does your new year's resolution involve decluttering?

Happy new year! My, how time flies. This marks the fifth anniversary of this blog and also a time of year when I (like many others) tackle things like setting goals and cleaning things out (how two tiny boys can amass so many toys over such a short time period still has me in disbelief!)—in other words, prioritizing and decluttering.

On this latter point, I've been thinking about clutter in general. More specifically, about how we can relate clutter in life to clutter in data visualization. For example, growing up, I used to get in trouble cleaning my room. This sounds strange, right? But it happened because I'd be cleaning my room when I was supposed to be doing my homework. Reflecting back on this now, I realize that the room cleaning wasn't a delay tactic (as my mother assumed), but rather because I couldn't focus when the environment around me felt disorganized or cluttered. By decluttering my environment, I was better able to concentrate and be more productive and creative. If this is one potential impact of environmental clutter, what conclusions might we draw about the impact of clutter in our data visualizations for focusing our audience's attention and getting our point across? What is the impact of including the non-essential or non-informative? I have to assume it isn't positive.

What do you think? How does the presence of clutter impact the way we consume data? Are there connections we can draw between examples of clutter in life and clutter in data visualization? Is there anyone out there who experiences the opposite of what I've described, where you can actually concentrate better with clutter around you?

I'm planning on building out a standalone segment on clutter (similar to the one on color I did recently) and am interested in augmenting with additional research, topics related to clutter, and examples. Leave a comment or send me a note if you have examples (in life or in data viz) of clutter/decluttering or related topics I should consider including; any thoughts (whether researched or anecdotal) and examples (good and bad) are welcome!

If you're interested in the fruit of this labor, stay tuned here, where I'll eventually post the clutter segment for public consumption.

By the way, this is not the first time I've discussed clutter this time of year. For an oldie (but goodie!), check out one of my very first blog posts from January 2011, a new year's resolution: declutter your graphics, where I illustrate the impact of decluttering using a before-and-after example.

I'll wrap up with a pic of the aforementioned little darlings playing with some of their holiday lego loot. I hope your 2016 is off to a fantastic start!