I like to decorate our home for Christmas.

When I do, the process is pretty simple. I remove my normal decorations and before each spot is cold, I’m adding Christmas decorations.

Photo of Coco Chanel taken in 1020

Coco Chanel

For a month or more as these decorations surround me. I enjoy looking at them. I enjoy having them around. I enjoy the season.

Christmas passes. The New Year comes. It’s time to put the holiday decorations away.

Time to start anew.

This year I noticed something.

Because I was being more methodical about putting the Christmas decorations away and ridding myself of those which no longer brought me joy, where those decorations had been housed, looked REALLY empty. Void of clutter.

In fact, my eyes moved around each room without stopping. Without being distracted.

I liked what I saw.

I redecorated with less.

Today’s Lesson

Blogs are like that.

When we first start blogging we have a blank canvas. If we use WordPress, we see the “Hello World” post, but nothing else.

Sidebars are empty and the header only contains the name of our blog (and maybe the tagline).

The blog is pretty bare.

As time passes, we begin to fill the blank spaces. Just like decorating a home and hanging artwork on the walls.

But, unlike a home which we may decorate for a holiday and then start over, with a blog we often forget to clear the clutter.

In fact, sometimes we add more.

We become blind to how it looks to others.

But our visitors notice.

To them, our blogs may seem cluttered. Busy. Hard on the eye.

In truth, they may have trouble finding our content.

But we don’t see it.

We live on our blogs and know exactly where everything is. Every button. Every banner. Every widget or plugin. They’re all in the same spot we left them.

I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking it’s time I clear the clutter and get rid of widgets which take up space and ads which don’t pay.

It’s time to start anew.

What say you?

Today’s Assignment

How often do you clean up your blog?

What’s your first impression of a blog which is cluttered?

Care to share?

signature for blog post

P.S. French fashion designer Coco Chanel (1883-1971) is known for the quote, “Before you leave for the day…take one thing off…” She knew the secret to not letting our accessories distract from our beauty.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

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  1. John CanaleNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara,

    This post is great and the truth is that at the beginning I would try out many different plugins, widgets, or even regular segments to see what would work. Yet, for me it seems like my blog talks back and can show through visitors’ stats which things are more popular than others. It usually accepts certain things and rejects others. I use that as my guiding principle as to what stays and what goes. Also one good tip with clutter disposal is asking the question, “Have I used this in the past year at all?” I think that question can apply to an old lava lamp or widgets and plugins on a blog. Thanks again for the idea!

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome John,

      That’s a great tip. But you do know lava lamps are popular again, right” 🙂

      Yes. Our stats can convey a lot to us. Like you said, if we try something and it’s not received well by our visitors, their distaste can be revealed in our numbers. All the more reason to pay attention to the numbers, especially when we’re experimenting with new additions to the blog.

  2. Dr NaturaNo Gravatar says:

    Great post. I always like to keep it simple. The one constant that all good blogs have is great content. Everything else, even the design is extra. If you dun don’t have great content, noone will visit no matter how beautiful your blog looks.
    Check out Dr Natura’s awesome post.Dr Natura Promo Code for 2010My Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Dr Natura,

      I agree. Content always rules, which is another good reason to spend more time on our writing and less time filling up the white space.

  3. LeoNo Gravatar says:

    Good point. The problem is even worse when you add things (widgets, buttons, adwords) and squeeze everything else to make room for it. White space is an essential element of the design, and like it has been said before, “less is more”.

    Cluttered designs tend to be overwhelming for new visitors, especially if they are not used to using the web, and it will deter them from completing the important task you want them to: signing up to your feed (better still, your newsletter), contacting you regarding your services etc…

    I like your design because it looks “fresh” and “clean”. It also is devoid of – overpowering – ads (well done you :))
    Check out Leo’s awesome post.Google Maps API- simple map with own coulours- InfoWindow with logo- bouncing marker and custom dropdown navigationMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Leo,

      Yes. Less is more. Like you, I also feel white space is essential. It gives our readers a place to rest their eyes.

      That’s a good point about not overwhelming our potential clients. With our blog often being the first impression they get of us, if our blog is so cluttered they can’t find anything, they may be less apt to hire us, buy our products and/or sign up.

  4. Delia LloydNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara-Funny you should mention this. I’m in the process of redesigning my blog and one of my main priorities is that it not look too cluttered. I want there to be various places where readers can engage different aspects of the blog, but at the same time, i don’t want them not to know where to put their eyes. I’ve decided that a lot of white space has a lot of value where blogs are concerned. My favorites are always the ones where it’s easiest to read.

    Delia Lloyd
    Check out Delia Lloyd’s awesome post.Tips For Adulthood- Five Concrete Steps Towards Career ChangeMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Delia,

      Oooooh, a redesign. Those are always fun.

