CLUTTER BLINDNESS: WHAT IT IS AND HOW TO OVERCOME IT
Are you aware of the clutter in your home or have you become used to it? In this article we look at clutter blindness, what it is and how to overcome it for a clutter-free home and life.
WHAT IS CLUTTER BLINDNESS?
When you get used to looking at something, you often fail to see it properly. Imagine you’ve been looking for your keys for ages then you give up and finally ask for help. The person helping you spots them immediately, probably in a place that you’ve already checked once or twice before!
Maybe you’ve been proof-reading some text and, without the help of the computer’s spell check, fail to see that you’ve missed out a word or made an error or two. You’ve read the passage over and over but never spotted the typo.
When we become accustomed to looking at something in a certain way we stop seeing it properly. Our brains just skim and scan quickly but we fail to take in exactly what we’re looking at.
The same is true for our homes and the clutter that resides in them. We become so used to the mounds of paperwork on our desk, the piles of shoes in our entrance way and the collections of utensils, gadgets and stuff on our kitchen counters that we no longer notice them.
However, a guest will walk in and see them immediately. They have fresh eyes whilst we have clutter blindness. We no longer see the clutter that resides in our homes because we’re used to (and blind to) it.
HOW CLUTTER BLINDNESS DEVELOPS
Clutter blindness isn’t something that develops quickly. Clutter takes a while to build up and even though we might be aware of it coming in, the fact that it stays and becomes part of the fabric of our home means that we become desensitised to it over time.
Our environments are important, but just like animals, we adapt to our habitats. Where there was once an open space on the kitchen counter and which is now filled, we just begin to work around that stuff and create yet more piles of stuff.
We fail to see the clutter actively building up and how we measure our stuff changes too. We just think we’ve run out of storage, not that the clutter is the problem in the first place.
Clutter is also sneaky! It accumulates gradually, layer by layer. It becomes a natural progression of stuff that happens so slowly, we don’t really realise it’s happening at all. Until we’re encouraged to face our clutter blindness.
HOW TO IDENTIFY IF YOU HAVE CLUTTER BLINDNESS
If we can’t see something, sometimes we tend to believe it’s not there. So, one of the key ways to tackle clutter blindness is to help yourself SEE it in the first place. There are a few ways you can do this:
1. Ask a friend for their opinion
Ask a trusted friend for their honest opinion on the state of your home. Do they think it’s cluttered? Has it got worse over time? Where are the clutter hot-spots?
2. What do you feel about your home?
Sometimes we feel things without really knowing what’s causing it and maybe this could apply to clutter blindness about your home too. What do you feel about your home? Walk room to room. Does it have good energy, feel spacious, calm, peaceful and inviting? Or does it make you feel stressed out, overwhelmed, frustrated?
What do you feel when you close the front door as you go out for the day? Relief to be escaping or dreading what you’ll be coming back to?
Pay attention to how your home makes you feel and this could be a good indicator as to whether you have too much clutter.
3. Take photos
Take photos of different parts of your home and spend a few minutes looking through them. Taken in a different context and from a different perspective, you might notice things that previously you’d not been aware of. Clutter blindness comes from seeing things in the same way so changing the lens through which you see your stuff might help you identify whether clutter is a problem or not.
4. Take a break from your home
When you’ve been away from home, perhaps on a holiday, and you’ve walked back in, have you ever noticed things about your home that you’d like to change? Maybe a worn-out rug, or some scuffed paintwork that needs re-touching, or the windows needing a clean?
Clutter blindness works the same way. Give yourself a break from the same old view of your home and when you return with fresh eyes, you might become more aware of any clutter that’s been building up.
5. Check your line of sight
Choose a room and cast your eye around it. Do you have a clear line of sight or do you find your eyes and mind being distracted as they bounce from one busy corner to another? Clear countertops and floors, just the right amount and size of furniture, plenty of space and good flow will draw your eye strategically across the room.
Do the line of sight test in your own home and see if clutter blindness has let your own line of sight become confused.
HOW TO OVERCOME CLUTTER BLINDNESS
The first step to overcoming clutter blindness is to identify it as a problem to start with. Hopefully the ideas above will help you do that.
Below I’m sharing some tips on how to overcome clutter blindness by preventing and becoming more aware of how clutter builds up.
1. Adopt clutter-free habits
Clutter comes into our homes daily but having a few habits to deal with that clutter on a regular basis will prevent the clutter building up significantly. Read more about habits for a clutter-free home.
2. Reset your home regularly
Do a sweep of your home at regular intervals throughout the day to maintain a clutter-free home. Before meal-times and/or first thing in the morning or as part of your evening routine are great times to do a regular reset.
3. Keep countertops clear
Flat surfaces such as kitchen worktops, tables, shelves, even the floor and stairs are magnets for clutter. Make a pact to keep countertops clear and your home will feel more spacious, calmer and more clutter-free. Clutter attracts clutter, so it’s easier to keep surfaces free of stuff if there isn’t any clutter to add to it in the first place. Read this article on how to keep kitchen counters clear.
4. Identify clutter-hotspots
Some places in our homes attract more clutter than others. We’ve already mentioned one of them, the countertops, in point 3. Another example is the entrance way and kitchen counter. Being aware of clutter hotspots in your own home and why clutter builds up in these particular areas is helpful in knowing how to overcome them. Read this article on clutter hotspots and how to deal with them.
5. Give everything a home
One of the most common reasons for clutter to build up is because we haven’t organised a specific home for that item when not in use (or we haven’t communicated it effectively to others in our household!). If everything has a home, then you know where to put it when not in use. Not, for example, just dumped on the kitchen counter until you’re ready to use it again! We become blind to those piles of clutter as the counter assumes the role of yet another storage space – which it’s not!
HOW TO STAY CLUTTER-FREE
I hope you found the tips above helpful to address some of the clutter build-up in your own home. Becoming aware of clutter is the first step to dealing with the clutter blindness that many of us experience.
However, staying clutter-free is an ongoing, long-term process. It requires a mindset shift (the minimalist mindset) and consistent determination to declutter our homes and lives on a daily basis. Reflect often on what clutters your space and take small, regular steps to simplify your space.
The benefits of decluttering are more far-reaching than just less stuff to move, look at, tidy and clear away. Decluttering can help you regain your space, reclaim your time, rejuvenate your energy levels and create more joy, peace and happiness as a result. Keep asking yourself decluttering questions to help you decide what adds value to your home and life and what’s just adding to your clutter.
I hope the tips in this article help you look at your clutter with fresh eyes. Don’t fall victim to clutter-blindness and then wonder why you feel stressed out, tired and overwhelmed by managing your home and the stuff in it!
MORE DECLUTTERING HELP
If clutter blindness affects you and you’d like to find ways to clear the clutter and keep it away, you might like to check out Simplify Your Home.
Simplify Your Home is a guide, workbook and checklists which you can use to declutter your home in a structured, focused way. The printable sheets will keep you on track and motivated and the guide will help support and encourage you to declutter the different rooms and areas of your home, the simple and strategic way.
If you struggle with clutter and finding the time, energy and motivation to declutter your home effectively then Simplify Your Home will help address all these problems!