Saturday, September 19, 2009

Definitions of Clutter: 8 Perspectives

Over on Unclutter, Erin Doland recently defined clutter this way:
Clutter is any distraction that gets in the way of a remarkable life. Clutter doesn’t have to be physical — you can have time clutter or mental clutter or even bad processes that qualify as clutter.
And a commenter, identified only as shris, writes:
For me, clutter isn’t about distraction but what you feel, say, or think when you actually *look* at it.

If you make a face or grit your teeth or purse your lips, or your mental noise is ‘ugh’ or ‘grr’ or ‘feh’ or ‘ew’, then it’s clutter whether it serves a purpose or not.
This inspired me to look at how other define clutter; here are some of the best perspectives I found.

In her wonderful book Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, Karen Kingston writes:
In my definition there are four categories of clutter:

* Things you do not use or love

* Things that are untidy or disorganized

* Too many things in too small a space

* Anything unfinished
In The Clutter-Busting Handbook, Rita Emmett writes:
I think stuff becomes clutter when:

* It creates problems, stress, or embarrassment.

* You don't know what you have or can't find what you have.

* It keeps you from using an area, place, or thing for its intended purpose.

* It impairs your ability to function.
In Unclutter Your Life, Katherine Gibson defines a number of types of clutter:
Physical Clutter: The possessions in our world that do not have a purpose, do not reflect who we our, and do not enhance our lives aesthetically or spiritually.

Mental Clutter: Expectations, distractions, and obligations that affect our peace of mind.

Emotional Clutter: Unfulfilling activities and the self-defeating thoughts and feelings that keep us from our highest potential.
In Clutter's Last Stand by Don Aslett, I didn't find a definition of clutter - but here's Don's definition of junk:
It is junk if:

* It's broken of obsolete (and fixing it is unrealistic).

* You've outgrown it, physically or emotionally.

* You've always hated it.

* It's the wrong size, wrong color, or wrong style.

* Using it is more bother than it's worth.

* It wouldn't really affect you if you never saw it again.

* It generates bad feelings.

* You have to clean it, store it, and insure it (but you don't get much use or enjoyment out of it).

* It will shock, bore, or burden the coming generation.
And finally, let me leave you with some definitions from Debbie Stanley's excellent book, Organize Your Home in No Time:
Does the object do a job for you? If so, it's essential; if not, it's clutter.

Now, that job could be to help you brush your teeth (the toothbrush in the stand on the counter), it could be to give you something beautiful to look at (the pictures on the wall), or it could be to make you feel good by bringing back a happy memory (that little jar of sand labeled Beachfront Property.)
And here's another definition from Debbie:
Clutter = homeless items = unmade decisions.

Related post:
Clearing Clutter: Beyond the Stuff


shris said...

Hi Jeri.

Imagine my surprise at seeing myself quoted this morning. :)

Glad it was a useful comment.


Cynthia Friedlob said...

Oh, the torture of unmade decisions!

Over the years, I've whittled down my cluttery stuff to a minimum. However, that "minimum" includes a stack of papers that I un-stack, sort, and re-stack with maddening regularity.

I decided to tackle the stack last week. I spread out all the papers on the living room floor and have made progress by being forced to stare at the stuff.

Now there are seven small, categorized stacks left with not more than about a half-dozen papers in each one. My cleaning lady will be here in a few days and I have vowed to have the stacks gone (not just re-stacked) before she arrives.

It's surprising that a person can get so stymied by innocuous papers that require what I would consider logically simple decisions. I suspect a therapist might have some fun with that!

Karen said...

I just moved after 14 years in the same apartment, and that really forces you to de-clutter. Anything in the back of the storage closet went to Goodwill. I'm not naturally inclined to clutter -- I have no problem throwing away a box of letters, for example -- but my husband is. Maybe he's just inclined to have more stuff; maybe the tax returns from a dozen years ago give him a sense of security, which is a function.

Here's my contribution: Anything kept in a storage locker is clutter.

Jeri Dansky said...

shris, I'm glad it was a good surprise.

Cynthia, I know just what you mean. Sometimes getting those last bits of paper dealt with can be very hard, for reasons it's sometimes hard to fathom.

Karen, there are some specific situations where a storage locker make sense and the items in the locker aren't clutter - but way too often, I think you're right. Or maybe 2% of what's there isn't clutter - but can you find that 2%?

Timo said...

For me, this was very important statement:

> It generates bad feelings.

It is so true, since many times I have realized, that when giving up something and getting rid of stuff you don't need, you feel much happier and lighter.