The Ultimate Solution for Regulating Clutter

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Home Renovation

Simply sweeping won’t cut it.
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In the late 1940s, Homer and Langley Collyer caused a stir when their remains were found buried in clutter in their New York City brownstone. The well-educated brothers lived for years as recluses in a home without heat or running water, surrounded by things they had collected over decades. Authorities were summoned to the Collyer brothers’ residence owing to a foul odor; and as soon as they gained access, they discovered the body of the recently deceased Homer. Langley was thought to have fled. However, nine days later as they were sifting through the heaps of clutter, they discovered Langley’s body, buried under piles of newspapers and magazines that collapsed on him as he tried to move around the house [source: New York Press].

The Collyer Brothers are an extreme example, but they are not unique. Chronic disorganization is a problem for many people, with the definition varying depending on who you ask. For one person, clutter may refer to the inability to manage the stacks of papers that accumulate on the kitchen table. For another, clutter means not being able to locate the table at all.

However, whether you are someone who has amassed so many possessions over the years that you cannot enter through the door, or someone who simply requires a good method for arranging your bills or paperwork, it is possible to get your clutter under control. You just need to be willing to do so. Although the definition of clutter varies from individual to individual, clutter control strategies can be applied to any situation with positive results. Continue reading to discover valuable techniques for managing clutter.


Techniques for Controlling Clutter

When dealing with clutter, it is important to remember that personality, environment, and work style all play a role not only in how clutter accumulates but also in how it is managed. As a result, no one-size-fits-all solution can be applied to every situation. However, experts emphasize the importance of thinking in terms of “remaining organized” rather than “getting organized.” In other words, getting things under control is only half the battle; the other half is maintenance [source: National Association of Professional Organizers].

While the clutter spectrum ranges from moderate to severe, basic techniques can be used to get the problem under control. To begin, define your objective. Do you want to be able to open the front door, or are you simply looking for a way to organize your children’s toys? With a goal in mind, motivate yourself further by visualizing what the area will look like without clutter.

Whether your objective is to declutter a desk or an entire house, start by tackling one manageable area at a time, such as the top of a desk or one room. Follow these steps to sort through clutter:

  1. Find an open area to sort. For some, it may be a table or the floor, while for others, it may be the front yard.
  2. Categorize everything into one of three groups: retain, donate, or discard.
  3. After observing the uncluttered space, re-sort the “retain” pile to determine if there is anything else that can be eliminated.

[source: Absolutely Organized]

Sorting through clutter necessitates a great deal of self-examination. If you are unsure which category an item belongs in, ask yourself the following questions:

The questions one should ask themselves before keeping an item are: how long have I had it without using it, is it worth the space, and does it fit my current lifestyle? For those who struggle with letting go of their possessions, donating them to charity can make the process easier by knowing that it’s going to a good home. Professional organizers recommend having a designated place for everything and using it, making sure it’s convenient and holds similar items. To prevent clutter, consider how new items will be used and where they will be stored, and only acquire them if there is space. People who are chronically disorganized may have difficulty getting rid of things, have incomplete projects, and poor time-management skills. Motivation is key to controlling clutter, and garbage bags, recycling bins, and storage bins can all be useful tools. Hiring a professional organizer may also be effective in achieving an uncluttered lifestyle.

In situations where clutter has a negative impact on physical and emotional well-being, experts in mental health may be enlisted. The following section delves into the connection between clutter and health.

Considering Hiring a Professional?

The National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) is a resource that can assist in finding a professional in your locality. With over 4,200 certified members, these professionals are equipped to: listen to clients and assess their needs, develop tailored organizational systems, teach basic organizational skills, envision spatially, break down objectives into achievable steps, plan ahead and classify, and employ technology to support organizational efforts. Additionally, they exhibit physical and mental endurance, compassion, responsibility, and professionalism.

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Controlling Clutter and Improving Health

While the definition of clutter varies from person to person, it is generally agreed that having overflowing storage areas and missing important items is problematic. Initially, piles of possessions may seem innocuous, but if left unaddressed, clutter can have various health and safety consequences. The following are a few examples: books and papers that are stacked, strewn, or piled up can pose a fire hazard; clutter on floors and stairs increases the risk of falls; emergency rescue personnel can be impeded by extensive clutter; dust and dirt attracted by clutter can lead to health problems; and rodents, bugs, mold, and mildew can create chaos and cause illness. Living in a cluttered environment can be mentally exhausting, overwhelming, depressing, and debilitating. Many individuals who are prone to clutter hold onto things because they experience low self-esteem, fear loss and failure, or have attention deficit disorder (ADD). Without assistance, this can become an ongoing cycle. The actions of a clutterer can also affect the health and well-being of their family members, and in severe cases, may result in eviction, hospitalization, or homelessness.

