Clearing the Clutter

Have you ever walked into a store that looks like it was hit by a tornado? Things on the ground, overflowing heaps on shelves and tables of things that don’t really seem to go together? Do you ever find yourself wondering, “Is anybody running this store?”Speaking more relative to our daily work lives —have you ever seen someone’s desk that is just so piled with stuff you wonder how they find space to work? (Maybe that “someone” is you, and you struggle to squeeze your laptop in, or you have to clear a little patch of desk to move your mouse.) We’re all busy, and sometimes busyness makes room for clutter to accumulate on your desk and in your showroom.

What is clutter, exactly?  

The short answer is too much “stuff.” And that doesn’t just mean objects like papers and post-it notes. It can also be too many notifications on your smart phone, too many emails in your inbox, or too many files on your computer’s desktop. In your place of business, clutter can be in your workspace and your displays. “Clutter” means anything that distracts us, causes us anxiety, and weighs us down. By splitting our attention up among a bunch of objects, problems, and pieces of information, clutter fights for brain space and distracts us from the task at hand. And clutter doesn’t just take YOU away from important design projects—clutter has negative impacts on your business, too.

Clutter and your client

Think about it this way—your clients are renovating their homes because they dream that new cabinetry, new layouts, and new storage solutions will make their lives easier, more organized, and more peaceful. Looking back at What’s in your drawers, Houzz noted that consumers in the kitchen remodel phase of their lives are telling us that “clutter drives them mad!”

Now let’s take a look at your showroom and try to grade the following questions on a 1 to 5 scale:

  • What does the atmosphere feel like?
    Is the temperature comfortable? Do you have the music and all the lights on? Are there any unpleasant odors?
  • Is it clean and orderly?
    Are the surfaces dust and clutter free?
  • How does the lighting make you feel?
    Are all the light bulbs working? Is there a flickering fluorescent?
  • Are displays up-to-date, well-kept, and beautiful?

Think about the “vibe” in high-end retail establishments—clean, well-lit, intentionally laid out spaces mirror the value and quality of their products. Messy, dirty, and outdated stores, even stores with good products to sell, make customers doubt the value and quality of their products.

Imagine you’re in a store looking at a pair of shoes. If the price tag says $300, you’d expect them to be shown in a tasteful, elegant display and sold to you in a clean, crisp box. (“They’re a little pricey, but they must be really well made!”) You’re way more likely to believe those shoes are worth $300 if they’re presented well than if you find them at the bottom of a pile of mismatched shoes or in a crumpled box on the bottom of a sale rack.

Cabinetry is a huge monetary investment, even for wealthy clients. Customers are far more likely to make an expensive purchase when they are subconsciously reminded that it’s worth every penny.

That’s why it’s important to take a client’s-eye-view of your desk, too, especially if it’s in the showroom or if you meet with clients at your desk. Files, post-it notes, loose pages, lunch leftovers, random samples and other stuff scattered across your desk might make clients wonder if their cabinetry order will be as jumbled and disorganized as that desk.

Getting on top of clutter

That doesn’t mean we all have to become total neat freaks and keep our desks completely bare. Everyone works differently and in the middle of a project, sometimes we need to have a lot of items and notes close at hand. But think about taking some baby steps to make your space a little less distracting:

  • Get a file cabinet and use it—you probably already have some sort of system for important papers, just transfer it to folders in a drawer!
  • Do a short desk tidy-up at the end of the day—scroll through Pinterest for tidy desk inspiration!
    • One of my favorite finds was something I saw in a luxe brand showroom in Milan was a wood breakfast tray. It held wood, tile, hardware and counter samples. This could be used for each of your projects and stacked to keep your desk tidy. It’s also conveniently portable and always looks good!
Target hand made wood tray 16 x 12 x 2
I found this hand made wood tray at Target for $6.99!
  • Get rid of stuff in your showroom that’s old, damaged, or unnecessary—if it looks bad, it won’t sell anyway.

Taking care of clutter isn’t a one-day fix. It’s creating smart habits and little routines to make your life less stressful in the long run. Keep your eyes peeled for future posts about eliminating clutter, and share your own tips and tricks below in the comments!


  1. Kellie Hancock

    Love love love! The minimalist style of living is gaining so much momentum and I am 100% here for that! Keep it visually simple so your space does not stress you out! Great article! …also an excuse to buy more trays…I love trays!

  2. Anjie Lasecki

    I’ve been using a website called Unroll.Me for over 3 years now – it completely organizes your emails by “rolling up” all the emails you wish to see, unsubscribing you from the ones you don’t want, and keeping emails you deem important in your inbox. The rolled-up emails appear in ONE email you receive in the morning, along with a notification somewhat along the lines of “you’ve received 7 new emails, would you like to roll-up or unsubscribe?”.

    Very handy with cleaning out my emails!

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