How To Declutter Your Home Using Your Emotions

To declutter your home effectively, focus on the emotions that your possessions trigger. If you’re unsure where to start, I’ve compiled some of my favorite decluttering tips and inspiring quotes from well-known authors and professional declutterers to help you stay motivated and on track.

If you have been struggling to declutter your home despite repeated attempts, this post might help. Over the years, as I have organized homes and written about them, I have realized that the most effective way to declutter a house is to examine the emotions that are triggered by the things around you. So, in this post, I will share some tips on how you can use your instincts to declutter your home.

What is Clutter?

But first, let’s define clutter. According to Oxford Languages, clutter is a collection of things lying about in an untidy mass.

When you read this definition, you may think of the stack of papers on your kitchen counter, the numerous boxes in the attic or basement, or the clothes you hardly wear and have hanging in your closet. And you’re correct; that’s precisely what clutter is, mostly. But when you dig deeper and look at what I like to call ‘the other side of clutter,’ things start getting messy. No pun intended.

Because, in reality, it is not only the physical presence of clutter that’s bogging you down. There’s something more in-depth: the feelings triggered by clutter. In other words, clutter affects your physical space and triggers emotional responses.

So, to learn how to declutter your home, first, you need to learn how to identify those emotions. Then, making decisions becomes easier.

How To Declutter Your Home Using Your Emotions

So, now that we have an idea of what clutter is let’s dive deep into how to declutter our homes by trusting our feelings. Whether we think of clutter as an untidy mass of things lying around or the things that prevent us from moving forward, one thing is true: clutter stands in the way!

Here are two tips to keep in mind always when decluttering your home:

  1. Clutter reminds us of the big and small decisions we have avoided—all those things we set aside to put away and do later. 
  2. Clutter stands between you and the life you want to live. Psychologically, it stops you from reaching the goals—whatever their size—you set for yourself and your family.

All in all, clutter is disguised as all kinds of things. Here are five ways to help you identify it in all its forms through the feelings it may trigger.

1. Declutter Things in Your Home That You Don’t Like

As many would interpret it, clutter is visually unappealing or overstimulating. It can also be anything that doesn’t serve a useful purpose—anything that triggers a feeling of dislike or disgust. So, when you see things in your home that you don’t like, it’s time to declutter the space where they’re in. Whether it’s a coffee table or a closet, declutter it. Keep in your home only the things that you deem useful and beautiful!

If you make statements such as “I don’t like this chair” because it’s uncomfortable or worn out, or “I hate this pen” because it smears, these things are clutter. And, similarly, there are numerous other items that you can discover, examine, criticize, and label as clutter.

Likewise, if you feel embarrassed when you see something in your home that is visually unappealing, broken, dirty, or plain ugly, let it go.

how to declutter

Next time you want to declutter your home and don’t know where to begin, think of these words from professional organizer Marie Kondo, “…ask yourself if the item sparks joy – you should feel a little thrill as if the cells in your body are slowly rising. If it does, keep it! If it doesn’t, let it go with gratitude.”

2. Declutter Items in Your Home that Trigger Frustration

Frustration is one of the most apparent feelings you might experience when facing clutter. Clutter is frustrating! If something stands between your will and the things that need to be done and stops you from moving forward, that is clutter. 

A perfect example is the typical jumbled kitchen utensils drawer. Making a meal becomes frustrating when you can’t find the utensil you need exactly when you need it. Decluttering, organizing, and keeping what’s useful in your kitchen guarantees frustration-free cooking.

how to declutter your home

Along the same lines, kitchen appliances blocking access to the dinnerware or clean laundry piled on the dining table can cause frustration.

Do you have to discard the kitchen appliance? No. You have to remove the frustration. Relocate and organize your kitchen appliances so they do not stand in your way. Create new good habits when you do laundry, like piling the clean load inside a basket so you can move it or transport it easily.

Getting rid of clutter is often not about discarding things but about rearranging items or creating new habits that allow an easy and frustration-free flow of tasks.

Likewise, clutter can cause discouragement or lack of motivation. When something makes you say words like ‘I don’t want to do it’ or ‘It’s too difficult,’ take a moment to identify why you’re feeling discouraged. Ask yourself, what’s standing in my way? The solution might be easier than you think. 

If clutter stands in the way of your progress, it must be cleared as soon as possible.

3. If it Gives You Anxiety, Declutter It

One of the feelings that you may experience often when encountering clutter is anxiety. Often, clutter reminds us of postponed decisions, causing anxiety and concern. 

To quote decluttering expert Peter Walsh, “[Clutter] is also the constant self-doubt that creeps into your decision-making.”

And when we can’t make a decision, we start feeling anxious.

Paper piles are a clear example of anxiety-causing clutter (here are some tips for decluttering paper!). The pile could contain past-due utility bills or your child’s report card waiting to be signed and sent back to school. When you see that pile and think of everything you might have missed, you start feeling worried and anxious. 

decluttering tips

So, if an area in your home triggers worry, nervousness, or unease, you should declutter it immediately.

Whether there is a pile of paper clutter on your kitchen counter or a trail of toys stranded haphazardly in the playroom, once the clutter is addressed, you free your mind of worries.

When anxiety escalates to disproportioned levels, it becomes a medical disorder. Therefore, you must learn how to identify clutter clusters that could trigger anxiety so you can stop it before it makes matters worse.

