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The Psychology Of Cluttering

Cluttering is often a manifestation of deeper psychological issues like: depression, anxiety, AD/HD (ADD)-like symptoms. There may also be some aspects of OCD tendencies, but cluttering is not hoarding. Hoarding affects less than 1% of the population, while cluttering probably affects a good 30% (based on informal surveys).  The short hyperlinks below will take you to a synopsis of each subject. For fuller discussions, click the menu on the left.

1. AD/HD ADD   
2. Inability to complete tasks
3. Our Shadow Self
4. Emotions uncovered when decluttering.
5. More extensive shadow work with meditation from Clutter-Proof Your Business.
6. More extensive ADD discussion.
7. Maslow's Hierarchy Related to Cluttering.
8. Advanced Shadow Self thoughts.
9. Relationships
10. Our Relationship With The Medical Community


The information in this section from interviews with psychiatric professionals. Choosing whether to be in therapy or not is your decision. Half of our members are in, or have been in, therapy. If you are in therapy, great! If you are not and do not intend to be, this is your personal choice. Do what is best for you. If outside help seems to be calling you, then, by all means, pursue it. In no case do Clutterless meetings take the place of therapy sessions. We believe we are an adjunct to, not a replacement for, professional counseling. If you have been diagnosed as a hoarder, or a person with AD/HD, OCD, depression or anxiety, while our meetings will definitely help you, please do not discontinue your therapy or medications. We believe that God gave medical people their gifts and that we should accept all of His gifts with gratitude.

In the course of founding the organization and writing our books about cluttering, I interviewed dozens of psychiatric and medical professionals. They were all very supportive. In cities with Clutterless Recovery Group meetings, psychologists and psychiatrists often refer patients to us. In tern, we recommend professionals who have been recommended by other clutterers are understanding the problem. Not all do. If your psychiatric professional is to quick to dismiss your cluttering as merely laziness, or as Dr. Phill once said, "you just aren't motivated or don't know how to clean," look for a new one. Cluttering is associated with depression and anxiety and working on the one will help the other.

Most clutterers have not crossed the line into hoarding, nor are they diagnosable as Obsessive Compulsive Personalities. Yet, we do share some traits with OCP's. If the symptoms are mild, they often improve when we declutter. More of us seem to share traits with ADD (AD/HD) people. While researching Clutter-Proof Your Business and studying your responses to our surveys, I concluded that cluttering belongs more in the province of ADD than OCD.


Many of us wonder if we have OCD or Attention Deficit Disorder. (ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder, is common terminology, but the medical term is AD/HD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). If this is something that worries you, it is best not to self-diagnose. See a professional. Many of us do have some of the symptoms and we are finding more people referred to meetings by their therapists with OCD and ADHD diagnoses. As we declutter our physical word, our mental world also becomes less cluttered. With a less cluttered mind, we have a better ability to concentrate. We regain our ability to concentrate and focus on one task. But some of us really have ADHD. If so, it can be treated. That's why God invented therapists! For a more detailed investigation of ADHD, please see the AD/HD chapter

Multi-tasking Minds

We are all different and take different roads to the same destination. Most of us can't seem to concentrate on one task and take it to completion. We get easily distracted. We flit from one task to another like butterflies on a warm spring day. As we get better, we learn to concentrate on one task at a time, allotting "x" minutes or hours (and adding about 40% to the time we think we need!), or set a series of steps that we will complete before moving on to the next one.

Yes, some few of us are just the opposite. We wear mental blinders and work on only one task, to the exclusion of all else. We are like dogs with a bone, worrying the task to the nubbins, even when we should have let go a long time ago. Oddly enough, the solution for this behavior is the same as above. Set limits and respect those limits. Those of us who do only one thing may find out that we are doing too much on that thing, expressing our perfectionism in an overwhelming way.

Recent studies have shown that people do not multitask very well anyway. So, why are we trying to do something the general population can't do? We are ahead of the curve by recognizing this and adjusting our lives accordingly. We CAN, however, do one thing, and while that task is running its cycle, do something else. For instance, I make my espresso in the morning. While it is bubbling and making all the weird noises it needs to make itself, I wash or put away the dishes from the previous night. That's using your time effectively, not multitasking. While my computer does its thing to start up in the morning, I file, or discard, things I didn't do the previous day. Doing unrelated tasks like this is a great way to get rid of your clutter without feeling like you are doing it. It's kind of a bonus.