Tag Archives: clutter

Understanding clutter

A couple of posts ago, the topic was clutter and I said more was coming in the next post.  Then NEW YORK magazine did its issue on belt tightening, and I had to share that.  Back to clutter.

Until a little more than ten years ago, my work was in and around professional and financial services.  Helping to execute to brand messages, often helping to create them.

Then I decided to come out west to Silicon Valley.  Which meant a whole new layer of important clutter.  Namely, periodicals and books and newspapers.  I’ve always felt most comfortable walking into a project having done some secondary research and when possible, having had some conversations with people in the field.

Now that I’m in essentially two different fields, the amount of research I must do has exploded.  Since I’ve always been a structure nut, my world has imploded with the expanded reach afforded by the Internet.  While I’ve become expert at printing only when necessary and stuff is not piling up on my desk anymore — there is work material on different websites and in my laptop, scattered in every program.  I now read the newspapers online and live for my RSS feeds, delivered through my growing Netvibes account.  [They’re in beta — I hope I’m not taxing the servers.]

So when I came across the Unclutterer website and found this post on how to retain more of what I read, I jumped on it.  The post has some useful tips.

But I think the biggest change has come through my work with foldier, a startup in which I’m currently the only purely business-tasked person.  Everyone else is a technologist or computer scientist.  Besides liking it that way, foldier has introduced me to what I believe will be THE way for me to de-clutter my work life.

We’re in private beta, but I can tell you this:  foldier is going to be nirvana for three types of people.  [If you’re like me, you have a bit of each type in you.]  And I can say this because I didn’t invent it.

First, foldier makes it possible for me to collect my content from wherever it is on the Web or on my hard drive — simply by tagging it.  This means no more files, no more remembering where I put stuff, no more making multiple copies for multiple files.  I don’t even need a filing system.  If I’m looking for something on data portability, for example, I just search my foldier account under that phrase.  Everything I have on the topic pops up.

Second, foldier makes it possible for me to search my content under any word or phrase — whether or not I tagged it as such.  The technology is intelligent — it does its own tagging in addition to mine.  This means I might be able to find new subject matter in content I already have.

Third, foldier gives me a new way to share information with clients and friends.  Until foldier, the only way I could share important articles or news releases with clients was to send them the link in an email.  When we are in full public beta, I’ll be able to share any kind of file — video, blog post, newspaper, etc — comment on it and hear comments back.  And, foldier automatically adds it to my virtual filing system.  All in a few steps.

There is more — and it’s not just about aggregating, organizing and sharing.  However, that would be enough for me.  Because there is nothing like having command of all the information you think is essential to your work.  Except for maybe cleaning out a closet.

Defining clutter

The Unclutterer blog is a useful resource for ways to make life simpler.  It had a post today about a new book that clarifies the relationship between consumption, clutter and health, specifically the issue of weight.

This got me thinking.  Besides the obvious question of what the voracious consumer must do with all the clutter that results from purchases, I’ve come up with my own theory as to why we’ve been so materialistic since the new century began.

You won’t find any blame getting laid strictly at one doorstep here.  Not even Osama bin Laden’s.  Although it’s abundantly clear to me that his actions were the straw that broke the camel’s back.

If we are in fact going to see a change in the way brands must interact with people [see previous post], I think it’s got to do more than address the impact of the Internet.  That heartbreaking day in 2001 triggered a quintessentially American response to pain:  go on with your routine and do the bad guys one better.  Go out and buy or eat something. 

We Americans see some sort of life affirmation in the act of a purchase or a bite of food — moreso than any other culture.  So when the unimaginable happened, instead of letting ourselves feel the depth of the pain — and make the requisite sacrifices consciously — we began to bury ourselves in stuff.  We heightened our pursuit of pedigree, whether that meant clubs, college educations, pre-schools, neighborhoods or physical attributes.  Anything to distract us from the reality that this most blessed nation was despised enough that a deranged gang would try to bring us down — just because we cannot be controlled.

I’m sure the psychology and psychiatry professionals could provide a list of the resulting afflictions.  However, most of us could probably just stand in front of a mirror, look ourselves in the eye and ask if we are really happy or at our personal best when we compare ourselves with the neighbors or eat twelve cookies instead of two.  Twenty minutes after dinner.

More in the next post, especially about how a work project is shedding light on what constitutes clutter.