10 Clutter Personality Types

clutter personality types

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?

 

the minimalist packrat clutter bootcamp

 

18 Responses to “10 Clutter Personality Types”

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  1. rachel says:

    OMG, I have always thought of myself as a minimalist, with a small shopping addiction. I never buy big stuff, I hate big pieces of furniture, big toys, lots of stuff sitting everywhere. We have no dressers in our home or a lot of stuff that holds more stuff. I proud myself on everyone coming over to my house saying how neat, clean, and minimalist everything is. My kids friends wish they had our home (just a 1000 square foot apartment with husband, me and 2 kids),because it is bright and open with so little toys and clothes. Friends joke how little furniture, clothes, ect we have in our home. I just had a O moment! I am a Cycler! (and a number #2, I return everything.) I thought clutter was coming from everybody else, but not me! I have been reading simple and minimalist blogs for a few years now and nothing has spoke to me in this way. I have to stop shopping. Thank you!

    • I love it Rachel, a minimalist with a small shopping addiction. That’s me too! I just keep that addiction in check now! Congratulations on having a minimalist home. Now it’s time for you to curb your shopping and your Cycler tendencies and think about how much money you’ll save. It will be lovely! I was a huge Cycler in my packrat days, but now I’ve halted it by following my tame the shopping beast rules. It’s made a huge impact in the quantity of stuff that enters my life. Check it out! I’m glad my post spoke to you. It’s comments like these that keep me blogging!

      Cheers,
      Tanja

  2. Jill Foley says:

    Between my husband and I, we are a combination of at least half of these!!! And my youngest daughter is quickly becoming a collector! I have made such good progress, but I still have a LONG way to go. I definitely have a new mindset, though. Normally I would have searched through the Christmas clearance to stock up for next year, but I didn’t even walk through the aisle. I don’t want to store it for the next 11 months. Another example is that yesterday we wanted to go for a hike and my husband also wanted to check out an outlet mall we’ve never been to. He was proposing we go to the mall first so it would be less crowded. I said, “Nope…the hike is more important and we need daylight for it. If we still want to go to the mall after the hike, we can, but I need to get out in nature!” He looked at me and said….”Wow – you have sure changed!”

    Anyway – this list is brilliant!

    • I used to be 9 of these!!!! Ack! Wow your Christmas clearance message rings true for me. I used to wake up at the crack of dawn and head out like all the other crazies. My big thing was hitting up the big department stores and getting all the expensive glass ornaments for 75% off. I can’t imagine how much I spent on ornaments over the years! It’s really funny looking back on it!

      Congrats to you, going hiking instead of shopping is always a plus! I bet it was beautiful too… and think about it, no mad stampede as the squirrels hit up sale-price acorns!

      Cheers,
      Tanja

  3. Debbie says:

    This is very helpful. Thank you. I am definitely a 3,4,5 combination. #3 I have multiples of things mostly because I misplace a lot of things (poor short term memory) then find them again #4 I have a love for history (great long term memory ) So I keep a lot of sentimental things to “share w/ my grandkids one day” #5 I am very thrifty by nature so I hesitate to get rid of things untill I am certain I won’t have to pay to replace them.

    This gives me a lot to ponder. #3 As I pare down, things are becoming easier to find when I misplace them. #4 I haven’t quite figured out how to completely cut back on nostalgia, but I am starting to limit things to one representative item per “event”/”era” #5 I am just starting to wrap my mind around the relative cost of clutter in terms of time and stress, which frequently outweighs replacement costs. However I am trying to balance that with the reality that we do live a ways from a store so picking up a relacement isn’t a 10 minute errand and we do have plenty of storage space. Hmmmm…..

    Thanks for getting me thinking
    Good post.

    • Hi Debbie,

      Numbers 3, 4 and 5 are biggies. Lots of folks seem to be right there. I definitely was! About the sentimental clutter. I just recently did a sentimental clutter series. It’s almost done now, but here’s the first post if you want to check it out: Decluttering Sentimental Treasures.

