Back to School: the Physics of Clutter

Newton’s First Law states that an object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an external force. It may be seen as a statement about inertia, that objects will remain in their state of motion unless a force acts to change the motion.


Erin Doland, on Unclutterer, explains how this applies to her decluttering multiple tubes of Neosporin ointment:

In the case of … clutter, I believe Newton’s First Law of Motion can explain how it lingers for years in our spaces. An object (clutter) will stay at rest until a force (motivation) of equal or greater value acts upon it. The thought, “I should get rid of that,” is not a force of equal or greater value than the clutter. As unfortunate as it is, thoughts cannot move clutter. We can’t wish away our unwanted objects. We actually have to do something about them physically.

The other case of Newton’s First Law also applies here. An object (me) will continue in motion until a force (motivation) of equal or greater value acts upon it. Usually when I would see the Neosporin, it would be because someone or myself was injured. I was on a path to take care of the injury, not stop and deal with clutter. Then later, when maybe I thought about the Neosporin again, I could have been on a path to a meeting or to make dinner or to relax and watch a movie with my family. The motivation to clear the clutter wasn’t equal or greater than whatever else it was I wanted to be doing.

The only way to deal with the clutter in our lives is to break the patterns of inertia and muster up the motivation to do something about all the stuff we don’t want or need.

Surprisingly, the best way to create force (motivation) of equal or greater value to change the course of our clutter is to simply acknowledge that we have the power (velocity) to change the situation. After we think, “I should get rid of that,” the next thought should immediately be, “and to get rid of it I have to take action, now.” Then, take the action to get rid of the object. (Unless, of course, you’re dealing with an emergency. Deal with the emergency and then come back when you’re on a path to watch television or something equally benign.) Knowing that the object will not move itself and requires a force to act upon it can go a long way in helping you to clear the clutter you encounter regularly in your life.

See the full article at

This entry was posted in DeClutter, Lighten Up in 2013, Tips and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
Back to Top