Call it what you like, cluttering, being a pack rack, a finder/ keeper, messy, or disorganized, some people like to refer to themselves as clutter bugs and others are shocked to think that they are considered clutter bugs, they just have a lot of stuff and there’s nothing wrong with that, right? There are two very different ends of the spectrum here, from severe hoarding to a few piles here and there, some things out of place and people have a hard time placing themselves on the scale accurately. Have you gone to a friend’s house and the first thing out of their mouth is an apology about their home being a “huge mess” when it looks magazine cover worthy to you? Some people thrive in an environment when they are surrounded by their stuff and others get stressed out when shoes are kicked off willy nilly in the entryway and not placed properly on the rack that is reserved specifically for shoes. There’s obviously a lot of interpretive license when it comes to identifying what is a little and what is too much.
When is it too much clutter? When spaces in the home aren’t functioning like they are supposed to, when day to day tasks become much larger chores, and when other members of the household are affected negatively. If you feel emotionally, physically and spiritually drained, have difficulty imagining joy in your home and feel robbed of a sense of peace. You may feel judged by others, embarrassed or ashamed. It may also be that there are other members of the home contributing to the disorganization or situations like having a new baby, home renovations or having an elderly parent come to live with you.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself about your clutter:
• Are you afraid to open closet doors because there is a potential avalanche just waiting to pour over you?
• Do you constantly find things that you had completely forgotten you owned? Do you own multiples of something
because you couldn’t find that something so you just went out and bought another?
• Does the thought of moving to another home paralyze you because the idea of how to pack everything up is similar to
the idea of climbing Mt. Everest?
• Can you spy with your little eye flat surface spaces that don’t have piles, that are free and clear?
• Do you find retail therapy very comforting? Is it difficult to resist sales, freebies by the side of the road, yard
sales and bargain items even if you don’t have a true need for them?
• Is dirty laundry mixed with clean laundry and difficult to put away because there’s no room for it?
• Are you renting storage space for rarely used items?
• Do you consider your belongings all being of equal worth no matter the functionality, monetary or sentimental value?
• Are you a great caregiver, doing lots for others even when your home is in disarray, enough so that you can’t find
time for pleasurable leisure activities?
• Do you feel a strong sense of perfectionism, the idea that if you are going to do a makeover of a space, it’s got to
be done just right?
If these questions resonated powerfully with you, you might have a clutter problem. This is not a diagnosis but just some challenging questions. There are plenty of reasons why the home is in the state that it is and those reasons are the WHY behind the stuff. Clutter bugs may dedicate themselves to clearing out the excess and have success but it’s always advisable to try to get to the core of WHY they find clutter comforting. WHY is it so difficult letting go? The WHY behind the stuff may require professional help in the form of mental health counseling because clutter clearing may just be a temporary band-aid if the reason behind the cluttering isn’t addressed. Yes, there may need to be some deep work to be done but it can be really freeing work. You may come to realize that you’re not lazy, you and your situation isn’t hopeless, you’re not a bad person and you don’t have to be ruled by material possessions for the rest of your life.
Knowing that others struggle with the same thing you do can be very supportive so reading blogs, self-help style books or listening to podcasts can help you identify with others. There are online groups where you can share your experiences among like minded people and find inspiration in some of their stories. You might find they have unique strategies as to how they dealt with their stuff in ways that really embraces out of the box thinking. Maybe your situation is not nearly as half as bad as you thought it was and with some tips and tricks, you feel motivated to dig in and begin the clearing process, reclaiming your spaces. Some people reach out to professional experts like me while some can buddy up with a non-judgmental friend and take turns helping each other declutter. Surrounding yourself with positive people and watching others commit to and achieve their goals is poignant and motivating.
Something a clutter bug once said has really stuck with me: “You’re ready when you’re ready and until you’re ready, you’re not ready” It’s very possible to build new habits, to learn to identify things that you really need, use and love and achieve the goals you thought were impossible. Best of luck in your decluttering endeavors!