What Is Clutter and How Does It Pile Up? - Me In Order

We have all heard the term clutter and I am sure each of us would own up to having some type of clutter in our home, but what is really considered clutter? First let’s define it. According to Webster’s Dictionary Clutter (verb) means; to fill or cover with scattered or disordered things that impede movement or reduce effectiveness. Note that the word is a verb, not a noun, meaning that an action has to occur to create it. Also the definition points out that it reduces effectiveness, which we explained in What is your Clutter Really Costing You? (link) So again what is clutter and how does it pile up? Let’s look at different types of clutter and how we can avoid creating them.

At Me In Order, we define clutter as a delayed decision. Think about the last time you were sorting items and you weren’t sure whether you wanted to keep it or not. That delayed “uhhhhhh” is what causes clutter. We are all guilty of keeping things we don’t need or use but if we ask ourselves the right questions we will get better about letting go of unnecessary items. Some great questions to ask yourself include: Have I used this in the last year? Will I use it in the next three months? Does having this item effect my life? Does this item help support the life I want to live (a clutter free/organized life)?

These delayed decisions not only impact you the few times a year you when clean out your closet but also on a daily basis. The clutter that affects us daily is from smaller items that collect on shelves they don’t belong on. Take mail for example, when you bring mail into your home, do you set it on a surface to get to later or do you look at it and make quick decisions on what can go and what needs to stay? Let’s be honest, half the mail we bring the home is junk and can quickly be let go, but if we delay that decision, it adds up…quickly.

Stuff that accumulated over time from negligence is known as lazy clutter. This lazy clutter is the reason you need a 30 minute notice before the in-laws come over. Lazy clutter can be easily managed by keeping on top of the decision making as you bring items into your home.

There is however another type of clutter called Stored Treasures/Sentimental Clutter which are those items that have emotional value. This can be your collection of TV Guides or old baby clothes from your first child. These items are harder to manage because of the emotional attachment. This is where it is good to ask yourself the clutter questions. Is this item helping me live the life I want to? Also look at how you are storing these items. Are they are on the top shelf of the closet where you didn’t even know they were there or haven’t looked at them for years? Are the baby clothes on the floor collecting dust and moth holes? If you don’t care enough to maintain the items you are keeping, why keep them? Why not use the top of the closet for out of season clothes or extra paper goods?

Now that we know how clutter accumulates, let’s talk about how to get rid of it. Like we do for our closets once a year, we need to do it for our whole house. This means going through each drawer, cabinet, nook and cranny to get out the unwanted items. During this process, remember that this clutter did not accumulate overnight and will not disappear overnight. Schedule a time, with a professional or by yourself, to work on each space. You can divide the areas up as much as you want to make the process manageable. Maybe you start with only one drawer. Be ready to make decisions and have the tools you need handy to make getting rid of unnecessary items easy, like a trash bag and a donation box. Decision making is a draining process and when you notice yourself keeping more things than you need, STOP! You have probably met your quota for the day and you can pick it up another time.

Once you have cleared out the space you need to maintain it. Why do all this work if you are just going to let it get back to the same place? Set up systems that will work for you and your family when dealing with items coming into your house. Talk to your family about clutter and how it accumulates and involve them in the process of making decisions quickly. Show them areas where items being brought into the house belong, like mail. That way you can all work on getting them to the right home.

So as you can see, clutter is a verb, not a noun which means it isn’t a thing that just happens to be around, it is an action, or lack of action on our part. Moving forward, don’t delay decisions on items coming into your home and you will be surprised at how much easier the process will get and how great it will feel to be prepared for those unexpected guests!


By Meredith Sopko

Meredith is a marketing professional and Expert Organizer with expertise in social media and e-communications. When she’s not organizing or on social media, she is at the beach or watching reality TV and drinking wine.

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