What is clutter? – Why is your clutter different to mine?
The definition of ‘clutter’ can be tricky.
I struggled for some time to truly understand and – equally important being a Clutterfree-Life Coach – to explain the meaning of ‘clutter’ in an easy-to-share way with my clients.
Of course, it was always clear to me that supporting my clients doesn’t mean that I try to tell them what’s the clutter in their homes.
However, as I wanted to help them make confident decisions about the clutter, I needed a definition of ‘clutter’ that was comprehensive and broadly applicable but also clear and simple.
If we ask Google for help, we get answers like this one:
Clutter is “A collection of things lying about in an untidy state.” (https://www.lexico.com)
This explanation seems to be too simple. Clutter is – just untidy things?
Another definition on the Internet says “Clutter is a lot of things in an untidy state, especially things that are not useful or necessary.” (https://www.collinsdictionary.com)
This definition is a bit more complex/comprehensive. It includes ‘untidiness’, too, but it links the untidiness to ‘a lot of’ things and it also refers to things being ‘not useful or necessary’.
Studying numerous organising and decluttering books and the approaches of several renowned experts in this area helped me to analyse ‘clutter’ from different angles. (Click her to have a look at my favourite quotes from experts.)
However, I don’t find it easy to bring all those different points of view together, into one clear and unambiguous clutter-definition.
Discussing the issue with other professional organisers and with my clients brought interesting insights but not the one and only explanation of clutter that everyone could agree on.
It seems that we all have our own ideas about the meaning of clutter!
And that’s exactly, I now believe, the answer to the clutter question:
There is no one final definition because we all define clutter in a very personal and unique way.
Clutter is in the eye of the beholder. If you decide that something you own is clutter, it’s clutter. If you decide something isn’t clutter, it’s not clutter. No matter what someone else thinks.
Our personal situation and our individual values, beliefs and perceptions determine what clutter is – it can mean something different for each of us.
Clutter can be anything that we keep/store although it doesn’t serve us: we don’t need it, we don’t use it, we don’t love it.
We neglect, postpone or completely avoid making decisions about the value of the things that we surround ourselves with.
The consequence is that those items that no longer are (or never were) valuable to us remain in our home, becoming clutter.
The important point here is:
Our unwillingness or inability to make decisions creates clutter!
How can we become better in decision-making?
If we are not fully aware of our values and priorities, of our purpose and our goals in life, we struggle to decide what’s meaningful to us and what’s not, what serves us and what doesn’t.
Investing some time and effort into the exploration of our values and our beliefs about our life and its purpose has only upsides:
Having a deep understanding of your current situation, your values and your vision will enable you to make the right decisions later in the decluttering process and to get and stay focused and motivated on your declutter/change journey.
Knowing what’s truly important to us not only makes decluttering decisions easier. It also helps us to make decisions in other areas of our life with more confidence.