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Clutter, Shame and Social Isolation

Clutter affects everyone, although we all deal with our clutter differently. The Oxford dictionary defines clutter as “a lot of things in an untidy state, especially things that are not necessary or are not being used; a lack of order”, and here’s the thing- it’s sort of unavoidable.

One of the most valuable tools I’ve learned throughout my organizational journey is to embrace that temporary states of clutter are okay. They’re necessary. We have to be free to live and to create, and it’s alright that those things are messy. It’s about learning to detect when that temporary state of clutter isn’t so temporary anymore and should be cleaned up, which is also the hardest part.

So far, in my experience working closely with people dealing with various levels of clutter in their homes, I’ve noticed that each of us have different habits, lifestyles and struggles. However, there is one incredibly common occurrence that I want to open a conversation about. Many of our clients are ashamed of their situations.

Most people we work with don’t tell anyone about their organizational challenges. We’ve had clients who could only one organizer to come to the home for the entire project. We've had clients need to leave their home during sessions because seeing us organize raises feelings of fear, guilt and shame. A lot of folks we work with never invite company in for fear of being judged. For many more, those that do allow people in, are frantically tidying with anxiety before they arrive.

The social disconnect that is so prevalent among those dealing with an overwhelming amount of clutter is so closely connected to shame. Unfortunately people often find comfort in the walls they built up, believing it is better to isolate themselves than to risk foreseen experiences resulting in hurt.

The truth, which is rarely talked about, is that we all have secrets when it comes to keeping things tidy. And for many people, those secrets have become surrounded by a fear of judgment and embarrassment. Because we have yet to normalize the issue, people continue feeling stuck in their situations. We allow the cycle to continue in countless ways, as we’re influenced by factors like picture-perfect social media and consumerism.

Normalizing clutter does not equate to promoting or encouraging it. The goal in normalization is to establish confidence, pride, and a willingness to ask for help in those feeling ashamed of the state of their homes. People are virtually always experiencing a life transition or a physical or mental setback when they reach out to a professional organizer. We repeatedly share this information because we believe it’s important to understand the reasoning behind it; people most commonly need a helping hand with their clutter during those times.

Dealing with a large amount of clutter in your home can feel overwhelming, shameful and hopeless. Try to remind yourself that although the world of disorganization is rarely shown, it’s ongoing. In fact, it’s incredibly common. Just like with anything else, each time we talk about clutter and how it relates to shame, the closer we become to bringing awareness to the issue.

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