Knowing the different types of clutter that you may have in your home is a great start to becoming clutter free. Identifying where you struggle to keep clutter under control and what type of clutter you have, means you can tackle it more easily now and in the future.
You may not have thought about the differences in the clutter in your home – and never actually realised that there ARE differences.
But there are!
In fact – clutter can manifest in lots of different ways – from the obvious physical clutter (visual clutter), to emotional clutter, mental clutter, digital clutter, time clutter and more.
And all these manifestations start from the stuff we collect in our lives and homes.
This stuff can come from many different areas – and that’s what I want to look at today. The different types of clutter that can be found in homes, and what to do about them.
Because if we can identify the types of clutter we have – then we will be more able to deal with them properly, so we not only become clutter free, but also manage to keep the clutter from returning.
Let’s go, shall we!
The different Types of Clutter In Your Home:
This usually boils down to items that remind you of your past in some way.
It could include:
- Childrens artwork / baby clothes etc…
- Items from something you did in the past
- Mementoes from holidays and events
And we worry that if they aren’t around any longer, the memory will fade.
How to deal with sentimental clutter
The fact that we are dealing with emotions makes this one of the hardest types of clutter to deal with.
One of the best ways to let sentimental clutter go, is to not actually let it go!
By this, I mean that if you can detach the physical item from the memory, and keep hold of the memory – then you can declutter the item much more easily.
You could take a photo of the item, and create a photo book which would be a lot smaller in size to keep than all the actual stuff.
This is an interesting type of clutter, because it involves the future.
Stuff like clothes you will fit into when you lose that weight, or hobby items for something you want to start doing – are aspirational clutter.
They are taking up space even though they currently aren’t useful or needed at all.
What to do about aspirational clutter
It’s time to get serious with yourself.
Are you keeping these items because you truly know you’ll need them in the near future? Do you have a plan to lose the weight, for example?
If you DO have steps in place that mean the clutter will not be clutter for long – then that’s OK – but if not then something has to give.
If you keep the items indefinitely then they will start to have more and more of an affect on your emotions as well as cluttering up your physical space.
You’ll feel like you’ve failed every time you see them in your house – will start to feel like negative self talk – and that type of emotion isn’t good for your mind at all…
How many things have you got around your home that you feel you should keep because it’s been inherited from a loved one?
The guilt is real!
These could be things like:
And they are clutter because you really don’t like them and they don’t make you happy when you see them.
What to do about inherited clutter
It can be tricky to deal with this, because we don’t want to disrespect our families by simply getting rid of something.
However – we need to realise that we don’t HAVE to be the ones to be the custodian of these family heirlooms if we don’t want.
Chances are you have other family members – and so it’s worth asking them if they would like the items instead of you.
If they say no – then have the discussion about whether ANYONE needs to keep them. Why does it have to be you?
But – if there is a specific reason why items DO need to be kept – you could consider upcycling them into things that match the current world, and would arguably be treasured for longer if updated a little.
You could create a new item of jewellery from something, paint wooden furniture etc… and give it a new lease of life.
TIP – If you are going to let items go or upcycle them in some way – first get them valued. You want to honour the memory, but if you are devaluing something by changing it you may well want to think again. Possibly a better way to deal with these items is to sell them and then use the money for something special that could be a new item for generations to come to love…
Chances are you’re holding on to a few things that you’ve been kindly given as gifts over the years, that you simply put in a drawer and left there.
They may be things that you feel bad letting go because of the guilt. Maybe you’re worried that your loved one will ask where it is one day, or want to borrow it etc… – and then what would you say?
How to deal with unwanted gift clutter
The act of giving a gift finishes when the recipient says thank you.
What the recipient does with that gift is none of the givers business – to put it bluntly.
As long as you were grateful at the time you received it – that’s enough. No guilt needed for anything else!
Some ways to deal with letting this clutter type go are:
- Regift to someone who will actually use it. Just remember not to regift to the original giver…
- Use a gift receipt to swap for something else. If the giver has added this to your present, they are happy if you exchange it.
Other Peoples Clutter
When we want to live in a clutter free home, but are surrounded by items of other peoples – it can be really hard to deal with.
Whether this be items from the kids, your partner etc… – they can all build up and make you feel less than happy with your surroundings.
What to do about other peoples stuff
Above all – NEVER DECLUTTER THEIR THINGS WITHOUT THEIR PERMISSION.
This is a big no-no when it comes to decluttering – however tempted you are.
