The Mental Drain of Clutter

I can’t help it — my desk attracts clutter the way flowers attract bees.

Tess Anderson
3 min readFeb 3, 2021
Image by Author

I have a to-do list longer than I’d like, clients awaiting copy and all I want to do is clean my desk.

Yes — this is my workspace. I tried to find an image on Unsplash but even using the search “clutter” + “desk,” all I got were beautiful pictures of gorgeous workspaces that don’t look anything like mine.

Granted, my clutter has help. I’m socializing 3 kittens and a 2-year-old siamese — but still, how did it get so bad I can no longer tune it out and work.

Sometimes being a freelancer sucks!

I’m in one of those bad tech bubbles where everything takes eons longer than it should. Through no fault of theirs, I have clients with competing deadlines, and I’ve ignored basic admin tasks like filing for too long.

Anyone else have an admin task they fail at? Being your own boss, secretary, and cleaning service can suck.

Back to the topic at hand.

I can’t get past the need to clean up my space. The first time I felt like this was decades ago while working as a program manager. I was in the middle of doing a major RFP — my office littered with hard copy and the detritus of late nights and early mornings — I needed to do a final run at the document.

And I couldn’t focus to save my life.

In my head, I told myself I didn’t have time to organize my space because I didn’t have time. But every time I sat down to work, all I could think about was the clutter.

Eventually, I just said WTF — closed my office door, turned on some music, and went to work.

It was cathartic.

It was amazing.

As I was cleaning, I made notes about what was missing or ideas about new data or text for specific sections of the RFP. As I cleared up the clutter on my desk, filed away old projects, shredded previous drafts of the RFP, my mind began to clear.



Tess Anderson

Migraineur | Productivity Junky | Research Nerd | Freelance Writer