An addiction to clutter can be defined as a compulsive behavior that involves living with an overwhelming and unmanageable environment that negatively affects one’s mental and emotional well being.
Clutter is demonstrated by having a disorganized and overwhelming amount of objects in one’s living space, vehicles or storage areas. It is the result of holding on to and amassing any items despite them not being needed, used or wanted. Clutter can be made up of anything tangible such as:
books , papers , food items , clothing , toys , kitchen items , bags , supplies for cleaning and grooming, containers • items in ‘junk drawers’ closets, garages, basements, attics, storage bins and storage buildings • magazines • partially used or never used clothing, products, computer paraphernalia, CDs, tapes, video cassettes, slides, etc.
Clutter can also refer to the less tangible, like clutter in relationships, activities, and emotional issues that no longer serve any purpose. The point is that an addiction to clutter overwhelms a person and debilitates their sense of well being.
Like other addictions, an addiction to clutter is the result of the person feeling like they want to cover up some hole in their lives or mask some form of pain. Clutter allows us to feel safe on the outside. When we accumulate stuff so that we can save it “just in case,” it gives us a false sense of control over our lives. Being surrounded by that stuff can make us feel less afraid, fearful or helpless. Temporarily.
Referring to this as an addiction may seem benign compared to those who struggle with addictions to alcohol, heroin or cocaine. Dr. Gabor Maté (addicted to purchasing classical music cds) referred to such an addiction as the “dainty white gloves” of addiction, or the lightweight of addiction. Even so, an addiction to clutter can have a similar effect on a person as any other addiction.
A person can ask:
It is important to understanding the “why” behind our addictions. Why do we need to mask pain or seek comfort in our lives? What are we hiding from? Getting over an addiction is about much more than willpower. Willpower, although it can work for some, is a very very difficult route to go, in my view. Getting over any addiction includes not only an awareness and understanding as to why the addiction is in our lives, it includes a connection to a spiritual practice (of any sort that resonates with the person). There are also groups similar to AA that focus on the addiction to clutter.
For me, however, unlike looking for a “higher power” as in AA, I instead chose to feel connected to a grander universe and sense of love. Although my spiritual practice does not include going to a formal church or being involved with an organized religion, it does include me meditating each day on my sense of belonging (my lack of belonging is what caused the hole in my spirit). I can honestly say that although I can never pick up a drink again, I am totally free of my addiction to alcohol.
I am not remotely interested in drinking. Not even when it is around me. 5 years ago, I never would have imagined this possible. For me to give up drinking and feel free from it, I included meditation and a spiritual connection into my daily experience. I have experienced amazing results.
Like other compulsions, getting free by de-cluttering your home, office, car, drawers, or mind can set you free from the burden of addiction to clutter. We free ourselves from the addiction to clutter because doing so results in space and calmness in our surroundings. It allows new air and ideas come in, which in turn inspires a person to be more effective in all areas of their lives.
Written by Val Hemminger, the nonconforming professional