Β Driving home today after a busy morning I tuned into a talk on the car radio about ‘Clutter’ with a psychologist as guest. How much do we allow clutter to rule our lives? On the radio there was mention of a woman who had kept her wedding dress for over 30 years. She was married to an abusive man, long divorced, but yet she kept her wedding dress. Somehow, she couldn’t or wouldn’t let it go. What did she think and feel when she saw it, daily, in her cupboard? What was she still holding on to? Why this constant reminder of her past unhappiness?

We’ve all had the experience of keeping things because we may have use for it at some stage. It’s true also than no sooner have we actually got rid of something e.g. a document, we need it, a week or so later.

Clutter is anything that is kept in spite of not being needed or even wanted. There is no obvious purpose in holding onto them. They just gather dust. They make our homes untidy and sometimes not a safe space to live in. Junk – yet we can’t let it go.


Well, it’s not easy to say goodbye to somethings that were once yours. Sometimes, we hoard from a fear of scarcity. The cupboards in our rooms and kitchens are always full just in case – is this a generalised fear of the future?

Does all this clutter and junk represent in some way an emotional state of mind? Does this keep us bound in some way, when we can’t or won’t let go of some things? Does continuous tidying in order to locate things, keep us from the task at hand …another form of distraction and procrastination? Another way of not addressing an issue that needs attention, but we can’t address it because all is too disorganised is the excuse we make to ourselves.

Does our external cluttered environment represent our inner world? Even mentally, psychologically and spiritually we become clogged and stopped up.

Before I set out this morning, I read a post on my computer about a woman who had 270 pairs of shoes in her closet. She wrote how her compulsion had put her in debt and more besides. She wrote how liberated she felt when she addressed this by getting rid of most of them, selling them online … her energies returned to what mattered in her life …

This prompted me to commit to tidying my desk and, I’m happy to say, this task is now accomplished. There is more order; credit card slips are in their box along with the statements so that I can check them off. Books are in their proper place. A bowl with all sorts of things in it, has now been emptied. Pens are in their jars. Important lists are at hand. I’ve put things away in drawers. Thrown things away. I’ve tidied my purse. I feel slightly lighter, slightly less stuck. I’ve done some weeding in my study and there’s a little more space, another kind of energy …

49 Comments on Calm from De-Cluttering

  1. I’m not big on clutter at all, but it certainly seems I have much more than my share, more often than not. Keeping up with the decluttering process can be quite a chore indeed! Thanks for this thoughtful post, Susan πŸ™‚

    • Thanks so much M.J. Just this morning at our holiday home (we arrived yesterday) we looked at the entrance hall which has been cluttered for years. How different it looks now that we’ve cleared it … space – possibilities. De-cluttering, always a chore but a worthwhile one!

  2. I have a problem with clutter. No matter how hard I try to get rid of it, it keeps coming back. Several years ago a friend and I did a ‘how to’ book study on de-cluttering. It recommended taking 10 to 15 minutes at a time and focusing on one drawer or spot at a time so as not to be overwhelmed by the task and yet you can see a success to inspire you to keep going. It does work. Thanks for your insights once again. Maria @

    • Thanks Maria – ‘it keeps coming back’ – how true. My study – again – looks as if a bomb has hit it. In one week? I’ll do 15 mins this day – thank you. A good idea! πŸ™‚

  3. [PS to my just-posted comment]

    Then again, I might not get to it this month…World Cup games to be watched!!!!! πŸ˜‰

    And interestingly…My kitchen, with more just-in-case items than really needed, is actually well-organized and neat and uncluttered…and I am NOT “a cook.” I certainly create meals and provide sustenance there, but it is a daily “to-do,” not a creative endeavor at all for me, usually. In contrast…my office and my bookshelves and my music…the stuff of my creativity and work…is/are all horribly cluttered to the point of being a problem, almost non-functional… A therapist might be needed to sort this out…(she writes half-jokingly…)!

    • O dear – World Cup and Wimbledon! Wonderful way to procrastinate!
      I wonder what my therapist (wish I had one) would say about my keeping my creative desires, i.e. my paints and brushes, canvases et al hidden in deep drawers in my study.

  4. Great reflections!

    For me, it’s a “two-handed” thing: On the one hand is the issue of the things themselves, both the amount and the usefulness needing to be weighed. On the other hand there IS the issue of organization/arrangement! The amount ALMOST doesn’t matter…an abundance of things can be organized well and accessible and not actually cluttering space or vision, and yet a relatively small amount of things can be horribly unorganized and cluttered!