      I’m glad you brought that up. If we take the time to analyze the blog layouts/designs we like the best, it can teach us “why” and then we can use what we’ve learned for ours.

  5. Chase MarchNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara,

    It’s still winter but I guess it’s time to start thinking about spring cleaning our blogs.

    I know that there are things on my sidebar I should clean up.

    I have changed my blog a few times over the past three years. I like to keep it as simple as possible. I think it’s important to have good navigation and that is one of the reasons I use Blogger. It is so easy to go digging through the archives.

    I actually don’t visit many blogs anymore. I use Google Reader to read my favourites so clutter isn’t really an issue for me. However, if I visit a site for the first time and it takes a long time to load up, I might not wait around for it (I have a slower connection at home)
    Check out Chase March’s awesome post.DOPEfm 2010 Tribute Mix free downloadMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Chase,

      That’s a good point. If we use too many widgets, plugins and/or addons, it can slowdown the load time of our blog. Like you said, you might not wait around, nor may others.

      Yes. Good navigation is a must. Most readers to our blogs are NOT bloggers, hence it’s important to make it easy for them to find more than just our most recent article.

  6. Mike GoadNo Gravatar says:

    I went to the Thesis theme some time back and never got around to adding some of the stuff I used to have. Part of my intent has always been to make sure that the content is readily available without being overridden by the extras.

    I generally just look at the content of the posts. If the other stuff overwhelms the content, I may not come back. If audio of video automatically starts, I’ll probably leave before I even find the content.
    Check out Mike Goad’s awesome post.Whether it’s weather–or “Calamities of Nature”My Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Mike,

      We share pet peeves. That’s so annoying when a video or audio starts to play as soon as the blog opens. I think it’s important to give our readers the choice to hit “play” and not assume they want to see/hear what we’re sharing.

  7. I agree, of course! I dislike clutter in real life, and I dislike it on my blog. I think I do a pretty good job of keeping MomGrind bare. 🙂
    Check out vered | blogger for hire’s awesome post.Online Friendships SuckMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Vered,

      Yes. You do a great job of keeping your blog uncluttered.

      I used to not mind *some* clutter in my real life, but as I’ve gotten older, I want even less.

  8. Alien GhostNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara, 

    Definitely a blog page (or any web page) with too much stuff in it makes it hard to search and find things. Personally I find very annoying those plugins that follow you wherever you move the page, so you always have the Twitter, Facebook and other buttons at reach. At one hand makes it look cluttered, no matter where you try to go in the page, and also makes me think that the blogger is somehow desperate for promotion of his/her blog. 

    I don’t know if my blog page is cluttered at this point; I didn’t think of that until reading this post, so it seems it is time to check on that and simplify if needed. Thank you for the call  🙂

    Check out Alien Ghost’s awesome post.Burning FuelMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Raul,

      I know what your saying. I tested a couple of those plugins here and even though my readers didn’t seem to mind them, they became a distraction to me.

  9. George AngusNo Gravatar says:


    If a site is too busy then I get busy gettin’ the heck outta Dodge. Life is too busy and cluttered as it is.

    I am redesigning my site in the next few weeks, mainly to change the theme. I’ll keep it like me: simple and (mostly) likable.

    Check out George Angus’s awesome post.A Writing Exercise Gem From The Nighttime NovelistMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi George,

      ANOTHER redesign? You are going to keep the photo of that handsome guy in the header, right? 🙂

  10. Cleaning up blogs one in a while is a good thing. The things that clutter most in a website are ads, there are a lot of sample sites where they don’t clean up nicely. Cluttered blogs makes a visitor not continue browsing.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Lucy,

      That’s true. Oftentimes if a blog is too cluttered, the reader will leave instead of digging through our site/archives and learning more of what we have to offer.

  11. Dear Barbara:

    First off: Let me wish you a wonderful 2011. Better late than never.

    I don’t much bother about changing widgets frequently but when I do so, I take a long time to decide what to replace and remove. For a long time, I’ve been wanting water and stones background as header to suit the word ‘Meanderings’ and I finally found it. So the header won’t change for sometime now whereas for the art, poems, fancy buttons and other stuff, I tweak them every now and then.

    I hope not that my blog is too cluttered!

    I wish you joy and peace,
    Check out Susan Deborah’s awesome post.From periphery to the centreMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Happy New Year to you too Susan,

      I like your idea of taking the time to analyze what stays and what goes. Even though we may think something isn’t beneficial, our readers may disagree (and may even let us know when we remove it).

