Posted on: April 16, 2007 Posted by: Nicole Harding Comments: 11

What, you may ask, is so wrong with clutter? We can’t all be “neatniks,” nor would we even want to be the Felix Ungerer type. No, but that doesn’t mean we necessarily have to be the other half of the Odd Couple – the Oscar Madison sloppy side.

It’s true that excessive neatness and orderliness can signify a person with an obsessive-compulsive disorder (as can a person who compulsively hoards stuff); on the other hand, chronic clutter can be an indication of a person troubled by clinical depression. The depressed individual lacks the drive to keep things in order. What makes it even worse for the depressive is that clutter makes the condition even worse! So, if you go to one extreme or the other and you, or a loved one, are concerned about this behavior, you might want to make an appointment with mental health professionals to get them to take a look under the hood.

As for others of us, who so hate keeping order that we would rather get a root canal than have to tackle any kind of mess (but, unfortunately, can’t learn to love the mess, either), what do we do?

Take a swift survey of the mess. You’ve got to make a decision. If you lack space for all the stuff you’ve accumulated, you’ve either got to start looking at the “home for sale” ads to move the clutter into a bigger place or start getting rid of that stuff. The second option usually looks better, but what a daunting proposition! How can we cope with the enormity of this task?

Thou Shalt Not Clutter

The first Commandment for clutterbugs is a variation on the Alcoholics Anonymous mantra, “one day at a time.” Attacking one bit of clutter at a time doesn’t seem so overwhelming as taking on an entire universe of clutter. Get one thing out of the way, then go on to the next. You can even make a list of tasks and check them off as you complete each one, if that helps. Narrow down your workload to say, one room or one corner of one room, and set a block of time for dealing with it. Examine every item in that area and make a decision – it stays, it goes to charity or to a garage sale, or it just gets tossed. If you’re not finished by the end of the time limit, decide whether you want to go on or stop until the next session you schedule. Reward yourself for a job well done.

The second Commandment is “everything in its place, and a place for everything,” as someone once said, probably your mother while surveying your childhood bedroom. Everything you own should either be properly displayed or hidden away. If it isn’t, you’ve got to buy or make a home for it – a bookshelf, say, a closet, or a knickknack shelf, someplace where you can put things when you’re done using them and a better place to display things than the bathroom countertop.

If you need inspiration or some tips on handling clutter, there are dozens of Web sites that will help you get clutter out of your life. Sandra Felton, the Organizer Lady and founder of “Messies Anonymous,” for example, provides help for the neatness-challenged. You can also find consultants, on-line and in the phone directory, whom you can hire to help you clean up the clutter; some, like Michelle Passoff, have moved on from consulting to leading seminars or writing books. Hers is titled “Lighten Up! Free Yourself from Clutter.” Like so many others who have written on the subject, she stresses that physical clutter is usually a sign of emotional, mental, and spiritual clutter. For her, attacking physical clutter is a form of therapy that leads to freeing people from all the other kinds of disabling clutter in their lives.

A book can be helpful, but don’t think the first thing to do is buy a book on how to get rid of clutter – and there are dozens of them to choose among. You had first better be motivated to take on the challenge; otherwise the book could become another part of the clutter. Because, let’s face it, the reason the clutter is there is because you (we’re guessing) created it and you lack the will power to deal with the task of eliminating it. If you aren’t wealthy enough to pay someone else to do it for you, then, what you are probably going to need is a friend or two. Call them. Tell them you need help in clearing the mess. Why? It’s because you’re having a party for your best friends, a de-cluttering party, and you are providing the food, drink, and entertainment.

Okay, maybe now you’re ready to get going on your project. But there is still that eternal nagging voice in the back of your head saying “If I throw stuff out now, I know that someday I’ll need it.” Sharon Crosby, in “Fear of letting go of clutter” suggests that you make a list of your various possessions, even ones you are now using, and rate them, 1-to-10, as to how much they are making your life easier, better, or happier. Get rid of the ones that don’t.

According to Life, a source of much good advice on dealing with clutter in every area of everyday life, your goal should be to simplify your life. “If you have lots of clutter, there’s no doubt you’re feeling lots of stress.” If you don’t use it, you probably don’t need it, and you probably should get rid of it. Give it away to charity or friends, hold a garage sale or, as a last resort, just toss it out.

Click here for more information on how to get rid of clutter.

11 People reacted on this

  1. If you just have a clutered room make a list of thigs that you are having trouble organizing. For example:
    Tackle those things first and schedule your time to clean them.

  2. Start with a tiny area–half your closet, a bookshelf, a dresser, 2 square feet of a room.

    Pick up each item 1 at a time, and ask yourself: do I love it? Does it serve a purpose? If the answer is “yes” put the item where it goes. If the answer to either question is “no” put it in a bag to get rid of. Y

    Get rid of at least 1 item for every 4 you keep. Seriously, keep count on a tally sheet if you have to, and for every 4 things you put away, one item MUST go in the bag. I do this with clothes every couple of months, and it helps a ton.

