What do you think is the first step to clearing out clutter for good? I bet you think I’m going to say grab some trash bags and get tossing! Nope. Not yet. Taking the time to understand why you bring clutter into your life is one of the most valuable first steps to clearing it out forever. When you start to understand the emotional reasons behind why you clutter, you’ll find it becomes so much easier to clear it out and keep it out.
Without exploring why they clutter many people fall into the clutter treadmill trap. They rabidly clean, clean, clean and toss, toss, toss. Then two months later they look around and it doesn’t look any different than before! I was on the clutter treadmill for years before I took a hard look at why I was creating chaos in my life. I’d purge and gather, purge and gather.
You can get off the clutter treadmill by examining the reasons why you clutter. I’ve categorized the reasons people clutter into 10 main clutter personality types, each with different reasons for bringing in and holding onto stuff. Check over the list and see which ones ring true for you. You’re not limited to one. As a matter of fact I’m 9 of them! (Luckily for me, it’s all under control now.)
The Future/Past Roles Keeper: You want to be the kind of person who goes snow-skiing, so you are getting those snow skis now because they’re discounted closeouts, cheap at a yard sale, being given to you free from a friend. A year ago, before the snow skiing kick, you wanted to play guitar so you get yourself a guitar, guitar stand, strap, books on how to play the guitar, guitar picks and a tuner. Signs of being a future/past roles keeper include having many diversified interests that fade quickly. Have you tried and dropped more than ten different hobbies that require owning stuff in the past ten years? Do you still own items from one or more of those hobbies? Can you look around your house and say that’s when I was into macrame, bottle making, fly fishing, etc.?
The Shopper Accumulator: Saying no to a good thing isn’t in your personality. You ferret out deals and discounts, sales and freebies, you bring it all in and keep it. Signs that you’re an accumulator. Do you have a brand new item still in it’s bag weeks after you bought it? In your closet do you have a clothing item still with it’s tags on it? Do you buy stuff you know you don’t need or even love just because it’s on sale? Do you sometimes know in the pit of your stomach that you’re buying a mistake but buy it anyways? Do you sometimes think you can always return it if it doesn’t work out while you’re buying something?
The Multiplier: You have multiples of everything. You don’t have one hairbrush, you have three. You don’t have one type of moisturizer, you have 6, not including the facial moisturizers. Signs that you’re a multiplier include having multiples of any common household item where one would do. Look around. Do you have 4 pairs of scissors, 2 crockpots, 3 hammers, 8 sets of sheets even if you live alone, or more than one bottle of shampoo? Do you never pass up a buy one get one free sale if it’s an item you know you’ll use? Do you buy in bulk a lot?
The Sentimental Keeper: You own many things because of a sentimental attachment to them. You look at each item and don’t see the practical side of it, you see something that was a gift, or reminds you of a different time in your life, or of a person in your life. Signs of being a sentimental keeper are having more than 3 items from your childhood, more than 15 items from your high school and college years, more than 5 photo albums, or any items at all from past romantic relationships. Do you get a warm glow and a flood of memories when you look at items? Do you have special mugs, special collectibles, or special clothes that remind you of the past? Do you keep things just because of the way they make you feel?
The Practical Keeper/Fixer: You own many things because of their practical value. You never know when you’ll need a large roll of twine, duct tape, and spare parts from old electronics. Signs of being a practical keeper are having 1 or more non-working items in your home that you plan on fixing in the future that has been in a non-working condition for more than 3 months. Do you have more than 10 items in your home because you might need them someday? Are you storing more than 5 items in your home because a friend or family member may need them someday? Do you keep spares around because the original may break someday?
The Collector: You are always on the lookout for the next item that will complete your home/collection. You feel that once things are just so everything will be perfect. In the meantime it nags at you because it feels incomplete. You are constantly on the lookout for the final perfect red vase to sit on your mantle with the other red vases. Signs that you are a collector include having 1 or more large collections. These could be seashells, frog figurines, angels of every type, electronic gadgets, music, trading cards, sports memorabilia etc. Do you have a collection of items that you are proud of and showcase? Do you have more than 15 pieces in the collection? Do you have more than one type of collection? Do you search for items to add to your collection? Does the idea of losing your collection make you feel like you’d be losing a part of yourself?
The Procrastinator Keeper: The procrastinator keeper holds onto things until the right time. You fully intend to get rid of the item but something has to happen first. You have a stack of newspaper clippings for a friend. You have a pile of stuff in your laundry room you’re saving for your next yard sale. You have to find the other shoe before you can donate the pair to a thrift store. You’re waiting till you find the time to sell it on ebay/sell it on craigslist/take it to a fleamarket/give it to your great aunt Flo who you see two times a year. Signs that you’re a procrastinator keeper are having more than 1 item in your home you’ve been saving for longer than 1 week to give to someone.
The Cycler: You give stuff away constantly but never seem to make headway in your clutter. You know the root to the drop off station at your local thrift store by heart. You get rid of stuff and realize two months later you need to do it again. Cyclers often combine one or more other clutter personality types in with their cycling habits. Cyclers accumulate a lot and get rid of a lot, with lag time in between. Signs that you’re a cycler are buying something, not liking it, getting rid of it, and buying another. In the past 5 years have you taken more than 5 trips to a donation center each year? Do you have as much stuff as you had 5 years ago, still too much, but not growing in size? Do you shop for things other than groceries more than 3 times a month?
The Orderly Keeper: You have too much stuff but it’s all organized to perfection. Your collection of 100 clown figurines is gleaming, dust free and perfectly displayed. Your 30 photo albums are arranged chronologically. Your five bookcases of fiction novels are sorted by the dewey decimal system. When you run out of space you buy another storage unit. Signs that you’re an orderly keeper are having large collections of items that are all very well organized, but you’re house is still overly filled with all of those items. Do you have items stored in a rented storage unit? Have you contemplated upgrading to a bigger home because you’ve run out of space? Do you want to keep growing your collections but don’t know where to put them? Has someone in your family told you enough already?
The Disorderly Keeper: You have too much stuff and it’s scattered everywhere. You bring in the mail and drop it on a stack of papers on your kitchen counter. Your clothes land in heaps on the floor. You can’t find the dvd you want to watch, just the dvd case. Signs that you’re a disorderly keeper are losing things on a regular weekly basis, digging around to find what you’re looking for, and buying a new version of something you already own because you need it right now and can’t find it anywhere. Have you lost something 1 or more times this month? Do you know you have just what you need but can’t locate it? After doing the laundry do your clean clothes sit out for 1 day or more before you put them away? Have you been late paying bills 1 or more times this year because you lost the bill or forgot about it? Do you get frequent late fees from library rentals, movie rentals, or bills?