What’s REALLY the cause of clutter? There’s something that very few people know…
Very early on in my Professional Organising career I noticed three themes that regularly came up when I was working with my clients.
I call them the three foundations: Feelings, Relationships & Behaviours. They rear their heads in every situation – from busy mums, frantic with too much kid stuff, to retired people overwhelmed by downsizing. They’re relevant to people living alone in a tiny flat or a big blended family living in two or more households.
What’s going on?
Most humans are very feely. We get anxious, frustrated and we get angry. What we’re rarely ever taught is how to manage those feelings in a healthy way. They can wreck relationships and they stop us from growing and living our best life. Feelings are also one of the main causes of clutter.
We repeat the relationships we grew up with, or we work hard to do the absolute opposite. We’re raised to behave in a certain way, in a particular role, with the people around us. The patterns we’ve learnt (or unlearnt) also affect how we believe we and the people we live with should behave.
How we treat each other is a behaviour. Frustration (a feeling) may lead to shouting (a behaviour). Leaving everything on the floor is a behaviour. Looking at WHY the end result happens (clutter all over the floor, shouting and sulking) gives us an opportunity to change the original reason the behaviour happens.
Your Emotions & Feelings.
Finding it impossible to let go of things. Fear and anxiety feel horrible. They feel so bad that we’ll do all sorts of things to avoid them. And they are the cause of lots of behaviours too, like defensiveness, aggressiveness, avoidance and other not-fun stuff. They make us ignore things that we know we need to deal with. And they make it feel like it’s almost impossible to get rid of things. When you know that fear is the cause, it gives you the chance to react differently.
Buying way more than you could ever need. Why do we do that? Because it makes us feel good. It might make us feel safe too, to have 4 or 5 (or more) of everything. We get a little dopamine hit when we buy new things. Sometimes it’s the only dopamine hit we get, and that we have control over. If buying things is a problem for you, it’s helpful to know why you’re doing it. You can then choose to do something different to get that good feeling.
Control and frustration. Hopelessness, helplessness and frustration can be symptoms of a belief that you are not in control of a situation. Reacting against someone we think is a controlling person can be the motive behind clutter causing behaviours. These reactions and behaviours can become a loop: Frustration at clutter leads to anger – A reaction to anger might be passive aggressive or thoughtless clutter creation.
Your Relationship Dynamics.
Respect. R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Google the song. Dis-respect shows itself in many different ways. Expecting you to pick and clean up after everyone. Shouting across the house for your attention when you’re busy. Ignoring requests to do chores, or doing them badly so they won’t have to do them again. What we allow, continues. A calm chat about what is acceptable, plus changing your responses to disrespectful behaviours can work wonders.
It goes both ways. The effects of hurt and resentment over small (or big things) can pop up in our daily behaviours – Repeatedly “forgetting” to do things we’ve been asked to do. Assuming you know best. Needing to control everything. Honouring the presence and respecting the needs and belongings of each person in your home is vital to allow for an equal and peaceful household.
Communication. Relying on the psychic ability of others, or assuming they have the same priorities as you is a recipe for clutter. Clear, calm communication is the key to avoiding a lot of the problems that arise in day-to-day living and relationships in general. It’s also very helpful when you need to tackle the subject of chores, decluttering, organising your home and any other changes you want to introduce to your household.
Habits. Sometimes mess and clutter is really simple. It happens because we keep doing the things that cause it. Maybe you’ve never learnt to be tidy, or it’s normal for your family to be messy. Most clutter is caused by lots of little habits with a few big major causes. Having too much stuff, not thinking about the other people in your home, not putting things away and not having tidy-systems in place.
Helplessness. Sometimes helplessness is convenient, it means they don’t have to do something they don’t want to do or it feels scary. Sometimes helplessness is learned, kids that are never taught to do day-to-day tasks stay helpless into adulthood. Everyone in your home can do something useful to help out. Most kids (and adults) learn that they are competent and good at things by doing them.
How’s that working out for you? Nagging, shouting, screaming and silent fuming might eventually get something done, but only because they want to be left in peace. Is that the behaviour dynamic you want in your home?
Your family team – living with love & peace.
Are you thinking about stopping clutter in the long term and having a happier and more functional household?
Paying attention to your, and your family’s emotions and reactions, plus changing unhelpful family dynamics and behaviours will really exercise your patience muscles, but together you have a miracle in the making.
If you have identified a clutter problem in your home, work out how and why it happens, then nip it in the bud. Make it a new habit to do that thing differently. You can teach the people in your home who are making the clutter to do it differently or change the way YOU do it.
Combining all of the elements of these three foundations makes for some big changes in your life, your home and your clutter.
The Tidy Lady