How Clutter Accumulates and Why You Need to Declutter?
Ever seen those human cartoons whose every hair strand is stiffly sticking out to every possible direction? Good! That is precisely the state of your mind when you live amidst clutter. It is difficult to follow when someone is speaking to you, because there is an underlying buzz of clutter – the din of undefined shapeless clutter.
And when you are alone? Still, you cannot operate. You decide the compound outside is too untidy you want to take a sickle and slash the grass; but no – there is no way into the store where the sickle is: too much clutter.
You opt, instead, to arrange your clothes that are lying everywhere and pack them somewhere neat, but no – the mountain of clothes lying on the floor is up to your shoulders and you cannot find your way either to the wardrobe or your mammoth suitcase. You cannot even your compound, you cannot arrange your clothes, and worse still, you cannot reach your bed! So what do you do? For the umpteenth time in the year, you lie on top of the clothes on your sofa. This, no doubt, is a crisis. You need to declutter your home and your life.
How Did You Find Yourself Engulfed in Clutter?
Well, it is gradual. You, definitely, have your silent answers, but for many like you in clutter, the answer is usually, “I sincerely can’t tell”. And by the time it dawns on you that you have gotten to an abnormal state of affairs, the situation is so overwhelming that you are not able to handle it.
Some people are lucky to be bailed out through external intervention, but you may not be one of those lucky few. Incidentally, clutter causes you to shut everyone else out of your lifesuch that, if it were to kill you, heaven forbid, it would take days for you to be discovered.
Here are six excuses that are touted as reasons for clutter
- Feeling guilty about disposing of gifts
Often, you may feel as if giving away an item you received as a present is either being ungrateful or disrespectful to the giver. So you find yourself keeping a sinking sofa on your balcony for years on end just because it was something your mother handed over to you with the information that she had inherited it from your grandfather. And 10yrs later, you still retain your prom dress which you can hardly fit in because it was your aunt who bought you as a surprise gift. So if you think about birthday presents, welcome home gifts, farewell gifts and all those tokens you have received over the years, you might not even afford the space required to store them for years in a neat state.
- Hoping you can sell the items for a high value
Sometimes you want to keep something even when it keeps getting in your way, simply because you think it may fetch you a fortune sometime soon. But that is merely speculation; you have no facts to go by. And if you consider how fast some things are getting obsolete these days, and how often you are making replacements, just imagine how fast your clutter is then rising.
- Fearing you might later need something you have disposed of
So often you return a dress into your wardrobe when it cannot fit you, feeling that your friend’s teenage daughter might one day spend an unplanned weekend at your place and you give her the dress to change into.
And, of course, you cannot give that girl the dress for good because another weekend it might be your niece spending an unplanned weekend at your place. You might even retain ancient scrubbing tools just because, in your thinking, some handymen might spill something when you give them work some day and those tools could come in handy.
- Waiting to identify the ideal person or organization to give something In many facets of life, we make do with what is convenient simply because perfection is pretty elusive.
If you wait for your beloved niece who is doing very well in elementary school to move into her own house so you can give her your treasured reading table, you might have to wait for a pretty long time. And what happens then when she proceeds to high school and then to university, and instead of getting her own apartment, she proceeds on internship abroad?
Are you going to hope that she does not take up a job abroad but instead returns home after her internship?
Now, that is exactly the line of thinking and wishing that creates clutter. Your niece might only surface back home after eight years to announce her wedding to her fiancé from her new country of residence.
- An urge to keep things within sight
Look at a scenario where you have your blue biro but you do not want it in your coat pocket because you might need it on the coffee table right next to you. Yet you are not writing but reading a newspaper.
Then you decide to play some computer game but you will not put the newspaper in the bookshelf or elsewhere, because you wish to come back to it soon. In the course of two hours, you might have your laptop open on your coffee table, some writing material and pens scattered there, your newspaper and a couple of magazines, and probably a couple of glasses that you used to drink water.
If you extend that kind of behavior to water bills and electricity bills that you often want to keep within sight lest you forget to settle them; the umbrella you want in sight just in case it is drizzling when next you go out; and such other things, you have gotten yourself a cluttered house already.
