Updated: Nov 8
Today on the podcast, we are talking about the four types of clutter! Everyone experiences these four types of clutter, not just professional organizers. The four types of clutter are: physical clutter, digital clutter, mental clutter, and emotional clutter. While each type of clutter is very different, they can all be related in some way.
Clutter, regardless of the type of clutter, can definitely cause some anxiety. It lingers in the back of our minds and can be a distraction. Clutter even affects my life. My home isn't the perfectly polished IG ready home we all dream about, either! When you add a three-year-old, a husband and a dog into the mix, something is bound to not be organized. But I do have a system in place that allows us to get everything back in order in 15 minutes or less! Most of my clients, however, live in a perpetual state of clutter with no helpful systems in place to get them out of it.
Physical clutter is the actual stuff that is cluttering your life. The piles of paperwork, toys, phones, other devices, clothing, etc. are all types of physical clutter. Sometimes people are really great at blocking out the clutter. That is the first step to tackling physical clutter. Assessing your blinds spots. A common thing I have seen is that your blind spot is your actual clutter. I find in my life that my husband's clutter really stresses me out, but my own clutter doesn't and visa versa, my clutter stresses him out and his own doesn't. I've experienced this to be true with many of my clients. Everyone creates some form of clutter.
Now let's talk about where physical clutter can intersect with the other types of clutter. Physical clutter can really affect you mentally and you can find that if you're around a lot of physical clutter, your mind is cluttered as well. A great way to battle the mental clutter that comes from the physical clutter is to write down a to-do list to get the mental clutter out of the way so you can start to tackle the physical clutter.
Physical can also lead to emotional clutter. For example, you have a stash of sentimental items in the basement. When you come across those items again, you start to have all of the emotions from them, then the stress of keeping/storing/getting rid of those items and the cycle continues. I often find that when I'm working with clients and this happens, they will go into a 5-minute story about that item. It's important to remember that those stories, those memories, lived inside YOU, not the item, the item just triggered those. If something creates such a feeling inside of you, don't store it in the basement, put it on display to love that item the way you love those memories.
Digital clutter is one of my favorite types of clutter to organize for clients! The top thing cluttering a lot of my clients digital spaces is email and photos. There is a limit on your email storage through google, by the way. There's also a limit to digital storage space for photos! Could you imagine all of the those photos as physcial photos in a box in your house? I always say, if you can't remember anything about the photo, who the person is, what the scene is of, get rid of it. If it's blurry, get rid of it. The main idea of digital spaces is to start thinking about them as if they're physical spaces.
Battling the Four Types of Clutter
Ultimately, with physical clutter, LESS IS MORE! Too many things can cause you to get overwhelmed. Downsize where you can! The next thing to do is categorize and sort! Sort things out into like categories so you can see how many of each item you have in each category. At this point, you can throw away extras. You can also make getting rid of physical clutter a game. Have a competition with your spouse or a close friend. Finally, don't forget to reward yourself at the end!
My go-to solution for dealing with mental clutter is to get it out of your head. Write it down on a to-do list, do a brain dump, etc. Getting it out of your head and on paper makes it much more manageable because you can see it with your eyes and sometimes those big things in your head aren't as big as they seem once they're on paper.
Emotional clutter is a difficult one and it takes time, much more time than dealing with all of the other types of clutter. The best way I've found to battle emotional clutter is to expose myself to it, especially if it's connected to physical clutter. If you have an emotional connection to an item, don't keep it hidden in the basement or attic. Put it in your main living area and enjoy that item.
Battling physical clutter is a constant battle. It's not a one and done thing, but if you keep up with it, it's definitely manageable. First tip digital clutter is to start unsubscribing from emails. Only stay subscribed to the ones you actually use often and enjoy. Next, make a decision about how far back you want to keep your emails. With physical papers, the typical amount of time is 7 years. Apply a similar time frame to digital documents and emails as well. For photos and videos, start by getting rid of duplicates. If you have a really bad/blurry photo, delete it! You can also try shortening videos to save some space as well.