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What The Clutter In Your Home is Trying to Tell You


We all have areas in our home where stuff tends to migrate and multiply. Pinpoint your clutter zone to learn how to tackle it and achieve bigger goals!

Home Office

A desk deluged with papers is often a sign of procrastination, which may hold you back from financial goals, says Kerri Richardson, author of What Your Clutter Is Trying to Tell You ($12.21, Amazon). “As the papers pile up, so does our resistance to tackling it, until documents like bills are past due.”

Clutter Cure: Divide and conquer with three F’s. 

Take 10 minutes each week to separate papers into “keep” and “recycle” piles, advises Richardson. Then divide the keepers by “file,” “follow up,” and “figure out.” You might file taxes, follow up on bills, and figure out a work project. This way, nothing builds up, your finances stay on track and a task that would have taken days is done in a flash!

Attics and Basements 

Hiding clutter in an out-of-sight spot suggests you hold on to items you believe may be useful one day even if they’re not serving a purpose now, says Shannon Upton, author of Organizing You ($14.95, Amazon). “Also, your anxiety over the future may lead you to keep a lot of sentimental items representing the past.”

Clutter Cure: Let go with intent.

To cull mementos, take photos of items, then donate them, or save one object that represents a collection and display it. “For things you worry you’ll need one day, just ask yourself, Could I borrow this in the future?” says Upton. “Often, the space things take up is more valuable than the items themselves.”


Clutter that piles up in communal spaces, like tables, often signals that you’re feeling overwhelmed. “When we’re tired, we gravitate to already messy areas like kitchen tables because they’re easily accessible,” says Upton. “Once the space is ‘broken in,’ we continue to add more stuff because it’s an easy drop-off spot.”

Clutter Cure: Go for strategic decor. 

To liberate flat surfaces from clutter, just put organizing alternatives in plain sight. If mail piles up on your table, place a basket there as an inbox. Or if purses find their way to tabletops, hang a set of hooks on a nearby wall. Says Upton, “Rather than changing your behavior completely, bend your organizing system to what you’re already doing.”


Displaying a neat home while stashing stuff in bustling closets often implies we’re holding back a secret interest. Says Richardson, “We hide things we’re insecure about, such as items from hobbies we haven’t revisited in a long time.”

Clutter Cure: Take a dreams inventory.

Set a timer for 25 minutes and go through your closet, tossing items that may be holding you back — say, a dress that reminds you of a difficult time — and pulling out things that symbolize the future, like the paintbrushes representing the creativity you want to rekindle in your life. Seeing your dreams makes them easier to achieve.

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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