  3. Set your mobile phone timer for 10 minutes from now – work on one thing eg sorting laundry; timere goes off – leave on snooze (usually 10 mins) and go do another job until it wakes you up again!

    I know it sounds nutty – but it is amazing how much you can do when you think you are working against the clock. When you do finish your work you may find yourself saying “is it only …. o’clock?”

    May be stating obvious here but make sure you are near the phone to hear it go off – good luck!

  4. Here are the point I remember to achieve my clear outs:

    1 – Everytime you walk anywhere in your house or garden, filling the kettle, walking to or from the bathroom, pick something up and carry it closer to where it should finally go. You then don’t need to make any special trips. It all gets cleared with no walking!

    2 – Make it visual, quickly create some discrete posters for your house which display the top 3 most effective tips that work for you. Renew the tips every week if required to keep it fresh.

    3 – If you haven’t used something for more than 1 year and it has no sentimental value, then you don’t need it! Sell it on ebay to turn it into cash, or put it into your box labeled ‘For the charity shops’ near the door.

    4 – Only keep 2 sentimental items from each person. More than two itmes is unnecessary.

    5 – Cleared space in your home is much more important than the value of your junk.

    6 – Once you have had a clear out on the physical level, you should then find that you have a much clearer state of mind and you will find it much easier to make future decisions with confidence.

    7 – Stop buying junk in the first place! You probably don’t even need a fraction of what you buy. You will have more money, a neater home and there will be reduced pollution on the planet, if you stop buying.

    8 – Instead of buying, put the cash that you would have spent into the ‘For my Savings Account’ section of your wallet. Then put all of it into your real savings account every Saturday morning without fail.

    9 – Work out how you can replace your purchasing pleasure time with some activities that are more useful to either yourself or to others. Try helping others who are less fortunate, organise a local jumble sale in aid of a good cause, or simply have a special relaxing bath.

    10 – Why not try walking or cycling instead of going to buy junk. Who knows, each hour spent improving your fitness could potentially extend your life by a full day, it’s like free time with interest!, and you will generally have more energy for tomorrow to do more clearing out.

    11 – If a big clearout is too much to bear, then tackle it in small stages. Just like with every other human weakness, diverting your bad habits into good habits by just a little bit more each day, you will very soon be who or where you wanted to be, and with tidying up, this will slowly turn your house into your home.

    I hope they might help someone.

    PD –

  5. My biggest problem isn’t that I personally buy junk, but people give it to me. I have countless nick-knacks that are Christmas gifts, birthday presents, souvenirs, etc. While it is nice to have friends and family that like to give, it is a serious problem. I feel guilty disposing or getting rid of these things, but at the same time they bother me when they hang around the house.

    My second biggest hurdle is I have about two boxes of clothing that I don’t fit into anymore, but it’s only by one or two sizes. I have been intending on losing the weight to fit back into them, but that’s another issue. I’ve been holding on to them as “incentive”, but obviously it isn’t enough.

    The third big problem is my boyfriend, as wonderful as he is, is a “collector”. He collects toys, books, posters, cardboard cutouts, etc. So even if the mess is “valuable”, it’s still a mess that we just don’t have space for! He believes that these things will one day pay for our children’s college or something silly like that.

  6. I have 2 tips to share: First, start at one side of the room and work your way around the room….don’t go from side to side, back and forth……just start at one end and work your way around. It works GREAT!

    Second, what do you DO with all that clutter, outgrown clothes, etc.? Gather up those clothes and drop off at your local charity or thrift store and get a receipt for your taxes! Sometimes just knowing you can get money for that stuff OR a tax write-off is enough for some people. Also, learn to FREECYCLE! What is that? Its like REcycling only everything you give away (or get!) is FREE…..Its a nationwide movement and many areas have clubs in each city. Simply go to and find your state and then area and sign up. You’ll be AMAZED at the things people give away because they don’t want to bother with garage sales, etc. I’ve gotten a nearly new freezer, plants for my garden, a sandbox for my granddaughter, etc. etc. I’ve given away concert tickets, beds, pet items, etc. Try it!

  7. One thing that you might try doing with sentimental items, is to take digital photos of the items. Then you can keep the photo and release the item.

  8. Most effective way to clear house of clutter? A levee breach after a hurricane that destroys everything you own … including the house! Short of that “tip”, buy only what you need. You like books, magazines, music CDs and DVDs? Check out the library. Resist impulse sale purchases just because the price is great (if you don’t need it). Also, keep a box in your laundry room to fill with items you run across your home you don’t use … drop it off at the nearest Charity when full. I am a picture-nut but don’t like the clutter of frames. Magentic photo sleeves (from Walgreens) look great on the fridge — white on white in my case but they come in other colors that will match your fridge. I also occasionally do an “inventory” of cosmetic and personal items … don’t use it, its old, expired or never used? Toss it. Most importantly, when you do decide to attack clutter, only address a small space. Even if its only one drawer.

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