If you walked up to a random person on the street and asked them to define clutter, they'd probably start talking about the miscellaneous objects, which they never got round to sorting. The kitchen drawer full of unsorted odds and ends that really ought to be thrown away. The boxes in the loft full of china that's been handed down by generations. The dresser in the dining room full of ornaments that have seen better days.
However, clutter isn't just a collection of untidy objects, bric-a-brac and unsorted paperwork. It is more than that.
Clutter is anything in your life that you do not love, need, want or use.
Clutter is anything that weighs you down, distracts you, takes up your time or depletes you of energy, whether it's a physical object or otherwise. Clutter is anything that makes you feel overwhelmed or anxious. It is any commitment or behaviour that does not enhance your life, or lead you to where you want to be. It is anything you hold onto that is now obsolete. It is anything that drags you back into the past, or distracts you from living the life you want to lead.
"Clutter is not just the stuff on the floor - it's anything that stands between you and the life that you want to be living" ~ Peter Walsh
Typically, clutter can be divided into two categories: physical and mental;
Physical clutter is easy to identify (compared to emotional and mental clutter) so it's a good starting point for those who wish to edit and simplify their life.
Clutter extends beyond the unsorted odds and ends in a drawer. It is not synonymous with bric-a-brac. Clutter encompasses all of the objects in your home that do not fulfil a purpose; that do not bring you joy; that do not bring value to your life.
Physical clutter accumulates over time and it grows in size, like a snowball toppling down a hill. Clutter accumulates every time that you buy an object and feel the need to keep it (even though you don't use it.) Clutter is every gift purchased by a relative that is not to your taste, but you feel duty bound to keep. Clutter is every item of clothing in your wardrobe thats you're saving for the 'right occasion' (which never arrives).
Where are you reading this now? If you are at home, take a second to scan the room and really look at the objects surrounding you. Pick one thing and ask yourself the following questions;
When did you last use the object?
Do you have strong feelings towards it?
Is it relevant, adding value or bring joy to your life?
Would I miss the item if i threw it away, or donated it to charity?
The answers to these questions, not the nature or the number of items, define whether and object is 'clutter'.
It is also worth pointing out that clutter is nit interchangeable with messiness. Even some of the most tidy homes can suffer with clutter overload (just because you keep all of those 10 year old bills neatly filed away doesn't mean they are not clutter.
The second kind of clutter is more personal and a little more abstract to explain, but it certainly plays a negative role in your life.
Mental clutter is everything that spins around in your head, or vies for your attention. It's those annoying, nagging thoughts that keep you up at night. It is those random to do's continually popping into your head during the day, disrupting your flow. It's that flock of birds which circle your head and continually peck peck peck at your brain.
Stress and busy lifestyles lead to mental clutter. In addition, mental clutter is caused by our increasingly digital and connected lifestyles. The continual ping of Facebook notifications and emails. The interrupting phone calls and messy unsorted files on your computer that stop you being more efficient.
Like physical clutter, mental clutter can be alleviated with a little planning and organisation, self-care and mindfulness. If you have a busy lifestyle you need to make space for self-care. When you have no time to clear the clutter from your mind it can build up and become overwhelming.
Both physical and mental clutter will sap your energy and time. It'll leave you feeling overwhelmed, chaotic and disorganised. Human beings only have limited time, energy, space and mental/emotional capacity. By working hard to free ourselves of clutter, we put our limited resources to better use. We banish distractions, allowing ourselves to pursue the dreams we want to come true.
What does clutter mean to you?