Clutter is a problem that grows over time and often becomes an issue for homeowners due to indifference and lack of understanding. A personal storage unit could be the solution to your home’s growing clutter problem.
A Cautionary Tale of Clutter
Once upon a time, there was a family who planned a trip to Hawaii. They were so excited, and on the day of departure, each person hauled his or her suitcase and carry-on out to the front steps of the house, eager to load up the waiting taxi and get to the airport. Instead of a quick departure, however, the kids stood around outside, impatient to leave, while Mom and Dad searched and searched for the house keys. Searching for the house keys was a frequent occurrence, because neither Mom nor Dad could ever remember where in the house—that never seemed to be tidy—the keys had been dropped this time. The search lasted so long on this occasion that the family missed their flight.
Could this happen to you? If you’re always looking for the keys, stepping around piles of stuff, and never seem to have an available tabletop on which to eat dinner, clutter is a problem for you.
What is a Cluttered Home?
The Definition of Clutter
One person’s clutter might be another person’s collection of treasures. What is or is not considered clutter is a very personal opinion, and you are the only one who can identify what is clutter in your home. The result of clutter, however, is universal: a set of negative emotions tied to the amount of stuff you keep in your home, along with the physical disadvantages that piles and boxes and shelves full of too many things create.
What Does a Cluttered Home Look Like?
A cluttered home is a home in which you are not comfortable with the quantity of the contents within. Whether you feel stressed and overwhelmed with the job of getting rid of clutter (and, therefore, never start the project), or you can’t bear to part with mementoes of the past (even though you associate them with negative feelings), clutter lurks in your subconscious at all times. Cluttered homes and living spaces are strongly tied to a person’s sense of wellbeing. Unrelenting clutter has been shown to trigger depression, stress, physical and mental fatigue, an inability to focus, feelings of failure, guilt, and a sense of being stuck in life. Even if you love your home, being surrounded by clutter on a long-term basis is detrimental to your mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health.
Clutter can look different for different people, too. One person’s cluttered home may look serene and tidy to visitors—but don’t open the closet or cupboard doors, or all the things stuffed inside will spill out. This homeowner often has to buy new tools and products because she can’t locate the items she already owns without emptying every drawer, closet, and cupboard, along with the garage.
Another person’s cluttered home might be a museum to a deceased loved one’s life. When loved ones pass away, it is often difficult for survivors to know how to deal with their treasured possessions. A man who has survived his wife’s death after 50 years of marriage may feel guilty getting rid of her clothing, her books, or the unfinished projects and crafts still waiting for her to finish them, even if seeing them on a daily basis brings him pain and anguish.
Or a cluttered house might have stuff lying around because it has no home. There may be piles of superfluous dishware, or stacks of books that were loved once but never re-read, or tools for potential hobbies that were never tried. Maybe there are dozens of one particular item—your collection—that is gathering dust while also getting underfoot.
Busy people often feel they don’t have the time or energy to combat the constant flow of mail and things that come into the house but don’t ever seem to leave, so mail piles up unopened on the dining table and closets are packed so tightly that even getting a shirt out is difficult.
Do you recognize your house in any of these examples?
The Reasons a House Becomes Cluttered
Clutter happens to just about everyone and is not a reflection of your intelligence, education, or personal hygiene. We live in a society of abundance, and we have the money, opportunity, and manufacturing ability to create and purchase many items beyond what is strictly necessary for life and survival, a problem that few ancient cultures ever had to deal with. If you have books spilling off the shelves and lining the walls, boxes of tools and materials to try out new hobbies, cooking implements for recipes you’ve never gotten around to making, more clothing than you could ever wear, or tools in the garage that gather dust, you can feel grateful for the ability you have to purchase all those things and have the potential leisure time to use them even while wondering at how you’ve managed to collect so much.
Constant clutter, however, is also a sign of personal distress in some way, and failing to deal with the clutter has been proven to increase that emotional, spiritual, mental, or physical distress in the long term. By identifying why clutter seems to stick with you, you can learn to let it go and free yourself from the stress, guilt, and depression that clutter can trigger.
A busy schedule keeps you hopping, and you might not have much of a chance to tend to the clutter that keeps piling up at home. Mothers with small children, working men and women with demanding jobs, busy school schedules full of activities and team practices, or even just your desire to volunteer and be of service to others can all lead to allowing yourself to neglect the one place that is supposed to be your refuge.
If you are a list-maker and calenderer, it’s time to schedule some time for yourself. Even ten minutes a day of getting rid of junk mail, tidying up kids’ toys, or sorting through your collection of magazines to decide which you will toss and which you will donate can give you a sense of control over your life. You might be so inspired that you schedule in more time!
