Clutter blindness is a real thing.
When you become so used to seeing clutter in your environment, you stop noticing it altogether.
Before becoming a minimalist, I experienced clutter blindness all the time. I thought my environment was pretty tidy. But as soon as I removed the clutter, I became super sensitive to it. I could see it everywhere!
Here’s the punchline. If you don’t see the clutter, you’re not going to want to get rid of it.
In this post, you’ll learn:
- What clutter blindness is
- How to know if you have it
- What you can do to overcome it to clear your stubborn clutter for good
Let’s start with the first step.
What is clutter blindness?
Clutter blindness is the term used to describe the inability to see clutter even though your eyes are open. Your brain doesn’t process the clutter because it has adapted to it.
Just like weight gain, clutter happens gradually. One small bad decision leads to another. Before you know it, you’re surrounded by chaos.
For example, putting mail on your kitchen bench over time. Eventually, the clutter of your paperwork becomes so commonplace that you don’t even see it anymore.
However, the mess can still have a negative impact on your life, causing stress and making it difficult to find things when you need them.
If you think you might be suffering from clutter blindness, it’s essential to take steps to declutter your environment and improve your quality of life.
5 signs you have clutter blindness
If you’re not sure if you have clutter blindness, here are 5 signs that might point to the problem.
1. You’re drowning in incomplete tasks and responsibilities
Clutter generally follows unfinished things, whether it’s getting around to returning an unwanted online purchase or leaving your new Ikea furniture half-finished.
When you fail to finish something, you risk letting it clutter up your life. Distracted by more pressing obligations or simply lacking the motivation to complete a particular task, you may leave it undone for months or even years.
Ultimately, recognising this pattern and seeking help for clutter blindness can be necessary for regaining control over our lives and restoring balance in all areas of life–both physically and mentally. More on this later.
2. You’re unhappy or frustrated with your environment
If you’re sad or frustrated with the state of your home, it’s a sign that you have clutter blindness. Specifically, you stay back at work because you dread walking into your cluttered home. Or you’re not inspired to spend time in your living areas and home office.
It’s similar to when you’re unhappy about finances or your health. You can bury your head in the sand and hope it magically disappears.
The thing is, clutter doesn’t just magically disappear. Ignoring it won’t make it go away. It builds up over time, and sooner or later, you have to deal with it.
3. Your clutter is hazardous
At first, clutter may seem like an inconvenience or even a minor annoyance. But when a mess seriously impacts your quality of life and becomes hazardous, it’s often a sign that you have clutter blindness.
For example, clutter might lead to tripping and falling over forgotten items lying on the ground. Or, items like plates and glasses become more likely to slip out of your hands due to the other crowded objects around them. This type of clutter blindness is common among those who suffer from chronic disorganisation and hoarding behaviours.
While clutter blindness can certainly be problematic in these cases, it’s also something that we can all struggle with from time to time.
When this happens, take steps toward getting organised to avoid accidents and injuries caused by your clutter.
4. Friends and family willingly offer to help you clean
When your friends and family suddenly offer to help you clean, you likely have clutter blindness. Clutter blindness is caused by various factors, including long hours at work or simply having too many things.
Whatever the cause may be, reflect on why your loved ones seem to be constantly offering their assistance with cleaning up clutter.
Perhaps they’re reacting to apparent signs of disorganisation and want to help you reclaim your space. Or maybe they are concerned about the state of your mental health and think that a clutter-free environment might improve how you feel.
These seemingly random offers from friends and family remind you that clutter may be taking over your life, and it’s time for you to take action.
5. You regularly misplace your things
You know the feeling: you’re looking for your keys, phone, or wallet, and no matter how hard you search, you can’t find them. You eventually give up and resign to the fact that they’re gone.
If you regularly misplace or lose your things, it’s a sign that you have clutter blindness. And while it may not seem like a big deal, this habit can have consequences.
For one thing, it leads to wasted time and lost productivity. Every time you search for something, it takes away from time that could be better spent doing something else.
Clutter blindness can also lead to anxiety and stress. When you can’t find something, it creates a feeling of helplessness and frustration.
6 ways to overcome clutter blindness
At this point, you’re probably wondering how you can overcome clutter blindness. After all, if you’re suffering from clutter blindness, it can be hard even to know where to start.
Fortunately, you can do a few things to conquer your clutter blindness and take back control of your life. Below are 6 strategies to help.
1. Ask for help
Asking for help is an essential part of addressing your clutter blindness. Often, we get so mired in our problems and patterns that we cannot see the situation clearly.
Seeking out the advice and input of others can be a great way to break out of these preconceived notions and gain a new perspective.
For instance, if you know a minimalist or very organised person, you may consider reaching out to them for advice.
Alternatively, if you’d prefer to work with a professional, many decluttering and organisation experts can help guide you through this process.
Typically, these specialists will bring their expertise and experience to identify the underlying causes behind your clutter blindness and then develop strategies that address those issues effectively.
Ultimately, whether you turn to someone you know or seek help from a professional, remain open-minded and receptive to feedback as you try to overcome your clutter blindness once and for all.
2) Take pictures of every space in your home
Images give you a perspective that you might not be able to see on your own, allowing you to gain objectivity and proof of the areas in your home where clutter may be accumulating.
For instance, you may get a good perspective of what’s happening inside your room by standing in the doorway and capturing it with your phone.
Similarly, photographing what’s inside your drawers or makeup cabinet lets you see exactly what items are taking up too much space and need to be cleared out.
