Clutter blindness comes in many forms: some people are unable to register any clutter at all in their lives, but mostly it only applies to a particular type of item. Some people overlook anything related to paperwork, others don’t register the mess in the hallway. This blindness is not limited to clutter either: I believe that dust may not actually register for some people, or dishes piling up waiting to be washed.
Proper ‘clutter’ blindness is interesting because most of us seem to be oblivious to certain kinds of stuff that is going on in our environment, and this could be linked with the effects of procrastination (not noticing the deadlines creeping up), feeling unsafe (not seeing danger as such, but unconsciously being aware of it, sometimes to a point of paranoia), and very rarely can the mess be attributed to laziness.
Most commonly someone points out a strange thing to us and thereby confronts us with our own clutter blindness. They may have seen a pattern in our behaviour, they mention the accumulation of papers in a corner of the room, or they comment on the fact that we cannot park our car in the garage any more because of all the stuff that has landed there and never been touched again. Sadly, many people react negatively to these comments, dismissing those off hand and never really questioning the potential truth behind the comments.
I should think that we better be thankful to have friends and family around us who care enough to point these things out to us! It’s the kind of thing we are unable to see on our own, and it can be helpful on occasion to have our collective noses pushed into the pile of junk that we have accumulated, often against our own better judgment.
For all the reasons mentioned above, it can be hard to tell if you have become clutter blind, but there are ways to check for yourself where you find yourself right now. One of the main culprits to turn a blind eye to clutter is our old friend: habit. If you have lived for a while in the same space, you have made your nest and rarely apply changes to it, you are likely to become a creature of habit sooner or later. Having habits means “you do not need to look at stuff” all the time. And therefore you don’t notice things any more.
Another reason for clutter blindness is easy to describe: we simply don’t take the time to look closely because “there are more important things to do”. Indeed, our lives tend to be full of things to do, and making time for clutter seems to be the last thing on our to-do list.
However, there is hope. If you do not want to rely on other people telling you things at random moments in your life, here is an simple way to take a good look yourself. You have to make sure that you have about 15 minutes to do this!
Step 1: choose a room or space you want to inspect
Step 2: clear your mind
This is the most important step, really. As we have established earlier, much of the clutter accumulates because our minds are absent. Making sure that we have nothing else on your mind will allow you to soak in whatever you see.
There are two main ways to do this:
If you have other ways to calm your mind (watching the clouds or the birds in your garden, etc.), by all means, use whatever works for you!
Step 3: take a good look
Return to the room you want to inspect. Have a good look around and notice everything that is in the room. You may want to make a list of items, or just soak it in, whatever you can do to bring things to mind properly. The goal is to zone in on situations that register as unusual: items out of place, items that are in the way of your path, furniture you bump into, items that annoy you, items with a lot of dust on them,… anything that seems to stand out.
Step 4: take action
This is basically a very rudimentary version of being away from home for a couple of weeks and returning, and then seeing things from the point of view of an outsider. You sort of take on the role of your friend or family member noticing things from that outsider’s viewpoint.
This sense of ‘strangeness’ usually fades within a couple of minutes, and you better be quick about taking stock! The good news is, however, that it can be replicated easily, as often as you want to. And you’ll get a bit of mental rest at the same time, I’d call that a win-win situation.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.