A Growing Household: Children, Roommates, Family
Adding new family members always means there will be more stuff to store in your house. If you are a parent, you have some control over how many items you purchase or keep for each child, but the sheer amount of clothing, equipment, furniture, and toys can become overwhelming very quickly without a lot of oversight and strict clutter patrol.
Roommates are a bit different. You probably don’t have a lot of control over what a roommate brings into a living space unless you own the space and can dictate the terms, and you certainly can’t control whether or not he or she is a neat-freak or a slob. What you can do is keep your own private space free of clutter as much as possible.
Bad Habits Forming over Time
We all develop some bad habits over the years, and clutter is one often one of them. With clutter, however, the bad habits are usually associated with some sort of psychological distress, and clutter acts to enhance that distress over time.
Any person’s reasons for allowing a home to get cluttered generally fall into one or more of eight general categories that Erin Doland, Editor-in-Chief at Unclutter.com, defines in her article, “Ask Unclutterer: Why do people struggle with clutter?” The reasons are:
- You are overwhelmed with the task of uncluttering and don’t know where to begin.
- You fear being forgotten and feel that your possessions will define you and prove you’ve lived.
- You fear change or fear the future.
- You experience a major life change that comes with lots of new stuff: marriage, the death of a family member, having a baby, etc.
- You have poor decision-making skills or have never learned how to successfully manage your time.
- You lack energy.
- You collect clutter as a side effect of a mental or physical disability.
- You simply don’t see anything wrong with you clutter and have no reason to change.
Understanding why you have clutter in your home is one of the major methods you can use to begin controlling and counteracting it.
An Inability to Let Go of Daily Possessions
For some, having stuff around is a source of comfort. If that is you, you may find pleasure in the constant inflow of items, whether you purchase them or get them as gifts. Although hoarding items falls under a different psychological category than clutter, an inability to edit daily possessions can get you into clutter trouble very quickly. A helpful trick that some with this issue have used is to make a rule that for every new thing that comes in, something old must go out. By sticking with this rule, you will either get rid of a lot of old things or you will lose the urge to keep buying new items. Either way, you’re on your way to a serene, de-cluttered home.
Never Learning How to De-Clutter
Learning how to de-clutter is not some innate ability you are born with. Like learning to balance a checkbook or cook a soufflé, one must be taught how to de-clutter and then practice, practice, practice.
If you have never learned this very satisfying skill, it’s never too late. There are many methods of decluttering available from decluttering experts. One of those methods will resonate with you and your personality, and once you’ve found the method you like best, you have to practice it on a daily basis to make it a habit.
Anthony Ongaro of Break the Twitch blog lists and evaluates 6 Popular Decluttering Methods for Minimalism. You might find the perfect decluttering method that works for you on this list!
The important part of teaching yourself (or having someone teach you) how to declutter is to practice. Everyday practice is the best, but even scheduling in time once or twice a week is going to get you going in the right direction.
How a Cluttered Home Negatively Affects You
We’ve already briefly mentioned some of the negative psychological effects of clutter, but now we’ll delve deeper into that topic.
Ranka Burzan, author of The SOS Guide to Clean and Organize Your Home, said this about what it means to live with clutter month in and month out: “People who constantly live in a state of chaos are prone to procrastination and an inability to commit to work or relationships. They get anxious and overwhelmed with change and usually give up before they even start the project. Their finances and time are wasted; they feel stuck and bad about themselves”.
What is it about the link between depression, procrastination, feeling overwhelmed and stuck, and living with clutter? Why is it that a cluttered environment makes you feel anxious, stressed, and unable to focus, even if you are fairly successful at your career and pursuits? How would clearing the clutter help you in all aspects of your life?
Author June Saruwatari claims that everything we hang onto that isn’t clearly useful or necessary to our current lives holds us in the past and weighs us down. Every time you stuff something in a box or shove something to the back of the closet with the thought, “I can’t throw that away; it reminds me of my first boyfriend!” or “It could come in handy someday, even if I have never gotten around to using it!” represents baggage to your subconscious. Unfinished projects that you know, deep down, you’ll never get around to completing; old letters and gifts from relationships past; paycheck stubs from long-ago jobs; magazines and newspapers you might one day want to read again; useful little tools or hobby equipment that sits around gathering dust—all these things may be hidden from sight, but they’re not forgotten by your mind.
What’s damaging, says Saruwatari, are the emotions associated with hanging onto relics of the past: guilt at not completing projects leads to a sense of failure and incompetence; old souvenirs and gifts representing painful feelings from broken relationships or faded friendships keep you lingering in the past instead of focusing on the present and preparing for the future; shame at not achieving your lofty goals turns into negative self-talk about how you can never do anything right. Are you starting to see the pattern?
