What the Clutter Communicates

What the Clutter Communicates | Twin Cities Moms Blog

Want to know my stress level? Take a look at my home office. You won’t gauge my stress level by the length of my to-do list or how many items are crossed off. You won’t know it by how many tabs are open on my computer screen. You won’t even notice it by the thickness of the dust that has settled on the desk.

You will see it by how many physical items are sitting on top of the desk.

For some reason, the office desk is where things accumulate. Lots of things. Lots of very random things. For example, here are 10 of the items sitting on the desk right now:

  1. Cloth diapers I need to repair
  2. A set of really nice, new colored pencils that I can’t bear to share with the kids so I hide them there
  3. A stack of mail that was really important a few months ago that I haven’t come back to since
  4. A box of crafty scissors that I need to keep out of the two-year old’s reach
  5. A box of small craft supplies that I need to keep out of older one’s reach (for mess control purposes)
  6. A stack of papers from the last school year that I need to file
  7. A stack of papers from preschool (2 years ago!) that I need to file
  8. A box of thank-you notes to write out from when our son was born. He’s four now.
  9. My course notes from when I took Amharic language lessons a year ago.
  10. A few to-do lists, partially buried and written on half sheets of paper, covered in dust.

This is just a fraction of what is there. Whenever I come across something during the day that needs my attention and I don’t have the full amount of time to finish the task (which is pretty much always), it goes on the office desk. If I’m lucky, I’ll have a few minutes at the end of the day to tidy up and put away an item or two, but that rarely happens and sometimes when I get a few minutes at the end of the day, I just want to watch Netflix with my husband.

The clutter seems to not only reflect my stress level, but it also feeds back into it. As the piles on the desk grow taller and taller, I get more and more stressed out because there is so much there. It’s visually overwhelming knowing that all these things need my time and attention, in addition to the little people clamoring at my knees all day. Sometimes the desk gets so bad that I have to take the laptop away from the desk when I sit down to do my work-from-home job because it’s too stressful to stay sitting at the office desk! Even now, to pen my thoughts here, I snuck the laptop away to a more serene, less cluttered space in the house.

Clutter to me signifies too much to do and not enough time to do it. I can’t keep up, and that is super, SUPER hard for this Type A or Myers-Briggs “J” personality. There’s so rarely extra time in the day to declutter, but I’m doing my best to chip away at it, and striving to keep the spaces I’ve already cleared from piling up again.

I find I function so much better when I can see clean surfaces. Something inside me receives peace and energy and strength, and I can think more clearly and parent more patiently when the clutter is gone.

Amber Harder
Amber has lived in Minnesota her whole life, with a 4-year stint in Iowa for college (Go Norse!). She and her husband met while both trying to kayak for the first time. The kayaking didn’t go well, but their relationship did! They’ve been married for over 10 years and have four incredible children. Amber describes herself as a recovering perfectionist, unashamed introvert, and extremely empathetic. Her favorite moments are those rare ones during the day when time stands still and she can see with fresh eyes the amazing little people who call her mom.


  1. Amber— i just discovered your blog after getting your full name from a neighbor and OMG! this post zeroed in on my love/hate relationship with my workspace better than if i had written it myself! Your wonderfully descriptive and self-reflective writing helps create the normalization that all parents need in order to believe that ‘good is good enough’ and that being imperfect and authentic can inspire others.


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