4. Declutter Things that Make You Feel Guilt

Clutter and guilt are intrinsically related. In other words, there is a close connection between guilt and clutter accumulation. 

And it goes both ways. There’s clutter triggered by guilt, and guilt triggered by clutter.

  1. We either accumulate clutter because we feel guilty about discarding it.
  2. Clutter triggers guilt because it reminds us of postponed or dodged decisions.

Whatever the case is, without exception, we all experience some guilt when confronting clutter.

A typical example of clutter caused by guilt is the ‘price you paid,’ literally. You might feel guilty because you paid money for something old, out of style, or barely use it, so you hold on to it, thinking—and hoping—that you will need it one day.

This is not a terrible thing. It is normal to want to keep something you purchased with your hard-earned money. But it teaches you a clear lesson: impulsive buys -without a justified reason- result in clutter and -later on- in guilt. 

Other reasons why we feel guilty about discarding stuff may include:

  • Items that connect us to the past
  • Items that connect us to people
  • Gifts from a special someone
  • Family heirlooms

Some examples of guilt triggered by clutter include:

  • The trail of tools or materials left behind because of an unfinished project.
  • A wall calendar full of events that you haven’t responded to.
  • A sink full of dirty dishes makes you feel guilty and anxious.
  • A dusty piece of furniture reminds you how much you paid for it, and now it’s neglected. 
  • You feel guilty after an argument with your child because of his/her untidy room.

Life will happen, and no matter how hard you try to avoid clutter clusters, they will somehow find their way back. However, you can minimize the guilt by setting new habits and routines that can improve how to declutter your home and manage clutter as it happens.

5. If You Feel Indifference, Declutter It

Finally, indifference is a powerful trigger that will help you identify clutter swiftly. When you feel indifferent towards something, the answer is clear: you don’t need that item in your life.

Apathy or detachment are positive triggers that can help you declutter your home faster than you think. Similarly to feelings of dislike, if something doesn’t spark joy, getting rid of it is very easy.

Think of a blouse that you have worn once or twice. And those two times, the blouse felt -for lack of a better word- ‘meh!’ You didn’t feel great wearing it, but you also didn’t feel like it was awful. It felt ‘just ok.’  In other words, you feel like ‘you can live without it.’ That’s precisely what indifference is.

Apathy and the feeling that something is not essential or strictly necessary in your life are good indicators of clutter. Why keep it if it doesn’t add value or joy to your life?

Along the same lines, think about your calendar and schedules. Here, we refer to mental clutter.

Our schedules are often cluttered with activities and commitments that might not interest us. Sometimes, we accept invitations out of politeness and say yes to more activities than our calendar can handle.

Take the time to analyze those commitments and purge your schedule of those that make you feel indifferent or that you can compromise without guilt.

When you pack up a day with activities, you are cluttering your mind with a lot more information than it can process at a given time. So, be intentional with the engagements and commitments you decide to take on. 

Allow indifference to be the indicator and decision-maker regarding physical and mental clutter. Ask yourself: ‘Do I care if I miss this?’.

Decluttering Quotes To Inspire You

To wrap up my tips on how to declutter your home using your feelings, here are four of my favorite quotes to help you start your home decluttering journey.

  • The most famous quote about decluttering is from William Morris; it reads:

Have nothing in your house you don’t know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

William morris
declutter quotes
  • Professional organizer Peter Walsh also wrote:

Clutter is not just the stuff on your floor—it’s anything that stands between you and the life you want to live.

Peter Walsh
declutter quotes
  • Likewise, Joshua Becker wrote:

The first step in crafting the life you want is to get rid of everything you don’t.

Joshua Becker
declutter quotes

And here’s one you didn’t expect to read. Intriguingly, this quote from Mother Teresa of Calcutta serves as a great decluttering tip:

The more you have, the more you are occupied, the less you give. But the less you have, the more free you are.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta
declutter quotes

I completely agree with Mother Teresa’s last statement: “But the LESS you have, the MORE FREE you are!”

Mother Teresa lived her entire life in poverty. She once stated that her congregation was happy even without television. So you would never think she could give you decluttering tips. But, although she may not have been aware of the clutter caused by material possessions, her words hold true for those living a consumerist lifestyle. By looking at her profound words from this perspective, we can understand the truth behind them.

As a creator, I tend to accumulate a lot of stuff, and lately, I’ve realized I don’t have enough free time to enjoy myself. Sometimes, I feel like I’m a slave to my own possessions. They own me instead of me owning them. I spend most of my time finding a place to store them, organizing them, and maintaining them. When I get tired of them, I have to decide whether to keep them, donate them, sell them, or even throw them away. It’s an exhausting process.

Tips to Help You Start Decluttering

In brief, by following your gut feelings, declutter your home one thing at a time. Ask yourself these five questions:

  1. Do I like it?
  2. Does it frustrate me?
  3. Does it give me anxiety?
  4. Does it make me feel guilty?
  5. Do I care about this?

Simply put, clutter is anything that stops you from living your best life. 

Now that you know all those feelings that clutter triggers, I want you to do the work and put your life into perspective.

Pay attention to what you love, what matters, what doesn’t, what serves you a purpose, and what are those things that make you say, ‘meh!’. You might start decluttering your house as soon as you read this!

You can also download the decluttering quotes formatted for Instagram Stories. They are available inside our freebie library. Share them by tagging @neathouse_sweethome on Instagram

have fun decluttering, Flavia