Now repeat this exercise on your laptop, iPad, your work laptop … you get the picture.
- Maybe you switched to a different team software because it’s a better fit for your team members and will yield better communication overall?
- Maybe you signed up for a Squarespace site to promote your side hustle, but keeping the website fresh becomes its own side hustle?
- Maybe your company is growing and feels the need to use a CRM to make customer experiences better and more consistent, but you quickly lose sight of your goals switching between web apps?
- Maybe you’ve got a free two months of Skillshare to learn motion graphics and logo design, but after a few classes haven’t touched it in weeks?
These scenarios all highlight the digital clutter that takes up space and hinders mobility and our own resolve.
If you are doing some spring cleaning right now, keep in mind that you don’t have to get rid of anything. Whether it’s dumbbells in your garage, obscure spices in your cupboard, or a service you signed up for to learn a new skill - keep those things you are passionate about and find a way to make them work for you. Find some tools that work for you whether that’s big clear tubs to easily see what’s inside on a solution like desktop.com that wrangles all your SaaS, files, and web apps and presents you the features you need when you need it.
Organization frees up space you didn’t even know you had and can make the tools buried beneath useful once again.