Clutter causes many problems. The most obvious problem is that there is no space! When your house is stuffed full of things, there is no room for you to work on anything. You feel cramped and crowded. Every time you want to eat a meal, you have to clear piles off the table. When you want to go to bed you are forced to relocate the laundry. Dishes must be bulldozed to the side when you need to cut vegetables. Papers pile up when you need the desk to pay bills. And so it goes. Here are 10 more problems caused by clutter.
When you are surrounded by an endless sea of stuff, your brain is overstimulated by all the visual cues coming in. Your mind is busy trying to keep track of everything. You are constantly reminded of undone tasks. So instead of being mindful of the moment you are in, you have a mind full of details. This can lead to stress and the vague feeling that you should be doing something all the time.
The sheer amount of stuff we own can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed. When we think about how much there is to sort through, how long it will take, and how many decisions there are, we can give up. Talk about stress and anxiety! When I face a pile, I feel anxious—like I just can’t do it. I have been overwhelmed by my basement and ended up putting off tackling it for months at a time.
This is a big one. Many of our possessions are unfinished projects—those things we thought we wanted to do, but never got around to. The exercise equipment we bought because we wanted to get in shape. The craft materials for that cute decorating project we saw. The sports equipment for the activities that we never have time for. These things represent broken promises to ourselves or others. They remind us of the money we have wasted on things we don’t use. Sometimes all the objects remind us that we have tried to substitute objects for relationships. Instead of spending time with our kids, we buy them toys.
In our minds, we have this image of what the “perfect” house is supposed to look like. We check out Pinterest and magazines and imagine what our friends lives are like. Then we look around at the mess in our house and feel like we don’t measure up. We are embarrassed when other people see our homes and “apologize for the mess” whenever anyone comes over.
In many ways, depression is anger that has been repressed. When we look around at all our stuff, we can be angry at our past self for saddling our present self with decisions, projects, and junk from the past. How often have I wished that I would have gotten rid of things in the past before they became so unmanageable! Or better yet, never let all the stuff in to start with. Depression and clutter can become a vicious cycle: our clutter depresses us, and when we are depressed, we have trouble taking any action, so the clutter gets worse.
Sometimes we let the opinions of others drive us, which is really a way of limiting ourselves. Our family, friends, and even exes have given or gifted us with things that fit their perception of who we should be. We feel unable to cast off our childhood possessions because mom doesn’t want us to grow up. We hang on to stuff from past relationships that are so over instead of getting rid of it and moving on. And what about all the treasures passed down to us as “family heirlooms?” (You can’t get rid of that, it belonged to grandma!)
Old stuff from the past that no longer nourishes you is deadweight. It can crush the life out of you. Sometimes you just outgrow or move on from things. All the weight (literally) of accumulated stuff leaves you with no room to be who you are today. It’s tough to move on when you are weighed down with the accumulations of the past.
8. Identity Theft
You are not your stuff. So often we define ourselves by outward things instead of inward character. Pitching something does not mean you are pitching the person associated with the memory. If you get rid of your kid’s artwork, it doesn’t mean you are throwing away your kid. We have to separate the stuff from the people, including ourselves.
There is a ton of inefficiency in clutter. I have wasted so much time looking for things in all the mess! On top of that, it is physically difficult to move around when your house is overflowing. Have you ever climbed over boxes of stuff in the basement? Often we feel we don’t have enough time to declutter and so the problem gets worse as there is less and less space to put anything.
Too much clutter leads to having many duplicates. You can’t find things, so you end up buying another one, wasting money. Things get wrecked when they are improperly stored. Dust and dirt piles up because you can’t clean clutter. Then there is the fact that having a place to put everything costs money. People move to bigger houses and rent storage units to store all their stuff. Not cheap! We also buy stuff to try to organize our other stuff. Then there are the sunk costs. We are reluctant to part with things because we paid good money for them.
I’m sure there are more problems with clutter, but this is enough to convince me that clutter has no place in my life. How about you?