  4. Arron says:

    Unholy Carp! I’m a 5, 6, 7 & 8 packrat. Drat. You know those dumpsters with the big, swing-out door on the end? The ones that you could drive a car into? Yeah, I’ve filled one of those. Twice. When we got new furniture and carpet, we used one to haul away the mess. We did it again after the basement flooded due to unusually heavy rains combined with a dead sump pump. We lost a lot of stuff in our basement then, so we rented a dumpster and filled it. And I could do it again. I have crap in my basement that belongs to my ex-wife (we’ve been divorced nearly 14 years) that needs to go. There are items that belong to my ex-wife’s new wife’s son (yes, you read that right) that, somehow, I agreed to store until he found a place to live after college. That was 3 years ago. I have parts for a car I haven’t owned for 6 years in the rafter-storage in my garage. WTH? I need help. LOL Yes, admitting you have a problem really is the first step. Now that I can see WHY I have too much shyte in my house I feel I can finally get rid of it. Great post, Tanja (as usual). Now, for a plan…..
    Arron recently posted..A Different Kind of American Dream

    • Oh Arron! And here I thought you were mostly done with your decluttering and most of the way towards minimalism! :)

      I’m gonna be a brat here and say it out right (I know how you like straight talk). You have GOT to get rid of your ex-wifes things! Why? Why? Why? Are you just being nice and storing that junk for her too or is it that you haven’t made the time to get down there and start chucking it?

      If it’s the first reason, give her a reasonable time frame. Tell her she’s got 3 months to come and get it our you’re donating it. I know that’s tough advice but trust me, someone near and dear to me has her entire garage filled to the brim with someone else’s stuff. She has no easy access to things she uses and owns, reasonable things like gardening shears and pool supplies. It really affects her life but she’s being too nice and not saying, “I love you, but come get your junk or I’m tossing it out!”

      Your ex probably doesn’t even remember what you’re storing for her at this point!

      All right, I’ll be sweet for a moment. You can do it. You can get through it. Just set up some time on a weekend, a couple of hours, and just toss those old car parts. You know you don’t need them and it will be a good starting point. Then make that call to your ex!

      Cheers,
      Tanja

      • Arron says:

        Hahaha! I also seriously doubt she remembers what is in my basement! I can’t even tell you why I let her store it….I must have “pushover” written on my forehead. I’m too nice, I guess. I was a little naughty and just filled one of my big roll away trash cans full of her stuff once, just to get rid of it….and I didn’t let her know. The car parts are supposed to go to my Dad since I gave him the car they went to. How dumb was I to leave parts behind when I took the car to him. Out of sight, out of mind. I wouldn’t say I’m far behind in my decluttering, it’s just that with winter and the copious amounts of frakking snow (I HATE snow) on the ground, I’ve sort of stopped taking stuff out. I have a couple boxes of books for the library and a laundry basket full of “don’t fit” clothes ready to go to Goodwill sitting in my daughter’s room (she’s away at college), but I keep forgetting to take them out. My closets, dresser and kitchen drawers look great, but the garage and basement? Oy. I’ve grown lazy, I think. I need to get motivated again. Thanks for the nudge!
        Arron recently posted..A Different Kind of American Dream

        • Hey Arron,
          Good to hear you’ve got plans and they’re in motion! I bet if you ask her about that stuff she won’t even want it, not after so much time has passed. And hey, it’s great you’ve got most of your inner living spaces done! Tackling the outside zones last can be a good choice.

  5. Eva Wallace says:

    I’ve always been a bit of a #2, 4 and 5. And subsequently became an 8. Now that I have recognized all of these traits in myself, I am able to tackle them one by one. Living with purpose is the key! Everything in my life should have a valued purpose and be something I love. Recovery is going well. ;) Thanks for the post!

  6. rago says:

    Wow, what a great post. I have only just started down the minimalist path, although I have been trying to de clutter for years I always acquire more. So it’s baby steps towards a whole new lifestyle. The real kick in the backside has been moving into my first home after living overseas which means I have little to nothing. With no flatmates’ furniture to fall back on I am currently living without a couch, kettle, toaster, washing machine etc etc the list goes on. And you know what? It is an incredibly liberating feeling. To be free of so much “stuff”. Once you have started from scratch again it makes you realise what you don’t need (okay I will admit I do miss a toaster, I definitely want a toaster). But it really makes you re-evaluate things and I am loving our new home!

