“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”  William Morris”

Keeping ahead of clutter can be a huge challenge. Most people’s homes have the lived in look, with pictures, mementos and other special touches. But in my experience, clutter piles grow in the night.  I swear it seems that paper piles can be bigger than when I went to bed. Things continue slowly pile up in piles and stacks.

At first, stuff seems to not get in your way of day to day happenings. But suddenly, you hit your clutter limit and are stressed when you walk through the door. Feeling disorganized can cause you to feel overwhelmed and just plain worn out. When does clutter become a problem?

• You consistently lose your keys

• You can’t find important documents or forget to pay bills on time.

• You spend more time trying to find something than it takes to get organized.

I have to confess that I was not born with an organization gene. My sister and mother arrange everything in a neat and tidy fashion. Labeled boxes, bins and baskets line their homes. I practice certain habits to keep from drowning in a sea of papers and boxes. Over the years, I learned to change how I looked at keeping things orderly. There are so many books and websites suggesting ways to get organized. But what about ways your mind justifies not coping with clutter? Here are ways that clutter can trick you and stress out your life:

Clutter is a time thief. An accumulation of stuff is just a low level of annoying stress. It’s like background noise as you move through your day to day existence. Something comes up that you need an important documents or item that you just can’t place your hands on. It then takes more time to hunt for things than it does to sort things out. As the piles grow, so does the time needed to search for what you need.

Put it off.  Now that clutter has stolen precious time out of your day, there is not enough time to deal with the clutter. Piles of unorganized clothes or boxes just look overwhelming to handle.

Clear out or move out.  You’ve hit the end of your rope. Things are stacked up so high and wide that you can’t make it into a room, closet and garage. It seems like it’s time to back up and truck and throw away

How do you relate to clutter? Denial keeps us thinking that a little mess isn’t a problem. It then becomes easy to procrastinate and rationalize why it can’t be done. Begin by making a commitment to address one pile of clutter or one drawer you need to clean out. Set aside 15 minutes to work on the pile. Be very conscious of how you would like to see using the space you are sorting through. When you finish your allotted time frame, make another commitment when you will continue. It could be right then or even tomorrow.

Regardless, you took action on something that has been stressing you out. Acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishment. And kick stress and clutter to the curb.

22 thoughts on “Stress and Clutter: What’s Your Relationship with Clutter?”

  1. Oh, if I could only have a magic genie to de-clutter my garage! LOL  All of my stuff is still there from when I moved in with my husband 6 years ago. He wants to get a big dumpster and just throw it all out.  I guess I'm slowly coming around to that.  After all, if I haven't needed it in 6 years, do I really need it at all?? LOL

    1. That’s how I look at it, Donna. Before boxes went into storage this time I really went through boxes I hadn’t opened from the last move. I get into a crazy, last minute packing mode and then find out later that I didn’t need it at all.

  2. I've been lucky enough to have been raised by a neat freak and carried on the trait in my own home. I'm a HUGE fan of clean and tidy spaces. 🙂

  3. Hi Lisa, very good article as a productivity coach I always advise people to clear their clutter as the first step to taking control of your life and becoming more productive and as   you point out really helps to reduce stress.

    1. Thanks, Ciara! You definitely give great advice in productivity. It’s an important step in focusing on the task at hand. It’s gerat to meet you!

  4. I go through this all the time…my Mom and sister are both VERY tidy and I have to fight with it every day!  My house is very utilitarian…I can say that my house was not this messy before I had my son and even when I had my husband's three youngest kids it was neater…so there is hope for me yet – but I fight the clutter monster everyday! 

  5. My husband and I just did some de-cluttering in the garage last weekend. It was amazing how much we could get done with just a little bit of focused time. Today my project is to put all my sheet music in one place. It won't take long, and I know it will feel so good when I'm done. 

  6. When we moved 3 years ago we purged 3 households. What a relief it is to live in a clutter free home. I can so attest that this helps my productivity immensely 🙂 Great post as always 🙂 Thanks Lisa!

  7. Clutter can be so paralyzing for some people and it really does hold us back from all that we can be, do and have.
    Great Information here Lisa on this touchy subject. I fortunately was bestowed with the organizing gene…but don't ever fell bad, only 15% of population is naturally organized.  

  8. Maybe it's that smidgeon of ADD that makes me like things clean and neat. Or that we live in a Mid-Century Modern house designed in the 60's. But other than the office clutter is not an issue. And then there's the office. LOL. Well someday.

  9. I dislike looking for things more than I dislike cleaning/straightening therefore I am a big fan and advocate for #DECLUTTERING. Great article Lisa.

  10. So true… love it! Clutter is a creator of stress and also a time thief as you pointed it out Lisa. Great reminder to all of us. Thank you for motivation and encouragement to tackle that clutter once more! 🙂

  11. This really hits home for me. I've always been a big collector of paper, and it really is stressful when it starts multiplying in the night. 🙂 I appreciate your suggestion about taking 15 minutes a day to tackle the piles, and will definitely be putting that to good use. Thanks!

  12. Great tips. I am in the midst of my semi-annual purge.  Yes, I'm a organization freak. Not an easy feat when you live in the land of the teenage packrats.  It feels so good when things are orderly and it really does suck away my creativity when things are too cluttered and chaotic.  

  13. It's odd how we, as adults, can either be exactly like our parents or exactly the opposite! My mom is definitely a clutter person, and it doesn't bother her at all. I, on the other hand, can't work in a space where there is clutter. Just the sight of it causes me stress!
    Great article, and I love the 15 minute tip – I could use that for a few of my kitchen drawers!

  14. Fantastic post Lisa! When I take the time to declutter my home and my office, I find that my mind feels clearer and my body feel lighter! Funny how that happens LOL

  15. Hi Lisa-
    Love your post about clutter! I completely agree that clutter in our spaces, minds and schedules can cause an enormous amount of stress. I wrote a post that you might like with a similar title but some other thoughts called, "What's Your Relationship to Clutter?" You'll also find many posts on my blog about clutter and other topics relating to life balance and organization.

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