Video Vednesday: Reducing visual clutter

Kinda-sorta getting the hang of these babies, I think. For instance, this one only took eleventy-six hours to export to YouTube instead of eleventy-seven. Which is not bad for a 90-year-old.

Some notes! Because dammit, floating a video out there without text feels naked-like:

  • I absolutely could not find the place where Martha Stewart talks about removing labels, but I’m 99% certain it was an ancient issue of her magazine. Mostly because it has to have been 10 years (at least!) since I read her magazine. Which was a great magazine, but pretty p0rny for a non-crafty schlub like me.
  • I did, however, turn up this awesome post on Apartment Therapy about re-labeling the crap in your house, which would probably be a fun, puttery, “my brain is dead but I need to do something” kind of activity. And there are links to etching, which is both dangerous and cool!
  • I say “anyway” a lot. If I was still going to Toastmasters, they could probably cure me of that in a month. If anyone has any non-Toastmasters ways of curing myself, by all means, let ‘er rip. Although just my embarrassment over saying it so much may cure me. Anyway! Anyway! Anyway!

And because these Wednesday posts have turned into a great place for me to ask questions and get answers:

  • What one thing, if any, would make this site easier for you to use? (I have a list as long as both my arms, one leg and a foot, but I need to start somewhere.)

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!


IMPORTANT ADDENDUM! While I am barely responsible for myself and not at all responsible for anyone else, it would be irresponsible of me not to note that you should probably limit your label-ripping zeal to benign, i.e., non-hazardous, non-medicinal, items. And if, like me, you are a nutty bargain shopper, make sure you clearly label any spray or other containers you offload your cleaning supplies into. Safety first, please!


  1. omg! you are too funny. i hate clutter – but only take off labels if they are starting to peel. however, i do like all labels to be facing outward. super organized and maybe… a little OCD anyone?

    1. I’ve seen your house, and you are more organized and Martha-y than I could be in a thousand lifetimes. Plus, you look better doing it!

      Whenever I think of labels facing outward, I think of that Julia Roberts movie where she has to keep everything perfect so her husband won’t fly into an insane, abusive rage, and she finally has to fake her death to escape from him.

      Because hey, I am a buoyant and sunny motherf*cking bundle of light! Especially today!

  2. Cool. So you’re sort of… anonymizing your toiletries, huh?

    (On a somewhat related note, at my day job today I will be cleaning my office, which I haven’t really done thoroughly in, like, 15 years. (God bless the public sector.) When my boss told me I would be doing this, I said I had a ready solution: instead of going through the loooong and complicated process of deciding what I still needed and what I could discard, I was just going to spray-paint the office and all its contents in white. So except for some interesting shadows, it would look, basically, empty. I thought the idea charmingly post-modern, or something — Ikea-like — but he nixed it. (God d*mn the public sector.))

    Everybody tells you that if you’re going to be in business for yourself, reinforcing brand awareness is important. Your comment about tearing off the labels on Toyotas (or whatever) struck a chord; I think Big Bidness has ruined the notion of branding for the rest of us. I cannot stand how completely exposed branding has taken over (say) the design of men’s shirt pockets. And don’t even get me started on sneakers.

    1. P.S. No suggestions, really, on the making-it-easier-to-use issue. It’s scaled and laid out just right for me. Very happy here on the usability front. If you really want to be OCD about it, though, you might want to look into optional closed captions — using YouTube’s own tools — for your wideos. (To repeat what I said last week: I don’t have a problem with your audio, although others might. The captions would just enable me to watch them at work w/out using headphones.)

      1. Thanks for the closed-caption ideas. I actually saw them used really well on a video after I posted this. I would totally be tempted to make them goofy—although it might be an interesting exercise, having them be goofy AND still legit.

        Cool. So you’re sort of… anonymizing your toiletries, huh?

        Exactly. And it occurs to me (also after the fact, and a similar comment on the YouTube vid itself) that I should emphasize I only do this with NON-hazardous stuff. My medicine cabinet still has (generic) Tylenol bottles and Sudofed boxes, etc. I should probably add a note to the body of this to that effect.