    And I have both going on in my office!!! – in DESPERATE need of attention and purging and organization! Your blog might be the final push of motivation to help me attend to it this month!

    Thanks! πŸ™‚

    • Two-handed indeed Pam – thanks for expression of this. It’s a hard one …
      Sad to say my desk is again cluttered. I must gird my loins and attend to it. It’s always so pleasing when there is order among the chaos.

      Good luck for your purging! What an image! πŸ™‚

  5. Odd earrings. The very minute you throw it away, it’s mate turns up!
    But that aside, I really identify with this. I’ve always had a problem with clutter, but it has become extreme where I’ve been living in for the last twenty years. Having decided to move from a house to a smaller apartment, I’ve spent a lot of time decluttering and have been amazed at some of the things I’ve found. (Three electric drills, ten unopened pots of paint among many others)
    For me, it’s partly around letting go of possibilities. That sad craft project… surely it can be revived and made beautiful, that book I bought fifteen years ago, who knows what wisdom is in its pages?

    • Thanks Tess for coming by. It happens too often on my side that when I toss something, I find that I need it. Another lesson for me in letting go! How well you put that – letting go of possibilities. Does it allow another possibility though?

  6. Great post Susan! And I am so grateful to have gone through a decluttering process not to long ago. My spare rooms had become junk rooms and stuff that I didn’t know what to do with at the moment ended up going into those rooms. I had my home remodeled and so it was necessary to do the clearing because tile had to be laid and walls were to be painted. What a huge weight off my shoulders. Now I proudly leave the doors to those rooms wide open and everything is in its place. It’s so freeing to de-clutter! It’s amazing how heavy one’s heart can become just from a bunch of junk stuffed into a room. Now my next project is the garage. There is so much in there that is going to be thrown out or sold…and your post has just given me the incentive to get busy with it! Thanks for that!

    • How lovely Michele to feel the weight dropping off one’s shoulders! Good luck with the garage! And thank you so much for stopping by! Enjoy the new space/s!

  7. This is a topic that has been on my mind for a good while. Since losing my job several years ago and then going into retirement I have to watch my funds carefully and not buy things that I don’t need. My goal has been to get rid of stuff around the house to make space and lessen my burden of possessions. It can be difficult, especially if I want to get something in return like money. It can be difficult to find the buyers.

    I see my youngest sister since her husband died a few years ago. Now she watches those TV programs where they sell stuff and she’s always buying things. Or she goes shopping for clothes a lot and fills her closets. Ironically, she works from home on the phone so no one sees how she’s dressed and she doesn’t go out all that much. She just keeps accumulating clothes. I know her mind is in a state where the stuff seems to fill an empty place and she recognizes that fact, yet the acquisition of goods is her life filling compulsion.

    I’m on a quest to get rid of things and not get new things.

    Good relevant post.

    Wrote By Rote

    • Thank you for your comment Arlee. As someone said earlier, the less one has the more one realizes that not that much is really needed. And having less allows for more space. Do you use places like eBay to sell?

      I guess we have to discern between wanting something or needing something, though there could be overlap. But too often we just want it, because we want it and we don’t really need it. I guess continual clothes buying could have a similar underlying dynamic to food. We know what excess is re: food but we get it anyway. It’s never enough. Strange but true how we have these underlying dynamics lurking in the recesses.

      Good luck on your quest to clear unwanted stuff. And thank you again.

  8. I have a book mountain which I can’t bear to part with! I’ve promised myself that once the other decluttering at home is complete, and the house finally ready to sell, I can have proper shelves built for all the books and a desk in my new house. It’s a plan, and mind games, to persuade me to carry on decluttering.

    • Thanks Sharon for coming by! it was wonderful having new bookcases made to order in my study when we moved into the townhouse. They’re all well housed. It was about the last thing I did… Plus a new desk! So – good luck with the selling of old and buying of new!

  9. Wonderful post, Susan. As you know, I’m in the midst of downsizing in order to move to an island, and while getting rid of things has been quite freeing, some attachments are easier to break than others.

    I fully admit that I’ve cried a few times during this process, but it’s always been for things that have a strong connection to a person I love. Not even once has selling shoes moved me to tears.

    • Thanks Holli. Yes, it’s true that we’re attached to so many things because of the memories and shedding tears is a wonderful way of acknowledging them.

