The Psychology of Clutter

Stuff has a way of coming home with me. Even though I feel like I am a pretty ruthless editor of the things I keep in my home, I still have piles of stuff I don’t know what to do with. I recently wrote a guest post for Erin Tannehill over at The Tannehill Homestead called The Psychology of Clutter, in which I discuss the importance of finding a home for all of the things we keep in our house. I have discovered that finding a home for our stuff is part of winning the battle with clutter.

She stumbles through the door, arms loaded down with all sorts of paraphernalia generated from the day:

A mangled wad of dandelions from her doe-eyed boy because he knew how much she liked flowers;

the older kid’s school project, a structure they are super proud of made of marshmallows and toothpicks;

the books borrowed from the library;

lunch boxes;

the quick items grabbed from the grocery store on the way home;

and the mail snagged from the mailbox.

She stashes it there on the sideboard as the kids unload their backpacks onto the dining table to begin the day’s homework. She is desperate to unburden herself from the weight of the day and take a haggard breath, the first one in several hours. She glances at the pile of clutter on her beautiful sideboard, shakes her head and looks away, beaten again by the stuff that fills her home.

I’ll get around to it later.


The sideboard in the dining room was a piece of furniture that she envisioned would be filled with delicious platters of food to serve family and guests. She marveled at the available surface it would provide to harbor food for treasured guests at the many lovely gatherings she planned to hold. She imagined showing love to people by supplying various charcuterie, elaborate salads, and mouth-watering cuisine all arranged skillfully on the sideboard. She imagined hearts and stomachs full of nourishment, conversation, and connection which would feed her purpose on this planet.

Unfortunately, she never used her sideboard for keeping prepared food conveniently near the table; she found it was a convenient place to put just about anything else except for the items that were meant to be there.

Leaving clutter for later is easy. It is something that requires particular focus and mental energy–resources that feel in short supply after a long day. It is easier to choose to spend time decompressing for three or four hours watching Netflix, to avoid dealing with the clutter. The pile will still be there glowing in the proverbial darkness when the TV goes off because avoidance does not eliminate challenges, it only postpones them.

Time moves ahead, and more items are brought home. Like a traffic jam, the clutter pile continues to grow and drip off the sideboard into paper-bag-purgatory on the floor, and useful or essential items are lost and forgotten in the clutter pile. Even though it seems like it is safer to leave things in the clutter pile, most items of value aren’t safe there.

Important information is buried, resulting in missed appointments and unpaid bills.

Money is spent rebuying useful items because the originals in a pile have been forgotten.
Things that bring joy never get displayed and are arguably unimportant if they remain at the bottom of a pile of clutter…to read the rest of the piece click here.

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