    So with this view in mind I started to hunt around the internet to find more information on the minimalist lifestyle, to help me keep this lovely new home free of unwanted stuff. And from all the blogs I’ve been able to read so far I have to say yours is my absolute favourite. You have some really informative posts and such a lovely writing style. So thank you so much. I look forward to becoming a regular reader.

    Case in point is this post. Reading through the types I have identified very strongly with three types. I am the Sentimental Keeper. The only things I really do own at the moment is my boxes of sentimental personal things. All small things thankfully, no furniture, but I have everything from presents from grandparents to soft toys I’ve had as a child that I want to give to my child one day (and no as yet I have no children!). Your posts on De-cluttering Sentimental Treasures has been a real eye opener for me.

    I am also very much The Shopper Accumulator, case in point my full to the brim wardrobe and spare suitcases of clothes (many of them still with the original tags on!). And finally I am The Procrastinator Keeper. I even right now have a bag sitting in the spare room full of clothes for the op shop that has been there for about a month now…..

    Your post has given me the courage to look at things objectively and to challenge myself. It has helped me to set some realistic goals to achieve the lifestyle I want for myself. Thanks for the great read!

  7. creative me says:

    I am in trouble….
    1,3,4,5,7 and mostly 8
    Tell me it will be okay!
    The only good news is that I have new rules that keep it under control
    “One in one out” for the closet
    “Use it until it’s gone” for beauty products (but my sister keeps gifting me bath stuff!)
    My sentimental stuff has a space limit of 2 totes of childhood toys and the china cabinet contents (losing family is hard to get over).
    My biggest hurdle has to be the usefull things. I have a cupboard and drawer of miscellanious hardware, screws, nails, etc that I dive into fairly regularly to solve some issue or other. It used to be hard to get at thanks to clutter, now it is easier to go through. (I guess there is hope for me after all!)
    As for 8. I take stuff away by the bag load to charity, but I love “browsing” afterwards too. I call it the “cycle of stuff”. At least when it’s kid’s clothes I am buying the next size up… but it’s not always kids clothes, I have to admit.
    creative me recently posted..Meteorologist Nightmare

  8. Connie says:

    This is a long comment but I wanted to share how used your list. I copied and went through it and highlighted in red all the behaviors I have. Then I brainstormed solutions to my specific issues. I have condensed it here to just Solutions. Now I have an Action Plan. It is not because I have clutter or disorder becuase I am such a #9! Thank you so much for your blog.

    1 The Future/Past Roles Keeper: Solution: Stop trying to “be” something. Become authentic. Stop thinking “I am creative; therefore I must create things.” Stop reading blogs that promote buying and making things. Sell everything not being used right now (i.e. jewelry-making, gift-giving) Stop thoughts of impressing others, being Martha. Read more, exercise more. Talk to D more. Write more.

    2 The Shopper Accumulator: Solution: Stop shopping, reading blogs about shopping, going to thrift stores without a list of specific item to buy. Stop looking for random “deals.” Reading ads? Make lists of items to buy and do not buy anything else. Do not buy anything online. Do not go to product parties. Do something else for fun. Create a savings account for things I want to purchase. Create a savings account of money I do not spend? (how to decide this?) Create a buying “system” for things I love to buy. (i.e. it is on a list, D and I discuss, wait one month, discuss again?) Save the money for everything not bought that was on the list.

    3 The Multiplier: Solutions: Purge every area and limit to one item. (especially in the kitchen) Cook from pantry & freezer. Use everything up; including toiletries. Don’t buy more until what we have is purged or used up. Stop buying in bulk? Limit trips to Costco? Sell multiples?

    4 The Sentimental Keeper: Solution: Purge paper and virtual photos. Scan hard copies. Look through décor items to purge.

    5 The Practical Keeper/Fixer: Solution: Look at these “just in case” things. (do this with D?) Purge spare cleaning products, etc. Date many things and check to see if we have used them. Purge those we don’t use and duplicates. Remeber how sad it is at Estate sales with all the crap in them. What about entertaining items for “just in case” we have this or that event? Summer things? Swim things?

    6 The Collector: Solution: Stop collecting decor. Stop reading décor blogs. Purge décor on the basement and cupboards. Stop making décor. Appreciate my home as it is. Purge clothes, accessories and jewelry. Examine feeling complete and loving my home the way it is.

