• Cathy Adams

The Clutter You Can't Touch

Piles of papers on a desk. Closets overstuffed with clothes. Boxes piled in a garage. These are the things that come to mind when we think of clutter - lots of stuff that we can see and touch. We watch TV shows like Hoarders and, most recently, on Netflix, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, and watch as the experts help people tackle the mounds of items they have accumulated over the years.

Well, what else is clutter other than an over-accumulation of stuff? I had an experience with a client that made me ponder this question. While I was helping my client sort through papers and unopened packages, he kept the television on, the channel set to a cable news station that I got a sense that he rarely ever turned off. After about an hour, I noticed they kept repeating the same two or three talking points, scrolling the same chyrons at the bottom of the screen, and talking aimlessly just to fill up time. Sometime into hour two of our session, I fantasized about throwing a brick through the screen.

I mean, I do watch television. I never miss an episode of The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones. So why was this getting under my skin? I continued to help my client sort, but it bothered me enough that I made a note in my planner to think about it some more.

I did, and here I am writing this blog. My realization: We are drowning in the clutter of NOISE. The word "noise" is a very broad term and can cover many things. There's noise that we just can't avoid - traffic, machinery, etc. But I'm talking about the noise to which many of us voluntarily subject ourselves. Noise that many of us would be better off without.

As I said before - I do watch TV, but I only tune in for specific shows. It was when I was laid up with an injury and didn't do much except watch TV, that I realized that most of what came out of that screen was people screaming at me, telling me what to do. Call this number! Get better insurance! Have this opinion! Live like this! Worship this celebrity! It was frivolous, loud, overbearing and unnecessary, and it was keeping me from enjoying the good things in my life. Is that not the very definition of clutter?

So, like I would do to any annoying pile of stuff, I got rid of it. I turned the TV off and something amazing happened: I could hear myself think. Even though my movement was limited, I did things. I made plans. I remembered some music that I wanted to listen to and listened to it. I read two books. I called people I'd been meaning to call. And I wrote my first blog post for Cardinal Organizing.

If you're a person who watches a lot of TV, I have a challenge for you. Go at least one week without TV. Think you can't go cold-turkey? Start limiting your exposure. Trust me, you'll be amazed at what you can think and do when the clutter is silenced.

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