  3. The videos are a nice addition to your site. It’s surprising how much your personality is exactly what I thought it would be from your writing. You come off very well on video by the way, probably because you’ve had the experience of acting and doing seminars, etc. Let’s see, to answer your question… hmmm. Well, I originally came to your site because I read something you wrote and was very impressed with the content and your style of writing. To be specific I think it was the style more than the content. There is an energy and an attitude in your writing that is contemporary and real and makes you want to read more. As I look through your site I find myself wondering, what is it she does exactly again? I get that you help people with marketing, and you can coach them somehow, and you can help other creative people pump up their approach to marketing, and that you write, but somehow I’m still not exactly sure what all that is. I have to admit, I haven’t thoroughly immersed myself in Colleen, but I’m just trying to be helpful and answer the question. I guess I’m a little slow, but I would suggest you refine exactly what you offer and make it a little simpler for us slower folk to understand. So there you are, one thing. One additional thing would be to maybe add a little more color to your site. Keep up the good work, you’re smart, pretty and hard working. I don’t know why you’re not a millionaire yet.

    1. Thanks, Mike. We’re all of us a mix of stuff—sometimes I can be a raggedy-ass b*tch, or mopey, or sad, or a combo—but in general, my writing matches my audio matches my video matches my performing.

      RE: the work stuff, I am deeply and sadly aware of how poorly I have described what it is I do, mostly because I haven’t figured out what, exactly, it is, since I quit designing. Not that I’d go back to designing! Or acting! But yeah, much easier when you have a tight description. Or better yet, as Merlin calls it, a Richard-Scarry-book kinda job: fireman, baker, mail carrier, etc.

      If I didn’t think everyone and his sister was trying to do the same thing (and that I’d get the world’s worst route), I’d probably go for mail carrier.

  4. I like everything Mike said! Great comment, Mike.
    Colleen, you’re sitting in a different place to record your video this week, right? And yet … the top picture is crooked here too. Is this a conscious interior design choice?
    Just teasing. Love the videos, love you.

    1. I’m not! Same place! In fact, my desk and computer have been in the exact same place for the past 10 years, give or take some remote working.

      I gave up on shooting non-mirrored video except when I have to. WAY too many steps to convert, and I was having audio slippage problems last time I tried. (Which are probably unrelated, but which wore me down.)

      That #$)*!@ picture! I have righted it over and over, and the ghosts keep knocking it askew.

  5. This was a very funny video. Thank you for posting it. I hate visual clutter but never thought of taking labels off. I’m going to try it. The way I handle this is mostly around sinks. I hate liquid soap bottles, with the exception of Mrs. Meyers because I love their packaging (I don’t work for them), so i usually put soap in my own more visually pleasing containers with a pump. I’m going to try the label idea, however I’m concerned that I will end up using bleach on my plants or some such fiasco.

    1. I love Mrs. Meyer’s dish soap! And mostly b/c of the label! I have a bottle sitting just below that #$)*!@ crooked picture, by my sink!

      I have transferred some dangerous chemical-type stuff to other spray containers, mostly b/c back when I used to buy that stuff, I bought it in such bulk I will have to throw it away when I finally move. But I am scrupulously careful about marking the transfers with the label maker, and drawing little “poison” skull-and-crossbones on them.

      Also, I have no kids in the house. Which is good for everyone.

      (And hey, thank you for the nice comment!)

  6. Labels are gone from my house too. I started removing them in a semi-religious snit against Being Marketed To Every Single Moment of My Life. I’ve actually gone so far as to change the icons on my desktop, and rename the result. I still know what and where things are, just barely, but I get to look at pretty piccies instead of the marketing team’s best effort to sell me more stuff.

    I like your suggestions about de-logofying one’s car. However, while I do own an orbital sander, I don’t want to have to repaint my wheels, so I think I’ll put up with it for now.

    You, Colleen, can market to me any day you like. Because what you sell is not an item but a mordant and charming wit. There’s never enough of that in my life.

    1. You know, now that I think of it, I’m reasonably tolerant of labels and logos I like (although I’ve done my best to ban them from my clothing).

