Why We Clutter

Stuff & Clutter

A Way of Life

Why We Clutter

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Dear Juli,

How do you deal with a “clutterer” who is reluctant to change? My mom has a serious problem with junk everywhere. I don’t understand how she can live like this and when her adult children try to help her she pushes us away. What is this all about? – Mark S.

Dear Mark,

I’m sorry to hear about your mother’s cluttering challenges. For many, accumulating clutter has become a way of life. While this is not typically the initial desire, things just end up this way. I have seen more than my share of clutter in this world and have helped hundreds of people get rid of theirs. I have also learned a lot about why a person gets to this place in their life and how to shift that way of living.

I have outlined three main reasons people generally have cluttered environments. You may identify with one or several of these areas. Next week I will provide some additional tips on dealing with the below mentioned issues.

Reasons we Clutter:

  1. Fear of never being able to get something again: Most people who have this fear have had it since childhood and are afraid that their “things” will be taken away. Sometimes they grew up during a time when material goods were harder to replace, and valuable in a way that they are not today. This is what I call Depression Era mentality.
  2. Inability to make a decision about whether an item is still needed: Making a decision about whether to keep or discard an item can be overwhelming. Many people faced with this choice feel it is easier to just hold onto the item and deal with it later. Often we realize that something we have is no longer useful, but we either spent a lot of money on it, or it was given as a gift, or it once served a purpose and we feel guilty getting rid of it. Usually, holding onto it just keeps bringing back the conflicted feelings associated with it and thus prolongs the agony, so it’s better to just get rid of it. Learning to make decisions is a process. Look at next week’s article for more on this.
  3. Failure to ask yourself “What will I actually do with this?” at the time you are considering a purchase: Stop the “cluttering” before it even gets started! Don’t buy things without some real purpose in mind. Getting something because it is on sale or because you were “out shopping” is not a good enough reason to buy it. Ask yourself what you need it for, and if you can’t come up with a good enough reason, don’t bother getting it in the first place. Your home will thank you.

Clutter can seize control of your life even when you have the best intentions, so spend time regularly to purge through areas of your house/office so it doesn’t get out of hand. Doing this periodically takes far less time than waiting until it turns into a major problem. Work on little bits at a time — set aside small increments of time instead of tackling an entire room. You will have much more success and be inclined to go back to it at a later date.