- Lack of Motivation
True, you may be lacking in motivation – but how did you get to this point in the first place? It is through procrastination. You, for instance, decided you will hang your clothes in the closet after next week’s laundry but you did not.
After accumulation of two weeks’ laundry, it gets to three and then to four and before you know it, your bed is full of clothes; you are now placing them on your reading table. It will not take you much longer before you find some of the clothes in the living room.
How Does Clutter Affect You?
We know that clutter is an assembly of untidy items, and in the normal state of affairs, nobody will expect you to love untidiness. But then again, there are other things that we, likewise, do not like, but we do not lose sleep over them or get restless because of them.
So when we talk of clutter affecting you, we actually mean a state where your life significantly changes for the worse in quite a number of ways because you have accumulated a lot of clutter.
So, a little clutter is fine?
Well, sometimes some clutter is inevitable. How are kids around you, for example, going to learn from the environment if you want them to have the room always clean and tidy? It might mean no modeling, no self-built carton or tin cars, no mosaic designs… And we might as well call it a very gloomy environment for the kids. In short, you do not want to go for perfection,
In short, you do not want to go for perfection, because in reality, that endeavor can backfire. If you find yourself getting stressed up every time someone in your house leaves an item where it does not belong, to the extent that people are afraid of paying you a visit, call that obsession and slow down. It might mean you are too much on edge and it is not good for your health.
So, you should be able to tolerate some level of clutter in order to accommodate other people in your life; and also to cut yourself some slack during your bad days – when you are exhausted or have an extremely busy schedule, or when you are simply bored. You are only human after all.
Stanton, Kathy (2014-09-22). How To Declutter And Simplify Your Life: Essential Tips On Getting Organized And Living In A Stress Free Home (Kindle Locations 93-95). . Kindle Edition.
When, then, do you stop tolerating clutter?
Remember even when we are talking of tolerating clutter, it is only in order for you to live a normal life amidst normal imperfect people; an effort to avoid being unduly stressed.
But by no means should you let yourself go – tolerating clutter until people close to you cannot tolerate you anymore.
What Is The Red Flag? Approaching Clutter’s Danger Zone
- How fast can you prepare to receive casual visitors?
If you find yourself sweating when you receive a message that some friends are in the neighborhood and want to check up on you, and it is all because you need two days or more to clear your living room and corridor, that is a bad sign. At that juncture, it means your bedroom, which is more hidden, could be in worse mess. Stress Management Expert, Elizabeth Scott, feels that 15 minutes is the best gauge. If you need more than 15 minutes to tidy up to the level where you feel comfortable welcoming someone into your house, then it is time to do something about your clutter.
- How fast do you locate what you want?
If you need hours to locate your walking shoes, or your college certificate, or the egg beater, what that means is that your bedroom, your study room and even your kitchen are in a real mess. By extension, we can visualize your whole house in total chaos. And it is time to stop the situation from spiraling out of control.
- Are you feeling stressed?
Stephanie, owner of a peaceful home, a firm that deals with decluttering, says that a peaceful home gives you order and balance; also clearing your mental clutter and helping you relax.
So if you are feeling stressed every time you get into your house, it is time to address the clutter issue. If every time you think about going home you feel like looking for an alternative, think seriously if the clutter has something to do with it. Do not allow clutter to drain your energy and usurp your happiness.
What bad can we attribute to clutter?
The fact that there is talk about how to declutter is an indicator that clutter is something we could do well to avoid, and clear, where it exists.
- The time factor
Time is definitely an issue. Clutter makes you appear like you live in a 6hr day whereas everyone else lives in a 24hr day. And you know what the reason is? You are the person that everyone is always waiting for well past the agreed time. And the cause for your delay is simple – clutter. Sometimes you cannot trace your house keys after you have done everything else including finding a dress to wear after a one hour search.
The times you have had to look for those keys are uncountable and you normally find them under some clothing, amidst utensils, on the couch covered with paperwork, or such other place that nobody could predict. Some other time you put on your dress but you cannot find your appropriate pair of shoes. So you are always fighting against time – you can never be on time for anything. And this could cost you a job, a business opportunity, friends, and a lot more.
