When is Too Much "Too Much" When it Comes to Clutter?
Rev. Dr. Kitty Boitnott, NBCT, RScP
Heart-Centered Career Transition and Job Search Coach | Life Strategies and Stress Management
 
 
I hope by now, you have had a chance to read last week's newsletter. It was about how clutter can have a potentially harmful effect on your health.
 
 
As with many things in life, clutter is in the eye of the beholder. What might look like clutter to one person looks like essentials to others. So, how do you know when you have reached the point of having too much clutter?
 
 
I have wanted to tackle the clutter in the closet in my office for a long time. Indeed, ever since I moved into my current home in 2007, that closet has been a dumping ground — anything I didn't know what to do with went in there.
 
 
Last week I mentioned that I did a significant overhaul and cleaned up much of my living space two years ago. But even then, I never got around to that closet. It was too intimidating. What was I going to do with everything? How would I ever get it organized?
 
 
Well, I am happy to say I have finally solved the problem. I shared with you last week that I have been reading Marie Kondo's book. The title is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I have also watched her Netflix special.
 
 
 
cover of the life-changing magic of tidying up

 

Marie Kondo has inspired me to get serious about getting rid of anything that doesn't bring me joy.

 
I tackled my clothes first. The transformation of my closet in my master bedroom still amazes me. I have taken all the clothes I know I would never wear again to the Good Will. (I have become a familiar face there in the last couple of weeks.)
 
 
This week, I tackled my books. Now, I am a librarian at heart. I love books. Real books, not e-Books. I even prefer hardback books over paperback books. There is something deeply satisfying about holding a book in my hands and turning the pages.
 
 
With that said, I have, over the years, purged many of my books in various moves. But I have been in this house since 2007. And I have been buying books along the way.
 
 
The unfortunate thing is that I often buy books on a whim, and then I never get around to reading them. Marie Kondo says all those books need to go. Their time has passed. I need to let someone else enjoy them. So, I started the purging process yesterday. This is pretty much what my office floor looked like for a while. Now the books that are being discarded are packed and ready for pick up.
 
 
 
books

 

I am still keeping a fair number of my books.

 
I am keeping the ones that bring me joy or from which I can learn and use for my work. I am discarding more than I am keeping, however.
 
 
I also purged all the papers and files that I was saving for some illusive reason I can't articulate. I don't need them. They are all retrievable on my computer. So, the papers are going to the dump.
 
 
I have filled over two dozen bags of miscellaneous junk. And there are seven boxes of books and assorted electronics, including two ancient computers that need to go. Get this. I found an old Macbook Air, an ancient iPod, and four--count 'em--four--old iPhones that I plan to take to the Apple Store this week to recycle.
 
 
I have an appointment with Junkluggers on Monday morning. I am going to let those guys pick up everything. They will discard the trash at the dump. And they will recycle what they can and discard the rest. The best part is that the mess will finally be out of my house!!!!
 
 

And my closet in the office is finally cleared out!

 

This morning, I tackled my kitchen cabinets and laundry area. I don't even know how many towels and old rags I have packed up to take to the local SPCA. I have more stuff to go to the Good Will, too. But the good news is that I am slowly and surely making more progress now in the area of decluttering and clearing space than I have done since leaving my marital home.

 
 
How will I know when I am "done" though? In her book, Marie says, you know when you have completed your tidying up task because a time comes when there is a "click" in your head telling you that you are now finished.
 
 
So, that describes a little of my process and how I approached the "life-changing magic of tidying up."
 

So How Do You Know When Too Much is Really "Too Much" When it Come to Clutter?

 
Do you wonder whether you have too much clutter? When is too much really "too much?"
 
 
Well, to help you answer that question, look at the questions below. Answer each of them as honestly as you can. Try to look at your environment with a fresh eye. Imagine that you were a visitor coming into your living space for the first time. What might they see that you have grown accustomed to?
 

