What is Clutter? Defining the Many Types…

Last week we began our clutter clearing series by defining clutter as anything that we do not love, and we suggested taking the fifteen-minute challenge to get the process started and energy moving.

If you took the challenge, then you have probably released the stuff that’s easily recognizable as clutter. But this week we will be introducing different types of clutter that will take us deeper into the clearing process.

Clutter can be something that’s broken or in disrepair, but more often than not it’s something that served us at one time, but no longer serves us today. Something we have held onto for fear we may need it again, but rather feeling assured by its presence it often keeps us rooted in and connected to the fear scenario that makes us hold onto it. Occasionally clutter is something that is out in the open that we trip over or gets in our way everyday, but we ignore because dealing with it seems overwhelming. Other times clutter is something that’s tucked away in our closet (or in the back of our mind), that silently weighs on us and takes up space that could be used for something else. Either way, our physical, emotional, and mental clutter drains our time and energy, takes up space, keeps us stuck in the past, blocks new things and opportunities from coming into our lives, makes us feel less than, is a source of upset, and takes away from our ability to connect with our true self.

To Learn How to Declutter, First Identify the Types of Clutter:

Just in case clutter or “fear-based” clutter: Keeping things in case you run out of money, gain weight, lose your job, get divorced etc. Do these fear based ideas represent the reality you want to create? Affirm a different outcome by letting go with a positive intention.

Too expensive to let go of: Just what it sounds like! You spent a lot of money and you can’t stand the idea of wasting it. But think about it—if you aren’t using it, it is a greater “waste” to keep it when someone else could use it! Donate or give it away or even try to sell it. And if you are continuing to judge yourself for something that is in the past, stop. Forgive yourself for not making the best choice/use of your money, learn from it, and move on.

Someday, maybe clutter: Someday when I have the time, more money or when my kids grow up or when I lose weight… I will use such and such. What you resist persists. You have a better chance being happy and/or creating that “someday” state by embracing the present moment.

I may fit into it again or it may come back in style: Same as the above—accepting who you are now is certainly the most loving and often the fastest way to get to a “new” you. Also, even when things come back in style was it really worth the cost, time, and space of keeping it all those years and wouldn’t you rather have the updated version of the look ?

Afraid to hurt feelings clutter: Unwanted gifts can be particularly challenging for many people to let go of. Just remember you can appreciate the thought and effort and also value the person regardless of whether you keep the material representation of their thoughtfulness. Best to avoid this type of clutter in the future by tactfully and graciously letting friends and family know that you are doing your best to pare down and simplify—hint, hint.

Inherited clutter: You are not responsible for other people’s clutter—even your own families. Of course keep any inherited items you find to be beautiful, loved or useful. But anything else, especially if you don’t like it or it has negative feeling associated with it, let it go!

Creative/artistic clutter: Don’t use being an artistic and creative person as an excuse to have clutter. Of course in the creative process there is often “chaos” before “form” emerges. Think of a baker’s counter with flour and utensils or an artist’s studio with tarps, paints and canvases—but there is a difference between passive and active chaos. Active chaos—meaning the mess you make while you create—is a good thing. But passive chaos—the unwashed, now dried-up paint brushes and the caked on batter on the mixing bowls post-creation—is not good. The creative moment is over, the energy is gone, so time to clean up the clutter and make space for a new burst of expression.

Sentimental clutter: You do not need an abundance of objects to remind you of a meaningful time in your life. If the time in question is that special you will always remember and be able to recapture those feelings just by thinking about those memories. Be selective about what you keep to remind you of something—and remember you can take a picture of the object rather than keep the object itself.

Things that just don’t feel good: Take a moment to check in with the objects in your home. When you look at them or use them do they make you feel good, neutral, or badly? Do you love it? Do you dislike it? If you don’t like it, release it. Even if you aren’t sure why you don’t like something—trust your intuition and let it go.

Art – even art can become clutter: We are always changing and a piece that spoke to us at one time in our life may not speak to us now. Also be aware of art with disturbing images. Even if on one level you can appreciate the image or what it represents, sometimes our bodies will respond instantly and physically to a disturbing image. Your mind may then kick in with reason or logic or an association with the image that is more positive, but your body has already registered your first reaction.

Things that don’t work the way they’re supposed to, are broken, or get in your way: Life is complicated and busy enough. Say no to things that lead to frustration or disrupt your daily routines. Insist on the best.

Items that are stained or dirty: Clean them if you can, but commit to doing it in a timely manner. If they can’t be cleaned, consider a replacement.

Perceived dangers clutter: “Perceived dangers” mean things that look threatening and elicit a ‘fight or flight’ response in our bodies. For example, a very heavy chandelier or artwork hanging over a bed—we may know it is anchored to the ceiling or wall, but it can still makes us feel uncomfortable. Similar to the disturbing artwork, your body will have already registered a response before your mind kicks in with logic to override your body’s reaction.

Unhealthy clutter: Well yes, all clutter is pretty unhealthy. But we are specifically referring to things made with unhealthy or toxic materials that are physically unhealthy. Yuck! Replace with natural materials to connect you to nature, create more harmony and support your health.

Inner-clutter: Inner clutter is mental or emotional clutter, such as our personal to-do list, unfinished business, and/or any thoughts that repeatedly come up that weigh on our minds. This includes thoughts about our life purpose to thoughts about mundane tasks like going to the grocery store and everything in between. How do you clear it? Read our blog Clearing Your Inner Clutter to learn more.

Emotional clutter: Any pent up, unexpressed feelings, unresolved issues, or relationships, and/or any emotions that repeatedly come to the surface. Emotional clutter often results from not sharing, acknowledging or expressing our feelings to ourselves or others and from judging ourselves or others, rather than practicing self-forgiveness. Read our blog Clearing Your Inner Clutter to learn more.

Energetic clutter: Every space holds energy. Rooms can hold the energy of all the events, emotions, people, and activities that have happened in the space—in order to have a fresh start, and create more harmony and peace in our surroundings, it can be helpful to clear the energy once in awhile. Check out Simple Steps to Clear the Energy in Your Home to learn how to clear your energetic clutter.

Now that you’ve learned about all the different types of clutter, you may want to take some time to think about what kind of clutter you tend to accumulate most. This awareness may help you when we look at habits that create clutter.

For information on dealing with these types of clutter read our posts:
Common Clutter Clearing Challenges
The Process of Letting Go

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