With these photographic records, you can better evaluate your belongings and choose what needs to stay and what needs to go.
What’s more, you get to enjoy before and after photos that you can share with your friends and family (or keep to yourself), fuelling your motivation to continue living clutter-free.
3. Identify your clutter release points (your dumping grounds)
One way to overcome clutter blindness is to identify your clutter release points. These are areas where you tend to dump items when cleaning or organising.
For example, you might have a basket for holding items to be put away. Or you might have a chair that you use for throwing clothes that need to be laundered.
By identifying your clutter release points, you can make a conscious effort to keep these areas clear. This will help you to see the clutter in your home and take steps to address it.
More importantly, keeping your clutter release points clear is a sign that you’re making progress.
4. Give everything you own a home
One of the best ways to reduce clutter in your home is to ensure that everything has a designated “home.” This means that every time you bring something new into the house, you need to have a plan for where it will go.
Gradually work through all of the categories in your house, including clothing, electronics, kitchenware, toys, furniture, and other miscellaneous items.
As you come across new items that need a place to call home, take some time to find an appropriate location for them and make sure that everyone in the household is aware of where that location is.
For example, I recently purchased some new basketball shoes, and I intended to keep my old ones as casual shoes. I decided in advance to designate my sports bag as the new home for these shoes. This will prevent them from cluttering up other areas of my house while also making it easier to locate the shoes when they’re needed. It may seem small, but it can make a big difference over time.
When things don’t have a home, they tend to get shuffled around from one place to another. This can lead to cluttered surfaces and an overall sense of chaos. But when everything has its dedicated place, your home will feel more peaceful and organised.
Moreover, if everyone in the household is aware of where things “belong,” it will be easier to keep the clutter under control.
5. Reset your surfaces every evening
When you are working to address your clutter blindness, resetting your various surfaces every evening is an essential strategy. This technique focuses on particular pressure points in the home, such as the kitchen and dining tables, but it can also be used with other areas such as office desks, coffee tables, and bedside tables.
One of the benefits of this approach is that it compels you to confront the unfinished or unopened items accumulated during the day rather than simply shove them out of sight until later.
By dealing with these inevitable to-dos right away, you can clear your mind and avoid the feeling of overwhelm that often accompanies clutter blindness.
6. Declutter your home
You didn’t think you’d read a minimalist blog without talking about decluttering, did you? By far, decluttering is the most powerful thing you can do to train your mind to see clutter in the future.
Decluttering forces you to confront your habits and choices, inevitably changing your behaviour. Even if decluttering doesn’t “stick” immediately, going through your belongings and making decisions about what to keep and what to let go is invaluable.
It’s a form of mindfulness that will pay dividends in the long run. So if you’re feeling stuck in a rut with your clutter, start small and work your way up. You might be surprised at how much difference it makes.
Read more: Decluttering Checklist For Minimalists (Over 100 Ideas + Free PDF)
Clutter blindness: final thoughts
Clutter blindness can be difficult to overcome, but these 6 tips provide a good starting point. By focusing on particular pressure points in your home and resetting your surfaces every evening, you can make progress in tackling the clutter that has been accumulating for years.
And it’s worth repeating — decluttering your home is the most effective strategy for overcoming clutter blindness. It may seem daunting at first, but you can achieve great results by taking things one step at a time.
Do you or someone you know have clutter blindness? What strategies have you found to be effective in overcoming it? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
I had never heard of clutter blindness before. It is such a good term! I definitely felt like it explains some of my own struggle with clutter, especially when you mentioned unfinished projects and tasks. That kind of mental clutter along with small but significant project clutter is my main weakness! I still have work to do around organizing myself. This article reminds me to be more mindful around small tasks and projects, and completing them to avoid clutter. Thank you!
Hi Heather! Yup, unfinished projects can create a real burden. Dealing with them alone can have such a massive impact on your space. You can do this! Thanks for sharing.
I live in a small apartment in the city and have way too much stuff that I’ve collected and hauled along over the last 35 years and feel overwhelmed every day, including a storage space that I have to pay extra for. I made a plan last month to STOP BUYING THINGS and take one thing out (sometimes more) every single day and do one of these things with it:
– bringing it to work where I will photograph it and sell it online via etsy, eBay or mercari. I have extra room there to hold things while their destination is determined.
– Recycling it if possible. my city has a great textile recycling program which takes shoes and clothing or fabrics even if they have damaged zippers, missing buttons, rips or tears!
– Donating it to goodwill, an animal shelter or other local non-profit organizations.
– Lastly, throwing it away if it doesn’t fit into any of the above categories.
Once I got started, it became easier every day and I actually get excited every morning looking for something to let go of. I borrow the work truck on fridays and make the rounds to deliver the bags and boxes for the item’s next lives. I haven’t noticed too much of a difference in my clutter levels yet, but I know it’s going to show soon based on how much I’ve taken out over the last month!
Hi Nancy! I love your process of dealing with your things in a tighter space, and it appears that it’s led to some positive habits. I’m confident you’ll start feeling the results as you continue to chip away. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for this article. I am doing my best to de-clutter, especially my bedroom that I share with a computer and a sewing machine. I live in a condo and the space is what it is. By some adjusting, I can open more space in my bedroom.
Hi Mary! Smaller spaces are beautiful because you can’t really escape or hide the clutter. It sounds like you’ve found some opportunities to open up some space.