March 03, 2020

Not Photo Quality

March of Trash asks you to take action on clutter every day for a month.

Just looking around a room, you will see a few things that you want to remove, hide, or improve.

Once you’ve finished with those, you might think that the room is as good as you want it to be. But don’t stop there. Take a few photos of the room. In the photos, you will see more things to change — and especially, more clutter that you want to remove.

Why does this work? How is it possible that you can see clutter in a photograph that you missed a minute before, looking with the naked eye?

It is not really a magical property of the camera. In truth, any change in perspective shows you something different, and this is especially true when it comes to clutter. Look from a different angle, with different lighting, or in a different mood, and you will see something different. Ask a different person to look at the same room, and they will see something different than what you see.

There is a specific psychological effect in play with photographs, though. When you see a photograph, even a photograph of your own room, you are likely to compare it mentally to other photographs. You’ll start to compare your room to the photographic ideal of a room. Many of the images in the back of your mind are from commercial photographs that don’t even depict real rooms. The rooms may be photo studios, TV studios, furniture showrooms, or other places put together by designers to make an emotional impression. Just by the nature of that work, the rooms in photographs will tend to be less cluttered than a real room.

That’s the main reason why, when you see your room in a photograph, you suddenly see it in a different light.

Use that trick to your advantage. Use it when you need to raise your expectations. These days it costs nothing to take a photograph, so take lots of photographs of your rooms. If they look awful, delete them before anyone else sees them — but also improve the room so that it looks better when people see it, and so that it looks better in the next photograph you take.

You see lots of photographs of rooms in which literally everything is new. Your stuff might suddenly look dingy by comparison. Don’t overreact to that effect — you wouldn’t want to live in a place where everything is brand new — but consider what improvements you could make to the things that look especially bad in a photo.

After you have made some of these improvements, take new photos, and imagine showing these photos to someone. Just imagining someone else looking at the same photo is enough to give you another perspective and lead you to more changes.

Photography is just another way to change your perspective so that you can see something new. Use photos to find clutter that went unnoticed when you were looking with your own eyes.

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