Clutter manifests itself in different ways and for different reasons. Tracy McCubbin, dClutterfly founder and award-winning home and office organization expert, breaks down the different types of clutter that many people tend to accumulate and explains the thought process behind them, helping us let go of clutter – and stress – we don’t need in order to make space for a calmer and more serene home and work environment.
1. Guilty Clutter
Scenario: My favorite aunt gave this sweater to me and I HATE it but I feel terrible giving it away because she’s my favorite aunt.
McCubbin says: The important part of that sentence is “favorite aunt,” not “sweater I hate.” Just because you give the sweater away – most-likely to someone who loves it – doesn’t make her any less your favorite aunt or take away the sentiment in which she gave it to you. In fact, knowing that someone will love that sweater honors the sentiment way more than having it stuffed in the back of your closet does.
2. Mourning Clutter
Scenario: My old neighbor Charlie gifted me a vase, and guess what? I HATE it. But Charlie’s passed on so I couldn’t possibly get rid of it, and because he’s dead, he’ll know and will be offended.
McCubbin says: If you hate it, let it go. Trust me, Charlie won’t be offended. He doesn’t need it where he is and it’s doubtful he’s keeping track of his earthly possessions. I can almost guarantee what Charlie really wants is for you to be happy on this earth and if that vase doesn’t make you happy, donate it so someone who loves it can have it. Here’s a little food for thought about hand-me-down gifts we hate…chances are the person that gave it to you didn’t like it either, that’s why they gave it away.
3. Sentimental Clutter
Scenario: I couldn’t possibly get rid of that old, broken trophy from summer camp (as you pull it out from the bottom of the closet where it’s been stuffed for years), it means so much to me.
McCubbin says: Does it really mean that much to you? If it’s so important, why is it shoved in the back of a closet? Let’s talk about if it’s really important – is it the trophy symbolizing your only home run, or is it an “everybody wins” trophy that the whole team got? In my experience, if it’s important or makes us feel good, we display it. If it doesn’t, we shove it in the closet. Take a picture of it, or better yet, look to see if you have any pictures of yourself winning it, then let it go.
4. Sad Clutter
Scenario: There’s this painting that my dead husband’s brother painted. My husband hung it in the garage when we first got married and it’s been there ever since. I couldn’t possibly take it down even though I hate my brother-in-law, I hate the painting, and it just reminds me of the fights my husband and I used to have over it.
McCubbin says: Is this how you want to remember your husband – fighting over a lousy painting? Rule number one, do not keep things that make you sad or bring back unhappy memories. We’ve all got enough bad memories that we don’t need visual clues. Put up photo of your favorite day together or frame something that reminds you of all the happy days instead.
5. Potentially Useful Clutter
Scenario: I couldn’t possibly get rid of these Learn-to-Speak-Dutch cassette tapes – what if get a job where I’m required to learn Dutch?
McCubbin says: This was told to me with a straight face by a retired client who said cassettes were taking up valuable real estate on his shelves, causing him to stack books on the floor. Look, we can create an imaginary situation to justify keeping everything so give some honest thought to whether you’re ever REALLY going to use it and if not, get rid of it.
6. Frugal Clutter
Scenario: Do you know how much I paid for that treadmill? I couldn’t possibly get rid of it. Do I use it now or have I in the past? No. Is it just taking up space in my bedroom and do I just hang my dirty clothes on it, yes.
McCubbin says: I know you paid good money for it and it seems wasteful, but it might be time to accept that you made a bad decision and let it go. Don’t keep it around to make yourself feel bad. Find someone who needs it – see if you can donate it to a local senior residence and get a tax write-off.
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