      P.S. You’ve picked a beautiful photo for your header. 🙂

  12. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Gail Gardner, Barbara Swafford. Barbara Swafford said: Come on by & share your thoughts on: "Take One Thing Off" – http://tinyurl.com/4uemjat […]

  13. suzenNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara! I’m all about simplicity and discovered like you did that those empty spaces are really kinda nice! I like to believe it adds more flow of chi. This contrasts with some friends of mine who are collectors of this and that. I have one friend with a house so jam packed cluttered I actually get nervous there – it is a very heavy energy, and so is HERS. Like lighten up already! I think it makes a definite difference in your mood.
    Check out suzen’s awesome post.GMO Foods – God Move OverMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Suzen,

      I agree. White space does add more chi to a blog, just like decorating with a home using Feng Shui – less is more.

      You’ve made a good observation. Is a person’s energy reflected in their blog? Maybe…..

  14. Keith DavisNo Gravatar says:

    Hi B
    Another straight to the point assignment.

    I try and keep my blog looking good, people become interested in the appearance long before they read the words.
    I don’t tidy up, I try not to get cluttered in the first place.

    At the moment I’m thinking of adding a couple of flashing add banners and a brass band playing in the background. LOL
    Check out Keith Davis’s awesome post.Look for the Shining EyesMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      LOL Keith,

      Make sure those banners also include the content “Click here. You’ve just one a thousand dollars.” 🙂

      You’re right. Visitors to our blogs get an impression of us well before they begin reading our content. What they see when they click onto our site is their first impression. Hopefully they like what they see.

  15. SaraNo Gravatar says:

    Barbara — It’s funny that you’re talking de-cluttering a blog site and I’m actually adding stuff:~) However, I am removing older items at the same time. I finally put on Welcome widget on my sidebar, which I didn’t have. I always enjoyed reading these at other people site and seeing their picture. It kind makes things a bit more real or homey.

    For me, what goes in the sidebar is more about balance/appearance than practicality. I like sites that are “neat” to the eye, as opposed to full of widgets and ads. I understand, however, the need for ads on some sites, I just don’t want them on mine.

    On the other hand, each to his or her own. Some people constantly redecorate their sites, which doesn’t really bother me as long as there some consistent features so that I know I’m at the right site:~)
    Check out Sara’s awesome post.Guilt- A PoemMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Sara,

      Like you, I also enjoy the welcome widgets. They’re a great way to welcome visitors to our site without making them read the about page – unless they want.

      Good point about not changing our site so drastically our readers think they’ve landed in the wrong place. When we’re new to blogging changing our site frequently isn’t so bad, but once we get established, giving our readers fair warning of an upcoming theme change might be a good idea.

      P.S. I clicked over to your site. It’s looking fabulous, as is the new photo you’re sharing. Great job! 🙂

  16. Thank you, Barbara. I love minimalism, but even more, I appreciate being able to find what I’m looking for. If I am greeted with clutter, moving items, blinking articles and huge lists of whatever, I confess that I am apt to move on.

    I thought it was just me. I’m after the message and being able to enjoy how it was delivered.
    Check out Amy@ Soul Dipper’s awesome post.How Do We Do FamilyMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      You’re welcome Amy,

      I agree. To be able to navigate a site easily is important. I know when I land on a site, I like to read the about page, past articles and even dig through the archives, but like you said, the message is our top priority.

  17. Life is same as blogging ! we start it from a scratch and take it to a high level . I just loved this article
    Check out Sandeep Singh’s awesome post.Fujitsu set to release worlds first 3D PC by februaryMy Profile

  18. KarenNo Gravatar says:

    Its tough because I am learning more and more HTML and keep adding things to see what things look like and to have fun! But, in the end, if my message isn’t getting across, then I am missing the point. And, so are my readers! I am going to look right now and see with fresh, new eyes! 🙂

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Karen,

      I think that’s pretty common. The more we learn about blogging or coding, the more we want to experiment with it; and much of that lands on the homepage of our blog. What I found works good for me is to experiment on my test site. That way I can see what something will look like before adding it to the blog.

  19. Rugby StoreNo Gravatar says:

    I love today’s assignment. Less is more. Less is beautiful. Check out Apple’s website.
    Check out Rugby Store’s awesome post.One Freaking Huge Rugby FightMy Profile

  20. crayonNo Gravatar says:

    The aesthetics of a blog are almost as important to me as the content. Visiting a blog is like stepping into a room. It’s nice to be able to step in and say “Ahh”. So many blogs are so “busy” they’re literally uncomfortable to visit. And some design choices, for example light print on a dark background, just don’t seem to be taking the reader into consideration at all. But the “selfish blogger” is a topic for another day, isn’t it?

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Crayon,

      I love your analogy. Visiting blogs is very much like visiting someone in their home. In some instances we feel “right at home” whereas other times, we feel “crowded out”.

      That’s a good point about the colors we choose for our blogs. If it’s hard for our visitors to read the content, it won’t matter how good it is. They may not stick around.

