Clutter: How to Avoid a Repeat Performance

Do you ever look at your clutter and think, “Didn’t I just clear that off?”

Recurring clutter can feel like a losing battle, amiright? I mean, why even bother if it’s going to sneak back in a day or two or ten?

This annoying clutter is often the kind with the most to say. When it comes back again and again, it’s really trying to get your attention.

Whether alerting you to a system that’s needed or a representation of a deeper, underlying issue, it’s worth taking a look at what this stubborn clutter means.

Here are a couple approaches to take: one practical and one spiritual.

First, from a practical standpoint, do you have a system in place for managing the influx? For example, let say mail piles up quickly on your table. Does your current routine involve dropping it there and going through it every few days? If so, I’m sure you’ve seen how quickly a few days turns into a week or more of unopened mail.

Instead, try something like this:

  • Sort your mail as soon as you retrieve it from your mailbox.

  • Recycle any junk mail straight away and only keep that which needs your attention.

  • Separate letters by recipient if you have a multi-person household.

  • Open up your items and immediately recycle/discard any extraneous advertisements, envelopes, etc, and finally

  • Create a home where you can then put the various categories of mail, e.g. bills, correspondence, statements, etc.

Establishing a routine for common items sets you up for success with managing it on an ongoing basis.

If you have some good systems in place, but still find clutter creeping back in, it’s time to dig deeper and consider what it’s trying to tell you. When you see clutter as a messenger instead of a monster, you can heal areas of your life you’ve likely struggled with for a long time.

For example, I know when I gain weight (a common form of recurring clutter for me), that’s a sign that something is out of alignment in my life. To address this clutter, I can either investigate what that “something” might be and take steps to right its course, or if I am having trouble identifying what “it” is, I can work on eliminating the clutter (in this case, by exercising more and eating better) which will likely stir the pot and bring me face-to-face with that elusive “something.”

Clutter is almost never just about the “stuff.” That’s why it can be so triggering at times. If it was just that basket of clothes that need to be put away, it would merely be a nuisance. But when that basket of clothes represents the lack of support you feel you get from your spouse or children, it becomes much bigger than that.

So the next time you find yourself up against recurring clutter, pause and reflect on what else could be going on. What might be out of alignment in your life?

Are you over-giving and feeling tapped out?

Are you taking courageous steps toward embracing your authentic self and getting some backlash from people in your life?

Are you blazing a trail that’s making others uncomfortable?

Because your outer world reflects your inner world, be sure to look inward for the solution, and let your clutter be your guide.

8 replies
  1. Gena
    Gena says:

    “If it was just that basket of clothes that need to be put away, it would merely be a nuisance. But when that basket of clothes represents the lack of support you feel you get from your spouse or children, it becomes much bigger than that.” So true. We have these issues in my family. And “because your outer world reflects your inner world, be sure to look inward for the solution…” Can be a long and lonely process.

    • Kerri
      Kerri says:

      It really can be, Gena. What’s important to remember is that you and your younger self (she’s the one who hates change and will fight it tooth and nail) always have each other. As cheesy as that can sound, I know that when we team up with our fear/resistance/inner child, there’s no stopping us. The problem is that we tend to fight against that part of ourselves which only encourages it to get louder and stronger to get our attention. If a lack of support in your family is resulting in clutter, consider addressing the core clutter which isn’t the physical stuff at all. The core clutter is the unbalanced relationship. Consider having a conversation with the person in your household who you feel unsupported by about your feelings, not about the stuff. Little Gena will be glad you did. <3

  2. Mel T.
    Mel T. says:

    I agree that the clutter is really something else in my life. But, what if it’s been a problem since I was a child and it’s still a battle? I’ve been in and out of therapy most of my adult life and I have a general idea of what it might signify but how do you change the behavior of being a cluttered mess? Is it just inner work on myself and changing my thought patterns? Plus I’m diagnosed adhd and getting started or being motivated is nonexistent to me. I feel like I’m constantly seeking to understand the why of all of this.

    • Kerri
      Kerri says:

      Thanks for joining the conversation, Mel. I totally get what you’re saying. With my recurring weight clutter, just when I think I have it sorted, I find another layer to explore and heal. It can be tiring and frustrating. I believe it all comes back to self compassion. Sometimes when we focus too much on the “why,” our younger self can feel under a microscope and judged. I think the winning combination is exploring the why while holding a safe space for the answer. The more loved and safe our younger self can feel with us, the less she’ll need the clutter — in whatever form — as either protection or using it as a call for help.

      So if you have an idea of what might be going on for you with your clutter, what is one small behavior you can change or one small thing you can do differently? Then, as you do that one small thing, let your goal be more about helping Little Mel feel safe amongst that change and less about successfully making that change. Does that make sense?

  3. Lauren Hoover-West
    Lauren Hoover-West says:

    Kerri, After talking with you, I found the courage to clean off my desk & buy a shredder. It’s all clean after 10 months of unopened mail and piles!

    As you said, my fear of living big has reared its head in conjunction with cleaning my desk. Thanks for the warning!

    I feel better about my desk, and now will have to manage the email clutter. I have now organized my project – to go big in my business in place of where the pile of unopened mail use to be! Thank you for coaching me through something that upset me daily and now is a work in progress!

    Much Gratitude, Lauren

    • Kerri
      Kerri says:

      Wow! Way to go, Lauren! Congratulations on all of your progress! You just opened up a LOT of physical and energetic space that will no doubt help you in growing your business. Keep taking small steps, which lead to big, which lead you to the vision you have for your life!

  4. Shelley A.
    Shelley A. says:

    Thank you so much for your invaluable insight! The way you get to the heart of the matter in one paragraph is miraculous. I keep a spiral notebook full of your advice. Yes, the spiral proves I am “old school” (which I adore using instead of saying old). I cannot thank you enough for putting this information out there (for free!) for those of us unable to afford a personal Life Coach or Professional Organizer. Bless you Kerri Richardson. You are a gift.

    • Kerri
      Kerri says:

      You’re welcome, Shelley! I’m honored to be a part of your notebook! Although I’m a pretty techy woman, I still like my pen and paper, too, so I get it. 🙂 Are you familiar with the other free resources I offer — I do regular Facebook Live broadcasts (check my online calendar for specifics), I have a radio show on every Monday at 2pm ET, and I send out a weekly letter to my subscribers every Thursday (which it seems you already receive). I hope you can enjoy some of those as well!


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