  10. This reminds me of the story of a woman I had once drafted… who loves to hoard things, there’s so much clutter at her place that the municipal department warns her of eviction if she doesn’t clear it up, because her home is a fire hazard…must go find it again now, and check on ways to write the next draft! And yep– I was forced to clear my study and table a few weeks ago, too, long story πŸ˜‰

    • She sounds like a character Damyanti! So many reasons why we hoard. A very dear friend of mine kept newspapers in the old days as a record of the history of our country and the world. Rooms were stacked up to the ceiling. It was scary.
      Have a great weekend! πŸ™‚

  11. Re: Things. I had a friend in Somerset, who saved thousands of dish cloths, washed and neatly folded, each a thinning, see-through cotton rag. One day I thought they’d make terrific material for a patchwork, being powerfully colour-absorbent. Sadly, someone had convinced her to get rid of them.

    Re: Information. Two years ago I paid a fortune to have 5 sacks (three times my body weight) of confidential files professionally shredded (psychotherapy notes and endless folders of courses I attended.)

    My special gripe, I hoard INFORMATION on themes that occupy my mind. An ad hock file on my computer called ‘parked stuff,’ is coming to 16 pages again – this because I fear I’d loose track of these threads in ordered πŸ™‚ files. It’s a left over pathology – thinking I won’t remember. Since I stopped gobbling up books and articles, and read much slower, I trust that relevant information will emerge again when needed. Still, the sinew of habit is irritatingly pervasive.

    • Thanks Ashen for commenting. Re: the rags: hopefully a quilt could still be made in the same image you originally had in mind.

      I’ve burned wheelbarrows full of papers – there was something satisfying in seeing them go up in flames!

      I still have too many papers and files of interesting things I do not want to let go. ‘Parked stuff’ sounds like a good place – I’ve just remembered I have a ‘stuff’ file on the computer. I’ll have a look at that in due course and see if I can trim.

  12. I have my wedding dress, but it’s stowed away in the back of a closet. I want it available for my daughter if she’s interested. It’s been worn by four women in my family. If I’d picked the wrong guy, I wonder if it would still retain the good memories.

  13. My mother was a hoarder and I had to clean out the big house full before she died. some of it had to come back with me and now I wonder how much of her past I need?
    Mostly I am a thrower outera – I love decluttering I love getting rid of stuff. I find it liberating. too much too much this world says we can have it all. Makes me feel a little sick.
    great wisdom here Susan thank you . I also recognise that there is clutter and then there is clutter. complex beings we are indeed.

    • Thanks Sandra for commenting. For many of us it is so hard to let go of things and too often it is left to the children to clear out when the parents die. Maybe we learn from that very example. You’re right, we live in the belief that we can have it all and more besides and we wonder what energy is blocked.

  14. Interesting points raised and questions sparked in this post Susan. I know I have a tendency to hold onto all sorts of things far too long mentally and physically. A good clean out is always cleansing. Thanks for the reminder.

  15. Fannie thank you. Are you saying about newspapers gathering dust that we STILL need to read before re-cycling? I’m a bit guilty on that ..

    • Thank you so much! Glad it got you inspired! I’ve been feeling that I need to tackle my dressing table which I did a little bit yesterday – but still much to do. Three hairbrushes? Bits and pieces? Make some space for some flowers maybe or some lavender from the garden? hmmmm…

  16. Hi,

    I enjoyed reading this article because I find that people who live in industrialized civilizations have much too much. We buy and store, never really relenting or letting go of the old. I have a friend who has three full closets of clothes all different sizes. She was a heavy set person. Then she lost weight and bought a new wardrobe. Then she gained a little and went out and bought another wardrobe. Some of the clothes still have the price tags on them.

    There was a time when I thought this was nice, but somewhere along the line, I changed. And I can truthfully say, I throw out and give away. I finally realized that a collection of things is not what life is all about. It is being compassionate toward others.

    Thank you for the article.


    • Thank you Patricia for this comment. There’s something frantic (in my view) about your friend losing and gaining, losing and gaining adjusting her unused wardrobe to her weight .. let’s hope that she’s gained some perspective on that by now.
      My younger son (self-employed) says that he asks himself when he sees something that’s ‘cool’ and even if he can well afford it – do I need this or do I want this – when I already have enough. Even when it’s his birthday and I want to give him something special like a new jersey, he asks himself that question. So, need and want – worthwhile questions …
      Thank you for your wisely put last sentence ..’I finally realized that a collection of things is not what life is all about. It is being compassionate toward others’. A perfect reminder …
      Thank you.

