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More Thoughts on Dealing with Clutter

Question from readers, Part 2.

Thank you all for your wonderful questions on clutter. I share my responses below. Happy decluttering! [and if you want more Q&A, please check my reply to 5 previous inquiries posted a few days before this one. hope they help!]

Do you see professional organizers as helpful or do people just quickly revert back to old patterns of accumulating clutter?

I do see professional organizers — actually, declutter coaches — as a great resource. I have been working with the international organization ICD, the Institute for Challenging Disorganization. I say, look on their website and find someone local to work with. Notice that they say it’s all about disorganization, and once you see what you have, then you can declutter.

Does anxiety play a role in the desire to be surrounded by clutter?

Oh, yes. For some, the breadth of items is overwhelming and they get anxious about declutting. Consequently, they just don’t do it because it’s just too much. (See Ferrari, 2010) So find a professional declutter coach through ICD. I work with them on my research and it's a great group of professionals who help so many people.

What tips do you recommend for individuals who struggles with clutter? Any books or resources?

I direct people to seek local members of the ICD; check their site for declutter experts near you. For understanding research on the subject, try to locate the body of published studies by my colleague C. Roster and myself. We have published on home and office clutter, and are now working on digital clutter.

I've read that decision-making deficits might play a role in hoarding problems and that there's a link between indecision, procrastination, and clutter. What specific interventions would you recommend for decision-making problems?

Let me begin by saying that clutter and hoarding are different. On the surface, they seem similar, but hoarding is a psychiatric disorder found in the DSM; clutter is not. Think of hoarding as vertical — lots of the same thing over and over and over. Clutter is horizontal — just a breadth and overabundance of stuff. Finally, procrastination is related to both, but procrastination is not delay or waiting or poor time management or laziness. See my book, Still Procrastinating?, for more.

Why might it be that clutter particularly exhausts women and affects their mental health, as opposed to men?

Actually, it's not true; when it comes to clutter, there's no gender difference. Let me explain. We (C. Roster and myself) did a study on home clutter with over 1600 participants, but only 50 men! I asked declutter experts (members of the International Institute for Challenging Disorganization) if there is a gender difference, and if clutter more common for women or men. The declutter coaches said no, but more women than men seek professional help for it. So, while there is nothing special about women compared to men for clutter, women know enough to seek professional coaching help to declutter. Men seem to excuse it as just their “stuff” or “toys.”

References

Ferrari, J.R. (2010). Still Procrastinating? The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done. NY: J. Wiley & Sons.

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