1.  Is your kitchen counter clear of clutter? What about the kitchen or dining table?  

 

kitchen clutter

 

In other words, do you need to clear space on the counter before you work there to prepare a meal? Do you have to clear the table of stuff before you can eat there?

 
 2.  How long does it take you to find things when you need them? 
 
 
Do you spend a lot of time--more than five minutes--searching for items like your shoes? Your wallet? Your keys?
 
 
3.  Have you ever bought a replacement for something then found the original later? 
 
 
This is a sign of poor organizational skills. It's a waste of money and can cause a significant amount of anxiety, stress, guilt, and more.
 

4.  Do you know where things should be?

You’ve heard the phrase, “A place for everything and everything in its place.”
 
Everything in your house should have a “home” of its own, whether it’s a specific drawer or in a particular room. You should be able to tell someone where most items can be found in your home. If you can’t picture where the item should be, you would benefit from getting organized.
 

5.  Does your family know where things are?  

You’re not the only one who should know where things are. If you have items the entire family uses, everyone should know where those things "live."
 
 
Also, you should establish a firm rule about returning items to their proper place once they aren't being used. Commit to returning things immediately after the task or project is finished. That way, they will never get lost.
  

6.  Do you rent a storage unit?

storage unitPhoto by twilightproductions

 
Having a storage unit is not necessarily a sign of clutter on its own accord. But, combined with other things, it can be a hint that you need to downsize and get organized. How well have you organized the stuff in your storage unit? That is an important consideration too.
 
 
Whether the unit is on a commercial property or just in your backyard, the same rules apply to clutter and organization. Items should be organized, and each item should have its own place.
 

7.  If you have a garage, can you park your car in it?

Is your garage just another storage space? Do you know how where things are? Can you find things easily? More importantly, if you wanted to, could you park your car in it?
 

8.  Would you be embarrassed if visitors dropped by unexpectedly?

 

distress woman in a messy room

 
Is your house so messy and cluttered that you don’t ever invite friends to come over? Would it take a massive amount of work to get things presentable? If so, you definitely need to make decluttering and organizing plans.
 
 
The trick is that you need to make putting things in their proper places a daily routine to achieve and maintain your success.
 

9.  Do you make excuses about how your house looks?

 

If you make excuses about how your home looks, you may have a clutter issue.
 

10.  Is your family embarrassed by their home?

 

Has a family member expressed a feeling of embarrassment about their home? Is there an “understanding” among your family that guests should be kept away from certain rooms because of the clutter? Does your family play “hide the junk” by hiding things in closets? Do you use unused rooms for storing stuff rather than putting things in their correct spot? This is a sign that the whole family needs to make changes.
 

11.  Is your stuff stored carefully, safely, and in a loving way?

before tidy and after tidy wardrobe

 
Many people claim that they can’t get rid of their extra stuff because of their emotional attachment to it. When things are important, you take care of them. The problem is that some people confuse valuing items with their avoidance of change. As a result, things are often just stacked together haphazardly, rather than carefully. If you care about your things, then protect them and store them properly.
 

12.  Do you feel uncomfortable in your home?

 

When you’re all alone in your current living space, how do you feel about it? Are you comfortable in it? Do you feel safe, cozy, and happy? Or do you feel stressed out about all the things that need to be done?
 

These are the signs that you may have too much clutter.

 
It may not be cause for alarm if you only have one or two of these issues.
 
 
But if you answer three or more questions negatively, you should do something about confronting the clutter in your home.
 
 
And it isn't just your home that needs to be addressed. You also need to pay attention to your workspace. Anywhere that you spend a significant amount of time deserves attention.
 
 

Your environment affects your ability to function. 

 
 
 
tidy workspace
 
 
 
The good news is that you can do something about your clutter if you decide you want to. You’ll improve your own life and perhaps even people around you.
 
 
 
If you are skeptical that clearing clutter can significantly change your life, I urge you to give it a try. You might be surprised by the result of your efforts.
 
 
 
Until next time.

Kitty Boitnott
Boitnott Coaching, LLC

Glen Allen, VA 23060
United States of America