You may not have identified the constant background thrum of anxiety, sluggishness, guilt, and stress your clutter is causing in your life. You just wonder why you’re lazy and tired, overwhelmed and paralyzed from taking action, always late or procrastinating the hard jobs. It could be that clutter is keeping you down. Clutter competes for your attention, sapping your focus and draining your energy. Whether it’s clutter on your work desk or clutter in the rooms of your living space, it’s always demanding to be remembered, even if it’s only your subconscious that is doing the remembering.
Obvious Ways Your Clutter Is Holding You Back
Not sure yet that what you call your treasures or dusty collections or “just in case” purchases are clutter? Let’s see how all that stuff you’re holding onto could be decreasing your quality of life.
Not Being Able to Find What You Need
Ever torn up your house looking for that thing you know you bought and then put somewhere safe? You couldn’t find it amongst all the other things you’ve got stuffed into the spaces of your home, so you had to buy a new one.
No Room for New Household Products
Sorry! All the spaces are taken!
Your Clutter Portrays You as a Messy Person
There are plenty of smart, social, and very fun people who will never throw a dinner party in their home because they are ashamed of the clutter. If you are one of these people—ashamed of the way your home looks because of messy clutter—you aren’t alone. You’ll happily meet up at a restaurant rather than invite people into your home, and you’re secretly (or openly) envious of your organized friends’ ability to keep a tidy house. You fear your clutter portrays you as a messy, disorganized person who is incompetent at keeping the little things together, and that feeling keeps you depressed and ashamed of yourself.
Once the Clutter Begins, It’s Hard to Stop
Clutter has a way of taking over. If you love to shop but don’t like letting go of past purchases that no longer serve your needs, you’re going to end up with a clutter problem. If you lovingly keep every gift, movie stub, or chipped cup, your closets and cupboards will soon be full. The sentimental attachment we place on our belongings often makes it difficult to let them go, and that is a cycle that can be very hard to break.
How to Declutter Your Home: a Storage Unit
A storage unit can be part of your successful decluttering journey.
Create Space without Getting Rid of Personal Belongings
Even after a good decluttering, there are things you won’t want to toss, sell, or give away. Valuable items such as personal and family histories, photos, and journals, family heirlooms, seasonal clothing, gardening equipment, holiday decorations, artwork, necessary work files or products—all of these need a home where you can easily access them. Rather than living with all these things underfoot, a storage unit can keep them safe, easily accessible, and out of sight, reducing visible clutter and increasing your peace of mind when you’re at home.
Allows You to Prioritize What You Need and What Can be Stored
Living without some items in your home can help you prioritize their importance. A storage unit helps you in that process by giving you a place to stash things out of sight and live without them close at hand. If you find yourself constantly wishing you could get your hands on it, you’ll know it’s something you need to store at home. If it’s something you don’t need more than once or twice a year (and would be very costly to replace), it can stay in your storage unit.
If you have stored something that you find you never use, you can more easily let it go and get rid of it. Now you have space in your storage unit for something you really do use!
Easy Access to Your Belongings
A good storage facility in a convenient location to your home or work means that you can easily access the items in your unit. Knowing you can swing by and grab what you need is comforting.
Affordable Alternative to Clutter
As we’ve seen, clutter costs you in many ways, including financially, mentally, and physically. Using a storage unit is an affordable alternative to cluttering your home. For a few dollars a month, you can store items you don’t want in the house but don’t need to use on a daily basis. Now it’s out of sight, which makes for a peaceful, more organized home (and helps organize your mind, as well). Your emotional mood will lift, and you’ll feel more successful in many aspects of your life. That’s worth a small monthly rental cost!
Seasonal Items are Stored until You Need Them
Seasonal items are notorious for clogging up a home’s storage spaces, only to be pulled out once or twice a year. Seasonal clothing, holiday decorations, gardening or yard equipment, or lawn furniture and BBQs stay safe, dry, and accessible when you need them.
Clutter is inconvenient, but clutter is also psychologically damaging. Living with clutter takes a toll as it constantly reminds you of your failings, which leads to guilt, shame, and depression in many people. There are many reasons why otherwise intelligent, driven people put up with a cluttered home environment, but clutter is holding you back.
Getting rid of clutter frees you emotionally. In fact, decluttering can be so freeing that people usually notice huge benefits in all aspects of their lives.
Storage units can be one way to help deal with the clutter that plagues you. Using a storage unit to get seasonal items, valuable items that you don’t necessarily want in your house, and transitional furniture or work items out from underfoot clears out your house and gives you peace of mind.