Top 7 Reasons Clutter Happens

by Grace Brooke

Do you remember learning in school that scientists once thought maggots were springing to life from inorganic matter – specifically from dead animal carcasses? I was not a science fan, but thinking about that was so gross it stuck in my head. In time of course, the discovery came that flies were laying eggs which then hatched and fed on the carrion. Maggots are the larva stage of flies. This is a prime example of cause and effect.

Clutter is rather like the maggots. (Does your clutter gross you out at times, too?) Clutter is not a cause; Clutter does not spring into existence. Rather there are underlying causes that create the effect – Clutter shows up.

These are seven top causes of clutter. Perhaps these suggested changes can help you both get rid of excess clutter and keep clutter from coming back!

1. Keeping things around “just in case”. Our fear is that as soon as we get rid of something, the situation will arise where we need it.

Cure: Only keep those things for which you have a specific use in mind. Ask yourself – will it be hard replace this item if/when you need it? Finally, set a number limit on common items you will keep (margarine tubs for example.)

2. Feeling guilty about getting rid of something was given to you, part of an inheritance, or was expensive.

Cure: The correct response to a gift is to express gratitude. If you do not love or use that item, try to find someone else who would appreciate it. Remember, ownership continues to cost us time and money in maintenance and repair when it clutters our space. Cut your losses early and gain freedom to fill that void with activity or belongings that bring you joy.

3. Storing supplies or unfinished projects that were important to you in the past, but do not have the same meaning now.

Cure: Recognize and applaud your personal growth. Ask, “Do these things reflect the person I was or who I am now?” Take pictures or make a shadow box of memories that are especially important and let the other objects go.

4. Being afraid that out of sight will be out of mind. You keep bills, letters to write, invitations lying on surfaces or in a “safe” place. Soon these are covered by the next layer of items too important to miss!

Cure: Set up email reminders to pay bills, or automate minimum balance payments online so you will not pay late fees. You can always pay more mid-cycle if you decide to. Establish a true home and faithfully file those invitations, concert tickets, and permission slips in that spot so you always know where to look.

5. Waiting for an object to come back in style or become a valuable heirloom.

Cure: Find out if the item is increasing in value by looking at similar items on eBay or Google. Get an appraisal from a local auction house. Then make an informed decision about whether to hang onto it any longer. Try to find someone with a related interest
who would be thrilled to receive it as a gift.

6. Assigning feelings to things that remind you of loved ones and landmarks from your past, sometimes to your own hurt.

Cure: First, only keep the things that have good memories. Take photos of large objects and let someone who needs them benefit. Make a “Special Memories” scrapbook and record your memories of the objects so later generations will know their meaning. Of course, “if something has a great deal of sentimental value and you absolutely cannot part with it, don’t!” says Donna Smallin, author of The One-Minute Organizer.

7. Having difficulty getting motivated to de-clutter. This is a very real phenomenon called “delayed discounting,” according to Dr. Daniel Hommer, chief of brain imaging at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Cure: Dr. Hommer says, “If it takes a long time to reach a goal, you value that goal less than if you could reach it quickly – making it harder to get started.” Set small goals and find some victory early. Organize a drawer, one shelf, or a square yard of floor space. Reward yourself for completing each small task with a colorful organizing container.

Clutter happens for a reason. Try to look beyond the mess itself to what is causing the build up of belongings in that particular spot.

Chunk down a large de-cluttering problem into several small areas and organize one every other week. Clean or dust that area while you are at it. In a year, you will clean and organize 26 small spaces! What a difference that can make in your outlook and confidence level!

Article by: Martha Clouse
Martha helps individuals and families who are overwhelmed by life circumstances to organize their time, space, and belongings so they can experience freedom, have peace of mind, and spend time doing what they love.

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