- Money badly spent
Sometimes you find yourself settling your bills with penalties, not because you had financial problems, but because you just could not trace the documents to know the amount and due dates. Other times you buy things that were not in your budget because you have misplaced what you could use.
So, for instance, at some point you have six nail cutters in the house, yet you cannot cut a broken nail because you cannot trace even one of those nail cutters; so you buy a seventh. Or you cannot trace your vacuum cleaner, big as it is.
And you end up having duplicates of things, including expensive designer clothes that you probably need to wear only twice in a year.
- Unnecessary stress
Clutter brings stress into your life. You want to lead a relaxed and happy life, visit friends and have them visit you; do some indoor exercises; and simply lead a normal life. But clutter deprives you of all that because:
- You are embarrassed to have friends over and you get into panic mode whenever someone suggests a visit to your place.
- You cannot continue working out indoors or even doing some yoga because every time you are in the mood for that, you are overwhelmed by the time you need take to clear the space for that.
- Trying to locate items is, in itself, stressful and frustrating.
- You get stressed just by looking at the clutter before you and knowing that you would prefer to be in a better looking and more relaxing environment. But the fact that you are holed up in a place whose air circulation has become restricted, and walking space limited by mind boggling piles of clutter, is more than stressful.
How to Declutter Your Home Fast?
Of course, you need not explain how overwhelming it is to think about clutter – every time you think of clearing and tidying up, you just cannot get a starting point. And that is precisely why you have been a non-starter ever since you considered tidying up.
Luckily, that does not have to be the case. You will make it if you adopt the mentality of Dale Carnegie, the great writer and motivator of a century gone by. His take is that you will rarely succeed unless you are having fun in whatever you are doing. So, in your case, you need to think up ways of having fun as you make your place habitable.
Here are some suggestions on organizing your home and your life:
- Be charitable
If you allow yourself the generosity of giving away an item each day, you will realize within no time that you are enjoying more space in your house than before.
And of course, since you want to have fun while at it, you will not fight any spontaneous urge to give away more than one item sometimes.
2. Spare five minutes each day
Don’t forget you do not want to stress yourself further; so you are keeping it simple. Since the reason you have everything so messed up is that nothing seems to be in its right place, identify some space each day, no matter how small, that you want to clear. It could be the TV area, ironing table, or even your dressing table. Alternatively, you could do it in form of items, where you identify a few items and return them where they belong. Those daily five minutes will transform your house miraculously after only a couple of weeks.
3. Use a trash bag per day
The idea here is to have fun with your clutter. Whether you want to pick up stuff you do not want to retain or stuff that you would like to give out for free, it does not matter. Just commit to filling up one trash bag each day. If it is trash, throw it out, off course – don’t look for some space to keep it (till a later date!) And if they are give-away items, call out for them fast.
This is a challenge by Joshua Becker, a minimalist, who suggests that in a single occasion, you identify 12 items that you can dispose of as trash; 12 items that you can give away as donation; and 12 more things that you are going to put back to their rightful place. Imagine if you have your family with you and each of them participated! So much fun and far much faster this decluttering process will be.
Let us say this: there is no limitation as to the methods you can apply to declutter. The most important thing is to start the process and have fun while at it. It is that relaxed way of doing it that will keep you going until ultimately you will have your airy and spacious house back. And you will be back in circulation in your social circles because you will no longer be embarrassed to host anyone or stressed about managing your time and money.
The Experts’ Take on Clutter
What do psychologists think about clutter?
Even as you consider what psychologists think, remember professionals express their thoughts from facts and years of experience. So their word is not to be taken lightly.
Think of it when the psychologist says that clutter is an issue larger than space and organization. Often you think: this house is so messy, I’ll get someone to stuff these things in bins and organize what I want to use. Right – that may seem to work at the face of it; but after only three or months or thereabouts, you are back to square one. Do you clearly see why psychologists think you need to address more than instant clearing?
