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  • Writer's pictureErica Lucas

21 Reasons We Have Clutter in Our Homes

Updated: Mar 27

Why do we have clutter? This article offers a deeper understanding of that question. Knowing the type of clutter and the 21 common reasons we have clutter can help us declutter and enjoy the benefits of simple living. 


We have too much clutter in our homes because we have too much stuff. We do not have systems to manage the stuff we chose to keep. Clutter can be one thing out of place or many things gathered together in a disorderly manner. While clutter can cause anxiety and stress for some people, it can also go unnoticed by others. In this blog post, I share 21 common reasons we have clutter in our homes. 


21 Reasons We Have Clutter
21 Reasons We Have Clutter



Household clutter makes it hard to find things we know we own. The solution is to have a home for each and every item, but that takes practice, habits, and time. Time to decide what to keep, what to declutter and where to organize the rest. Finding storage solutions for all our belongings helps make a less cluttered home. 


Research shows that we lose up to nine items every day - or 198,743 in a lifetime. The daily loss calculated over a year means an incredible 3,285 items are misplaced every 12 months - or just under 200,000 bits and bobs over the course of 60.5 adult years. And a total of 3,680 hours or 153 days is spent searching for stuff, over our lifetimes (source).



Why do we have clutter?

Marie Kondo helped us deal with clutter in her books and her Netflix show, and then updated her perspective after having young children. The reasons we have clutter change as our life circumstances change. Here are 21 reasons we have clutter and the best way to deal with messy homes is to understand the causes behind these reasons. 


  1. our habits allow for clutter to gather 

  2. items do not have a designated "home" in our home

  3. we have too much stuff

  4. items need organization

  5. we don't recognize sentimental items as clutter 

  6. "what if" and "just in case" hold us back

  7. we are unsure of how to let things go

  8. we carry financial guilt

  9. we hold onto gifts we don't want due to "gift guilt"

  10. emotional attachment weighs on our hearts and minds

  11. we are clutter blind and don't know where to start

  12. we save items to use as our fantasy future self

  13. we keep items that connect us to our past selves

  14. we do not have enough space for the stuff

  15. it's not our clutter (spouse, partner, roommate, children, another family member, empty nest)

  16. we do not have enough time to declutter or organize stuff

  17. we overbuy (especially with the influence of social media)

  18. we downsize homes but don't downsize belongings

  19. we have anxiety and it manifests as clutter

  20. we suffer from depression

  21. we hoard or have hoarding tendencies


Depression and hoarding are serious illnesses affecting mental health. I urge you to seek medical care if you have symptoms. The process of decluttering physical clutter can add to any mental health issue you face. The Journal of Environmental Psychology shared an interesting article about the connection between clutter and well-being (source). According to the author, the overabundance of possessions created a chaotic home environments for those participating in the study. 


Please note that I deliberately used "we" and "us" in these 21 reasons. I've experienced most of these and came close to #21. I was not diagnosed with a hoarding disorder, but we had rooms we could not use, exits we could not access in a fire, triplicates of stuff I didn't even know we had. This had a negative impact on my family's life. I felt constant anxiety from the clutter and from my inability to deal with the items. These 21 reasons beg the question... how can we reduce clutter? 


Before minimalism, I organized clutter. I hid stuff in baskets and forgot about them. I sorted by category and kept it all. Stuff upon stuff. By reverse decluttering, I now choose what I want to keep and declutter the rest. I considered hiring a professional organizer, but I had to deal with the causes of my clutter problem.  


After learning how to declutter and not backfill with more shopping, I used each opportunity to declutter as a way of living with even less. Now, I organize what I choose to keep rather than organizing clutter. 


Watch this video for three areas you can gain quick decluttering wins:






Start with these five ways to have less clutter:


Create a drop zone

A designated space to drop backpacks, keys, purses, and more. Corral clutter to deal with after you get settled. 


Create a launch pad

This might share space with the Drop Zone. This an area in your home that helps "launch" you out of your home. Good things to include are a bin for donations, library returns, coats, to-do list, water bottles, bags, and more. 


Grab a clutter basket

Crank that dance music and go from room to room grabbing what does not belong. Toss in the basket to put away later (or right then if you have time!).


Find homes for stuff

A long term answer to reducing clutter is set a home for each category and item. Putting things back in their home is a habit you can build to reduce clutter in the future.  


Declutter

Reducing duplicates, trash, clothes that do not fit, or old toys may kick off a decluttering habit for you. Eliminating items you don’t use, need, or love can reduce clutter. If you have hundreds or thousands of decisions to make about your belongings, consider including a trusted friend. Body doubling can help provide motivation and a second opinion about how to get rid of stuff can help. 


How to have less clutter
How to have less clutter

Psychological Effects of Clutter

The psychological effects of clutter are serious. Stress, anxiety, and depression stemming from clutter are scientifically documented through several studies. A famous 2009 UCLA study from their Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF) showed that women who perceive their homes to be cluttered tend to have unhealthy patterns of cortisol levels. Thirty-two (32) dual-income, middle-class households with school-age children opened their homes to the study (source).


Visual clutter in our physical environments needs a clutter solution, as supported by current psychology. Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University, discusses why clutter stresses us out on the Speaking of Psychology podcast. Speaking of Psychology is an audio podcast series highlighting some of the latest, most important, and relevant psychological research being conducted today. Produced by the American Psychological Association, these podcasts will help listeners apply the science of psychology to their everyday lives.


Summary

Regardless of the type of clutter (transitional clutter, sentimental clutter, fantasy self clutter), identifying the psychological reasons and root cause of clutter is important. Processing the emotions surfaced while decluttering - even with outside help - can help you figure out why we have clutter in our homes. 


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FTC Disclaimer: Please note that some links may be affiliate links, and I earn a commission from your purchase. These links share products at no extra cost to you. I may receive some products in exchange for my honest review. My opinions are my own and are not influenced by brand, person, or company.

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Trish-Leigh
Trish-Leigh
Mar 28

I have been with you from the beginning of your journey. Your YouTube videos are an inspiration and have kept me going on my simplifying journey. Your reverse decluttering idea is the best and is what has totally made the difference for me. Thank you and God Bless xx

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sibbald.k
Sep 20, 2021

Typo in #16! "we do not have time to declutter or organize _your_ stuff"


I think I'm most cluttering due to 1 3 6 7 20, and another one: I set things aside to do later whenever they have multiple steps to completion. An example is anything that needs to be cleaned or fixed before it can be put away, or something that needs to leave the house but needs special disposal.


I know what to do with it and where to put it, but anxiety, depression, and general parenting tiredness just make it too hard for the moment. Before I know it, there's a small pile of "later" tasks. Ugh.


But I mean, everyone's lives are full, right? We…

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