Waging War on Clutter

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CLUT•TER: To fill with scattered or disordered things that restrict movement or efficiency; a crowded or jumbled mass or accumulation; disorder. Or, all that stuff you’ve got all over the place that everybody keeps telling you to get rid of.

Sooner or later, clutter invades nearly everyone’s life. In a world that focuses increasingly on things that accumulate with startling ease, finding the time to enjoy, care for, store, and catalog all these objects and materials can be more and more difficult.

For some, the clutter is confined to one area; for example, too many books or magazines and not enough time to read them, or a messy garage. For others, clutter starts as a small problem and , over time, becomes a very large and seemingly overwhelming situation. As they sink deeper and deeper into the chaos, excuses become almost traditional. Clutterbugs, as a general rule, seem to follow certain patterns as they edge toward clutter chaos. These are a few of your more basic clutter types:

The Stasher

The Stasher stashes everything. If there is a closet or cabinet door to hide things behind, the Stasher will open it and start stashing. The Stasher often stashes good things along with useless clutter; they drag home used books covered with mildew only to stash them with the good jewelry or antiques already in the cupboard.

On the surface, the Stasher looks neat; but don’t believe it for a minute! When the Stasher comes out of the closet, you’ll find a pack rat, pure and simple.

The Spreader

Spreaders can be found anywhere, but are most obvious in an office setting. It is impossible for Spreaders to work on one piece of paper at a time. They are only happy if they can spread papers over every available surface. No matter how neat their desk looked when they started, everything is spread all over the place within five minutes of their arrival. Then they layer the spread by constantly adding to the mess without ever attempting to (gasp!) get rid of or put away any of the papers from the many layers. When anyone comments on the plethora of papers, the Spreader screeches, “Don’t touch anything. I know exactly where everything is!” And the truth is, most of the time, they do. But it takes twenty minutes to unearth a piece of paper (they know which pile it’s in, after all—it’s just a matter of digging it out). Spreaders often claim to be overworked and underpaid. They are convinced that nobody else could handle the very important paperwork that falls under their domain. Most of the time, only about 20 percent of those papers have any value at all; the rest could be tossed or filed.

And the remaining 20 percent could probably be handled by somebody else much more efficiently. Just ask any Spreader who has been fired for “not being able to handle the workload.” Spreaders create work where there is none and never get to what really needs to be done. They’re too busy spreading.

The Messie

The Messie makes little messes all over the place. For example, getting dressed in the morning is a mess, particularly since, when the Messie does the laundry, that turns into a mess with clean clothes in little piles everywhere. This necessitates a search for the pile with the clean underwear before actual dressing can be gin. The Messie probably made a mess of his/her toys as a child. While the Stasher sometimes tries to pack as much as possible into a closet or cupboard, the Messie bypasses “packing” altogether. They opt instead to toss things into piles, which are inside and outside of closets and cupboards. They often have an apparently easygoing personality and act as if the messes aren’t there (even as they add to the messes). When people survey the Messie’s messes and exclaim, “What a mess!” the bewildered Messie cries, “What mess?”

The Procrastinator

Serious Procrastinators try very hard to procrastinate to the point where they will never have the time to deal with any of the clutter in their lives. These folks are often heavy-duty perfectionists as well. They put things off because they don’t have time to do it perfectly. They don’t do the filing because they don’t have exactly the right labels for the file folders (the labels have to be ordered from Outer Podunk, so chances are they never will get those labels). So the filing turns into piles that turn into paper mountains. They don’t clean out the garage because they need some shelving, which only they can install, and before they can install it, they need a super-fandangled tool (which, of course, is not at the local hardware store and never will be). So now the garage holds every thing but the car. Procrastinators often run around in a tizzy doing absolutely nothing and getting totally exhausted in the process. Many Procrastinators are well-read. They read all the time. All of this reading material just adds to the general clutter, and the time it takes to read leaves very little time — if any—for getting organized and putting the accumulated clutter away. Procrastinators are very clever people. They put a great deal of time, thought, and energy into the act of procrastinating. If they put half as much time into getting organized, they could probably go into the business and be professional organizers.

The Pack Rat

Pack Rats are the ultimate hoarders. They keep everything and live in terror of the thought that something might actually get thrown away. Pack Rats live by their own code of logic regarding the actual value of the things that come into their lives. Everything has value to the Pack Rats. When Pack Rats run out of room to store their accumulation, they simply go out and purchase more room. They rent storage units or buy larger houses and as soon as they have done that, they very methodically fill them up. Pack Rats pack their stuff all over the place: in piles, boxes, and bags; in closets and cupboards; under the bed; on any available shelving; on tables and counters; behind the sofa; and in drawers all over the house. When those spaces fill up, they simply start stacking clutter against walls and on any other available floor space. If anyone dares to try to get rid of some of the Pack Rats’ stash (say, for example, by tossing twenty-year-old newspapers), the Pack Rats head—fuming—straight to the garbage cans and pull every thing back out that had been tossed. Then, regardless of the condition of the item, they drag it back into the house. This is when the Pack Rats start reaching the point of no return. Once this stacking-out-in and garbage-digging begins, it's only a matter of time before there is a system of narrow pathways through the house (which is otherwise piled high with their hoard of mostly useless clutter). Pack Rats who achieve this ominous clutter gridlock often need serious professional help.

Nearly everybody stashes, spreads, messes, procrastinates, or mindlessly hoards at one time or another. Regardless of your clutter condition—from spotty (a little clutter here and there) to sporty (cluttering is the thing you do best; you are a champion at cluttering and collecting) — nearly everybody, at one time or another, resorts to the Clutterbug’s list of excuses to defend their clutter accumulation: Clutterbug’s Excuse Almanac

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Clutterbug’s Excuse Almanac

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