What is Clutter: 7 Ways to Think About Your Stuff

What is clutter and 7 ways to think about your stuff

Clutter means different things to different people but understanding your relationship with clutter is key to helping you clear that clutter and keep it away. Check out this post to learn more about what is clutter and 7 ways to think about your stuff.


The Collins English Dictionary defines clutter as ‘a lot of things in an untidy state, especially things that are not useful or necessary.’

Many of my courses start with sections on ‘finding your why’ as I know, first hand, that unless you know why you’re doing something, it’s not likely that any changes you make will last long (however good they seem at the outset!). There will come a point where the novelty wears off, you’ll lose motivation and things slip back to the familiar status quo.

That’s where ‘finding your why’ is so important.

This post is in the same vein as finding your why. It’s about asking yourself ‘what is clutter’ and what it really means to you.

I’m sharing my thoughts on what is clutter and 7 ways to think about your stuff. It’s not an exhaustive list but I hope it helps you start to think about your own relationship with your stuff. Perhaps even, why you’re reading this now and what you’re hoping to find or learn.

Read on to learn more about what is clutter and 7 ways to think about your stuff. I hope it clarifies what clutter means and especially, what clutter means to you.

I’ve included some links to further reading and resources which I think might be helpful for you. There are also some prompts and questions if you’d like to mull things over!

1. Clutter is personal

Clutter is a highly personal term. For example, what I think of as clutter isn’t what my husband thinks of as clutter.

He has lots of screws, drill bits and other DIY stuff in our garage. I don’t know what most of it is, let alone how to use it and for me, it’s clutter. However, he knows how to use it and, if I want something fixed or built, he’s usually able to help me out, using the stuff that I call ‘clutter’ in the garage!

Clutter is as personal as the clothes you choose to wear or the books you like to read.

Clutter means different things to different people and this is one of the reasons why it can be difficult clearing the clutter at home when you have others living with you. People have different viewpoints, priorities, motivations and endpoints.

Your reason for wanting to clear what you feel is clutter maybe different to everyone else in your family. It’s not necessarily a bad thing but it can present extra challenges when you want to throw the clutter and, perhaps your kids or partner doesn’t.

If this sounds familiar, perhaps take a look at my post on what to do if you’re the only minimalist in the house!

2. Clutter is concise

Clutter is also a perfectly apt and neat little term for anything that you don’t want, use, love or find some value in.

What we think and feel when we consider our clutter maybe complicated, challenging and multi-layered. However, the concept of clutter as a generic term for stuff that gets in the way of us living our best and fullest life (whatever that means to us) is nifty.

Giving the excess, unwanted things in life a label of ‘clutter’ helps us identify and focus our minds on the things that do really serve us, rather than getting distracted by the things that bring us down.

Here’s a few little journal prompts for you to think about:

  • When my home feels cluttered, I feel…
  • When I have lots of thoughts going round in my head, I find it difficult to…
  • I feel happier when I have less to…
3. Clutter is sneaky

I don’t like clutter and I like to keep it out of my home, my mind, my heart and my life – as much as possible! But it has a way of creeping back when I’ve turned my back! The post dropping through the letterbox, the bits and bobs my kids collect, that random drawer in the kitchen where we pop things out of sight (and out of mind!).

Once we’ve decluttered a room, a garage, a home, it’s tempting to sit back and think we’re done, only then to find that in a week, month or year from now, we’re back to square one.

There are two things to consider here:

  1. Maintenance – I have lots of little tips and strategies for keeping my life as clutter-free as possible. I share a few of them here in my post on how to stay clutter-free.
  2. Mindset – Unless you change the way you think about stuff and living with less, then nothing will change long-term. Decluttering will be like sticking a plaster over a problem rather than addressing the root cause. Read more about the minimalist mindset over here.
4. Clutter can be comforting

For some, clutter can be a security blanket. We can retreat to the familiar, loved and cherished when the outside world seems scary or unwelcoming. Getting rid of the clutter is like getting rid of old friends, throwing out the past and exposing hidden insecurities that the clutter has comforted and guarded us against until now.

I found it relatively easy to declutter my home once I’d got strategies in place.

I knew why I was doing it and was incredibly motivated to change my life because I didn’t want to settle for a life half-lived.

I was certain that decluttering was the way I was going to do that.

However, I never underestimate how incredibly difficult some people can find it, either starting out or getting stuck part way through. I receive emails every week from readers who struggle in different ways. This post might help on how to declutter if you feel stuck.

What is clutter and 7 ways to think about your stuff
5. Clutter can be emotional

Building on the point above, clutter is so much more than too many books or saucepans.

Clutter can be stuff that you’ve spent years collecting, living with, looking at.

It can be memories of family and times gone by, both the highs and the lows.

Clutter can be holding you back, weighing down your mind, hanging heavy on your heart or filling up your time so that there’s none left for you.

Here are a couple of questions to help you understand more about your relationship with the clutter in your life:

  • The biggest sucks on my time and energy are…
  • My home makes me feel…
  • I don’t like to get rid of stuff because…
6. Clutter can be expensive

Think about the things you’ve bought but hardly use. Some people feel that decluttering is a waste of money but I think of it differently – that buying the stuff in the first place is where the real waste of money happens.

Consider these questions:

  • How many times do you buy something on impulse but don’t stop to think if you really need it?
  • Do you buy things because you’re easily swayed by marketing tactics, or because your friends have it and you want it too?
  • Do you shop as an emotional reaction to a situation – boredom or stress for example.

Check out this post on how to shop more mindfully and with intention.

7. Clutter can be stressful

Studies have shown that clutter raises stress levels, hinders our ability to focus and generally confuses the mind.

I know I certainly feel calmer, more at ease, productive and present if my environment is clearer and calmer. I can find things quicker and work more efficiently in clutter-free spaces. Tidy desk, tidy mind…

Clutter isn’t just about the stuff on your desk, or your home or anywhere else.

Clutter could be too many things on:

  • Your to do list
  • Your schedule
  • Your kitchen counter
  • Your computer desktop

It’s like having too many internet browser tabs open all at the same time. You can’t be reading all of them at any one time. They ping for your attention, take up physical and virtual space, encourage you to flit between one tab and another, slow you down, distract you and prevent you from concentrating on that one thing you’re trying to do right now. How many tabs do you have open right now?!

At work that might be something for your boss, but at home that could be doing something for yourself or your kids…

Clutter confuses priority.

You can read more about the negative emotional effects of clutter here.

What is clutter and 7 ways to think about your stuff

Clutter comes in many shapes and forms but there’s no doubt that many of us accumulate a bit (or a lot!) of clutter as we go through life.

If you’d like to start clearing your clutter, take a look at my complete guide on How to Declutter Your Home and Life for tips and ideas on how to declutter and keep that clutter away!


As we touched on at the beginning of this article, clutter means different things to different people. The relationship we have with our stuff, how we define clutter and how it impacts our lives has an enormous part to play in how we approach clearing that clutter, and in turn, how easy or difficult we find that process.

I hope this post has helped you think a little bit about what clutter means to you. Is it:

  • the physical stuff that takes up your space?
  • the things you bought which are now stuffed in your cupboard?
  • the baby items in the loft you don’t want to throw away?
  • all the invitations you say yes to because you’re afraid what will happen if you say no?

Understanding how you feel about your clutter and, of course, why, will help you find ways to simplify and streamline your life in the best way for you.