      Yes. The topic of the selfish blogger is another story. 🙂

  21. AnnaNo Gravatar says:

    Before answering your question I want to say something about your blog, Barbara. Do you know why I stopped here? I was interested in the appearance first. Your blog attracted me by its unusual design and the way of presenting posts.
    And now the answer. I try to ‘clean’ my blog regularly but it doesn’t help too much. I guess I need to reconsider the whole design of it.

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you for your kind words Anna,

      That happens sometimes. No matter what we do or don’t do, nothing helps. Oftentimes a new design is just what we need.

  22. HilaryNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara .. I would totally agree with you .. I resisted adding anything and have since .. but that’s because of where I am in life with my mother and the energy and time level etc .. BUT despite having ‘nothing’ on my blog other than 291 posts and two years on .. it looked out of date .. so I’ll change the colours etc ..

    There are certainly things I don’t understand re blogger and commenting .. techie things that I simply cannot seem to comprehend – IE & Chrome, not being able to see the post because the background interferes and having to switch browser .. etc etc .. .. so I might ask you .. what say you?! You ask us!!

    Love clear spaces though .. and really wish for my head to be clear .. but that would mean something else .. I’m working on doing the two .. now Mum’s flat has been sold ..

    Happy New Year .. cheers Hilary
    Check out Hilary’s awesome post.Guide Books- Queries – Publishers and Authors- Mariana Starke- Baedeker- Murray- Ward &amp Lock- Wainwright late 1700s to mid 1900sMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Hilary,

      That happens. When we have a lot on our plates in the real world, spending time changing or adding to our blogs sometimes needs to wait. It comes down to priorities.

      In the meantime, having an archive of nearly 300 posts is phenomenal. Just think how much time your readers can spend on your site.

      I’m not too techie either, but have heard IE (Internet Explorer) can cause problems with viewing a blog. All the more reason to test our blogs in different browsers.

  23. I think I always clean up my blog each time I check the dashboard, mostly on the sidebar’s element placements. Anyway, I always aim for a simple and easy to navigate look, and I’m more into conversions rather than the design itself, that’s why I like it clean.
    Check out Dennis – MC505LL’s awesome post.11″ MacBook Air – MC505LLMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Dennis,

      That’s a great habit you’ve got yourself into. And you’re right. When we’re more concerned with conversions, it’s imperative our blog is clean and easy to navigate.

  24. I recently had a huge blog makeover, so I’m now quite happy with the way me sidebar looks.

    Less is definitely more these days…
    Check out Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach’s awesome post.What Huge Naked Ripped Biceps Can Teach You About Powerful BloggingMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Barbara,

      You certainly did. Your blog looks totally different. I LOVE the header and the colors you choose. It rocks!

  25. WilliamNo Gravatar says:

    I wanted to share how great this blog looks! Very Sharp!

  26. PatriciaNo Gravatar says:

    Every several months I decide whether to keep ads or not on the blog – since now none of them pay, I have gone bare. My IT Girl likes it fairly crisp and clean like our house is – she keeps it pretty plain and straightforward.

    I do not like clutter. I like very simple Christmas decorations – A great smelling tree and music is sometimes all there is – I put all my effort in to the candles of the season and the prayers for each candle.

    Meaning is more important to me than objects.

    I say that as my desk is just a massive mess as I write tonight…Need another rainy day – I am a sucker for outside when the rain stops.
    Check out Patricia’s awesome post.Thoughtless Remarks Need a Sincere ApologyMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Patricia,

      I like your idea of evaluating how the ads are performing for you on a regular basis. If ads aren’t paying, all they’re doing is taking up precious blog real estate or that white space many prefer.

  27. Mandy AllenNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara, you often on things I have been thinking myself. I was recently looking at my blog and noticed I have never changed my links in the side bar from when I first started blogging two years ago! Time for a freshen up! And I have a new carpet being fitted on the 3rd February so another chance for a clear out!

    Enjoy the journey.

    Check out Mandy Allen’s awesome post.A New Year BeginsMy Profile

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Mandy,

      Time flies when we’re having fun, hey? Isn’t it amazing how things can go unnoticed because we’re busy with life or blogging?

      Oooooh! New carpet. I hear you. That’s another great motivator to clean out, too. 🙂

  28. Great post Barbara, and I love the inclusion of Coco Chanel here. 🙂 I often clean up my blog because I like things to always be clean. I even redo old posts and make sure that they’re up to date. It takes up a lot of my time but my blog is my baby. I think I might have a sickness!

    • Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you Kylie,

      That’s true. Keeping our blogs “clean” can be time consuming, but like you say, they are our babies. All the more reason to keep them tidy.

      P.S. I’d love to read your blog. Care to share a link?

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