The War on Virtual Clutter

I’m drowning in email and it’s my own fault.  Every morning I wake up to a red light blinking on my BlackBerry alerting me to messages that have been slipped into my inbox while I slept.  By the time I got the kids off to school this morning seven had piled up: a LinkedIn update at 1:07 a.m., a discussion group update from CPG Supergroup! at 4:43 a.m., a daily deal from Kijiji from 6:48 a.m., a deal from LivingSocial at 7:06 a.m., my Daily AM e-blast from Marketing Magazine at 7:58 a.m., another daily deal from Kijiji at 8:17 a.m., and a newsletter called BOOST from The Company of Women at 8:51 a.m.    I feel a bit exhausted just looking at them all.

One of the Kijiji Daily Deals is for paintball and the Living Social Deal is for indoor golf, two activities I have absolutely no interest in.  But even if the deal was for my favourite Lululemon yoga pants I’d have a hard time taking any action.  Online shopping is something that I have done very rarely and although I’ve never had a bad experience there is a voice in my head that constantly whispers: “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

The CPG Supergroup! discussion update was at least mildly interesting today.  A member has asked the group where a small start up company can find financing, to which someone has helpfully replied: “Often small firms look to family and friends…”   No shit, Sherlock!  But further down, a debate has begun about which retailer is likely to do well in the coming holiday season.  If I had time to read
it, I’m sure it would be thought provoking.   I’m relieved to see that the discussion about whether entrepreneurs are born or made seems to have finally died off after months of long-winded comments.  Last time I checked in, some guy had finally written the ultimate answer: “Both.”

A few months ago I discovered that someone had signed me up to a Facebook group called “Abolish the HST”… a cause that I do not support.  For a while I participated in the discussion, making known my point of view on the topic.  For almost a week I read every comment that was posted and did my best to respond, as seemingly the only person in the group who had an alternate point of view.  I got so bent out of shape about the rhetoric that was circulating that I could actually feel my blood pressure rising.  So for health reasons I had to quit the group, but I’m still haunted by the thought of what that angry mob is saying to each other as we head into the provincial election.

So I do know how to ‘unsubscribe’ and return my inbox to a state of calm; one that contains only messages from real people who have a specific message for me, Diane Williams.

At the moment, I’m reading a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  Gretchen is a lawyer turned writer who decided to research the topic of happiness and experiment with a variety of tactics in a year-long effort to increase the amount of happiness in her life.  My decision to leave my high pressure job in order to spend more time on what is most important to me, is similar.  Although I have been thinking of it as a quest for simplification, my belief was that it would result greater happiness for our family.  Sure enough, chapter one of Gretchen’s book is titled Vitality and her steps taken to boost overall energy levels during the first month of her project included “Toss, Restore, Organize.”  Simplify.

I agree with Gretchen that clutter is a drain on energy; not just physical stuff but also the “psychic clutter of loose ends.”    And my email clutter would fall into this camp.  The e-newsletters that I receive are full of helpful tips for the marketer/mother/modern woman/small business owner/fitness enthusiast/aspiring writer in me, but it’s like trying to rake leaves in the fall.  They’re falling out of the sky faster than I can deal with them all.  And yet I find them difficult to toss, convinced that there is valuable knowledge inside.  Only when the pile of unread email becomes so unwieldy that I can no longer find the messages I need to read, do I go to the bottom of the pile and reluctantly delete the very oldest versions.   I hate doing it but I can’t deny that I feel better when the clutter is gone.

So today, I’m going to take proactive action and stop the most unwanted of these emails from coming.  I haven’t done it yet but I’m going to.

It does strike me as ironic that here I am writing about getting rid of junk email, to an audience of subscribers that have MY blog landing in their inbox every week or so.
But I’m buoyed by the fact that I wouldn’t dream of hitting ‘unfollow’ for a number of the people I follow on Twitter.  SarahKSilverman is hilarious, as is sween and ComicBookGrrl.  On the other hand, andersoncooper and (disappointingly) rickmercer, I could do without.

I hope you don’t choose to ‘unfollow’ my blog.  But if you do, I suppose you weren’t reading it anyway.

For more information on The Happiness Project, check out



3 thoughts on “The War on Virtual Clutter

  1. I look at what you call “clutter” as an effort by the universe to get my attention. Sometimes it works and I find the gem in the mass of emails I get. Sometimes all I get is an aggravation of my carpal tunnel syndrome. But in any case, if you don’t listen you don’t make yourself available to what might be the idea that changes your life. Or else you could become a monk and totally drop out.

    P.S. I’m not dropping you…I love your insights and will follow you anywhere!

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