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5 Reasons You Keep Clutter

An interview with California Closets' Ginny Snook Scott


Flowers in the Kitchen

Flowers in the Kitchen

Photo / La Dolce Vita

I've written a great deal about storage solutions and how to contain clutter, and I truly believe that maximizing space in your home by storing and organizing items is worthy pursuit. Sometimes though, it can go too far. Have you ever found yourself putting something in a box just to "get it out of the way" because you don't want to deal with the contents?

In these cases, storing and labeling are really just moving the underlying problem -- not wanting to deal with your stuff -- to another space in your home. That's not good. But not to worry, because you're not alone: In a survey commissioned by California Closets, only 7% of respondents characterized their homes as 'highly organized.' Most people fall into a clutter habits due to sentimentality, lack of knowledge about how long to keep things, or not being able to resist a bargain.

It also doesn't make you next in line to be cast on Hoarders. "Very few people are truly hoarders," says Ginny Snook Scott, California Closet's Chief Organizing Officer. "That whole premise of being a hoarder -- of someone who just can't let go of anything -- is a very small percentage of the population."

Even if you have things arranged neatly in a jar, basket, bin or cubby, folded in a closet or tucked inside a drawer, it might still be considered clutter. How to tell if you've got clutter on your hands? You can use my guide: What Is Clutter?

5 Reasons We Keep Clutter

So let's take some time to dig a bit deeper and figure out why the clutter is in your home and life in the first place. Most likely, we're not purging extra stuff because we fall into one of the following clutter categories:

  1. We just can't resist a freebie or a sale (think about those "free with gift" makeup bags).

    We love a bargain, and once we’ve scored one, we think getting rid of the item is going to take away the glory of finding the bargain. Here’s how to thwart the urge to hold onto things we got a deal on but no longer want, need or love: Find out if you keep bargain clutter.
  2. We hold onto keepsakes and sentimental items because we're afraid to let them go.

    This is understandable, but there are ways to honor our pasts (and our family’s past) without older items turning into unusable or un-displayable clutter. Here’s how to find out if you keep sentimental clutter.
  3. We like to have a lot of stuff around.

    I call this the Abundance Junkie syndrome. I love to have extras around of anything I may need, but there’s a limit to how much our homes can hold. Here’s how to break the cycle of keeping too much stuff around: Find out if you keep abundance clutter.
  4. We think we "might need it someday."

    This one, on the surface, is tough, because how do you know you’ll never need those half-used batteries, the un-read newspaper or those old receipts? Well, there are actually guidelines to how long to keep things. Read more (including a checklist of how long to keep everything in your home): Find out if you keep aspirational clutter.
  5. We don’t know where to start!

    It is daunting! If you have clutter everywhere, which is the most important clutter to get rid of first? Do you dedicate an entire week’s vacation to the task? Do a little bit at a time? Do certain spaces need to be decluttered before others? You’ve got questions, and I got answers on how to start: How to let go of clutter.

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