Wow! I can categorize my clutter! I must be crazy!
Categorizing my clutter helps me identify it better, deal with it better, and have no regrets when I need to let go of it.
To manage the clutter at home, I was able to identify it and identify the root cause of why I still keep it. Every time I picked up an item to decide whether to keep or toss it, I would ask myself, is this contributing to the clutter? If yes, what kind of clutter is this? Once I identified the clutter, I would be able to deal with it better. Here are some of the clutter I managed to identify in my home:
1. My bargain clutter
This was my biggest cause of clutter in the house. I bought a lot of things from warehouse sales, shopping mall sales, bookstores sales, toys stores sales, online sales, etc. Any place, either physical or virtual, which put up a sign with the word “SALES” would trigger my compulsive buying bug! Living in the digital era, I never failed to shop online when there were online sales on the websites because it was so convenient. I just needed to key in my credit card number and after a few days, the items would arrive at my doorstep.
Regardless of whether the things were useful in the moment when I bought them, I thought to myself I would find a purpose for them after I bought them. Big mistake! The word “Sales” was really my worst enemy! I had a love-hate relationship with it. I wanted to buy an item with the cheapest price and. on the other hand, I didn’t want to miss out on a cheap deal. Being Asian, kiasu is in my blood. LOL!
Toys bought from warehouse sales.
2. My emotional clutter
My buying and clutter were highly correlated with my emotions and depression. When I was feeling depressed, I would buy. When I was happy, I would buy. When I was sad, I would buy. Every emotion, either positive or negative, I would celebrate it by buying. I would justify my buying by lying about the reasons when questioned. Sometimes, I would hide my buying and chuck all the stuff in the storage room, creating clutter in there. Because of this vicious cycle, it became extremely overwhelming for me when I needed to tidy and clean. As a result, I just continued to stack new clutter on top of the old clutter. Once I became a mom, I was constantly struggling with fear and worry and these feelings were threefold because I had triplets. And these feelings were reflected in my clutter:
I had fear of inflation. This terrified me every time when I saw prices increase. So, I would buy during sales, store them away and take them out when the children were old enough to use them. Chances were I never took them out to let the children use them, and I ended discarding them even though they were brand new.
I had a fear of missing out. With any cheap deals, I was afraid that if I didn’t buy something, I would miss out. I hated the feeling that other mommies were buying it, and I wasn’t. I felt totally insecure, inferior, weird and a bad mom for not following the crowd.
I had a fear of peer pressure. Being a mom, I could be so kiasu! Everything that I saw my mommy friends buy, I really wanted to follow and buy too. I was so afraid that my children would miss out on learning and development if I didn’t buy the stuff that other mommies were buying, especially during a group buy. And when I saw other mommies happily using the products and I didn’t buy them, man, I would feel so guilty for the entire week!
I had a fear of regret. The feeling of regret would appear when I was unable to find things when I needed them in the future. Or when the price increased, and I wouldn’t be able to afford them.
I had a fear of letting go. For the things which my children had used, I felt a strong attachment to them, whether it was clothes, toys, milk bottles, strollers, car seats….everything, and I wanted to keep them all. The fear consumed me that if those things weren’t around anymore, a part of me was being taken away.
I had a fear of guilt. I believe every mom wants to give the best to her children. When I was unable to give the best to my children, the feeling of guilt slowly consumed me. And because of that, I feared guilt and tried to avoid it, that was when my buying, stocking up and cluttering began to grow.
Because of emotional reasons, I bought faster than I could store. Sometimes I didn’t even have places to store the stuff, yet I still continued buying.
Sometimes I felt that my life purpose as a mom was to buy things for my children, regardless of whether they need it. Back then, I believed it was mainly to satisfy my anxiety, insecurity and inferiority.
3. My freebie clutter
This is a trap most mommies will fall into. Anything that is offered to us for free we will want to take! Remember the free toys offered when you buy formula? Remember the free gift when you spent a certain amount at a shopping mall or at an expo?! Remember the free toys at McDonalds every time you buy a Happy Meal?
Nobody can resist the temptation of free stuff! Free towels, free toys, free mugs, free tableware, free pens, and free recycled bags.
I used to have this weird habit, I was so crazy that I would attend exhibitions just to grab the free bags and pens! Because of that habit, I would end up with lots of paper, bags and pens to deal with. Time and effort were spent on discarding, keeping and storing.
Recycled bags accumulated from exhibition visits
4. My preloved clutter
Every time my partner questioned me about my purchase, I would tell him I needed it and if I didn’t need it, I could always sell it online as preloved. Or anything that members of the family had outgrown, I wanted to keep all preloved items with the intention of selling them online. Boy, I was so wrong. This mindset made me buy and keep so many things at home. I always carried the hope with me that I would be able to sell whatever I bought and, as a result, either there was nobody buying from me or I had to sell them at a really low price even though the stuff was brand new. The things I wanted to sell but couldn’t sell started to accumulate until I needed a room to store those things.
A room full of stuff waiting to be sold
5. My buyer’s remorse clutter
This is the worst kind of my clutter. Because what I bought did not fit the purpose I intended it for, I would keep the things because I always thought that I would need them in the future. It could be that I bought the wrong size; the item didn’t work as advertised; or it was simply due to my compulsive buying. If I failed to repurpose them, what happened next was I would simply chuck them aside.
