Is Clutter Hurting your Job Search?

Eileen Mulligan, a counselor and life coach, says that stress warps your judgment.  “Strong feelings…can seriously distort decision making,” she writes. “Find ways to reduce stress before making decisions.” One way you can reduce stress is to reduce clutter.

I admit it; I can’t think when things around me are in disorder.  And I have trouble believing people who claim that clutter doesn’t affect them at all.  When things are a mess, your brain can’t make sense of the visual landscape – you literally have too much information in front of you.  This visual static keeps your brain from working on problems efficiently.  For some people, this produces a sort of numbness – they feel like their brain is wrapped in a thick blanket.  For others, it’s an irritant- they feel constantly strung out and stressed without knowing exactly why. Either way, the clutter has got to go.

One of the seven principles of Zen is the concept of Kanso, or the elimination of clutter.  Zen philosophy recommends that you prune people, places, processes, and things that are cluttering up your path and not helping you grow. Let go and move on from them and make room for new ones that can. This idea of “making room” in your life is a powerful one; many people believe that you cannot let in good things (like a new job or new opportunities) until you make room in your life by letting other things go.

If this sounds a little woo-woo to you, so be it.  What have you got to lose?

Here are some of the ways clutter hurts your job search. First, it makes you less productive.  Experts estimate that people lose many hours each month in searching for items they need.  Car keys, business cards or phone numbers of leads, or articles you clipped for company research.  Those lost minutes you spend looking for things can add up and take away from really productive activities.

Clutter makes you feel less competent.  Let’s face it: you respect someone more when her office is well organized and clean.  Order implies, well, order; organized people seem like clearer thinkers and appear more authoritative.  You can feel more competent by simply cleaning up your home office.  The visual space you create will make it easier to focus on your next step or overcome a problem.

Clutter makes you more isolated.  Having guests over become a huge, overwhelming project – you might literally have to clean all day to invite someone in.  Clutter may be a source of irritation for your partner or spouse, causing daily arguments.  Your home should provide a soothing haven for you after the daily grind of looking for a job.  If it’s not, you start to feel that there is no place that provides comfort for you.  That’s not good for your long term health and happiness.

Clutter may cost you money.  If you aren’t organized, especially about bills and services, you might wind up missing payments or losing out on opportunities to get early payment discounts.  You may also wind up buying more than you need, or replacing lost items, only to find them again.  When money is tight, you simply can’t afford to let disorganization damage your finances.

If you’re finally convinced that clearing clutter can clear your mind, here’s a great article on a weekly plan for cleaning and organizing from

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