Many of us aspire to live by the principle that less is more. But as is true with most good rules, sticking to the ideal is easier said than done. This is especially true in instances where clutter is concerned.
My recent experience in relocating my office to the StarMark, Inc. corporate headquarters in Sioux Falls, SD, has made me keenly aware of clutter and its negative visual impact and effect on productivity. Simply put, cluttered surroundings wear you down without your even realizing it.
During my visits to showrooms, I've noticed showroom
disturbed by clutter, and others that prove it's possible to maintain a clean, uncluttered environment in a busy, thriving economy.
Thankfully, my own post-move "digging out" process revealed some
ways to manage your showroom so that clutter never again overwhelms
it. However, beginning and ending each day sans clutter will
require discipline and hands-on involvement at all levels of your
What do I mean by clutter? Actually, clutter is hardest to recognize in familiar, comfortable surroundings areas where you live and work daily. Once it begins, clutter multiplies quickly. It also attracts dust bunnies and dirt. Often, clutter confuses its owners, allowing its proliferation.
What does showroom clutter look like? There are as many types of clutter, and responses to it, as you have customers and associates who see it. To begin your personal clutter quest, take a walk inside and outside your showroom with a note pad. Feel free to take an associate along to help you make the call. Especially helpful is someone with good organizational skills or the propensity to throw things away.
Begin with the exterior of your showroom and the parking lot. Look at all sides of your business, even the back. Is trash collecting against a wall? How about out-of-date signs, or perhaps too many signs? Too many messages screaming at your customers can drive them away. Today's consumers are looking for easy and comfortable ways to spend their money. Remember, perception is 90% of the law. If you look out of control or disorganized, they might think you will run their project that way. Maintaining a well-organized retail atmosphere will set your business apart from other firms in your community, giving you an edge.
Inside your showroom, probe every corner to see if the items there truly belong and add value. For example, have old door samples and rolls of old project drawings formed what resembles a bonfire at the end of a designer's desk?
Look at your displays and the reception area, where visitors learn about your business and services. Do you see any stray items that really belong elsewhere? Your job is to track down out-of-place items and put them in their place. If you cannot find them a home, throw them out! If this is hard for you, enlist an associate to help gather potential throwaways. Give each item a two-minute study no longer, or it will end up in a new corner. Then let it go . . . really, it's OK. Free yourself of the clutter!
A particular clutter concern in many kitchen/bath showrooms is
dead-looking plants, planters or trees. Often, these are put up on
a high shelf before people can bear to part with them. It's best,
however, to just get rid of them. For those arrangements that
haven't found their eternal resting shelf: Consider how long
they've been there and how old they are. Live greenery needs
monthly attention for primping and sprucing. Floral arrangements
should be dated when you bring them in, and replaced within two
Inside signage, banners, logos and similar items also are a clutter factor. During your walkthrough, verify that all signs are still current and communicate effectively. Is it appropriate? Is it in the very best light, form and view possible? Signage is great just be sure you're keeping it as fresh and up to date as your products.
Resource rooms are the perfect opportunity to utilize many of the new storage tubs, baskets and cubbies now readily available at any discount store. Try to pull together samples and other smaller, needed items that can stack up and appear so busy that the consumer gets turned off. While I agree that having products available to touch and feel is important, it's equally important to have them arranged or propped, not plopped!
Another place clutter tends to grow is a designer's desk area. Catalog or reference materials shelved haphazardly are prime culprits. Clutter in our work spaces is hard to control because each of us has our own performance strategies. Some people are more productive or creative if everything they need is at their fingertips. But it does add clutter, so if you haven't already established some house rules, they might help now. This is especially important when the desk is a part of a display, or is highly visible.
Display accessory choices can add clutter, too. Please do not misunderstand, I strongly recommend accessorizing your displays. But do so in a way that adds variety in scale with a stylish, quality solution. Don't just fill the voids or holes. One large-scale prop that fills an open area with something functional and attractive is far better than four small "nothings."
The goal of the clutter patrol is to eliminate as much clutter as possible, creating a more efficient, not to mention eye-pleasing, work environment. The pride you'll feel in your clutter-free business will certainly transfer to your customers. Consumers today are so overwhelmed with messages, technology, information and the pace of life in general that they're gravitating to tranquility. Aside from visual relief, they need messages that help them discover the best possible choices.
Finally, here's a challenge: See how you're doing at your location. Take this column along with you on your walkthrough. Do you see some clutter-busting opportunities?
I know too well how hard this is, but even a slight improvement will make your and your customers' surroundings more comfortable.
Now that my eyes have been opened to recognizing clutter, the
real test of controlling it lies ahead. May we all have good luck
it's not a small or easy task.
Sarah Reep, CKD, ASID, is director of design and education for StarMark, Inc., the Sioux Fall, SD-based manufacturer of the StarMark and Fieldstone cabinet brands.