My Clutter is Different

On the long weekends, Mark and I make a concerted effort to clean up the house. That means I have to address all my little piles: go through them, recycle what I can, throw out what can’t be recycled, file others, figure out what to do with the rest. While Mark was helping me bring some of my paper and books downstairs, he nudged me about finishing the living room. “I know you don’t like clutter,” he said. “Yes, but I know where everything is. Besides, you have clutter, too.” “But I don’t like your clutter,” he responded. I started to say, “Yeah, but my clutter is different” at which point we both cracked up.

My clutter is comfortable for me, otherwise I would have dealt with it already.  You could call my clutter technical debt, and you’d be right. I don’t mind paying it off on long weekends. Otherwise, I would do something about it more often. But the reason my clutter is different is because it fits with my mental model of the world.  I’m sure when Mark reads this, he’ll try to change my mental models. He’s unlikely to be successful.

These same kinds of discussions occur at work, but we tend to laugh at them less. (Maybe we should.) The next time you find yourself perturbed by someone else’s perspective, consider this question: What would have to be true for the other person to be happy (or content or satisfied) with the situation?  Partly, my clutter helps me see all the things I do, which is helpful. More clutter does not make it more helpful 🙂 — there’s a point at which even I think there’s too much clutter. But seeing clutter doesn’t help Mark, and since we share a house, I need to flex a bit. I’ll continue cleaning up now.

2 Replies to “My Clutter is Different”

  1. I spent an hour Saturday cleaning my office. I do this every couple of months and each time I throw away several large bags of trash. Physics tells me that at this rate the office will be empty of all mass. That theory, however, doesn’t seem to hold for home offices.

    How does that work?

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