What Is Clutter? Definition, Examples, & How To Get Rid Of Clutter - Green With Less (2024)

In this blog post, you’ll learn what exactly clutter is. I include some examples of clutter, what are the causes and consequences of it, and my best tips to help you conquer and get rid of clutter in your home.

If you’re into decluttering and organizing or are trying to adopt a minimalist lifestyle, a core concept you probably think about regularly is clutter.

But what is clutter?

Is it the same as mess or having too much stuff?

Let’s find out together!

When you know what clutter is, it will be a lot easier for you to identify the clutter in your home and life.

As a result, you’ll be able to take action and get rid of it without second-guessing yourself!

What is clutter? & Common types of clutter

What’s the meaning of clutter?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, clutter can be defined as “a lot of objects in a state of being untidy”.

While I agree with this definition, we could go deeper.

I define clutter as anything that doesn’t contribute to making my life easier, better, or more enjoyable.

It can be anything that’s holding me back or preventing me from living my best life.

Clutter can also be things that are making me feel bad or that do not contribute to my well-being.

The thing with clutter is that it is different for everyone.

While some people may find some things beneficial to their lives, others can see them as unnecessary, impractical, or even detrimental.

A key element to identifying clutter is to remember that clutter can be physical but also mental, emotional, and digital.

(Let me know in the comments if you think of other areas of life that could be cluttered!)

Physical clutter

When we associate clutter with physical items, clutter can be anything we don’t use, like, or need.

It can be things that are weighing us down or that don’t bring us joy or value anymore.

Physical clutter can also be items that were for another season of our lives, and that are no longer contributing to improving our lives in the current season we are in.

Or it can be items that do not have a designated home in our house, even though we want to keep them.

Digital clutter

In this modern world, clutter can also be digital.

Nowadays, our whole lives are in our small devices, whether these are our computers, tablets, or phones.

Since we spend so much time using them, we accumulate unwanted things on them.

These can be things we don’t need anymore or that are negatively impacting our focus and productivity.

What Is Clutter? Definition, Examples, & How To Get Rid Of Clutter - Green With Less (1)

Mental clutter

Most of us are burned out and overwhelmed by our daily lives.

The chaos around us, all the to-do lists that need to get done, bad habits, intrusive thoughts, the news, opinions of others, our busyness, everyday problems…

All these things contribute to our mental overload and create mental burdens, which we’d feel so much better without!

Emotional clutter

Another type of clutter that is in our heads is emotional clutter.

As human beings, we hold on to negative emotions, like frustration, anger, regrets, and anxiety to list a few.

We also hang onto friendships and relationships with people we no longer share common interests or values with, which is emotionally hard for us.

Some people we are in contact with can be toxic and drain all our energy and emotional well-being.

What are some examples of clutter?

If you’re wondering what is considered clutter, I have bad news for you: there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

It depends on each individual, their lives, and personal preferences and circ*mstances.

You have to decide what clutter is for you and your family.

And I know, it can be hard to identify what is and isn’t clutter in our lives and homes.

But to make it easier for you, I wrote an entire blog post with 50 questions to ask yourself when decluttering.

These questions will make you think deeply about each item or area of your life and will make you see things from a new angle!

Here are also different examples of things that may be clutter for you and that you could easily declutter from your home and life:

  1. Items that are broken or worn-out or outdated or expired or no longer usable
  2. Toxic relationships that are bringing you down
  3. Blurry, duplicate, or meaningless photos
  4. Clothes that no longer fit you, that are not your style, that you never wear, or that make you feel bad about yourself
  5. Unnecessary commitments or tasks on your to-do list
  6. Events you do not want nor have to attend
  7. Items from hobbies the past version of yourself liked, but the current one doesn’t enjoy
  8. Sentimental items or memories that are making you sad
  9. Items still packed in boxes from previous moves
  10. Files on your computer and phone that are no longer useful or relevant to you
  11. Books you’ve been meaning to read for the past 5 years but never got around to reading
  12. Bad habits that are not contributing to your happiness, well-being, or productivity
  13. Parts from past DIY projects you will realistically never use again
  14. Piles of paperwork you never got around to tackling
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What is clutter a symptom of? What is the root cause of clutter?

One of my favorite quotes about minimalism and decluttering is:

Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions” – Barbara Hemphill

I can’t agree more with it!

As we saw, clutter is anything that doesn’t add value to our lives.

