These days it is easy to find oneself with a lot of clutter. The word clutter as a verb means to make untidy or confused. Why does clutter accumulate? What makes us hold onto things we don’t really need? Why is it a problem? What can we do to deal with it?
In times gone by when people didn’t tend to have many material possessions clutter wasn’t the problem it is today. A few decades ago the ‘average’ woman had a dress ‘for best’ and a few items she wore the rest of the time. Fashions didn’t change as quickly as they do today. Clothes were mended and patched. Clothes an adult had finished with would be cut down to make something for a child if the material wasn’t worn out. These days many women, me included, have more clothes than they really need. I like buying something different to wear but I am not so keen on parting with an item I have owned for a time.
It has been stated women frequently wear about 20% of what is in their wardrobe. I have donated some items of clothing to charity but find I want to hold onto some that I don’t wear, but I keep thinking I might one day. My excuses include some that others use. I might need it one day if I buy something that really goes with it and I will wear it when I lose 5 kg.
We accumulate things we have bought but don’t use. I have a tendency to save things for a special occasion instead of enjoying them now. Note to self, enjoy the moment. Therefore there are unused scented candles in a box in a cupboard and lots of pretty stationery in drawers. There are duplicate things ‘in case I can’t find one’. The problem is, the more stuff I have the easier it is to lose things and not be able to find what I want. Sometimes I forget I have something and buy another one. Oh dear. Now I have more clutter.
Paper is one of my biggest problems. I have held onto books of readings, essays, notes and printed research from unfinished study. I discarded some of this clutter before moving house but have held onto other items ‘in case I finish that degree’ or simply because I put so much work into those essays. I recently attended an information day because I had been thinking of doing a diploma course in a field related to the unfinished degree. The information session made me realise I don’t want to do the course so I have actually discarded some of my accumulated study materials. I was able to dump some of my clutter because I had made a decision.
It is hard work sorting and discarding. Not only is one doing physical work but one has to deal with a lot of emotional clutter. What if I get rid of something and want it later? Was it the right decision to quit what I started? Is it okay to change my mind? There is often guilt at not having finished something one started and also for holding on to the clutter for so long.
In her book, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui Karen Kingston says, ‘Everyone is always doing the best they know how.’ Karen feels no one should judge others for the clutter they have accumulated. She also says people shouldn’t feel guilty about their own clutter because there must be some reason they have felt a need to create it. I found Karen’s ideas comforting because I do feel guilty about holding onto things.
Karen says ‘energy stagnates when clutter accumulates’. On the other hand, ‘Things that are loved, used and appreciated have strong, vibrant, joyous energies, which allow the energy in the space to flow through and around them.’ She also says clutter tends to make you feel tired and weighed down because energy can’t flow freely. I wonder if this is also because at the back of your mind you know you have to deal with it sometime.
Clutter can cause emotional problems. Holding onto clutter can make you procrastinate and procrastinating makes you hold onto clutter so it’s a vicious circle. Clutter can cause disagreements among the people sharing the house. If you tell someone they need to clear their clutter they may respond by telling you to clean up your mess first. A cluttered house can lead to a feeling of depression and being depressed makes it difficult to tackle clutter. Even clutter in the shed can be depressing. It may be out of sight but it isn’t really out of mind.
If you feel you can’t get on top of clutter it can make you feel hopeless about the future. All the things one holds onto from the past that are no longer valued or needed stop one from moving forward. In part 2 I will give some ideas for dealing with clutter.