Tuesday, March 15, 2011

7 Surprising Emotions that Arise from Clutter

Much has been written about clutter and how to tame it. It's often assumed that most people don't like clutter and don't want it in their homes. If someone has a clutter problem, we tend to think they simply don't have the skills to take control of it, or worse, they are lazy. We may even think of ourselves as lazy if we let clutter get out of control.

But, I've come to realize that not everyone thinks of clutter in the same way. Feelings regarding clutter can run the gamut from embarrassed to thrifty and everywhere in between. Here are some typical emotions that people have about their clutter:

1. Embarrassment - People that are embarrassed or ashamed about their clutter often make excuses for it. They claim to not have the time to clean and declutter. They may avoid inviting people to their home and, if they do, will apologize for how messy things are.

2. Defensive - Defensive people make excuses for their clutter, too. But, they tend to do it in a different way than people that are ashamed of clutter. They may smugly repeat quotes like this one from Albert Einstein, "If a cluttered desk is that of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk?" Some incredibly intelligent people are highly cluttered, but some incredibly intelligent people are highly organized. People that are defensive about their clutter tend to look for validation for clutter from outside sources. They also tend to claim to not care about their clutter, but they do it in such a way that you know they do.

3. Thrifty - Extremely thrifty people avoid throwing things away because they may need it "someday". We all know people like this. They stockpile things that aren't really needed, save every plastic container that comes their way and have a stash of paperclips to supply a university. Some thrifty, cluttered people are organized, but many are not. People that are cluttered because they are thrifty may feel proud of their clutter as proof that they are living a frugal lifestyle. Note that not all thrifty people are clutter bugs. 

4. Angry - It's easy to get angry about clutter, especially when the clutter belongs to a spouse, children or others that you share a home with. However, it's also possible to be angry with oneself for letting clutter get out of control.

5. Creatively Inspired - It's true. Some people really do feel creatively inspired by clutter. Check out Mary Randolph Carter and her website Carter's Junk. She's written books about the "junk" she collects and how she arranges it in pleasing ways and uses it for creative endeavors.

6. Defeated - Clutter can make you feel drained. It's a big problem for a lot of us. If you've had moments where you can't find something important because of clutter, it's pretty defeating. Or, maybe you are overwhelmed by the amount of clutter you've got. That's quite defeating, as well. To get over this feeling, take baby steps to solve the problem. Spend 15 minutes a day decluttering. It really is empowering simply to know that you are making progress!

7. Anxious - Anyone feel anxious when things are cluttered and messy? I know I do. It makes me antsy and nervous when I can't walk through the living room because of all the toys on the floor. I also feel anxious when I walk into the garage and it's a disorganized disaster. I feel physically uncomfortable with an extreme amount of clutter (and my garage is in that sorry state right now).

Clutter inspires many feelings. That's probably one of the reasons so much has been written about it. Clearly, not all of the emotions associated with clutter are negative. If clutter makes you feel proud of being thrifty or inspires you creatively, then it's probably not a problem for you, especially if it doesn't interfere with your life. But, if it brings out negative emotions, like shame, anger and anxiety, then it's time to take steps to get it under control.


  1. I absolutely agree with your post. There are so many bad things we face through clutter, especially the surprises. I make sure my home is always uncluttered so that I dont face embarrassment.

  2. What a good tips on clutter and declutter. I do agree that we all should live in simple world, no more possessing a lot of things, just live happy without things.

  3. This is great. Yes it is incredible how our envieronment can change our mood.

    I am just into cleaning more and planning to make my place much more organized. Your site also helps me to stay motivated. =)