4 Types of Clutter and the Non-Obvious Places it Loves to Lurk



(Photo Credit – Studio Choo Florists)

An overflowing junk drawer. Stacks of papers and piles of clothes. That closet that obviously took a tornado ride with Dorothy.

Some types of clutter are blatantly obvious. But like everything in your space, clutter isn’t merely physical.

Your home is the physical expression + reflection of your inner world: your emotions, the personal meanings you attach to things, and all the routines that make up your life.

A cluttered home indicates + perpetuates a cluttered life.

– Click To Tweet

And if your home is a metaphor for your life, then clutter speaks volumes about what’s going on inside of you. We’ll get to the causes and sources of clutter in a moment. But first: why should you care? Well, it turns out: clutter isn’t just an eyesore. It can have some pretty serious consequences.  Clutter:

  • Drains your energy (sometimes when you don’t even know it)
  • Holds you in a state of distraction, overwhelm, irritation, or stress
  • Contributes to burnout, stagnant creativity, or writer’s block
  • Keeps you stuck in the fear of what might happen if you let go (of stuff or habits or even people)
  • Represents underlying emotional issues you may be avoiding
  • Keeps you from noticing or dealing with big, scary, important issues
  • Blocks you from living your biggest, brightest, most beautiful life.

You deserve so much more than this, my friend! But before we start throwing things out, willy nilly, let’s get to know this clutter beastie a little better. Here’s how I define it:

Clutter is anything blocking us from flow, spaciousness, and having room to play and grow. – Click to Tweet

That’s right – anything blocking us. Not just that tupperware drawer you can’t stand or those boxes of old tax files you’ve been meaning to go through for years. Clutter can be far less obvious …

Is your crazy-busy-hectic job covering up a lifelong dream? Is some unresolved grief drowning an artistic passion? Is stress overpowering a deep need for rest and relaxation? We can view all of this through the lens of clutter.

Clutter can exist on many different levels:

1. Physical.

Physical clutter is what most of us associate with this term — and it’s the most obvious. It includes all the “stuff” in your space, and all the extra weight you’re carrying around (in your purse or your belly). It’s also your time: those obligatory events you “should” show up to. It’s piles of projects that you need to physically do, but don’t enliven you or light you up.

2. Emotional.

This is the realm of feelings and relationships. Are you weighed down by unresolved grief, trauma, or shame? Distracted by loose ends of a tattered relationship? Spending time with people who no longer support you or doing activities you no longer enjoy? You might find physical representations of these in your home:  those ice skates you never use anymore because you tore your ACL, or mementos that trigger painful memories.

3. Mental.

This is the realm of thoughts, information, and beliefs. Mind clutter is an overflowing inbox, an explosion of papers, calendars, and whiteboards. It feels like stimulation overload, anxiety, indecision and/or a “gluttony” for information. When our information is literally scattered throughout our spaces, we can  feel “scatterbrained,” and creative focus becomes a struggle.

4. Spiritual.

This level is quite different from the rest, in my experience. I don’t think of “spiritual clutter,” per se. Rather, I’ve noticed that the spiritual level suffers when we have clutter in our lives.

Each one of us brings a personal understanding and experience to the word, “spirit.” For myself, I define spirit as being fully, lovingly present in my life. It’s remaining connected to my divine essence, my sense of purpose, and the things that truly matter to me.

I’ve learned from my own experience and through guiding clients that when we have any kind of clutter (body, emotions, or mind), it becomes incredibly difficult to connect with ourselves on a spiritual level. We just can’t stay clear, grounded, and fully present when there’s constantly something distracting, draining, or pushing us off-kilter.

You simply can’t be fully present + loving when there’s

too much “stuff” in the way.

So now I am turning it over to you….

In the comments below, I’d love to hear: What type of non-obvious clutter do you struggle most with? Did you identify a new kind of clutter that surprised you?

Ready for more?
The next post in the Make Room to Bloom Series is right HERE.

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17 Comments on “4 Types of Clutter and the Non-Obvious Places it Loves to Lurk

  1.  by  Kim

    Hi Rebecca! I am loving your point of view on our spaces! In addition to physical clutter I definitely have tons of mental clutter which I hadn’t really thought of before! I have random notes, ideas, thoughts, quotes, and seeds of biz ideas scattered about that I never seem to complete! I would love to hear your tips and systems for focusing mental energy :)

  2.  by  rebecca@rebeccamcloughlin.com

    Hi Kim,

    Yes mental clutter in the form of notes, ideas, etc can not only be overwhelming but also perpetuate procrastination and/or ever getting anything fully complete. I think the first step is to gather all the bits of information lurking about into one place. Then slowly go through and assess if the information is needed, current and/or interesting to you. If not, ask yourself if you can let it go and if you can’t let it go ask yourself why. This usually uncovers many of the emotions that come up when we try to release things that no longer are serving us. Emotions such as fear, scarcity, guilt etc.(More on this in an upcoming post! :-) ) After this, I find it helpful to have separate weekly and a daily to do lists. This will help the mind stay clear about what you are focused on. I also love the term “closing circles.” When I take something off my to do list I focus on following the task all the way through until the circle is closed. As far as floating ideas, quotes, etc…it is good to create a couple different files for things like this. This way when a thought or idea comes up you already have landing place in which to organize this information. This could look like an actual file folder, a google doc, specific note book etc. Find something that works for you.

