Reader Jennifer submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
Why do so many people seem to think that if something is small, it isn’t clutter? Is the clutter in most people’s houses composed of large items? Just what kinds of things do most people consider to be “clutter”?
My definition of clutter has nothing to do with size. Clutter is any distraction that gets in the way of a remarkable life. Clutter doesn’t have to be physical — you can have time clutter or mental clutter or even bad processes that qualify as clutter. I think most of us have had toxic relationships that have been clutter in our lives. Stuff definitely can be clutter, but it’s not the only form.
That being said, most physical clutter that I have encountered in people’s homes and offices is small stuff. Spaces just can’t hold a lot of big items. So, in terms of quantity, it’s the small stuff that takes the title.
One thing that is also important to distinguish is that clutter and disorganization aren’t the same thing. If an item is useful and used or is inspiring to you, it isn’t clutter. However, if that useful or inspiring item is without a proper storage place (a place for everything and everything in its place) then you will be distracted by it the same as if it were clutter. The lack of an organized solution is clutter, not the object.
Additionally, what constitutes clutter for one person isn’t necessarily clutter for someone else. And, people have different thresholds for how much clutter they can have to achieve their remarkable lives. I don’t organize or regularly unclutter my sock drawer, and I’m okay with that. To focus on what matters most to me in life, I don’t need to have a pristine sock drawer. I rarely wear socks, so I just don’t come into contact with this drawer much at all. A drawer full of hole-ridden socks in complete disarray, however, might drive someone else batty and waste a great deal of their time. We’re different, and that is magnificent.
I’m also interested in reading other people’s definitions of clutter, so I hope that this post receives many comments. Your question was thought provoking and a good one to ask. I believe that formulating your own definition of clutter can go a long way in helping get it under control. Thank you, Jennifer, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.
Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.