6. My sentimental clutter
I had the tendency to collect things which were sentimental to me. I loved to collect books. College textbooks, college notes, recipe books, maternity books, baby food/puree books, baby care books, it took me FOUR years to realize that I needed to let them go. Since I had decided that I wouldn’t have any more children, there was no reason for me to still keep those books.
Also, gifts from my spouse, family, and friends, I still kept everything, and I was unwilling to let them go.
The strongest sentimental feeling I had was for things that belonged to my children. I had collected their clothes and toys since they were babies. I kept their water bottles, milk bottles, bowls and plates, cutlery, high chairs, etc.
I was still keeping my boys’ shoes for a year after they had outgrown them or the shoes were worn out.
7. My “just-in-case” clutter
I also kept things because I thought they would be useful in the future. I kept manuals, empty boxes, books, magazines, bowls, plates, cups, pots, cables, cords, plastic bags, recycled bags, etc. Everything I could think of in case I needed them in the future.
“This thing is handy and useful, maybe I will need it in the future.”
“This thing looks nice, I might need it later.”
“This thing is so educational, maybe the boys can use it when they are older.”
In my case, sometimes I kept things for the sake of keeping them.
8. My outgrown clutter
Before my pregnancy, I had a huge stash of nice clothes which I hoped I could wear after I had given birth. Even after 4 years, I still kept the clothes.
Another meaning of outgrown clutter is overloaded clutter. In my case, there were so many DVDs, CDs, handbags, shoes, that I had nowhere to store them properly. And for those items, I would probably not be using them anymore ever.
Old DVDs which nobody at home was watching anymore
9. My aspirational clutter
I always felt I should be a good cook when I became a mom. So, I bought lots of cooking and recipes books, as well as cooking-related products. Every time someone recommended a good kitchen product, or recipe book, or organic food, I would rush to buy it.
But because I really hated cooking and I felt defeated every time I tried to cook, I stopped cooking entirely. As a result, all the stuff I bought was just chucked in the kitchen cabinet and many things were still new in the box and never opened. The food remained in the fridge to expire or rotten.
10. My hobby clutter
I enjoyed playing with jigsaws as a hobby. I loved to buy puzzles with the intention of solving them in my spare time. However, after becoming a mom, I never had that “spare time”. I continued to buy them but had no time to work on them. As a result, a big collection of jigsaw puzzles were piling up in my room collecting dust.
11. My forgotten clutter
Have you had the experience of buying an item and after that you realize you have the same item at home?
Sometimes I forgot about the things I had bought and chucked aside earlier, I conveniently went out to buy more of the same thing because, at that point in time, I indeed needed to use the thing. And when I was doing a spring clean, I saw so many of those items quietly hiding in the storage room. Whoops!
At one point, I had over bought so many refillable liquid hand soaps. It took me two years to finally finish using those liquid hand soaps.
Somehow, whatever things had been put aside, I’d conveniently forget about them. This quote describes me well, “Out of sight, out of mind!”
I can’t believe I bought so many brushes to wash my milk bottles
12. My homeless clutter
My definition of homeless clutter is the clutter created due to the items had no place. This often happened to me when I over-bought or my purchasing was faster than my storing. So, theis stuff ended up like “ghosts” in my house, “floating” here and there, having no home to go to. Because of that, what was likely to happen was I used any available surface to put those things.
Take our bags, for example. Everyone in my home used to leave their bags on the staircase because there was no designated place to put them. My handbags, my spouse’s work bag, my children’s school bags, diaper bags and outdoor bags. Just imagine all these bags lying on the floor. Once, I almost tripped and fell down the stairs because my foot got tangled in the bags.
Leaving the bags on the staircase
13. My procrastinating clutter
Do you have a place at home where you put everything? There’s always a mountain of clutter, with paper, junk, magazines, letters, brochures, leaflets, sunglasses, books, bags, broken items, etc. that need to be cleared.
I had one at home too! It was my dining table. Everything that first came in the house would be there.
This clutter category of mine was highly correlated with my homeless clutter. Because these items had no place to go, they would be forever stuck on my dining table.
After visiting MATTA fair, this pile of brochures was sitting on the dining table for months
14. Not-my-clutter clutter
Okay, seriously, the mess in the house wasn’t created by me alone. It was also due to other family members who left their own clutter. In my case, it was my spouse and children. Despite my efforts to clear the stuff away, their clutter began to pile up. Sigh. It could be worse if I was living with my extended family. The house clutter could be coming from my parents, siblings, relatives, etc.
By identifying the types of clutter, I was more willing to face the problem, and find the solutions to tackle the clutter. Without knowing these types, it would be hard for me to declutter, because I wouldn’t know how to deal with it and I would just continue to be ignorant of the clutter.
Let’s fight against clutter and keep our home clutter-free!
Hi! I’m Josephine Yap and I’m a clutter liberation expert, a wife, a daughter, a homemaker, and a mom to my active triplet boys. I’m super passionate about decluttering. My wish is to share my decluttering journey so that everyone get inspired to reduce the clutter, make their life at home easier, and enjoy the comfort of their space at home with the people their love.