Clutter and Visibility

Lorie Marrero, author of The Clutter Diet (and host of The Clutter Diet blog) is a long time friend of 168 Hours (see her guest post from last fall here). I subscribe to her newsletter. Last week, she raised an interesting point which I’ve been thinking about, but hadn’t quite put my finger on:

“One of the main goals of any organizing project is visibility. If you can’t see it, you probably don’t know you have it, and if you don’t know you have it, you are not going to use it.”

After years of living in a Manhattan apartment, my family moved to a house in the ‘burbs about a month ago. One of the major tenets of organization (as I understood it) was that you probably don’t need more space, you need less stuff and better organization of the space you have. But, as we have expanded from having roughly 300-400 square feet per person to… more than that, we’ve discovered some interesting things:

  • The kids are playing with far more of their toys. In their shared bedroom, there wasn’t room for more than one kind of toy to be out at a time, or for toys you weren’t actively playing with to be visible. So things got buried on the bottom of the toy basket. Now, they’re building fantastic Lego constructions, putting on puppet shows, etc. And they don’t have to put everything away because people have to use the living room. Basements rock.
  • They’re reading more of their books. Because we can see them.
  • I have a better sense of what clothes I have. I still own too many I don’t like, but some outfits have started suggesting themselves to me.
  • We’re not losing food in the freezer. Stuff is still going bad, but that’s more because we bought too much of it at Costco, not because no one can remember what exists hidden under the popsicles.

Visibility has definitely made us feel more organized. The question is, could we have ever been that organized in a much smaller space? I’m not sure. Perhaps we could have been if we were more diligent about putting things away, letting things have multiple uses, etc. But that takes a lot of time and energy, which is sometimes in short supply in a household with lots of other things going on. So, at least for now, I feel like more space has solved some of our organizational challenges.

What do you think? Do you have enough space to be organized?

4 thoughts on “Clutter and Visibility

  1. I completely agree that sufficient space is essential for a “normal” life (one in which you save hand-me-downs for the kid two years younger rather than buying new for the next child because you “haven’t used it in 6 months)

    My husband struggles with this at work at a Fortune 100 tech company. They downsized employees from 8×10 ft to 6×8 ft cubes. My husband uses electrical equipment to build things so this has really hurt his ability to get things done expeditiously. The worst part is that the local economy is so bad, a majority of their buildings are empty from previous layoffs- the cubicle downsizing is part of a national corporate initiative. Ah, the stupidities of corporate America…

  2. More space does help. My kids play with more of their toys in the basement than the living room too. Who wants to build a giant block building, only to be told it has to come down immediately if you want to play with something else? I have always been anti-toy box b/c you can never see what’s at the bottom.

    I do more sewing, and crafts b/c I have a room for the supplies. I sewed very little when I had to drag the machine out of the alcove every time. I have a closet for my yarn and it’s so easy to put a project together when I can see what I have, but having it sorted also helps. It would be of no use to have a giant jumble of colors, thicknesses etc.

    Recently one of my cabinet doors needed repairing, so I removed it. I love the easy access and may consider more open shelving when we redo it someday.

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