I also don’t advocate decluttering kids items without them present either. It loses their trust in you if they realise what you’ve done, which can make a huge difference to your relationship as they grow up – and they don’t learn the process of decluttering for themselves which is a huge life skill that you can teach them.
Instead – try and get the other person involved in the process, and if they are resistant, lead by example.
When they see the benefits of decluttering that you’ve got from sorting your own things out – they may well be motivated to start on their own stuff too.
This can be sneaky! It can gather without use really acknowledging it – because it’s usually stuff we need to keep, it just hasn’t been put away in storage until the next time that season/time of year comes around again.
- Christmas decor
- Easter decor
- Autumn decor
- Seasonal Hobby items (skiing, camping etc…)
How to deal with seasonal clutter
Schedule a little time to pack items away at the end of their season – and have the right storage space and containers available for them.
It’s simple – but if we don’t actively plan to deal with it – it could be around indefinitely.
Related: Seasonal Homemaking Made Easy
This is clutter that’s created from over-stocking, or from bargain shopping gone crazy!
It’s when you can’t resist grabbing much more than you need and more than you can easily store as well, so it becomes clutter rather than useful.
What to do with stockpiled clutter
Although having SOME stock of items you use regularly is sensible, especially when you find it on sale and can buy extra – but it’s an issue when you buy too much or if you can’t stop buying because ‘it’s a bargain’.
The trick is to shop for stock just like you shop for your usual items.
By that, I mean, only stock up the amount that you know you can store. Any more than that will cause more issues than the value saved.
And if your issue is with grabbing those deals in the shops (otherwise known as bargain clutter), give yourself a challenge of going cold turkey for a month. Don’t buy anything that’s not totally urgent, and see how you feel. It may just surprise you with how it changes how you feel about spending on stuff.
This is the obvious stuff that really needs to be binned, but has just stayed in your house for a little (or a lot!) too long…
- Old newspapers & magazines
- Receipts you don’t need any longer
- Junk mail
- Packaging for food / toiletries etc… (open the packaging and just store the items inside)
- Expired food
- Broken items that you can’t fix
What to do with rubbish clutter
This is where I grab a bin bag, or 2!
Go round the house with a large bag, and put in it anything that’s obvious rubbish that wouldn’t be any use to anyone. This bag will then head to the tip or rubbish dump.
Then go around with a bag for any rubbish paper items – these can be recycled and so can be dealt with separately to the true rubbish.
This is what I call an ‘easy win’! – and as often as I declutter my home, I can STILL find things to fill those bags when I challenge myself to.
Free Stuff Clutter
We all love a freebie – and they can be very tempting to grab when we’re out anywhere and they’re being offered.
- Toiletries in hotels
- Free food sample packs in supermarkets or fairs/festivals
- Samples of beauty products or perfumes in shops and magazines
- Things loved ones give to us because they don’t need them any longer
Trouble is – unless we actually use them, they become what is often called clutter very quickly because although each one is small on its own – the pile builds up!
What to do about free stuff clutter
Just say no!
Honestly – unless you really want to try something (which you can do within a day or two maximum of grabbing the sample) – or you will use the items given by family/friends – then you’re just accepting clutter into your home.
TIP – If you have a guest room, then a really nice thing to have in there is a glass jar with mini toiletries in it. It’s useful to have a few samples to fill this – but keep it to this amount only. Your container will tell you how many you can choose from – and then just be selective and have a few of each type of item in there (shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, etc…). Also this can be handy if you’re going away for a night or two, so you can grab just what you need.
This is the stuff that you are procrastinating over, and is always left in the space EVEN AFTER YOU’VE DECLUTTERED.
It’s the contents of what would go in your ‘maybe’ pile – and you just can’t work out whether to keep it or not.
How to deal with undecided clutter
I think you can guess what I’m going to say. You HAVE to make the hard decisions and work out whether you really need the items or not.
If not now – then at some point – and until you do, the clutter remains.
Some experts suggest putting these types of things into a box and leaving for a few months. If you don’t need anything in the box in that time, just throw it away without worrying about the contents.
But I don’t like this method that much, because you end up not having to make the decision at all, not taking ownership, and not flexing (and perfecting) your decluttering muscles. Not to mention the fact that you will always wonder when you’ve lost something, if you threw it away in that box….
So – start by knowing what you want to keep in each area you’re decluttering – and curate the space so that it has those things and only those things in it. Anything destined for that maybe pile won’t belong there – because you will know whether it does or does not if you follow your plan.
Slowly but surely, you’ll realise whether those items should be kept or not – naturally – and without too much stress, because you’ll have a plan!
