My formerly cluttered desk

a cluttered desk

Clutter comes in multiple varieties -- it's basically the stuff we don't want or don't want where it is right now.

Serious, beyond clutter

Clutter taken to extremes can be a sign of hoarding. This can be a mental illness that needs treatment before someone is harmed. Extreme clutter can cause dangerous situations. For example, emergency exits can be blocked. Some kinds of clutter attract pests which can carry disease. Clutter also makes it more difficult to clean; the resulting dust and dirt can aggravate some unhealthy conditions such as asthma. People can be hurt by tripping over clutter or in extreme cases, having clutter fall on them. Hoarding is a medical condition and needs treatment beyond what can be addressed in this wiki.

Is it clutter?

Keep in mind that like many other things, what's clutter to one person may be treasure to another. One person may love having a shelf full of figurines -- it's his or her prize collection. While to another person, that's just space and money wasted on a bunch of useless and breakable ceramics. Someone may feel that having a bunch of decorative pillows on the made bed is elegant, and another sees them as irritating extra work to get ready for bed and to tidy up in the morning. Trying to change someone's idea of what's clutter, is like trying to change a fan's favorite sports team -- it may happen occasionally, but will usually just result in frustration.

When people who have very different ideas of what's clutter live together, they need to figure out ways around it. Perhaps no figurines go in one room. Maybe all the sports memorabilia can be organized together into a shrine -- and extra materials like chip and dip plates with the team logo and clothing stored until the big game party. The pillows on the bed can have a set limit; maybe more are allowed on some beds than others. The research into the family genealogy can have a special file drawer and desk workspace. Other hobbies may also require a special place when active and specific storage locations for when no one is working on the hobby. If this stuff is important to someone in your home, honor and respect those feelings, but figure out a way that it won't cause problems for everyone else.

What to do about clutter

Then there's the clutter that everyone (at least in your home) agrees is clutter and can go or needs a place other than the middle of the den floor. In many cases, clutter can be reduced by changing a few habits and addressing a few issues that have been causing it. Common solutions seem to boil down to

  • break big jobs into smaller ones; don't try to tackle everything at once (instead of trying to take on the whole room, work on just a part of it -- one drawer)
  • schedule regular time to work on clearing the existing clutter and keeping it cleaned up
  • have a place for things to go -- preferable a place that takes into account where it is used, how often it must be accessed and any special storage or safety needs
  • reduce what you have; if it's not something you truly value or can use, can you send it to a more appropriate place? donate, repair, recycle or throw it out?

It also helps if you can find ways to make the time you spend cleaning up and clearing out the clutter more pleasant. Put on nice music, use a cleared space to showcase a favorite item. For more ways to reduce clutter, see the article on decluttering.


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