1. Scarcity Mentality
A scarcity mentality is a deep rooted belief that you don't have enough, you won't have enough in the future, or there's not enough to "go around." Most people have some limiting beliefs just like these. Do you? It's easy to tell! Do you find yourself hoarding things? It could be anything: clothes, makeup, food, cleaning supplies, candles, etc. You could even be a friendship or relationship "hoarder."
You feel compelled to collect things because deep down, you're afraid there might not be enough. Maybe it's because you feel "behind" in life, and as though everyone else is being more successful than you. Maybe you're worried about running out of money. Maybe you're worried that people don't like you enough for them to stick around. There are lots of fears in life, and they really do affect you! Fortunately, there are also ways to calm those fears. You can find ways to send signals to your brain and body that you have enough, you are content, and there will always be enough. As long as you continue to contribute work to "the pile" there will be plenty of "profit" for everyone. Commit to developing an abundance mindset. You'll find yourself happier with your life, more generous, and more optimistic about the future.
Can't Stop Shopping?
Your brain is focused on your survival, and if you have a scarcity mentality, then one of the ways that your brain is protecting you is by compelling you to "stock up." Your brain just wants you to be okay when the famine comes! The urge to "gather" is a very powerful one and difficult to overcome. Rather than trying to fight it, it's best to deal with the root cause: that scarcity mindset. By working to foster an abundance mindset instead, you can stop the urge, rather than fight it. If you're always just fighting against it, then whenever you do go shopping you'll be feeling guilty for giving in. On the other hand, by fostering more positive relationships with possessions and money, you'll only feel like buying things when you need to, and you'll get to go out and really enjoy the processing of finding and gathering. And that's not to say that you'll never go shopping for fun! It's enjoyable to look at pretty things, and sometimes you'll find one that you really like, even if you don't need it. That's completely alright. What isn't so alright is feeling compelled to gather unnecessary amounts of stuff, hoard the stuff for "someday," and let it crowd up your life.
Nothing to Wear?
Do you ever stand in front of your closet in the morning, feeling frustrated and confused? Why do you seem to have "nothing to wear"? You have a closet full of perfectly good clothes that you bought because you thought you liked them. But now none of them seem quite right, quite nice enough, and they certainly don't go together.
There's two main reasons for this:
- You haven't yet found a strong sense of style. Now, I don't mean that you're not stylish, or that you need to be stylish. It's just that you haven't really settled into a style of your own. When you have to much clutter in your life, it's very difficult to find your style in the midst of it. Some people (those more stylish than me) manage to do it anyway, even easily. However, for those of us who style doesn't come so naturally for, adding a whole bunch of distracting clutter to the picture really makes it a lot more difficult. And, if you don't know what your style is, then chances are that half your clothes don't match what you truly want to look like, and very few of them match each other.
- Scarcity mentality. Yes, I'm bringing this up again---because it really is at the root of many people's clutter problems. How does a scarcity mentality make you have nothing to wear? Quite simply: if you believe you don't have enough, then you will perceive that you don't have enough. If you're afraid that you don't know what to wear, then you'll be paralyzed by that fear. Your limiting belief of scarcity will trick your mind into not seeing the abundance that is before you. Your closet really is rather abundant, isn't it?
FOMO, Depression, Loneliness, and More
We all have our demons, and we all find ways to fight back, self-sooth, and compensate. Many people collect physical items when they feel scarcity in other areas of their life. Scarcity of happiness or companionship are difficult to deal with, and those commodities are not easily supplied. In desperation, your brain will try to fill the gap with whatever resources can be found. Yes, this might be clothes; yes, this might be food; it might even be exercising, candles, or drinking. A slightly humorous hodge podge of things, I know, but your brain and body will take whatever they can get when they feel deprived. They are just trying to protect you!
2. Lack of Clarity of Purpose
You might find clutter collecting in your life simply because you don't know what you're trying to do or who you're trying to be. When you don't know what you're trying to accomplish then you're likely to try (and buy) a whole lot of things in the process of trying to figure it out.
If you lack clarity of your style (as discussed above), then even if you don't have a scarcity mentality, even if you have a mindset of extreme abundance, you still might find yourself collecting excess clothing in an attempt to figure out your style. How do you want people to perceive you? It's an important question, but perhaps one that is better answered with Pinterest boards, careful planning, and shopping with honest friends, rather than just buying more and more until you eventually "figure it out." (Because, with all that clutter in your life, your chances of EVER figuring it out dwindle away.)
Style Your House for Success
Lack of clarity of your style can affect your home in just the same way it affects your wardrobe. If you don't know how you want your home to feel or how you want your home to function, it's very difficult to determine what style you would like to apply to it, and even more difficult to correctly execute that style (by finding and buying home decor, and attractively installing the pieces once you do find them). Some thoughtful, intentional time spent considering how you want your home to feel, what you need your home to do for you, and how you want your home to function can save you so much time, money, and frustration later down the road. Maybe you want your home to feel like a calm oasis, or to satisfy your taste for the dramatic. Maybe you want the homey feeling of a rustic country cabin, or the serenity of a spa. Find what will bring you joy and rejuvenation. Your home should be a place to recharge from the world, not a place to fight a battle with chores and clutter.