These are items that you feel would be a waste to let go – even if you don’t actually want or use them anymore.
- Items you spent a lot of money on can really feel like you’ve wasted your hard earned cash
- Items you think you may need one day. What a waste to have to buy them again, or not keep hold of them just in case…
What to do with wasteful clutter
In terms of wasting money…
When you purchased these items – you willingly spent money on them and felt you needed them at the time.
The value was there – and you felt it was worth getting.
So – really – you’ve HAD the value from these items. They have now lost their value for you, and won’t make you any money by sitting in the back of the cupboard.
In fact – they COST you money because you have to store them, clean them etc…
Surely it’s better for them to go to someone else who WILL get value from them?
TIP – If items DO still have value, then you may want to consider selling them and recouping some money. Work out though whether this is worth your time and effort.
In terms of wasting time and energy if you need it again…
I think keeping something because you might need it again is the ultimate ‘get out of jail free’ card when it comes to decluttering.
Because you can apply that thinking to EVERYTHING!
So – we have to be selective – otherwise we would never get rid of anything remotely useful again.
If you can’t see a specific reason to keep each item – then chances are you won’t need it again – but then if you do – ask yourself ‘what’s the worst that will happen if I don’t have it?’.
You can usually borrow an item from a friend / neighbour / family member, or rent it, or at worst you will have to buy it again.
But you’ll have saved lots of time and energy in the meantime by not having to store and look after all those items that you really DIDN’T need…
Look around your home right now and I’m sure you’ll see a few unfinished jobs lying around.
- Piles of paperwork to go through
- DIY jobs to get done
- Craft projects waiting to complete
These things are all taking up valuable space – and honestly – until they’re done, they’re adding to the feeling of clutter in your home.
What to do with unfinished clutter
Life happens. I get it. So there WILL be tasks that are waiting to be done.
And this is fine – as long as you have a plan for when you’re getting to them.
Leaving them indefinitely just gives you a reason for the clutter, and that’s not helping anyone.
So – schedule time to get back on top of those things that you can tick off the TO DO list, and for all the rest – work out how you can store them away until you have time to get them done.
For example – don’t leave half finished craft projects out – grab a box and pack it away carefully so you can bring it out the next time you fancy crafting.
This is the surface clutter that we all have lying around once we’ve used/lived in our house for any amount of time each day – it’s only classed as clutter because it’s not in it’s rightful place.
This type of clutter is transient – because hopefully each night we tidy it away and start the next day with a clean slate.
Trouble starts when we don’t have a plan to keep on top of it – as it all too quickly piles up…
What to do about every day clutter
I love doing a family 10 minute tidy up each evening – either before or after dinner.
Setting the oven timer for just 10 minutes and racing each other to clear the surfaces and floor and put things back where they belong can actually be fun – and there’s nothing nicer than going to bed knowing that the house is under control.
Need a little longer to tackle it and get it back to ‘normal’? Try a home reset. This could be a full day where you tidy up and put things back where it all belongs – and is a wonderfully free-ing thing to do every once in a while!
(Not to be confused with decluttering, because these items are clutter because they are constantly out of their usual home to be used – they have just never been put away again….)
Clutter With No Home
This is an interesting one. Clutter (my definition) is anything that doesn’t belong where it currently is.
Unlike the previous type of clutter (every day clutter) – which has a home and has just been taken out and not put back – this is clutter because it doesn’t have a home yet.
It’s stuff that you know you need – but you haven’t as yet found a home for it.
What to do with clutter with no home
You need to find some storage – a space for each of these things.
To do this you can try two ideas:
IDEA 1 – Declutter what’s in existing storage
We take it for granted a lot of the time that what we are already storing in cupboards and drawers all belongs there – but chances are there is space to be found by decluttering each of these.
IDEA 2 – Create new storage solutions in the space you already have
Even in the smallest of homes, new storage can be found when you think about things with different eyes.
- Use furniture with storage – such as an ottoman bed, a coffee table with drawers etc…
- Use vertical space – we often forget to look up when storing things in our home. What about adding a shelf above a doorway, or getting a bookcase that takes all the height of a room instead of stopping halfway up?
- Add extra storage into existing kitchen cupboards with under shelf baskets that just hook under, or a step storage solution to add an extra layer and use all the height inside each one.
There you have it! – the 14 different types of clutter that can accumulate.
How many of these can you identify when you look around your home?
Within each one there are ideas and tips as to how to deal with them, as each need specific strategies – and I hope that these help you sort your clutter going forward.