      Popping the signage off of a car would be more trouble than its worth, and the rat bastards know it. Plus a part of me worries (as per usually) that if it isn’t outright illegal, it would raise the suspicion of the authorities. And like most people who are terrified of The Law for no good reason, I prefer not to draw any attention to myself.

      Finally, thank you for your gracious acceptance of any future marketing messaging on my part. I will try my best not to abuse the privilege. Or, if I do, to at least do it with mordant and charming wit.

  7. I love the way you look in this one! Also, you seem more relaxed and lighthearted.

    The short-and-sweet format is working very well.

    1. Thank you! I will keep shortening, although I think I’m at the outer edge of sweetening.

      I confess, I recorded it well over a week ago, when I actually was in a light-and-happy-ish mood. It would be quite a different story today, I fear.

      Some days you eat the bear, etc.

  8. This makes me think of something that’s happened to me since I went on a traditional media diet (minimal tv and radio, no newspapers or magazines). Now, when I head to a big city (in my case, NY), I find that the ubiquitous in your face visual advertising grates on my nerves. I’ve essentially resensitized myself to advertising

    Also, been meaning to say thanks for using YouTube to host your videos. That way I can watch on Android, and I suppose the iPeople can watch on their phonepads, too.

    1. No magazines? Ack!

      Seriously, I gave up TV-on-TV (still watch on DVD & Netflix) several years ago and am now shocked at the amount of advertising that bombards me while watching via commercialized channels (which very much includes the network’s own websites, which are lousy with commercials.)

      There’s a lot of interesting discussion going on about visual noise on the web since Apple’s intro of Safari Reader. I’m moving over to Chrome slooowly, but when I’m on Safari or Firefox, I use Flash-blockers, and many of the nerds jumping on these discussion threads go much further, ad-blocking or Instapaper-ing or Safari-reader-ing everything.

      It’s kind of sad, in a way, b/c I think it just makes advertisers even more panicky and louder in response, while if they’d pull back—use discretion, taste and common sense—maybe people would engage a bit more.

      On the other hand, there are plenty of people who seem to have completely adapted to and even embraced visual noise. Look at MySpace!

      RE: YouTube, can you not see stuff that’s hosted on Vimeo or other services?

  9. My 3 year old nephew has evidently heard people such as yourself use the ‘so anyway’ fulfiller/conversation momentum pusher and thought he’d try it out:

    [Xavier walks in and leans on bed in front of his mama]
    Xavier: So…anyway.
    [Pause. Mama waits for an elaboration]
    Mama: Yes?
    Xavier: Just so anyway.

    This was almost as funny as when he learnt the word ‘alcohol’ and thought it was an expression to be used thusly:

    Xavier: [sighs] Oh alcohol.

    In other news, that apartment therapy link has given me some new directions in which to take my OCD! Much like writing neat lists, attractive labels seem to unify and ‘solve’ the objects into a community aesthetic which is functional as well as perdy.


  10. Hi Colleen,

    Please forgive the shameful self-promotion, but I just blogged about using fillers (like “um” or “er”–but “anyway” qualifies, of course) after the poet Taylor Mali asked me how I cured myself…

    Here’s another thing I love about your blog–what you only allude to but don’t write about. You probably have several books between the lines…when you’re ready!


  11. OMG I TOTALLY do this on every container I can! I also ‘decant’ whenever possible (pour product into a non-plastic/labeled/commercial container). This I believe is also courtesy of Martha.

    You only said Anyway! three times. I would be annoyed if you said Anyhoo….

    Love the wideos, you and yer website!

    1. Oh, you know Miss Martha has beautiful containers of all types flown to her from all over the world, just to decant into. And backlit fairy children with daisies in their hair help with the decanting. Their tiny hands are so useful!

      (Thanks for the kind words.)

  12. I started removing labels for recycling purposes, (the label is a different kind of plastic that isn’t recyclable), but then started with stuff in the bathroom because it looked prettier. I didn’t think about the visual clutter, but you (and Martha) are absolutely right. I really need to work on the other clutter in my house and have enjoyed reading your suggestions since I found your blog yesterday. I’m gittin inspired. Thanks.

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