Changing behavior is not an easy feat for someone who struggles with clutter, and it is even more challenging for those who have hoarding tendencies because their emotional issues run deep. Here are a few distinctions between a clutterer and a hoarder: a hoarder is unable to decide what items to keep or discard and, as a consequence, may even retain garbage; a clutterer does not behave this way. A hoarder is fixated on accumulating things and feels compelled to gather more; a clutterer simply allows things to accumulate. A hoarder does not see anything wrong with their behavior, while a clutterer is aware that there is a problem. A hoarder assigns value to the items they collect and, without psychiatric treatment and/or medication, is unable to part with their possessions.

An inventory of the Collyer Brothers’ home revealed that they were certainly hoarders and not just clutterers. To a degree, they were also victims of circumstance. Reportedly, the brothers inherited a fully furnished home from their parents, which was already filled with possessions. The brothers, who had a wide range of interests, added their own collections to the mix.

The Collyer brothers lived in Harlem but unfortunately their home was vandalized and crimes were committed against them. They reacted by boarding up the doors and windows and becoming more eccentric. Homer lost his sight but Langley saved all the newspapers in the hope that Homer’s sight would return. Langley also made booby traps from the debris in their home to capture intruders but was caught himself. After the house was demolished, more than 100 tons of debris was removed and it was discovered that the brothers had hoarded a wide range of items including books, weapons, musical instruments, gramophone records, chandeliers, tapestries, and much more. The National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization, Absolutely Organized, and the Massachusetts Hoarding Task Force provide resources for people dealing with hoarding disorders.


1. What is clutter control?

Clutter control is the process of organizing and decluttering your living space, work space, or digital space. It involves getting rid of items or information that is no longer useful or necessary and creating a system to keep your space tidy and organized.

2. Why is clutter control important?

Clutter can have a negative impact on your physical and mental health. It can cause stress, anxiety, and even depression. Clutter control can also save you time and money by helping you find what you need quickly and easily.

3. What are some benefits of clutter control?

Some benefits of clutter control include reduced stress and anxiety, increased productivity, better sleep, and improved relationships. It can also help you save money by avoiding unnecessary purchases and reduce the time it takes to clean and maintain your space.

4. How do you get started with clutter control?

Start by identifying the areas in your space that are cluttered and prioritize which ones to tackle first. Then, create a plan for decluttering, which may include sorting through items, donating or selling what you no longer need, and organizing what you decide to keep.

5. What are some common mistakes to avoid when decluttering?

Some common mistakes to avoid include trying to declutter everything at once, keeping items out of guilt or obligation, and not having a system in place to maintain the organization. It’s also important to avoid buying organizational products before decluttering, as they can add to the clutter instead of solving the problem.

6. How do you decide what to keep and what to get rid of?

When deciding what to keep and what to get rid of, ask yourself if the item is useful, necessary, or brings you joy. If the answer is no to all three, it’s probably time to let it go. You can also categorize items into “keep,” “donate/sell,” or “trash” piles to make the process easier.

7. How do you organize the items you decide to keep?

Organize the items you decide to keep by grouping them by category and finding a designated place for each category. Use storage solutions such as bins, shelves, and drawers to keep the items in their designated place and make them easily accessible.

8. How do you maintain clutter control?

Maintain clutter control by regularly decluttering and organizing your space. Make it a habit to put things back in their designated place after use and avoid letting clutter build up. You can also set aside time each week or month to declutter and reorganize as needed.

9. How can you apply clutter control to your digital space?

To apply clutter control to your digital space, start by organizing your files and deleting any that are no longer necessary. Use folders to categorize your files and avoid saving everything to your desktop. Unsubscribe from email lists and delete old emails to reduce digital clutter.

10. How can clutter control improve your mental health?

Clutter control can improve your mental health by reducing stress and anxiety associated with a cluttered living or work space. It can help you feel more organized and in control, which can lead to better sleep, improved focus, and increased productivity.

11. How can clutter control benefit your relationships?

Clutter control can benefit your relationships by reducing tension and conflict associated with a cluttered space. It can also make your home more inviting and comfortable for guests, and may even encourage them to visit more often.

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