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Clutter Is Postponed Decisions


Clutter appears to be a major issue for many people. I cannot pick up a magazine without seeing an article about getting rid of clutter. Many of my clients complain about clutter. I personally work daily to make sure that clutter doesn’t encroach on my space. Clutter is distracting. The more we have of it, the more it causes chaos and confusion.

One insidious form of clutter is the “Maybe” clutter. This is clutter we don’t get rid of because we may need it someday. Examples of this are things like the size six outfit that hangs in the closet, but hasn’t been worn in three years, or the back issues of a favorite magazine dating back to the first issue ever received. Perhaps the clutter is craft supplies from a project completed in 1987. All of this is maybe clutter. We don’t get rid of it because maybe we will use it someday. The problem is someday never comes and the clutter continues to take up space in our homes, offices, and minds.

We also legitimize the maybe clutter by putting it in boxes, labeling them and sometimes even purchasing space for it. This elaborate system for storing the maybe clutter in reality is postponing a decision. There are many reasons for postponing the decision of what to do with the clutter. Perhaps it is overwhelm, grief, disappointment or other emotions too painful to face.

I had a client who would not remove the items of his ex-wife from his home. He had left his home exactly the way it was when she left him. With my suggestion, he sought the help of a therapist and through his work with her discovered that what he was doing was leaving his home as it was in hopes that maybe she would return. It has been over two years and the chances that she would ever come back were slim to none. It took time, but slowly he was able to let go of the things in his home that were holding him back from moving on with his life.

Getting rid of clutter can be an emotional issue. We can attach emotions and memories to our stuff, which can make it hard to let go. If we find ourselves in the midst of maybe clutter, perhaps evaluating why we are holding on to it will allow us to let go of it. This can be difficult; so don’t try to do it yourself. The help of a therapist or other mental health professional might be useful. Also, hiring a professional organizer to come in and support with the elimination of the clutter can be useful. Just having someone else there can be empowering and supportive.

If you find yourself storing things that will maybe come in handy someday ask yourself what you are postponing. Getting rid of clothes that are in a size you wore in high school might be postponing accepting that you will never be that size again. If you are holding on to things from a past relationship or career, you might be postponing letting go of the past and moving on. The syndrome of “Maybe I will need it or use it someday” actually keeps us locked in the past and focused on the future. Holding on to those items postpones the present.

I am not suggesting that you throw every item in storage out, not unless you want to. What I am suggesting is that “maybe” clutter keeps us from totally being present in the moment and in many cases drains energy. I have a neighbor who cannot park his car in his garage because of all the items stored there. The stuff came from a much larger home and when he downsized into his townhouse, he did not have room for all the things from his previous home. I asked him once what he was doing with all that stuff. His answer was, “Well, I just might need it someday.” He has lived in his townhouse for as long as I have lived in mine and, the best I can tell, he has never needed any of it. The interesting thing is he complains about it and hates that he has to park his car outside. He is postponing dealing with his past and putting it off until the future, meanwhile he is unhappy with the present condition all the clutter is creating.

Here’s to taking action,


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