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Clutter Gets To Us All

And it’s not your fault if things get out of hand


I was having drinks with a good friend the other night. He mentioned his mother’s house when we were talking about how much junk we acquire in our day to day lives. “I don’t like going over there anymore, but the worst part is how embarrassed she is.”

I’ve heard it from plenty of other folks too, and I’ve seen it in my own family. Cluttered, crowded houses, garages, and storage sheds are the norm, not the exception. Because clutter happens to all of us. You may be the most fastidious, organized person, thinking you have it all together, but things completely out of your control can send you quickly down the road to an embarrassing mess.

In fact, when things get messy for a person who’s normally organized and clean, clutter can do its most damage. Neat and tidy folks are far more likely to grow embarrassed by things that might not even bother most folks, like a messy garage or a basement full of junk. Take a look at the tale of Mike and Diane Johnson. Clutter really can happen to anyone, and for myriad reasons.


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How it Starts

Part of what makes these messes so common is that there are plenty of causes. For some, like me and my family, the embarrassing mess is an accident of the best of intentions. We have a garage disaster on our hands. I spend at least an hour a day cleaning and organizing it, but it’s been over a week and I’m not yet seeing the finish line. When we moved in, we didn’t want to clutter-up our new space, so we kept stuff we didn’t really need in boxes in the garage. Then we got a new couch and the old one went out there, as did all our boxes from the new stuff we bought –– space heaters, bookshelves, desk chairs, living room chairs.

It started well intentioned, but went south quickly. I skip the garage when I’m giving a tour of the home, obviously, but I’m also embarrassed to open the door to take the trash and recycling out. Today, Go Trashy will take my couch and our old paint cans, and by tomorrow, I’ll be on my way to a cleaner garage. But I know enough to know it won’t be the last mess I create.

Other folks get sick, and things start to pile up. Or they get hurt. Or they have to care for someone else who needs help. Other times a messy house can be a reflection of poor mood or mental health that might need some attention. Other people simply don’t care about a small mess, but then they learn the hard way that clutter grows and multiplies quickly.


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Why it Stays

Decluttering and cleaning are hard. There is no way around that. It takes time, energy, and motivation. None of those are resources we have a lot of, right? If you take a week or two off of breaking down boxes and getting rid of the old stuff to make room for the new stuff during the holidays, you can find yourself quickly swimming in clutter. And these days, everything comes to our doorstep in boxes. We even get boxes inside of boxes. It’s no wonder we get behind and quickly overwhelmed by the junk in our homes.

If you are able to keep the mess behind closed doors, as I am with my garage disaster, you can conveniently forget it or overlook it for days that turn into weeks. Next thing you know, you’re just tossing stuff into the garage or shed without a thought. It becomes your junk room. The longer a mess goes uncleaned, the larger it gets.


Where it Goes

Eventually we get overwhelmed. And it’s not just that we feel helpless against the clutter. We also feel embarrassed and ashamed to such a degree that we won’t invite folks over. That’s where my friend’s mother finds herself now. And her family doesn’t want to come over anyway, because her mess has turned from clutter to junk and is well on its way to a rancid trash heap.

For many, the defense mechanism for feeling overwhelmed or unequipped to handle a problem is to become apathetic –– to toss up your hands and say, “I don’t care, anyway.” If you get to the point of apathy, or even worse, acceptance of the mess, clutter has you beat.


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Finding Hope

The best news is that there’s help. You have companies like Go Trashy, the junk removal app, and thousands of blogs and how-tos that will help you get motivated and learn to make sustainable changes. Talking about the problem is important, too. We all battle clutter, so we should all help each other out, right?


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