  17. I still have unpacked boxes in the garage from ten years ago when we moved into this house. What’s in them is not necessarily needed, so I shouldn’t have brought them … I think, but here we are, the boxes (2 or 3) are still there. Much of it has to do with lack of time, but I think there is something within us, perhaps on a subconscious level, not wanting to let go. Thanks you for getting me going, Susan, πŸ™‚ and for another wonderful post.

    • Thank you so much Sylvia! At least they are in boxes in the garage. You may be delighted when the time comes to open them. Or find that someone else can make use of them? This reminds me to remove from my camera all the photos I took of stuff that the removal people took when we moved home last year. Free up my camera … It’s been a year since I took them πŸ™‚

  18. Clutter has so many meanings. Can it have value? Chaos seems unhelpful but it does assist with avoidance and denial and not living freely. A trap and yet enticing. We are so complex as people, as you point out.And, we can learn from others and change…

    • Thanks Susan – clutter has a multitude of meanings and perhaps precisely because of that we can wonder what it means to each of us. What else is buried beneath that pile of stuff. What else does that mess mean. What are we avoiding by always having that manifest stuff that keeps us from dealing with inner matters .. at least this is how I see it and how it relates to me.

  19. I have read and responded to so many blog posts today, it was all beginning to feel like clutter. Then I see your calming photo and tips on putting life into balance.

    One thing I am doing is taking some snippets that I have saved for a long time and making them digital. For example, I have kept the handwritten address of one of my high school friends for decades now though she has died. I am sure I still have an emotional attachment to her, which the note represents. Next job: Have the courage to throw it away!

    I like Philippa’s comment: “I wonder to what extent clutter is the reflection rather than the cause.”
    Kudos to you, Susan, for practicing what you preach. My own desk is a good place for me to start too.

    • Thank you Marian! I was searching for a pic to accompany this post which depicted disorder but this photo taken by me, spoke more clearly. I remember when and where I took it and though the sea was frothing against the rocks, the sea is always calming.

      Your idea of digitalising things is excellent. Do that to your friend’s address … even though she has died. Those sorts of things have their own significance. I am not that clued up on that. That will be a venture yet to come.

  20. I wonder to what extent clutter is the reflection rather than the cause? I find the more unsettled the mind the more essential is order. My house’s state of order is inversely proportional to my state of mind. But what is starting to interest me ( and I am sure it is related) is the clutter of meaningless communications encouraged by the belief that we will miss out by ‘deleting without reading’ This cannot be solved simply by a good clear out once! But maybe de-selecting is the hurtful alternative?

    • Interesting thought Philippa thank you. In my instance, the more I am unsettled internally, the more it reflects in the outer. Once all is in order on the outside, I feel calmer. I often wonder how much do I REALLY need all the info from eg writers workshops, marketing strategies and so on … FOMO (fear of missing out) may be a classified disorder by now for all I know … or don’t.

    • Benefit there is Rosie. When my sons were boys and all was a mess, I would get a big box and put all that stuff in that one place so they would have to rummage through for lost soccer boots, sports shorts, favourite Lego toys etc .. it worked. Good luck!

  21. Thanks for the prompt, Susan. Yep, this is me — except for the compulsive buying and the hundreds of pairs of shoes. I regard the clutter around my house as metaphoric of my mind and how I think, view life. Once I do organize and discard the clutter, I feel mentally clearer and on top of things, more in harmony with myself.

    • Thanks so much for commenting Samantha .. so pleasant to be at my desk right now and all looks and feels clearer. I am slightly more in harmony – and the list is at hand.

  22. Oh, your post soooo resonates with me as my parents grew up in the Depression Era here. Mom saved everything as “you never know when you will need it.” Sadly, I have a tendency toward doing the same thing. I still have my dresses and suits that I wore to work. Heck, they are outdated but surely I MIGHT need them. My husband is the opposite and throws out everything without thinking. I can’t tell you how many times that habit got us into trouble… like with the tools he threw out that we could benefit from having now. I can even tell you some funny stories. So someplace there has to be a “happy medium” for me.

    I definitely can learn from you Susan!!

    • Gwynn, thanks so much for coming by! I too and my siblings are off spring of Depression Era, so everything was kept. I still keep rubber bands from purchases. And paper clips from other sources ..But it is a freeing thing to toss things out to someone who CAN use what you no longer use … make room for new energy. Of course it happens that once something is turfed, is when you actually wish you hadn’t …

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