Home » Blog » Finding the Gems Among the Clutter

Finding the Gems Among the Clutter

I am a professional de-clutterer, one who strives to give my clients the ability to find space in their minds, bringing them the peace we all seek and need to be our most productive selves.

Amongst everyone’s clutter are gems. Gems that my clients have been looking for, ones they have great stories about. In my work I’ve experienced both the crazy cluster of collected crap and that of treasured keepsakes, a brilliant trail of their history. I’ve learned more about people in my work with them than I would have through conventional, social means.

My life has become that much richer for knowing some of the people I work with. Many have been therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists. I’ve noticed the insight into what clutter has created in their own lives, profoundly affecting their own mental health and relationships. They tell me I’m the therapist when they feel and experience the process of letting go and feeling space. Their honesty and openness shows me their need to be healthy so that they in turn can bring their best to their patients and clients. They’re clearer, less muddled, after they’ve cleared their space of unwanted, no longer useful things. 

They are no less sentimental than anyone else. We touch each item, I hear each story that needs sharing. I listen and acknowledge, maybe even share myself. It may take a few minutes to process as they relive a moment in time. We decide to keep or let it go, where it belongs or who it goes to. Photographs, artwork by their children, family heirlooms. Mostly it’s belongings tossed in places just to get them out of the way, not in a specific area, difficult to locate, perhaps forgotten or kept “just in case.” Some of my clients just want their stuff in a box, out of sight, but knowing that it still exists.

I’ll never tell anyone that their things have to go. It is not for me to decide, but to support their intentions. And there have been times a project is not completed. They are stuck, not as ready as they thought, and that’s ok. They can’t let go. We will resume another time.

The process for many, especially those who have hoarded, is a daunting and highly emotional process. Their stuff defined them — is a big part of who they are. If they don’t have it, they’ve lost who they are. Living simply, living with what you really need and what brings you joy is a movement many are taking seriously. The reasons are evident — people feel better, period. 

But like many personal issues, clutter should be addressed, just as being overweight, abusing substances, exhibiting poor time management, addiction to our smartphones, are impediments to a happier life. These issues are in the way of being your best, healthiest self. 

I’m completely empathetic and sensitive to every person I work with. I get it! Life gets so busy and the years fly by. How did this happen? Where did this stuff come from? It’s being lost in those years, raising kids, building careers, and staying busy, busy. For many of us, there’s no time and no interest in maintaining a healthy home. Yes, they’re doing their best, but not thinking that there may be other tasks, habits to be incorporated and mindfulness in doing so.

Recently I looked at a nude painting that was hanging in my room forever. It dawned on me that it didn’t bring me joy. In fact, the artist was an anxious, angry Australian I had met and purchased from years ago. Though I thought it was a well-done image, I suddenly realized as I really looked at that I don’t want it. This is an example of mindfulness… taking the time to experience something and being able to respond mindfully. Goodbye angry artist.

It is a mindful approach I continue to provide my clients. Recognizing deeply what something means to them and deciding what’s best for and with them. What is the healthiest result we can aim for in our work together? 

However, the gems are kept, perhaps not all and placed where we feel is right.

Gems, the treasures we hold onto which truly give us joy and loving memories are invaluable to us, but how much do we need in order to keep those stories alive inside us? It’s what we hold inside which fills us, not the stuff on the shelves. Having some reminders is OK. Perhaps the things we can let go of get to be a part of someone else’s joy. How often do we visit a thrift shop and wonder where that set of mid-century modern bowls came from and how excited we are to buy them for ourselves. I know I’ve been in that situation many times. Not only am I grateful that I get to have these cool bowls, but also how inexpensive they were! Thank you to the person who was able to let go of them and allow me a turn at enjoying them. 

You are not lost without your stuff.

You will find yourself more clearly free of the stuff you’ve been carrying around.

You are the real gem.

Finding the Gems Among the Clutter

Ruthie Kukoff

Ruthie Kukoff ( began her career as an interior designer in NJ. She moved to NYC in 2008, the height of the recession, when there was little opportunity for design work – so she reinvented herself. Wanting to utilize her creative skills to help others, her de-cluttering business was born. While working with client Lin Manuel-Miranda in his home office, she realized that an organized workspace could benefit any professional, and she expanded her business to include office spaces. She helps her clients find space in their minds, bringing them the peace they need to be their most productive selves.

No comments yet... View Comments / Leave a Comment
APA Reference
Kukoff, R. (2018). Finding the Gems Among the Clutter. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 8 Aug 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.