    7 The Procrastinator Keeper: I’m not this one!

    8 The Cycler: Solution: Stop going to garage sales. Stop going to thrift stores without a specific list. Purge ruthlessly and commit to not bringing anything in. Stop reading shopping blogs or blogs that encourage accumulating more stuff (i.e. crafts, DIY, fashion) Have the garage sale in May and/or give away day. Take things to Consignment. Put things in a box and see if we get them out in 6 months. What about guilt of money already spent on the things I no longer love?? Recoup some of it by selling?

    9 The Orderly Keeper: Solution: Purge storage areas; basement and garage, cupboards and closets. Allow for empty space. Do not buy any more storage containers or shelves. Purge containers.

    10 The Disorderly Keeper: I am not this one!

  9. Jennifer G says:

    I’m late coming to this party :) but I fall into these 4 types: 3, 5, 7, 10. Hubby is 1, 2, 4, 5, 10. But we both like to purge things as well…so I guess we both also fall into category 8. But we are both getting better as we are trying to be more conscious of how we want to live and what it will take to get there.
    Jennifer G recently posted..The one that got away

  10. alissa rose k. says:

    whoa I didn’t realize that I was an accumulator!!!! Thank you for letting me learn something new about myself! :)

  11. Andrea says:

    Thank you for this post, it’s really helpful to get a clear image of the way stuff comes in and see it in well articulated way. I’m happy to say that a couple of years ago I found it in myself, for the first time, to actually really get rid of stuff. Before, I didn’t think too much about it, just kept it. I am or was the disorderly keeper.

    I had someone come over to help me clean every 2 weeks and we needed 1 hour to do our best at de-cluttering the floor and putting some items in their “right place” (few items had “their place”) before being able to do the floors. This is what made me realize what I needed to do, after 2 days it was back to the way it was, stuff all over and all places that had storage were full. I realized I could never be happy this way, and that most of my stuff was, in fact, kept out of sentimental values. I didn’t enjoy the things that really give me joy sentimentally because of all the less important sentimental stuff.

    So yes I’m also the sentimental keeper and I’ve been the collector since I was a child, collected EVERYTHING I was attracted to. Erasers, napkins, rocks, stamps, thimbles as an example. I still have my thimbles and some rocks, got rid of a lot of stamps and even my thimbles which was my most prized collection. I’m the shopper accumulator, especially on Ebay. Thimbles, books, last time Doctor who figurines haha. And future past roles, I’ve been into crafting and when I’ve ended up with half finished or even finished product I have trouble with what to do with it.

    A little bit, procrastinator keeper, intending to sell but never get to it. Now I put it all to a thrift store even though it’s sellable.
    Once I thought I would be a hoarder if it continued, but I realized that the mental hoarding disorder wasn’t what was going on with me.

    I’m still decluttering even though the clutter definitely doesn’t have power over me anymore. Clothes are still a challenge for me though. Just went through that today with help.

    Sometimes if something I know I should get rid of, but have problems with it, I damage it first so it becomes undesirable to me, like using scissors or ripping things up haha. Sometimes that is very liberating actually, like pictures that really bring bad memories but you keep because it’s a memory and a picture, tearing it up feels like the emotion from that picture when you see it will never come back. ;)

    I think there might be another category, clutter that grows due to inactivity, often because of depression etc.

    But I get part of my collecting fix from Pinterest now, I love it because I was cluttering my computer with pictures and other stuff that I can store there now, and it also serves the same purpose that stamps, postcards and greeting cards were doing before for me, (collecting the pictures on them).

    I wasn’t much the cycler because I wasn’t getting rid of much stuff, it was just coming in.
    Definitely not the orderly keeper, but now, since the MASSIVE purging, it is easy to keep it in order! I even have EXTRA space in storages! One sentence I heard in a hoarder show, “Gotta think about what you’re Gaining, but the problem is you’re thinking too much about what you’re losing” Now I kind of enjoy purging!
    Multiplier, some of the items were multiples, but the postcards were the best examples of multiples, now that I think about it, there were tons of multiples of the same card there. I used to be into sending stuff to people and sort of “hoarded” them for that purpose.

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