This Is Why Your Home Is So Cluttered—and How to Break the Cycle

Updated 04/16/19
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Organized Kitchen
Jessica Helgerson Interior Design

If organizing your home and eliminating clutter feels like an impossible task, there may be a larger issue at hand than your ability to tidy up. Mental clutter is intrinsically connected to physical clutter, according to organizational expert Eve D'Onofrio of the self-care app Sanity & Self.

When you're able to go through your belongings, reflect on them, and choose to find a place for them or get rid of them, you can reflect on your life, and how you relate to the things around you, she explains. "Decluttering allows us to clear out and refresh our environments, as well as to clear and refresh our minds," she says.

However, there are certain mental roadblocks that can keep you from refreshing both your home and your mind. Ahead, the organization pro breaks down five common issues that may be deterring you from getting organized and explains how you can break free from them. Read on for her top tips.

Anxiety

According to D'Onofrio, clutter can often result from anxiety around decision making. Every object that comes into your home, whether it's the mail or the groceries, needs to be put somewhere. Deciding where something goes can be a source of anxiety, stress, or pain for some, she adds. If you don't know if you need an object, where it should go, or how to use it, you may put off the decision for another time (and then forget about it).

Break the Cycle: D'Onofrio recommends doing your best to acknowledge the anxiety you experience when making decisions and finding ways to manage it. "The more someone is able to tolerate or decrease their feelings of anxiety and gain confidence in their decisions, the more able she is to reduce feelings of shame and stress," she says.

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Fear of Change

The act of going through your belongings forces you to make changes, which can be a source of fear for some, D'Onofrio explains. "Change requires vulnerability and risk, even when moving in a positive direction," she says. Therefore, if you're afraid to make changes, it can be easy to let clutter pile up. Additionally, if you've become comfortable in your clutter, getting organized may incite feelings of fear over the what may happen if you do declutter your space.

Break the Cycle: In order to move past the fear of change, you have to ask yourself the "what if" questions, the expert explains. For example, What if my house were organized and I could have people over for dinner? or What if I went through all this paperwork and could get up to date on my bills? By asking these questions, you can begin to acknowledge what you're really afraid of.

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Feeling Overwhelmed

If the thought of tackling a mess feels overwhelming, you're not alone. It's one of the most common issues D'Onofrio faces in her line of work. "Some people feel so overwhelmed by their things they simply don't know where to begin," she says. "[It feels] easier to put stuff in a 'junk room' and close the door than to think about how to tackle a serious clutter situation."

Break the Cycle: Firstly, if the situation feels entirely out of control, you can seek support by hiring a professional organizer to help you come up with a game plan. If you feel ready to tackle things on your own, D'Onofrio suggests breaking the project down into more manageable parts. For instance, approaching a specific area of a room instead of attempting to organize the whole space at once. You can also give yourself time increments to work in. Think of it as an appointment with yourself to accomplish what you can until next time.

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Depression

"If someone doesn't have the energy to get out of bed or tackle their things, this may be a sign of depression," she says. While it's normal to feel sad from time to time, consistently struggling to find the interest or energy to handle aspects of daily life like clutter could be indicative of a larger problem.

Break the Cycle: In the case of depression, D'Onofrio suggests consulting a professional and seeking emotional support from loved ones.

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Deprivation Thinking

Deprivation thinking refers to a "waste not, want not mentality," D'Onofrio explains. If you find yourself holding onto objects "just in case" or because you paid good money for them, you may be stuck in this clutter trap.

Break the Cycle: Declutter your mind from this thought process by reminding yourself that there's also a value in feeling good in the space you inhabit. Ask yourself why you're keeping something, and claim your right to rid yourself of objects even if you paid for them. "We have a right to take those risks, to own those decisions, and to place the highest value on ourselves and how we feel in our homes," D'Onofrio says.

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