However, things are made to make our lives easier or better.

So why would we keep things that are not serving us anymore?

Usually, the answer to that question is: because we have not made the decision to let them go yet.

And we have not thought about what is important in our lives yet.

We may also have not decided where to put some of the things that are cluttering up our homes.

In a few words, we are procrastinating on decluttering.

This can be explained by many things, but I believe that we are all busy people who live busy lives.

We have many things to do each day, a family to care for, friends to stay in contact with, work to go to 5 times a week (if not more).

We also need to rest, eat well, stay active, and sleep.

What else are we all doing?

Well, lots of things!

As a result, we don’t have the time, energy, or willingness to constantly think about what is clutter in our homes and what we should declutter.

Or it simply just doesn’t cross our minds.

And that’s perfectly okay.

It’s actually even healthy to live this way!

Read more: How to stop being materialistic and overconsuming?

What are the consequences of clutter?

We all have clutter in our lives, but each of us tolerates it differently than others.

If you’re like me, you probably feel suffocated in a cluttered environment.

I hate when there are too many distractions and things in my home and life!

My anxiety is also very high whenever I have too much on my plate or too many things to manage every day.

But if you’re more like my partner, clutter may not bother you at all.

You feel good whether your home is tidy or not, and you don’t mind always being busy.

But no matter how well you tolerate clutter, it can negatively impact you both mentally and physically.

First of all, having too much going on in our homes or lives can increase our stress levels, whether we realize it or not.

Our homes look less calming and welcoming and aren’t a safe haven we can escape to when we need to relax.

Clutter also makes it harder for us to focus and be productive.

Plus, having too much clutter in our homes makes cleaning and tidying incredibly complicated and overwhelming.

Managing too many things also takes up a lot of time and energy, and prevents us from focusing on what truly matters to us.

Check out my blog post about the benefits of minimalism and having a clutter-free life to learn more!

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How to get rid of clutter?

Clutter has many drawbacks but the good news is that we can take action and declutter our homes and lives in order to live with less!

Whether you need to declutter your home, mind, relationships, commitments, or digital life, the following articles will help make the decluttering process as easy as possible.

So make sure to read them if you need more guidance:

  • How to start decluttering when overwhelmed with clutter
  • 9 digital minimalism tips
  • 11 decluttering hacks for minimalist living
  • 8 things to declutter that are not real, actual things
  • 14 brilliant tips to declutter your mind

Most people thinking about clutter usually refer to the clutter in their homes.

So I also want to include here my best tips on how to get rid of clutter in your house or apartment.

But again, check all the resources on my blog; there are dozens that will help you declutter and maintain a clutter-free home!

1. Stop buying so much stuff

If you want less clutter in your home, you have to stop buying so much stuff in the first place.

Ask yourself questions before buying something and shop with intention.

This part is as important as decluttering, if not more!

You cannot have a clutter-free home if you constantly go shopping.

I know it may be hard, but it is necessary and you’ll save tons of money in the process!

2. One in, one out

For the things you need to buy, try to follow the “one in, one out” rule.

It means that for every item you bring into your home, another has to go (preferably from the same category).

Did you have to buy a new pair of jeans because the one you had ripped?

Make sure to recycle the old one as soon as possible so you do not forget about it!

3. Set a timer for 30 minutes and declutter as many things as possible

If you don’t have enough time to do huge decluttering sessions, you can still take action to clear the clutter in your home.

Set a timer for 15 to 30 minutes in the evening or during the weekend, and gather as many things to declutter as you can.

You don’t have to work on it for the whole weekend.

Even 10 minutes here and there will add up to big results!

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4. Don’t overthink things

When decluttering, try not to overthink your decisions and second-guess yourself.

Trust your first instinct, but be realistic!

It can be difficult sometimes, but we have to find that balance between making quick decisions and making a decision we’ll not regret later.

When we overthink things, decluttering takes up so much more time and energy, which can make us feel overwhelmed and discouraged.

So if you’re really unsure about something, set it aside in a “maybe” box.

You’ll revisit it in six months, so don’t waste any more time.

Read more: How to declutter fast?

5. Picture your “after”

In the midst of decluttering, visualize how you want your home to look (and feel) when it is free of all the clutter.

Keep that picture in mind every time you make a decision.

Doing so is very motivating, and it will keep you going!

6. Take action immediately after decluttering

Once you’ve made all the decisions, gather all the things to declutter and separate them between trash, recycling, donations, and things to sell.