    I hope this helps and please check back and let me know how it goes!


  3.  by  Anne

    Hi Rebecca,

    I love what you write about these things .
    I struggle with emotional clutter and I often feel very tired and sad.
    It seems as if this clutter is everywhere,I dont have the energy to do what I want to do .Is there anything I could change in my environment that could help me feel better?At this point my appartment doesnt feel as a home .

    •  by  rebecca@rebeccamcloughlin.com

      Hi Anne,

      Thank you so much for sharing. I am wondering if there colors and/or images that make you feel energized and joyful? Perhaps try bringing a new palette into your space. Also think about a space/place/time in the past in which your felt happy. What did your space look like then? Are there ways to incorporate those things now?

      Be sure to let me know how this goes. If sadness and exhaustion continue to prevail I would encourage you to reach out for professional support. “Emotional clutter” can be very complex and often having someone help us navigate our way through is extremely useful. Hope this helps! Sending loving thoughts your way!


  4.  by  Shannon

    Hi Rebecca!

    I love your blog and your information…a whole new approach to decluttering and cleaning…I always knew that I held onto things for ‘reasons’…I might need it later, it was to keep memories…and like our friend above, I have sooo many random places and notebooks, papers etc. that have song ideas, story ideas, art projects, business ideas…etc all over the place. I have been on spring break this week and I have been purging my space all week. I have been going through every single business card, piece of paper, bead, birthday card, etc. I have been creating places to put these things…in folders and files and such. But I am also actually putting to use some of the things I have saved. I got together with a friend and she looked at all of the material I have saved and I told her what I want to learn how to sew and we have a date and a pattern when she is coming to my house and she is going to help me get acquainted with my sewing machine so I can actually sew and use the material I have!
    She also lent me some crochet hooks so I am going to use my yarn. I am planning out specific projects I want to do and I went through all of my art supplies. I took all those extra stickers and put them in my purse to give out to the children around me…I live in West Africa currently…I have thrown away a ton of stuff! And anything else that shouldn’t be in a drawer…like family pictures…I am putting to good use and creating nice pieces of art. I am also letting go of things that don’t represent me right now…it feels amazing! It’s so much quieter!
    I am truly enjoying cleaning, condensing, and creating vs. just holding onto things ‘just in case’ I need it. I am creating reasons to use them…OR I am donating them to my school’s art program so that it gets used but isn’t taking up my space.
    As a child, my room was always a mess…clutter everywhere. I saw it as that I was safe and surrounded by so much stuff that no one could see the deep flaws of my floor or in me…I know the clutter for me…emotionally goes very deep. I have done a lot of healing over the years but I know I still have a lot more healing to do…the good thing is, I am feeling the confidence, curiosity and commitment to do so! Thank you for all of your support!
    I would love to hear more from you about the emotional side of clutter…



    •  by  rebecca@rebeccamcloughlin.com

      Hi Shannon!

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts about this work as well as all the wonderful work you have been doing in your own life in this area! Great work my friend! :-)

      Stay tuned for more about “emotional clutter” coming up in the next few weeks. :-)


    •  by  Catherine

      I just had to let you know how moved I was by your writing. You have a true gift for finding and using the words that truly convey the core of your story. Your way of dealing with clutter is prescious and I wish you well on your journey.
      Catherine x

  5.  by  Melanie

    Great post Rebecca! It really resonates with me. Being a new mom means I constantly live in a state of clutter in my home that often effects my mind. I’m working on de-cluttering and de-stressing at the same time! They really go hand in hand for me. I’m looking forward to next weeks post!

    •  by  rebecca@rebeccamcloughlin.com

      Hi Melanie!

      Thanks for stopping by! :-) And yes being a new mom brings so many changes and transitions that in turn can create new levels of mental and physical clutter. One thing to know is that this is completely normal and to be expected during this time of life. Please be gentle with yourself and celebrate every little step you make along the way!


  6.  by  Jen

    Great post! I definitely have clutter from my past, both emotional and physical. It’s mostly from my childhood, which wasn’t as rosy as it could have been. I don’t like seeing the things from my childhood, but I don’t feel like I can throw them out either. It’s like, I feel like I’ll lose myself if I throw them out – like I’ll be lost. The clutter in my house and my cluttered life is definitely sending me on a downward spiral, though. :(
    I look forward to your future posts!


    •  by  rebecca@rebeccamcloughlin.com

      Hi Jen,

      Thanks for sharing about the deeper connections our clutter and the things we hold onto can have to our past, our sense of self and ability to live our best life. It sounds like your are uncovering some important nuggets of awareness that I would encourage you to continue looking at. Possibly reaching out for support or journaling about the feelings that surface when you start to connect meaning behind your clutter could be helpful?

      Please keep me updated about how this goes.


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