Why you should stop feeling guilty about your clutter

Whenever I speak with people, especially those about to go through our Kickstart Boot Camp, about the topic of clutter, time and time again they use words like “overwhelmed,” “nightmare,” and “guilty” to describe how they feel about the issue.

I get it. Clutter is stressful. It makes it much more difficult to focus on what you truly need to focus on. And it looks bad. Other people can see you don’t have it together. Gasp.

But putting a “bad” label on clutter is pointless. And, really, it’s worse than pointless. It’s keeping you stuck in what I like to call a clutter doom loop.

Life, by definition, is in motion. As long as you’re above ground, things (i.e. clutter) are going to make their way into your environment.

We put a “bad” label on clutter because of what we believe it means / what it says about us.

Clutter is “bad” when it is evidence of our
• Inability to get organized
• Impulsive (and uncontrollable) nature
• Lack of willpower or drive to clean it up
• Depression

In short, we feel guilty because we believe clutter is evidence of some kind of personal failure or personality defect.

But here’s the problem with that line of thinking.

If you believe that clutter is proof positive you’re an organizational failure, you’ll stop (or avoid) taking the steps you need to get it under control. And then your environment will remain cluttered, getting worse over time, thus reinforcing your belief that you’re an organizational failure.

And down and down you go into the doom loop.

If you’re stuck there, consider this:
Would a gardener call herself a failure if a weed or ten sprouted in her garden? No. A good gardener would just deal with the weed by pulling it out.

Now, she can do a few things to keep the weeds at bay.
She can try to prevent too many of them from growing – like covering her garden with plastic or paper and by spraying weed killer.

But some weeds are still going to grow. It’s just the way it is.

So she’s got to deal with them when the inevitable happens. If she doesn’t, they’ll take over everything in her garden.

It’s just the way it is. Not “bad,” just nature.

To keep weeds from taking over she can do a few things:
– Establish a threshold amount of weeds that, once reached, triggers a weeding work session
– Weed on a regular schedule, like every Saturday morning
– Or – hire somebody to do her weeding for her

And so it is with clutter.

It’s not “bad” or evidence that you’re somehow morally inferior or organizationally inept. It’s just a fact of life. No amount of wailing or gnashing your teeth is called for. Just a little weeding.

Do you feel guilty about your clutter? Why? What meaning have you assigned to it? Does this post help you reframe what it means?