Here are some health issues that lead to clutter:
- Emotional trauma
People who have suffered emotional trauma of some kind, or those who have had physical brain damage, easily fall into the problem of clutter. For instance, losing a loved one can make you a hermit who has no taste for anything in life, let alone organizing the house.
Depression is a psychological condition that can get you living in clutter. You feel lethargic and lacking in motivation, and you simply do not care much about anything.
3. Chronic pain
Obviously, you will have problems keeping your house organized when you are perennially worrying about physical pain. Your only luck is if you have someone close who understands your problem and helps you out on a daily or weekly basis.
Psychologists would like to attend to you on the basis of being a hoarding patient; they acknowledge this as a mental ailment. Therefore, they do not see you getting clutter out of your life even if a tidying firm bails you out one day; the clutter is bound to accumulate again – and fast at that. Generally, for all these ailments, psychologists recommend you get treatment for them as a matter of priority, and thereafter, it will be easy for you to handle the clutter.
Dr. Tolin, a psychologist, found increased levels of stress in people with a hoarding problem, as they strived to make a decision on whether to dispose of something or not.
How many people are adversely affected by clutter?
Statistics have it that the Americans who are stressed by the fact that their homes are cluttered are in the range of 84%. And 70% of those stressed by clutter are, on the overall, stressed in life. Therefore, that is a pointer that the number of stressed Americans is very high. There are findings indicating that the incidence of clutter raises the level of cortisol, which is a stress hormone.
At the workplace, the negative impact of clutter is reduced productivity and recurring unprofessional behavior. In short, it is important that you address the problem of clutter comprehensively both at home, where you stay when you want to relax, and at work, where you spend most of your waking hours.
Decluttering helps students, too
Everybody is better off living a clutter-free life. Students lead a more smooth life and achieve success more easily when they are organized as opposed to when they lump their things together haphazardly. Just as a school program is essential, so is separating different types of items.
For example, if you put toiletries and pens together, tracing a pen when you want to do your assignment will consume a lot of time; and time is always precious. So, it is advisable to give organization the importance it deserves, in order to lead a stress free school life. Summary of the Simple Journey from Clutter to Comfort and Joy This is how you can tell your story of decluttering to a friend in the same predicament as yourself:
- Begin tidying up spot by spot. In fact, you could decide to clear a drawer a day until your whole cupboard is neat. If the mess is in your working place, you could decide to clear drawer by drawer until you are done with all your cabinets. And it helps to reward yourself every step of the way. Granted, the joy of seeing a tidy spot, even when it is only a square meter, is gratifying, but you will get more motivated if you take time to appreciate your effort.
- Get containers to put most things and get into the habit of returning items back into their respective containers after use; they are easy to arrange. Where necessary, do not hesitate to label the containers. It is not a ridiculous move – far from it. Rather, it simplifies your work when you need to pick something, because after a long time of being somewhat disorganized, you may not recall the new arrangement off-head.
- Solicit the help of friends if you can; not just because clearing clutter is relatively demanding, but also because they will help you evaluate each item objectively. Reason – they did not participate in buying those items and they did not receive any of them as gift; so they obviously have no attachment to them.
- Select the items you want to get rid of, those ones that you want to give away, and then those that you want to keep. If you surely have not used something for years, chances of you getting the need to use it any time in the future are really slim. And again, do not feel bad about giving away anything if you do not have to keep it. The less you remain with the better for your space and comfort.
- Now that you are enjoying fresh air and listening to your own echo where it was all stuffiness and clutter, make a promise to yourself and keep to it: that you will strive to put things away after use. Make another promise that you will fight impulse buying with all your willpower because it is one of the reasons you accumulate lots of things that you do not need.
- If you have children, teach them to clear their mess after work and play. Finally, and of great importance, deal with any emotional instability that you may be experiencing; see a professional if that is what it will take to keep clutter away for good.
Finally, I hope this long boring post was able to help you to understand the need to do something about the clutter in your life. It is also my hope that you will be able to follow the simple Do-It-Yourself steps that you have learnt here, so as to regain your freedom of movement and relaxation in your space.
The next step is to set a date when you intend to begin to declutter your home and your life; hopefully it will be soon.