What is your personal clutter model?

One of the first steps in being able to solve a problem is knowing what has led you to this issue.  Everyone is very individual in how they deal with their stuff.  So it can be important to figure out your own model and why you may have challenges and struggles with clutter.

What are your Vulnerability Factors?

Did you grow up in a household where there was a lot of clutter?

Did you go to Grandma’s house which had a lot of clutter and it was kind of fun to be there?

Were your parents born during the wartime when they had to ration food so they hung on to things “just in case” or for a real need in the family?

Do you suffer from mental health issues, depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, ADD, ADHD or OCPD, etc.?

Have you suffered a lot of loss in your life and want to hang on to things instead of investing in relationships?

How do you Process Information?

Do you have problems with focus and attention?

Is it difficult to think of how to categorize items?

How difficult is it to make decisions for you?

Do you feel that you are extremely creative and can think of a use for anything?

Are you worried if you put something away in a drawer you will not be able to find it?


What Are Your Thoughts and Beliefs around Your Stuff?

Do you feel that you are responsible for not wasting and not adding to the landfill?

Are you afraid of making a mistake so instead do nothing at all?

Do you have strong emotional attachments to your things and discarding them would be like discarding a part of yourself or that of a loved one?

Do you feel that your items are a part of who you are?

Do your items give you a feeling of safety and security?

What Are Some Of The Emotional Responses You Feel About Your Stuff?

You can have both negative and positive feelings about your stuff.  Negative feelings like anxiety, feeling fearful, embarrassed, ashamed, guilty, confused, overwhelmed, depressed and hopeless.  These negative feelings can bring up thoughts like “I will never find anything in this mess” or “I am such a loser”.   Or it could be the overwhelming dread when you bring an impulsive purchase or a find home and then reality sets in “where am I going to put this” or “I am really feeling worried about looking at my bank account”.

Your stuff can also elicit some positive feelings like feeling happy, pleased, relieved, comforted, hopeful, safe and proud.  These feelings can bring up thoughts like “This is really a very pleasant room, it’s not so bad” or “It’ll only take me a little while to clean this up.”  There is a link between your feelings (emotions) and your thoughts and both can lead to difficulties with clutter.

Thoughts = Emotions = Behaviours

Both the negative emotions and the positive emotions can keep us stuck with our clutter.  We generally want to avoid the negative feelings so instead of dealing with the clutter we avoid the negative feelings by avoiding dealing with the clutter.  The positive feelings keep us in clutter as well as we can get a lot of pleasure in playing with our stuff, finding lost treasures, finding a bargain, moving stuff around and feeling like we are in our happy place as we create a safe nest for ourselves.

So, how can we move on from here?  Cognitive Behavioural Therapy shows us that if we can have an awareness of our feelings and question our thoughts and behaviours we are more able to make some changes.  Awareness helps us to move forward.

“Clutter can be a way of holding on to the past and a worry about the future.”

My first attempt at making my own graphic design below and I see I missed a word.  Ugh!!! (oh well,  I quite like it)  I made it with Canva which is Graphic Design Software (fun and easy) 

Clutter is way of holding on to the past

It’s not about being in the moment or being mindful about what is happening today and what you can have control of in your life today and even tomorrow (or this week).

Check out this great article on the Decluttering as Zen Meditation  http://zenhabits.net/zen-clutter/

Let me know what you think about this article and if you think it is helpful.  Also, I would love to know if you are interested in further articles like this.

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About Kimberley

I am a Case Manager at My Sisters' Place which is a program of the Canadian Mental Health Association London Middlesex. My Sisters' Place is a program for vulnerable women. I love my job and all the wonderful women I work with. I am very honored to do this work with women who have been through so much and are so open in sharing their stories. I initiated and designed a Clearing Clutter Support Group which I have been facilitating since 2007 with a co-worker. I love running this group and learn so much from the participants. We offer this eight week program three or four times a year. I started my business Space For You in 2010 and work with individuals in their homes as well as offer some workshops in the community. I am available to speak to groups on "De-Cluttering Your Life", "The Magic of De-Cluttering", "Space Clearing" or really anything to do with clutter and hoarding.
This entry was posted in Clutter, compulsive acquiring, De-Clutter Your Life, declutter, Emotional Clutter, families, goal setting, Organizing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to What is your personal clutter model?

  1. Kim this is a fantastic post. This is such a great guide to diving in deeper about why you do and save some of the things you do. If you haven’t checked out Cena Block’s TSSI Time & Space Style Inventory you should because I think it could benefit your clients. This blog reminds of the TSSI questions. I also see your blog style developing and loving the fact that you are trying graphics and now have share buttons! Yay! So proud of you!

    • Kimberley says:

      Thank you Autumn -That means so much to me 🙂 WOW!! I really like writing and blogging and I really appreciate that you can see my improvement – it is interesting when we all look back on what we wrote in our early days and how much we have changed and improved. I will check out Cena’s program for sure because it sounds like it is totally in line with what I am doing. thank you for your support Autumn 🙂

  2. Kim, you did fine with your first graphic, and I wouldn’t have noticed the mistake if you didn’t point it out. Next time, you might want to go bigger and bolder! Of course, the text is what’s most important and this is so informative. I know people who have had great success with CBT.

    • Kimberley says:

      Thank you so much Janet! That means so much to me – I had worked and worked on my blog post and got it just so and then I saw the mistake and was like no, I cannot change it now haha! yes, I need to go bigger and bolder. lol

  3. Seana Turner says:

    I was just part of a team presentation where one of the speakers talked about the importance of living in the present. Many organizing decisions can be made more easily if you focus on prioritizing your life today. Great post!

  4. I love the equation “Thoughts = Emotions = Behaviours.” It’s so very true! And your mention of CBT is spot-on as a therapy model for helping our clients. Informative post!

  5. Great post! I love the new perspectives you offer with these questions. Thanks for sharing!

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