What causes clutter in your life?

One of the important aspects of getting clutter under control in your life is to discover why your home and life are cluttered. Spending as few as 15 minutes in quiet reflection often can help you to discover the root of your problem.

Is your home and life cluttered because of:

  • Emotional avoidance? (Are you holding onto your past because you fear the present and future? Are you afraid that you’ll lose the memories of someone from your past if you get rid of a physical object of his/hers?)
  • Physical exhaustion or limitation? (Have you been injured and cannot pick up objects as easily as you once could? Would you benefit from the help of a hired hand?)
  • Mental exhaustion? (Are you emotionally overwhelmed because of a work or social situation?)
  • Lack of time? (Are you working too many hours or traveling too often to keep your home well maintained?)
  • Feeling overwhelmed? (Is there so much stuff in your home that you don’t know where to begin organizing and/or cleaning? Are you over-committed to clubs and activities outside of your home to give your life its proper attention?)
  • Laziness? (Do you just not want to take care of things right now?)
  • Compulsive shopping? (Are you buying more than you can use and need? Are you constantly buying things to make yourself feel better?)
  • Procrastination? (Do you want to have your clutter disappear but would rather sit and watch television instead of deal with it?)

Once you identify the cause(s) of clutter in your life, you can work to keep clutter from reappearing in your home. The causation of your clutter might be able to be solved by simply changing your attitude (like with laziness) or hiring a professional organizer to get you started. Solving your time crunch problem might mean something more drastic like changing your job. In some cases, you might even consider consulting a counselor or life coach to help solve the root of your problem. In all cases, though, identifying the cause(s) of your clutter and working to solve it can help to keep your life clutter free in the future.


This post was originally published in June 2007.

8 Comments for “What causes clutter in your life?”

  1. posted by Dr. Ragan, www.psychologyofclutter.com on

    I agree with most everything above and would add that sometimes clutter is an outward manifestation of a psychological issue that requires more than a counselor or life coach. There are times when the only thing that will help is intense psychotherapy and possibly medication to treat depression, anxiety, ADD or a number of other clinical conditions. I personally believe the most people need to let go of the guilt that comes along with clutter and come up with a workable plan to control it. My opinion is that people don’t fail–plans fail.

  2. posted by Jude on

    Everyone died or moved and left all their stuff here. Some of it is quite valuable (or interesting) and it’s taking me years to get through it. I don’t see that one on the list.

  3. posted by Ryan on

    Some of these issues would cause me to declutter instead. For instance, emotional avoidance would cause me to toss my sentimental items in the trash so that I’m not reminded of something socially tragic.

    And as far as psychological issues, I’m very claustrophobic and it makes me a little obsessed with making sure there is enough space in a room. I can’t stand shit strung everywhere, taking up space. Makes it feel very uncomfortable. So another advantage to decluttering.

  4. posted by M on

    I know what causes clutter in my house – my two little helping hands (aged 6 and 9).

  5. posted by Erika on

    Jude, I hear you; I helped my aunt sort through her parent’s things and much of it was valuable antiques. We spent an intensive summer dealing with it, but it has taken years to get it truly under control. The up side is, I now have many lovely items that I use every day which remind me of them.

    One item I would add to the list, and I’m not meaning to be rude, is not having a life. We live in a very consumer culture in which shopping is frequently referred to as “the national sport” or “the national past-time”. We don’t need things, but in order to amuse ourselves or socialize, we shop. We need to realize that, eventually, owning one more pair of super cute shoes is going to be more of a burden than a joy (and I speak as the guilty in that category).

  6. posted by WaterLearner on


    Good and useful writeup. To be honest, I commit almost all of them. I believe that external clutter is a manifestation of internal clutter. I especially agree with issues like emotional avoidance and mental exhaustion. In such cases, being so burdened internally, there would definitely be no energy left for tidying up any exterior so to speak.

  7. posted by Katie on

    Don’t underestimate the impact of physical illness and injury on clutter until you’ve tried to take out the trash on crutches in the snow!

  8. posted by While I’m Away « gailvazoxlade.com on

    […] those of you who are compulsive pack-rats and may need some help getting uncluttered there’s […]

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