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How People Can Deal with Their Clutter

Question from readers, part 1.

Since I posted about clutter here a few times, I have been asked a number of interesting questions by readers. Below, I will begin to address the most common questions about clutter. I hope you find it informative.

1. What is it about de-cluttering our spaces that creates ease in our minds?

We are creatures that like organization, like linear progression (i.e., we like things to go one after the other after the other). Clutter prevents organization for getting things done. So, when we declutter and get things organized I believe we lower that anxiety and feel we have accomplished something. That is why I advise finding something simple and easy to do and work on it; that builds confidence to try the next thing.

Are people feeling more overwhelmed by clutter during the confinement caused by the pandemic?

We collected data on decluttering during the pandemic. We are still analyzing it for publication, but I can tell you that there were some people who found this was a great time to declutter; some focused on one thing they needed to declutter; a third were scared and never started. So, you are right that this confinement really did NOT lead to lots of decluttering as the media portrayed. For some, yes; but for others, no. You know, it's expensive to have all these things, and now some people rent storage lockers for more stuff. Gee. Hold onto relationships, not relics, I say.

Many geniuses seem to live with lots of clutter. Sometimes I wonder if my need for tidiness and a serene environment is a pointless distraction in itself.

LOL, so you are a genius! Good for you! Well, for the rest of us “mere mortals” clutter gets in the way of life satisfaction — at least, that's what our research shows — and there is regret for things missed. Being organized and efficient is good living, I think. Being neurotic about it is not. I hope that helps.

What are the best steps someone can take to declutter their space and mind? And how does this clutter interact with procrastination and depression?

The simple answer is that, yes, you can clear your mind from distractions and focus on the NOW, on what is before you. People think they need to be perfect, but failure helps us grow. Flowers don’t grow only with the sun; they need rain. But not too much! So, focus on organizing one drawer, shelf, half closet – something easy for you. But tomorrow, to the next!

It seems to me that procrastination and perfectionism (or rather super high expectations) in many cases are closely related. What is your approach to this tandem?

You are correct: There is a link between procrastination and perfectionism. It’s complicated, and I really think your best answer is to get and read my book, Still Procrastinating?, in which I try to explain the link with similarities and differences. Procrastinators are good excuse-makers so they will say, I’m a perfectionist, not a procrastinator. (See my book for a full explanation.)

Thanks, everyone, for your curiosity and interest.


Ferrari, J.R. (2010). Still procrastinating? The no regrets guide to getting it done. NY: John Wiley & Sons.

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