“Manifest plainness, Embrace simplicity, Reduce selfishness, Have few desires.” – Lao Tzu

A cluttered room makes us feel overwhelmed and unable to focus, according to this study published in The Journal of Neuroscience. But clutter not only impacts our mental processing, it also affects us on every level, including physical, emotional and spiritual.

Clutter impacts our mental processing, but it also affects us on every level, including physical, emotional and spiritual. On a physical level, clutter prevents us from moving around freely and using our space to its fullest potential. Some people have entire rooms dedicated to storing stuff that they no longer need or use.

On an emotional level, it connects us to feelings of guilt (“How could I throw away this ugly lamp that my aunt got me?”) or fear (“I never have what I need when I need it”). These emotions build up over time and become fixed in our spaces, like they do in our minds!

On a spiritual level, clutter limits our ability to proceed on a spiritual path. We are not able to process the negative emotions and cannot move forward.

On every level, our homes mirror back to us what is going on in our lives and where we’ve put up obstacles. We intuitively know this and that’s why we are so interested in the topic.

According to the blockbuster sales of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, many of us are looking for guidance on decluttering our homes. But are we just using this as another avoidance tactic? Is even this topic of managing clutter itself a distraction? It can be for some of us.

Here are three major types of people when it comes to clutter. Perhaps you’ll see yourself in one of them:

#1 People Who Don’t Recognize Their Clutter

Among “clutterers” this has to be the biggest category of all. They have beautiful homes or at least look organized and neat. But there are certain areas in the home that are a wreck! These spaces are usually very private, away from prying eyes. It’s usually in a closet (or two!), a guest room, or basement area. Sometimes it’s even their bedroom or home office.

If you see yourself in this type, consider what it is that your clutter is blocking you from doing. What is this distraction about? If you removed this clutter what would this open space allow you to do? How would you feel? Then you can take some steps to clear your space and move forward in your life.

#2 People That Clear Then Re-Buy

Some people are diehard “Tidying Up” fans, who pledge their allegiance to all that the book proscribes. Yet after decluttering their homes, they go back out and buy, bringing more things into their home to fill the “empty space.” Where does it end?

Unfortunately, this behavior seems to be culturally acceptable and is even perpetuated by the media. In fact, “shopaholic” behavior is even bragged about. But this compulsive buying points to a feeling of emptiness in some area of your life. You can break this cycle when you recognize your behavior and then take steps to understand the gap that these purchases are filling.

What is it in your life that you truly desire (non-material) that you don’t currently have? What is it that your clutter is distracting your from seeing? To help coax your answers into the light of day, you might spend time in stillness, meditation, journal or visit a therapist.

#3 The Super Woman (or Man)

Sounds great, right? These people can manage the clutter in their lives. They do not let clutter create obstacles. However, the obstacle itself is in the managing of clutter. Yes! They are so obsessed with organizing and straightening and ironing out their physical spaces that they don’t have time to reflect on their inner selves.

These people are schedulers. I can’t do this until X is done. If anyone suggests that they take time for contemplation and stillness they give me an exhausting list of detail of their typical day. “I wish I had time! I’m not Super Woman!” They fill their schedules to the brim. Their busyness is clutter!

Their obsession with managing this clutter is a distraction itself. A distraction from looking inside.

What does clutter mean?

Clutter is often a metaphor for what we are blocking in our lives. It is a physical wall, an obstacle that we have subconsciously created in our lives. We need to pause, consider why we’ve created this block, what it represents, and come to an agreement with ourselves to clear it and move forward in a positive direction.

We often surround ourselves with material things to compensate for our feeling of lack. We need to identify our feelings of lack and dedicate time to work on moving toward a feeling of wholeness. Make steps to transform, not just our home but our experience of life.

Great mantras to remind ourselves when confronted with clutter:

  • Less is more.
  • You will have what you need when you need it.
  • You can’t take it with you.
  • Amassing material things is not the object of this game of life.