Clutter Control: Handling Physical and Emotional Junk

Have you ever watched the TV show Hoarders?

It’s about people who hold on to possessions, knick knacks, and even garbage forever, completely filling up their houses with junk.

OK, so it’s sensational reality TV, but I can’t turn away from these train wrecks! The clutter inside their homes is a reflection of the clutter that’s in their minds. Their inner hurt and despair is manifested in the obsessive disorder of hoarding.

So, you may not have a TV crew following you around or dozens of volunteers cleaning out your house, but I bet you have your own clutter problem.

Take a quick look around your home. Do you see certain spaces that are clutter magnets? Do messy areas reflect another kind of mess you’re dealing with in your head?

Here are some of the most common types of clutter and how they show up in physical and emotional ways in your life.

Fear Clutter

  • Definition: Clutter that controls you through fear.
  • Physical: The business suits you wore at an old job that you might need again if you fail at what you’re doing now; the clothes in your closet that are 2 sizes too large but you might need them if you regain the weight you lost.
  • Emotional: Beliefs about yourself and how you’re going to fail eventually (“I love my cupcake business, but when it fails, I can always go back to accounting”).

Obligation Clutter

  • Definition: Clutter that you hold on to out of an obligation (real or imagined) to another person.
  • Physical: Terrible Christmas sweaters from Aunt Mildred; your grandmother’s wedding china that she wanted you to have but you think it’s tacky.
  • Emotional: Staying at an unfulfilling job because the people are nice or someone recommended you for the position; staying with someone you don’t love anymore because your mom likes him/her.

Security Blanket Clutter

  • Definition: Clutter that you believe protects you like a security blanket or shield.
  • Physical: Any clothes that you don’t wear anymore but they remind you of when your life was “perfect”; dozens of books you don’t read but at least books won’t hurt you the way people do.
  • Emotional: Friendship with people who “protect you for your own good” and want you to play small; deciding that you’re not going to date anyone because it’s not safe and familiar.

Invisible Clutter

  • Definition: Clutter that is so ingrained into your daily life that you don’t even notice it anymore.
  • Physical: The pile of bills and papers on your kitchen table that you’ve never sorted through; anything you bought that you planned to use but instead it stayed unopened in its box for months…or years.
  • Emotional: The endless stream of negative self-talk going on in your head (“You’re such a loser! You messed up again!”) that’s become such a part of you that you don’t notice how negative you’re being.

Pretending-to-be-Someone-Else Clutter

  • Definition: Clutter that doesn’t represent the true you, but rather, the ideal version of you that you or other people want you to be.
  • Physical: High-heeled shoes when you prefer flats; music, movies, or activities that everyone else likes but you can’t seem to make yourself enjoy no matter how hard you try.
  • Emotional: Acting like a caricature of something you’re not (dumb bimbo, brainy nerd, zen goddess); feeling like you’ve lost what it means to be you.

Although it’s easier to clean up the physical clutter, it’s sure to return if you don’t examine the underlying emotion clutter that caused it.

Want some help cleaning up your life’s clutter? Get your free Life Editing Strategy Call with me and we’ll make a plan to get you organized.

What type of clutter do you notice in your life?

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  1. Tinfoil Tiaras on November 18, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    Hmmm pretending to be someone else clutter- that’s something I’ve never thought of before but have in my home decor (aka the St. Mary picture my MIL brought over when neither of us is religious!) I am a very messy person (verging on hoarding) so I really need to take your post into consideration!

    • Sage Grayson on November 18, 2012 at 7:07 pm

      In high school, I tried to be “goth” so I bought a bunch of black clothes and boots–soooo not me! That was definitely me trying to be someone else.

  2. Kendall on November 18, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    Ohh do I need a clutter make-over in our house. I HATE clutter, but with limited storage and TONS of baby girl clothes, it’s kind of crazy. This reminds me to go to good will this week…..Thanks for the note!

    • Sage Grayson on November 18, 2012 at 6:57 pm

      Hey Kendall! Thanks for stopping by. I go through the whole house and gather up stuff for Goodwill about every 2 months. My house would be full of clutter if I didn’t. 🙂

  3. Molly on November 12, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    I was so excited when I saw this post. I love this kind of stuff! Even though I’ve really cleared out a lot of the physical clutter in my life, I still have some to deal with. There are certain things a family member gave us that we don’t want, but they make us feel guilty for not wanting them. So, they sit in our basement, not being used. My clothes are definitely the worst area for me, though. I have so many I haven’t worn in years yet I don’t want to get rid of them.

    We’re planning on going through our house room by room over the winter (which we’re doing every year now) and clearing out any clutter, plus deep cleaning. It always feels so great to do that!

  4. H&K Style Journey on November 12, 2012 at 4:31 am

    If my house is cluttered, I definitely feel a sense of loss of control. Two kids, a hubby, and a dog makes it hard, but I am always trying to make sure everything has a place. I feel so much better mentally when things are neat and organized. Heather