Subtle Forms of Clutter and How to Deal With Them

Most definitions of clutter amount to some version of the following: “A scattered, disorganized, messy collection of things.” But clutter goes beyond jumbled objects lying around our home. In reality, clutter is often present in more subtle forms and if you are not even aware of them, how can you possibly start cleaning them up? Let’s look at a couple of the ways clutter can sneak up on you, the detrimental impact it is likely to have, and how to handle it.

Many professional organizers and feng shui experts have broadened their definition of clutter to extend beyond things like the obvious stacks of papers waiting to be sorted, or that collection of gardening tools in the garage that implodes whenever you remove the one you need. Let’s look at two of these less obvious forms of clutter.

1. Projects that are left unfinished
2. Things not attended to or cared for properly

While these forms of clutter don’t always create a visible mess in our physical surroundings, they always increase our internal clutter by adding to the “background noise” of our mind. We may not even notice it, but mental clutter is a terrible drain on our energy and peace of mind.

Here’s an example of the “unfinished project” clutter. Remember that birdfeeder you were so excited about building earlier in the year? It’s been sitting there waiting to be assembled but by now you have happily moved on to other interests. So now, whenever you pass by this incomplete project, instead of envisioning a White-crowned Sparrow stopping by for lunch, you beat yourself up for your “lack of follow through” or some other form of negative self-talk. Well do yourself a favor and get it out of your house. Donate it or recycle it and you will be preserving your energy for the things that are bringing you joy today!

Now let’s look at clutter in the “not being attended to properly” category. Here’s an example that’s fairly common. You bought some house plants because you enjoy the beauty and fresh greenery they bring into your home. You started out with just a couple but kept adding to your collection and now several are looking pretty droopy. Maybe you don’t really have the space or growing conditions for the wide variety of plants you now own, so they’re all cramped in front of your picture window, getting a bit dusty. You do water them of course, and they are alive, but they’re not thriving. In this case, wouldn’t you and the plants, be better off if you just picked out two or three to keep and made a gift of the others to friends who may have both space and the perfect conditions? Having given them away, rather than a jungle of ailing specimens that just survive, you now have a couple of vibrantly healthy plants, cheerfully growing in a perfect spot in your home. The clutter has been cleared and you have created a miniature oasis of greenery. Sometimes less really is more.

So now we have seen two types of clutter that are a bit outside the narrower, traditional definition, yet have the same negative impact. The remedy in each case requires us to observe how we honestly feel about the items or area in question in the present moment. After that, give yourself permission to take action from that place of awareness. Our goal in removing clutter is to create a space that nurtures and renews us, while allowing energy to flow freely. Removing clutter is an act of kindness for ourselves, and we are all worth the effort.