How Cluttered Am I?

Why do we have so much trouble judging our own situations accurately? When it comes to clutter, some of us believe we are in one of the worst hoarding situations imaginable because there are some things left out and we have 40 pairs of shoes. Others climb over piles to get from one end of the room to the other and describe it as “not that bad”.

Some of this is simply a matter of perspective. If all the homes we enter and see on TV and in magazines are models of order and simplicity, our homes look like disasters by comparison. And some of this is related to our abilities to tolerate clutter; what I like to call the Clutter Tolerance Factor (CTF). We all know someone who becomes stressed when there is a dirty dish on the counter; they have a low CTF. Someone with a high CTF is comfortable sifting through piles of mail to find a bill that is due. I think nature and nurture work together to create our CTF.

Our distorted views of our own clutter is protective. Believing that our clutter is not that bad protects us from the certain pain of really seeing our clutter…seeing it the way others do. It also protects us from the feelings of guilt and shame associated with letting things go this far. And imagine that we had to see it every day and feel powerless to change the situation. The down side is that not seeing the clutter accurately means we will never take action to address it.

And what about those people who think their situation is worse than it is? They are driven partly by fear. Fear that their appraisal of the clutter is off and that others will see it differently. It’s criticizing yourself before others can. Seeing our situations in a negative light may also be indicative of our harsh inner critic, but that is a subject for a different day.

If you aren’t sure “how bad” your situation is, try looking at one room as if you had just entered a friend’s home. Now what do you think? Or take pictures and evaluate those. It is amazing how we can judge a photo more accurately than we can the real thing. Or you could use the ICD Clutter-Hoarding Scale or the Clutter Image Rating Scales. If all else fails, ask the opinion of someone you respect; someone who is not afraid to tell you the truth and who can be objective.

Even if you can judge your situation relative to that of others or on a scale provided by the experts, the only thing that matters is if the clutter is a problem for you. If you are not losing things, living things in an unsafe environment, or distressed about the amount of clutter in your home, then it doesn’t really matter how it compares to others. Do you have a different opinion?

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6 Responses

  1. My opinion of myself, is that I have a serious problem with books. I mean SERIOUS. I love them so, but I’m sure that when other people (usually church friends) come over and see – and their eyes get big – I wonder if I should tell them about the attic!!! 😀

    • Books are a big challenge for many people! They are filled with useful information or can transport you to another place. The trick is knowing which ones you will read again and which ones can be let go because they have done their job of giving you something you can keep, even without the actual book. And maybe tell your friends about the attic if you are going to share the joy and let them take some books with them!

    • We go to the library every Saturday (part of our routine with our son) and I’ve started donating books (sometimes alot and sometimes a few) every week. It does help and so many other people can enjoy them. Books are heavy, so I’m trying to downsize. Back problems can be a real bummer, moving them from place to place. Best wishes!!

  2. My mother is in her 80’s, in fairly good health and her house, garage, attic, everywhere is full. She’s not ready to get rid of anything, so it will be a work in progress. I guess as you get older, if you downsize, you will have it alot easier. Just my thoughts, and thinking I need to get rid of some of my own stuff. Thanks for the post!

    • I like your attitude! It is definitely easier to downsize as you age and before decision making gets harder and our bodies start complaining about carrying stuff around!

      • I guess my mother’s situation taught me something, but thankfully she’s in good health for her age. I hope I got those genes. Thanks for the post!!

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