And then, take action immediately.

Do not postpone dealing with them, because you risk setting them aside for later and forgetting about them.

As a result, they will still be in your home months from now, which is counterproductive.

7. Declutter regularly

The journey to minimalism is a marathon, not a sprint.

We have to continuously declutter throughout our lives to make sure our homes and lives are clutter-free.

No matter how much you’ve gotten rid of, you will accumulate more things in the future and you will no longer want to keep everything.

So remember to go through all your belongings regularly, and get rid of as much clutter as possible.

I personally love doing it at the start of every season!

You’ll see that your home looks a lot tidier and is easier to maintain and clean.

And you and your family will feel so much better in it!

If you’re looking for ideas for things to declutter in your home, here are my suggestions room by room:

  • 11 things to let go of in the living room
  • 30 things to declutter for a minimalist kitchen
  • 9 things to get rid of for a minimalist bedroom
  • 15 things to declutter for a minimalist bathroom

Final thoughts on what clutter is

I hope this blog post about what clutter is helped you and that you could learn a bit more about it!

When we understand the concept better, what causes it, what its consequences are, and are aware of some examples of clutter, we set ourselves up for success to declutter our homes and lives.

We start taking control over what makes our spaces and daily lives so chaotic and overwhelming.

And this is exactly what we need to free ourselves from clutter and things that don’t matter in all areas of life.

If you liked this article, you might want to read this one too: 30-day declutter challenge: how to declutter your life in 30 days?

What does clutter mean to you?

What are some of the things you could declutter from your life and home?

I’d love to know, so please, drop a comment!

Don’t forget to share this blog post with your friends to help them understand what clutter is and inspire them to declutter their homes and lives as well!

What Is Clutter? Definition, Examples, & How To Get Rid Of Clutter - Green With Less (2024)


What is an example of clutter? ›

Examples from Collins dictionaries

Empty soft-drink cans clutter the desks. The roads were cluttered with cars and vans. The vehicles cluttered up the car park. This room is so impressive it would be a shame to clutter it up.

What is the best way to get rid of clutter? ›

Get Rid of Clutter in 10 Quick and Easy Steps
  1. Get Rid of Clutter in the Worst Spot First. ...
  2. Do a Garbage Bag Sweep to Get Rid of Clutter. ...
  3. Purge Clutter by Pretending You're Moving. ...
  4. Get Rid of Clutter and Organize Like Company Is Coming. ...
  5. Organize by Gathering Similar Items. ...
  6. Make One Bold Decision to Simplify Your Home.
Nov 7, 2019

What is the root cause of clutter? ›

A change in life circ*mstances — a new baby or job, a move to a new home, an illness or injury — can be stressful and lead to a typically tidy home becoming cluttered. Eventually, this type of clutter resolves when the baby starts sleeping through the night or the moving boxes are unpacked.

What are the three types of clutter? ›

There are a few different categories of clutter, according to Hemphill:
  • Physical.
  • Digital.
  • Emotional.
  • Spiritual.
Jan 14, 2024

What is clutter a symptom of? ›

New studies suggest a strong link between clutter and feeling anxious, depressed, unfocused and socially isolated. Researchers blame the clutter itself for causing those problems. Their theory is, if you clean up the clutter, then you'll be more focused, connected and happy.

What are the 5 types of clutter? ›

Most people think of a clutter problem as too many messy piles of stuff. There are five types of basic clutter — Physical clutter, paper clutter, digital clutter, emotional clutter, and spiritual clutter. There is usually emotional clutter and spiritual clutter where there is physical, digital and paper clutter.

What is considered clutter? ›

Clutter: Possessions are disorganized and may accumulate around living areas. Collecting: Possessions are part of a larger set of items. Display does not impede active living areas in home. Hoarding: Possessions become unorganized piles preventing rooms from being used for their intended purpose.

What is an example of emotional clutter? ›

Emotional clutter can be the negative patterns and beliefs you don't even realize that you're carrying around. It can be all those “I can statements that run through your head like “I can't lose weight” or “I can't quit my job and own my own business”.

What makes people clutter? ›

Clutter can be a physical manifestation of mental health issues, Walsh tells WebMD. Those overwhelmed with "memory" clutter may have an undue preoccupation with things in the past and become depressed. Those who can't toss out items because they worry they will need them may be too anxious, he says.

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