The Root Cause of Clutter : Clearly Written
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The Root Cause of Clutter

by Dorothy L. Clear, CPO on 06/17/14

Many of my clients are dealing with what I call situational clutter.  When I begin to question them about it they can usually pin point when the clutter started. And, it almost always refers back to some type of grief, depression, or a stressful event.


Grief can be caused by the death of a loved one, but we grieve other losses, too: the loss of a job, career, or family pet; our home, a divorce, or even the use of part of our body.

According to:,

"The grieving process takes time. Healing happens gradually; it can’t be forced or hurried-and there is no “normal” timetable for grieving. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months. For others, the grieving process is measured in years."


Then there is clinical depression. The Mayo Clinic explains it this way:

Depression ranges in seriousness from mild, temporary episodes of sadness to severe, persistent depression. Clinical depression is the more severe form of depression, also known as major depression or major depressive disorder. It isn't the same as depression caused by a loss of a loved one, or a medical condition like thyroid disorder.


One of the symptoms they look for is "Significantly reduced interest or feeling no pleasure in all or most activities". This could explain why people stop taking care of their property. Clinical depression requires psychological counseling or medical treatment or both.



Unlike grief or depression, stress can be brought on by a seemingly positive event such as the birth of a child, a new job, or moving to a new house. Whether the stress a person is experiencing is from a good event or negative event (or everyday life), people without time management skills or the ability to organize can become easily overwhelmed by these changes.


When these feeling of grieve, depression and stress are not dealt with properly, one of the ways they can manifest themselves is in clutter.


Here is an example. A man losses his wife and misses her terribly. He now lives alone. There is no one to answer to. No one picks up after him like has wife used to. He doesn't know how to pick up after himself or doesn't think it matters. Maybe he has children but they live out of state and don't see what is happening until they visit for a holiday or birthday several months later.  They manage to clean things up before leaving, but in a short time it is all cluttered up again.


People experience an attitude of "what does it matter anyway" so they stop putting things away. They buy something new to help them feel better. Or, they buy more because they can't find anything or remember where they put it.


The clutter build-up happens slowly over time like a progressive disease. Family members remark, "Give him time; he'll snap out of it", or "Once we clean the house he should be able to maintain it". Until it starts to be a health hazard for dad because he is not taking out the garbage.


When working with clients, I try to discover the root cause up front. That helps raise the client's consciousness of the real problem. When they address the real problem, the work we do is life changing.

Comments (1)

1. LJBLC said on 3/26/18 - 12:28PM
Great article but you don't offer any aid in overcoming this issue

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