Weekly Quick Tips

What’s Your Clutter Personality?

Clutter is rarely just about the stuff… What kind of ‘clutterer’ are you? We’ve identified five types of ‘clutterers’; each with their own distinct habits and psychological hangups, and we’ve diagnosed a plan to help you slay your mess once and for all!

The Sentimental Clutterer (aka the ‘Family Historian’) ~ known by the hoard of baby clothes and report cards of their adult children, acres of unsorted boxes of deceased relatives memorabilia and tchotchkes stored in the attic and basement.

Who are the perpetrators? Besotted parents, empty nesters, and those who feel a responsibility to preserve ‘family heirlooms’ and history.

What’s the plan? Establish a hierarchy of value. Keep only the most meaningful items. Grandpa’s war medals are clearly more important than his tax returns dating back to 1955. Frame a few of grandma’s vintage recipes and display them in your kitchen. Create a family wall with a few old photos and shadowboxes that  most remind you of your loved ones and ‘make your heart sing’ when you look at them. A dusty box in the attic is not honouring and respecting their memory. No one who loved you would want your home and life overrun with their stuff.

The Knowledge Clutterer ~ known for stockpiling every book they have ever read or hope to read, believing that if you own the book that somehow you own the knowledge, even if the book never comes off the shelf. Also known to print off interesting articles found online and then stashing them in a pile, or in an overstuffed file, for ‘reference’.

Who are the perpetrators? Too varied to list….

What’s the plan? While nothing can replace a well-loved book, we now have an entire library at our disposal on the Internet. It’s really not necessary to own hard copies of everything, particularly those celebrity memoirs, guilty-pleasure page turners and how-to books, which can live on your e-reader. Interesting articles? Email yourself the URL and file them in a labelled folder on your computer. Establish clear limits for your book and magazine collection. Whether that means one shelf or six, what matters is that when you have filled the allotted areas, you donate an old title to make room for new ones.

The Techie Clutterer ~ known by the drawers, cabinets and desks weighed down by a tangle of cords, chargers, remotes and half-full USB drives…

Who are the perpetrators? Twenty and thirty-something techies, Ebay enthusiasts and anyone terrified to pitch the cord that connects their digital camera to their computer, choosing instead to ‘keep them all, just in case…’

What’s the plan? With a label maker or a piece of masking tape and a sharpie marker, differentiate camera cords from BlackBerry chargers, note the contents of all minidrives and corral in-use wires into a charging station to eliminate the nightly hide and seek with your phone charger. There is also no longer any need to keep electronics boxes. There was a time when you could sell used electronics, so it made sense to keep original packaging, but now that no one wants old gadgets anymore because technology moves too fast, get rid of an item’s box within a month of purchase and consider donating your old devices.

The Bargain Shopper/Coupon Clutterer ~ known for stockpiling the kitchen and storage areas with toilet paper, paper towels and cases of canned corn, the bargain shopper prides themselves on clipping coupons and spending $10 on gas driving to megastores for these ‘deals’ and is driven by the misguided notion that ‘if I own it, I am better off, regardless to what it does to my space or my finances’.

Who are the perpetrators? Retirees, stay-at-home moms, anyone with a Costco membership.

 What’s the plan? Limit purchases that you don’t plan to use immediately. Designate one area for bulk purchases; when it’s full, stop buying. There will always be another sale. Find a new hobby; if you find yourself cruising Costco or the grocery store every weekend, maybe you might want to get more creative with your spare time. You can go broke saving money!

The Behind- Closed- Doors Clutterer ~ known by a home that looks  pristine and well organized, until you start opening closet doors and are suddenly buried by old kitchen appliances, stockpiled paper towels, purchases meant to be returned,  Tupperware, holiday decorations, file folders, …. This clutterer lives in an alternate universe that ‘seems perfect’ instead of creating solutions that work today.

Who are the perpetrators? Perfectionists, control freaks, time-starved and overbooked harried working moms.

What’s the plan? This kind of clutter is about delayed decisions. Confine your task to a time frame, telling yourself “I will clean this closet for 15 minutes today.” The next day, repeat. Or, if you can’t find time to spontaneously tackle your secret mess, enlist the help of a trusted friend, and schedule the time. An impartial outsider may help you keep things in perspective; are you really going to repair that broken lampshade? And lastly, stop setting such high housekeeping expectations. Live with progress instead of perfection, because that closet is the manifestation of your shame at failing to live up to your own unrealistic expectations of ‘perfect’.

Taking the time to understand why you bring clutter into your life is one of the most valuable first steps to clearing it out forever. When you start to understand the emotional reasons behind the clutter, you’ll find it becomes so much easier to clear it out and keep it out. Take aim on your household’s clutter problem by going to the root of the problem: your own thinking.


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