The Art of Subtraction

Fascinated, I watched as a sculptor created a face from a lump of clay. With deft fingers, he tore into the pliable medium, pulling away bits and pieces. A pair of sightless eyes, cheekbones, a nose, and finally lips appeared out of the shapeless mass. No clay was added to create the facial features. Throughout the process, clay was only removed to reveal a face in the inanimate material. Before this, I added clay to form features and appendages.

Sergei by jparadisi
Sergei by jparadisi

I realized that the art of living well — like sculpting — is a process of subtracting clutter and revealing purpose.

I struggle with clutter. At home, David politely refers to my “three-dimensional filing system.” In part, it’s because I am an artist. I find potential for creating art from the seemingly useless. I don’t expect to change dramatically.

I Googled “creativity” and “clutter.” More than 3.5 million references popped up in 0.19 seconds. A single article embraced clutter. The majority reported that clutter siphons creativity through disorganization and inefficiency. One even linked to poor health and obesity. Clearly, subtracting clutter enhances creativity and efficiency.

In my nursing practice, I strive to remove clutter and maximize efficiency in patient care. Here are a few ideas to reduce clutter and increase efficiency during your shift.

  1. Embrace technology. Using a Smartphone eliminates hunting for calculators. Apps like MedCalc keep calculations for doses, BSA, ANC, and more at your fingertips. Several apps can help your own health by logging calories consumed and burned through exercise, and we all know the benefit of removing the clutter of extra weight. Some companies offer employee discounts for Smartphone plans so check your benefits.
  2. If your institution uses electronic health records, learn to use them. Creating “workarounds” is inefficient and defeats the purpose. Electronic records save time. Charting in real-time prevents the need to reconstruct events from memory at the end of your shift.
  3. Avoid mission creep. Stick to the care plan. In the ambulatory infusion clinic where I work, patients arrive with lists of concerns having little to do with their appointment. It’s easy to start calling physicians’ offices and making unrelated appointments for them. Handle the appointment-related work, and provide resources for the rest. Don’t confuse patient advocacy with enabling dependent behaviors.
  4. Bring your lunch to work. Sit down and enjoy your 30-minute break instead of standing in line buying food. You’ll save calories, and money too. Many nurses spend $5-$15 rapidly consuming a high-calorie takeout meal in a depressing staff lounge. Wouldn’t you prefer saving the money and calories for a leisurely meal with friends or family during off hours? Just saying.

I’ll leave you with one last thought:

The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life, which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.

 Henry David Thoreau

 Now, if I could only do streamline at home. Any suggestions?


1 Comment

  1. I have an issue with clutter too because, like you, I see potential in many things. I also have too much stuff for my small apartment (it was much better when I had a studio away from home, but I don’t have that at the moment…)

    I’m in total (frantic) cleaning mode these days. I feel suffocated by my stuff and feel the need to have some breathing space. I’m blaming it on the 4th time through The Artist’s Way. I’m feeling a deep need to simplify and downsize. But then, I come to something with potential, and there I am again…back to where I started from!! 😦


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