A Clear Plan of Attack
Even in the most beautiful home with the most perfect atmosphere, there's still work to do to maintain. Much of that work requires supplies. In fact, much of anything you have to do in life requires supplies of some sort. If you don't have a clear plan for what you're doing, then knowing what supplies you'll need, and when you'll need them, can be quite the challenge. For example, if you don't plan your meals for the week (or whatever period of time suits you), then you won't know what food to purchase. That means you'll likely buy too much of some things and not enough of some others---which will result in another, mid-week, trip to the grocery store, where you'll probably buy a bit too much of something else. You'll slowly collect more and more food, but still have to keep going back for more whenever you run out of things. Aside from the clutter this creates, it also result in a lot of waste and potential food spoilage.
Lack of planning in other areas can also accumulate excess. For example, if you don't have a plan of how much time you have available to read, and what you'll read next, then you might gather more books than you'll ever have the time to read! And if you don't have plans in place for when you're going to do home repairs, then you might keep collecting more and more supplies to do the repairs, without ever getting them done until it's time to sell your house. (It's fine if you want to wait until then, but there's no reason to clutter up your house with those supplies until then. It might be years before you need them!).
The Best Investment
What is the best investment? Where should you spend your time and money? Should you donate to the poor, spend on enjoyable things now, or save for when you are old? Should you spend all your time working now so that you have more money later, should you work as little as possible and volunteer with a charity the rest of the time, or should you spend all your free time just building relationships with your family and friends?
There is not necessarily one right answer. Different lifestyles suit different people and make different people happy. However, it is important that you know YOUR answers. Why? And what does this have to do with clutter?
When you don't know these answers, and you don't know what you're trying to do with your life, then you have nothing to guide how you spend your resources. You lack clarity. Since you don't know what you want to do with them for sure, you just do random things with them. You buy an extra pair of shoes, a new set of dishes, a trip to Hawaii, or a new car. Sometimes you buy things you need, sometimes you buy things just because you want them. But you collect more than you need OR want, because you don't actually know what you are trying to accomplish with the things. You waste your time on things you don't care about, because you don't know what you actually want to be doing with your time.
Taking the time to consider what you actually want your life to look like today and in the future will save you an infinite amount of time and money---resources that could be wasted on nothing, or could be used to create something beautiful.
A House Full of Clutter
The final main reason why clutter collects is simply because you already have a house full of clutter. Clutter has amazing ways of disguising other clutter, attracting more clutter, and confusing you into thinking you need more things (clutter!)
Clutter Hides Clutter
The more clutter you have, the more places there are for clutter to hide. The more clutter you have, the less you notice one more item added to the pile. Clutter is visually distracting, so the more stuff you have, the less you are able to see what you actually have, where it is, and how much the clutter is slowly growing. (Where's your storage problem? Is your attic slowing getting stuffed? are your dishes multiplying? Do your Christmas supplies seem to have expanded every year?) Clutter can grow in hiding (storage), or right in front of you (knickknacks, home decor, your wardrobe, etc). The more clothes in your closet, the less you notice new ones---and the less you notice the old ones, pushed to the back.
Clutter Adds to Scarcity
Clutter, with its marvelous ability to hide and disguise, can actually add to the scarcity mentality we discussed above. You'd think that the more you have, the more abundant you'd feel your life was. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), it doesn't work that way. The more clutter in your life, the more you can't see what you have. Instead of seeing individual items that you love and appreciate, you just see a bunch of annoying, useless stuff.
Clutter Tricks You Into Buying More
Aside from the mental tricks clutter is playing on you, it also has a tactic of brute force. It takes your things and hides them, forcing you to buy replacements. When was the last time you bought more pens? You've bought pens before, haven't you? You've probably bought enough pens to last a lifetime! But where are they now? Perhaps some of them actually got used up, but probably most of them just got lost. The more clutter you have in your home, the more this happens. The more you lose things and have to buy replacements---which obviously creates even more clutter for things to get lost in.
Clutter Is OVERWHELMING
The more clutter you have, the more distracted YOU are. The less you can see what you really have, what you really need, or even what you really want. Having clutter attracts more clutter in so many ways. Clutter is very sneaky stuff. I advise that you get it out of your life before it has the opportunity to play more tricks on you. If not taken care of, it's a problem that will only get worse.
Gillian Perkins is a mom, successful entrepreneur, and the author of Sorted. She is a prolific content creator and private consultant who enjoys helping others develop order and discover balance in life. Gillian is the founder and executive director of Northwest School of Music. She lives in beautiful, green Oregon with her husband and two young children.