Boost Productivity by Simplifying Spaces

Boost Productivity by Simplifying Spaces

Many years ago I had a revelation. My daughter was in her early school years, and our house was littered with toys.

My daughter received a “Littlest Pet Shop” item for her birthday. She had many toys, but it had been a long time since I had seen her so fascinated with a single toy and playing for hours. As we freed the toy from its packaging, involving wire cutters for the twist ties and the scissors for the invisible elastic bands, my partner asked if this belonged to the set of dollhouse toys we had purchased for her over the past few years. While it didn’t, I wondered why she had stopped playing with the doll houses. We had purchased so much of the set. Then the thought came crashing through…

She didn’t play with the dollhouses because there were too many.

Along those lines, I also realized she has avoided working at her little desk in our office. I didn’t blame her. Even with my back to it, I could feel the piles of clutter and garbage lurking there, interlaced with broken crayons, dried up markers and bits of toys that belonged elsewhere.

At the time I was reading 30 Days to a Simpler Life*, and taken to heart the first day a simple task: gather up a shopping bag of stuff and get it out of your house. My trunk was filled multiple times for the trip to the thrift store. So I began to wonder if this would help my daughter, too.

We went and purchased two binders and three pencil boxes. One afternoon, I went through her entire desk area. I threw out a bag of trash, and recycled as much more. The blank paper I punched and put in a binder. The other binder held completed art. Then I sorted through all the stickers, pencils and crayons, putting them into boxes, which I labeled.

I’ll admit, I was worried. How would she take this cleaning out? I threw away a lot of stuff.

I need not have worried. She sat in the office with me for over an hour, happily coloring and using her art supplies.

After dinner we weeded out her doll houses. I put more than half of them in the closet, and left her with the ones of her choosing. She spent an hour after dinner playing with what was left – the first time in months she had touched any of them.

That made me think back about a year before, where I was sitting in the same office space, feeling the weight of unread books staring at my back. I had dozens of them, to get to “when I had time”. (HAH!) I felt blocked off and mentally constipated. One Saturday, I started pitching books. I must have made four trips to the library auxiliary shop to donate. I felt so light with the permission I was giving myself not to “get to” those books! I got rid of the shelves, painted the walls bright purple and green, cleared off my desk, and WOW! Words started flowing faster than they had in years.

I’ve had similar experiences over the years. Most recently, I cleaned out my writing studio. While I did some deep purging on the bookshelf and desk, I found that most beneficial was clearing off the horizontal surfaces. A basket set on top of a cabinet was taken out, and suddenly I felt less pressured. (Not sure why…the only thing that was in there was old notebooks). After making the space less cluttered, I am more productive while I am writing.

Simplifying and cleaning a space can make it much easier to use. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, when I tackle cleaning my music out. I am stuck, and I need the nudge. Perhaps getting rid of music I “should” learn to play and keeping the stuff I love will help me get back into it. We’ll see.