Leaving files all over a Mac and PC Desktop is like leaving dishes on the table overnight after a meal. How do computer files and dirty dishes have anything to do with one another, you ask? Stick with me.

Frat boys know there’s no rush to clear the table, put scraps into the trash, wash, and stack everything in the cupboard. Heck, everything has to come out again tomorrow. Besides, what would Fido eat in the meantime?
If the unsavory vision of Fido grazing atop the dining room table doesn’t derail your train of thought, then trying to find the file you need on a cluttered computer desktop probably will.

The point is, when shortcuts, bookmarks, Word and Excel files, PDFs, Quicken, QuickBooks files, photos and myriad leftovers litter your computer desktop your own attention will be, well, a lot like your desktop. Distracted.

Cartoon adapted from The New Yorker

The study of negative affects of excessive screen time on young children has given us a new awareness of adult distraction caused by computer clutter.

It's a thing. And that thing for adults is a very real drag on human performance caused by computer clutter.

A post on Mother.ly entitled "It’s science: Clutter can actually give you anxiety" explores how excessive clutter, virtual and physical, negatively impacts us.

"From our computer desktop, to our car, to our kitchen counter and fridge—clutter is clutter, and it affects us whether we think so or not.
In a study by the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute, researchers monitored task performance when an individual was surrounded by organized versus disorganized environments.
Researchers concluded that physical clutter in our environment can overload the visual cortex, competing for attention in our brain and interfering with our ability to focus and process information."

A 2017 article in Psychology Today "5 Reasons to Clear the Clutter out of Your Life" discusses the negative physical and cognitive affects of clutter in the home, and even on the big screen.

"It’s actually harder to read people's feelings when your visual surroundings are filled with random stimuli. In an examination of the impact of clutter on perceptions of scenes in movies, Cornell University’s James Cutting and Kacie Armstrong (2016) found that when the background of a scene is highly cluttered, viewers find it more difficult to interpret the emotional expressions on the faces of the characters. If this finding holds true in daily life, it means that you’ll be less accurate in figuring out how other people are really feeling when you’re seeing them amidst a clutter-filled room."

And if there was any doubt, reality TV also knows clutter has our attention. On January 1, 2019 Netflix premiered the eight-episode reality series "Tidying Up with Marie Kondo", starring the best selling author of "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up". No word yet on how Marie Kondo deals with computer clutter. Until that word arrives, what’s one to do?

I suggest that we simply, intentionally, presently, and in the moment — file our stuff. It’s that easy.

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©Quentin Leo