Bringing "quiet" to "visual noise" at home

Having discovered the work of Gretchen Rubin—thinker on habits, human nature, and happiness—AKA my jam—I have been eagerly consuming her books and considering how to apply and/or share some of her strategies for keeping one’s proverbial shit together. (My euphemism, not hers. Swearing is more on-brand for me.)

Her new book, “Outer Order | Inner Calm” is chockablock full of advice on home-keeping habits in particular. (Those of you who follow me on Instagram may have seen my last few posts referencing this book.) She writes,


Certain areas can get so crowded and “loud” that they hurt the eye.

At home, a refrigerator door that’s plastered with school schedules, children’s artwork, expired coupons, magazine clippings, tattered flyers, and rubbery magnets is neither a helpful resource nor a place of beauty, and it will make the kitchen seem messy, even if everything else is beautifully ordered…

Try to bring down the noise level.

BUSTED. Another suggestion Rubin gives is to take a picture of your space, to help you get fresh eyes for what it REALLY looks like.

As a clean-freak, my kitchen is natch really clean (post-use by enthusiastic 9-yo chefs aside)—however, upon inspecting this photo, I realized it doesn’t necessarily look tidy. I mean, there’s a lot going on there…



When we live in a space, sometimes we get inured to how the whole thing, like, as a composition, reads. In a word, BUSY.

The funny thing is, as a highly sensitive person, typically visual noise irritates the ever-loving-crap out of me and makes me feel low-grade stress (or let’s be honest, rage-y). But! Sometimes you don’t necessarily notice the accumulation until you REMOVE said accumulation.

Case in point:

AHHH. Quieter. (Although it does make the shelf next door look rull busy…)


Here’s the thing though: You have to find the balance between low levels of visual noise AND the ways in which you personally roll.

For example, some people like to see their tools—it provides a visual catalog of inventory and seeing what items one has cues one to use those items, instead of forgetting about their existence. In other words, outta-sight-outta-mind—and furthermore, some people might go out and buy another one or two or ten and then one day you’re all DAAAMN IT WHYYYY DO I HAVE TWELVE OF THAT I JUST NEEDED ONE.

Also, it’s nice to have beautiful and/or sweet-warm-fuzzy things on display, things that oh, let’s say, bring you joy and personalize your space.

With that balance in mind, I re-composed the canvas of my fridge:


What stayed:

  • Meal-planning board (see my tips on meal planning here)

  • Curated family pictures

  • A reminder of how to practice nonviolent communication (i.e., talk about your feelings, ask for what you need)

  • Curated magnets—either homemade by said 9-yo or souvenirs from when we lived in Haifa, Israel

  • A measurement cheat-sheet (hey did you know that 4Tb is 1/4 cup???)

Also, I tucked out of sight anything sticking out of the storage boxes on top of the fridge, lest they contribute to the scene’s visual information.

What left the premises:

  • Kiddo artwork (filed or recycled; see my tips on managing kid artwork here)

  • Lessons learned in my kiddo’s OT feelings-management sessions (PS I cannot say enough good things about this combo approach)—we will find a more physically obvious place for these, so they are actually seen instead of blending into the rest of the landscape

  • Rubber bands on a clip—not nice to look at, though convenient; I relocated them to a small box in the chip-clip/twisty-tie/tin-foil/plastic-wrap/etc. drawer, which makes more sense anyway

This is +/- our kitchen’s visual “sound” baseline—not to much, just enough. I don’t expect it to stay this way though, because, life. But like with all the everywheres in your home where things tend to stealthily accumulate, 1) noticing that you’ve gone far past your baseline + 2) periodic curation = the way to keep to your visual information set-point, before it turns into loud raging noise.