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What Does a Gorilla Have to Do With Organizing?

Amy Gray

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Let me share a true story with you. I once attended a business conference where the speaker had us watch a video of 6 people bouncing a basketball between them. The speaker told us to count how many times the ball bounced on the floor.

After a few minutes, he asked, “How many counted 14 bounces? 15 bounces? How many of you saw the gorilla?" The gorilla?! My eyes didn't leave that screen for one second. Surely there was no gorilla there.

Upon a second viewing, it was obvious that a person in a gorilla suit entered the frame of the video, pounded his chest, did a little tap dance and then exited - all while the 6 people bounced their basketball in the background. Three-quarters of the audience did not see the gorilla.

How is this possible, you might ask? Well, it demonstrates something called inattentional blindness, which is the inability for a person to perceive features in a visual scene if they are not being attended to. In other words, if we're focused on one thing, chances are we can't see anything else.

What does this have to do with organizing?

I've noticed that many of my clients feel overwhelmed by their stuff and can't think of a strategy to deal with it.

When I walk into a new environment, I look at everything and evaluate it - and I see the stuff that the clients have stopped seeing. Oftentimes the answers to clutter control, storage space or room configuration is right before my eyes - and clients are amazed to discover the perfect solution was right there in front of them, but they couldn't see it due to inattentional blindness.

Think of organizing as an opportunity to take a fresh look at your home environment. You don't have to live in “the plain old chaos of undifferentiated weirdness" (Jerry Garcia). Take on a journey through your house and begin to see it for the first time - and this time, pay attention. It may give you some new ideas about your managing and clearing your clutter. And, I promise you there will be no gorillas involved!

Interested in more ways to clear clutter and gain control of your environment? Get great tips and motivating messages by subscribing to the Empty Your Nest newsletter at


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