Work/Life Balance: The Hidden Costs of Clutter

You know (you might even be) the type: "I know it looks messy but I know where everything is!" There are those whose desks and workspaces look almost vacant - like no one could possibly work there because every surface is bare.

And there are those who thrive on being surrounded by stacks and piles and overflowing inboxes and, well, clutter. Interestingly, sometimes the cluttered office people are sticklers for neat living spaces and spotless cars, and sometimes the desktop neatniks hide their disarray in boxes and baskets and drawers.

Chances are you can relate to the clutter workstyle/lifestyle because either it defines you or it applies to someone you work with or maybe even someone you love. We're wondering how clutter affects our work-life balance.

Do the piles and stacks make us feel more balanced, or does the time spent creating, searching through, reorganizing, and balancing the piles do more harm than good? This month's contribution from Work-Life Balance Expert Jeff Davidson provides an overview of the role clutter plays in our lives.

  • The average American receives 49,060 pieces of mail during their lifetime.
  • One third of all mail is considered junk mail.
  • On average, office workers use 10,000 sheets of copy paper: 40 sheets per workday.
  • 25% of people with 2-car garages use them for other items, not their cars.
  • Removing excess clutter could eliminate 40% of housework.
  • 3.2 hours of an 8 hour workday are wasted by office workers.
  • 150 hours per hear are wasted by business executives searching for lost files.
  • One tree can be saved by recycling a stack of papers 3-feet high.
  • 80 percent of files we retain are rarely used.
  • 23% of people say they pay bills late because of lost statements.
  • 80% of clutter in homes is due to disorganization.


Jeff Davidson, The Work-Life Balance Expert, is founder of the Breathing Space Institute in Raleigh, NC. He wrote Breathing Space and Simpler Living, recorded 92 audio programs, and created 24 iPhone apps. Visit: