The surprising benefits of reducing word clutter

It’s a curious fact that people who have a lot of clutter tend to use more words to express themselves. So can reducing word clutter help you to live clutter-free?

Girl speaking word clutter

I once worked with a space clearing trainee who was struggling to achieve the standard required for professional certification. She would send me case study reports that were more than twice as long as those of other trainees and twice as convoluted too.

So I did something unusual. I asked her to rewrite her most recent case study report using half the number of words. For a few days, there was no response. Just a stunned silence. Then her revised case study arrived and I was amazed at the difference. Not only had she halved her word count. She had also greatly increased her level of clarity.

In this trainee’s case, it turned out she had huge amounts of clutter at home (this was in the days before professional space clearing trainees took my clutter clearing practitioner training first). She never did get certified as a space clearing practitioner but she told me that learning how to cut the unnecessary babble from her written words greatly helped her to at least declutter her house. It allowed her to see more clearly what was essential to her life and what it was time to let go of.

The value of decluttering your words

I was fortunate to have a high school English teacher who was a kindly soul and a stickler for good grammar.

I certainly didn’t appreciate it at the time but now realize that she taught me one of the most useful skills of my life, which was the art of précis. She would give the class a 600-word passage and ask us to rewrite it in 200 words or less, retaining the essence and discarding any non-essential text. And when she was in the mood, she would push it even further and ask us to reduce it again to a succinct 100 words.

At the tender age of 11, I considered this to be a form of mental cruelty and railed against the injustice of such a difficult task. But she was relentless and eventually I mastered it. It’s now a core principle that runs through the way I write, the way I talk and the way I live. It’s an essential skill for living a clutter-free life.

The connection between word clutter and other types of clutter

I have often noticed a correlation between how much clutter someone has and how much they talk. People who live clutter-free usually speak concisely and get quickly to the point. People who have a lot of clutter are very likely to use more words and also tend to get distracted and stray off the point.

In my book, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, I explain that clearing your physical clutter is one of the quickest ways to get your life moving when you feel stuck. And conversely, if you get your life moving in some other way, you will naturally feel inclined to declutter your physical space. The two go hand in hand.

The same thing happens at the mental level too. It is much easier to think clearly in a clear space, and conversely, creating clear space around you promotes clearer thinking.

So if you declutter your home, you will naturally start to need fewer words to express yourself. And conversely, if you declutter your words, you will find it easier to let go of other types of clutter in your life too, such as too much stuff in your home, meaningless ways you keep yourself busy, people in your life who waste your time, and so on. There’s a natural connection.

Word clutter and verbal incontinence

Like other forms of clutter, word clutter is not the real problem. It is only ever a symptom of an underlying issue.

We are all born incontinent and gradually learn how to control the sphincter muscles of our bladder and anus so that we can control when we pee and poo. But what many people don’t know is that we also have two major energetic sphincters that we need to learn how to operate. One is located just above the head and the other is just below the torso. They can function independently but are designed to work together.

Talking too much is often a sign of weak sphincter control above the head, which is why some people sound like a gushing tap that can’t be turned off. I’ve often speculated that excessive leakage of this kind may in fact be the true cause of some forms of ADHD. It’s certainly interesting to note that ADHD children are often described as having verbal diarrhoea and are prone to physical bladder or bowel incontinence too.

How to reduce word clutter

The most effective remedy I know for verbal incontinence is meditation — the kind that teaches you to still the mind to the extent that all mental chatter ceases. It’s not an easy skill to master but will tone the energetic sphincter above your head in a way that no other practice ever can.

And it seems that even basic mindfulness techniques may help too. Mindfulness is about observing and focusing the mind rather than emptying it, so it is much easier to do than traditional meditation. Recent initiatives to teach this to inattentive children have proven to be far more successful than giving them detention. Schools in the US, UK and Australia have reported an increase in good behaviour by previously unruly pupils as well as a decrease in suspensions and improved test scores.

And if meditation or mindfulness are not your thing, here are three simple methods that can also help to reduce word clutter:

  • Think before you speak or write
  • Stick to the point
  • Make each word count

There are many ways you can practice this. Here are three examples to get you started…

  • When you send an email, challenge yourself to keep it to three succinct sentences or less.
  • If you tell someone a story, don’t ramble off into irrelevant details. Ask your friends to let you know if you’ve strayed off the point.
  • When you share a problem you are having, explain clearly what help you need without telling your whole life story first.

Thomas Jefferson summed it up beautifully when he said, ‘The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do’.

Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd, 2019

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About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui, and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must-read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fifth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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5 Responses to The surprising benefits of reducing word clutter

  1. Thankfully I found this article while stuck on a commuter train this morning and pondering how the situation was a metaphor for several aspects of my personal and professional work. This message couldn’t be more true for me in terms of the connection to clutter in multiple spaces. I’m hoping this new realization will help me address clutter in a different manner and improve my communication skills as a bonus. Thank you so much!

  2. As a non native speaker in English I often describe something with too many words because I lack the right vocabulary. When talking to other non native speakers we always use simple (and therefore more) words for better understanding. When preparing for an english certificate years ago I had a given number of words for written tasks and suddenly we managed to be precise and make the point. I have to confess that I quickly lost that skill afterwards. But after having read Karen’s article I’ll work on that again!

    In my mother tongue I started to make mind maps where I have to focus on key words in order to get every important information onto one page. That is very helpful to reduce word clutter of the speaker when taking notes.

  3. I encountered this “too many words” problem when I was editing the preface to my possibly forthcoming book to be that I have written as a manuscript. The preface was at the beginning 10 pages long. I read it through and thought “OMG, what have I been thinking”, as it was full of verbiage. I thought to myself: “What would Hemingway do?” … … … I wanted to use his iceberg technique, but I realized that it works best in fiction and not so well in non-fiction, which my manuscript is. At last, I decided that I would remove all the parts from the preface that I had spat out from the corner of my mouth and save the bits that I had laboured on, for instance, those with footnotes, sources or a list of quotes. The end result was 4 pages of preface, which was already much more readable, though it still had some overflow in it. I kept that amount, as I figured I could handle such a preface myself as a reader by any author of non-fiction, including Karen. I don’t want to go minimalist for the sake of being “cool”, either.

    I would recommend the old principle, “kill your darlings” (meaning, sentences that were fun to write but not to read) if you are an author or an author wannabe. These days, publishing houses seem to have sacked too many of their proofreaders and copy editors, which has resulted in unreadable books.

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