Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Eliminate Stuff by Eliminating Surfaces

In addition to abhorring vacuums, nature seems to abhor clear surfaces. If you don’t believe us, make a clear surface–table, desk, countertop, or even inside a drawer or closet–and see how long it takes for it to get cluttered up with all varieties of stuff: unopened mail, brochures, dog leashes, pencil sharpeners, etc. Clear surfaces provide unstructured, hook-free, often-vertically-unlimited storage. Don’t know where to put something, cram or stack it on that table.

But because they’re so flexible and convenient, clear surfaces tend to be magnets for stuff we don’t need, use or even want. They are especially useful for holding stuff we don’t want to deal with. Why do you think people “table” issues?

RAM or Hard Drive Surface?

If you want to live in an uncluttered home, it’s best to treat your surfaces in one of two ways. One is RAM (random access memory) for your stuff. These are the open surfaces like desks, dining, kitchen and coffee tables. Like a computer’s RAM, these surfaces should store the stuff that needs to be accessed or dealt with immediately–the bill we’re about to pay, the phone we’re about to use, the cup we’re drinking from. When done with use, they will be removed.

The other type of surface is our stuff’s hard drive. Closet and desk interiors, drawers, some desk surfaces, etc. These are surfaces that are assigned specific stuff that will be accessed in an ongoing basis.

If you are looking to de-clutter and simplify your home, try removing a surface or two–one less end table, even one less dresser. Without easy places to deposit and indefinitely store stuff, we often find ourselves compelled to deal with it (or toss it on the floor).

  • So true David. Decluttering is a daily practice and habit that we can all adopt.

  • Christopher Tilley

    I agree, this makes so much sense.

    Last night I was cleaning my kitchen worktop, there’s maybe 5 feet of it and it took 20 minutes. Not to clean it but to move the stuff off it so I could clean !

    I took a cardboard box and labeled it “Deal with Later” and threw all the stuff in it that I need to deal with but doesn’t need to be done now. Then I calendered time on Monday, Wednesday and Friday to go through it and deal with the stuff. Otherwise, it would stay there forever.

    I need to create these type of rituals so I can trust that I’ll deal with stuff. If I don’t them I’ll end up with stuff everywhere claiming my attention.

    • If you have to schedule time to deal with your clutter, you’re probably going about it wrong. I know. My wife is the same way. You’re problem is not finding and devoting time to decluttering. Your problem is you simply have too much stuff.

  • heather

    yes! when we moved back to the states from overseas and had to start over, i chose not to get a dresser or desk in our bedroom. no coffee table in the living room. no extra buffet in the dining room. with less stuff, we had no need for the extra storage, but also to deter clutter from accumulating on their surfaces.

  • RobynEdited

    I’m interested to know if you followed through with the stuff you put in the cardboard box “Deal With Later”? Did the calandered time work for you, did you have to keep reminding yourself of the long-term gains over short term ones that might keep things cluttered? I’d like to hear how you went, and how you’re going with those things.

  • Connor Herr

    This is a great piece of advice, and doesn’t just apply to our living space. The Japanese ethos of manufacturing (variously called lean manufacturing, Toyota Production System, etc…) places a very high value on clean work spaces. One of the first things they tell you to do is eliminate flat surfaces as they lead to clutter. They also recommend that you eliminate any cabinets because it’s too easy to hide clutter behind a closed door.