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How do you know if you have too much clutter? While there’s never a wrong time to declutter, and it’s something you may want to do each year consistently, here are 18 critical signs it’s time to declutter your home.
We also offer more information and a few tips along the way, which you can access by using the drop-down feature.
You can expand and contract each task to see more or less information. You may also spot a few helpful habits and some tips to consider along the way.
Clutter is not just physical stuff. It’s old ideas, toxic relationships, and bad habits. Clutter is anything that does not support your better self.” — Eleanor Brown
1. You find it hard to relax at home.
If you find that it’s often hard to relax when you’re at home and it’s not due to others or any known factors, then it may be due to your home environment having too much clutter.
At the same time, it can also make it hard to concentrate when you need to too.
Even when a room could be considered tidied, having too much clutter in a space can affect individuals on a conscious and subconscious level, resulting in visual over-stimulation and increased stress.
What to Do
Cutting back on the amount of furniture, decorations, or general stuff sitting out may potentially improve the look of the space and your mood. It may also help boost your level of concentration when you need to focus on things the most.
Work to declutter your home can be an ongoing project since we typically accumulate more stuff each year or because our needs change. You can always work at it over time and as you discover things you no longer need or even bother to use.
If you lack space for storing items that might otherwise be sitting out, such as in the kitchen, do the best you can do.
The Potential Benefits
By reducing the visual stimulation, you can quickly reduce anxiety or stress naturally. At the same time, having less clutter may even potentially boosting happy hormones and chemical reactions within the brain while improving sleep quality and focus.
You can test this concept by starting in the place where you’re supposed to relax the most: the bedroom. Try removing or putting away items you need and ensuring everything has a home.
Another good area to test out as you declutter your home would be the kitchen, where you can reduce the amount of stuff sitting out on the counters down to the barest minimum and see how much faster it is to clean and maintain, not to mention how nice it feels to be in when things naturally appear neater.
In rooms like the kitchen, try only to keep out items that absolutely need to be out and that you often use along with your most favorite decoration items. Things like a slotted toaster, cooking utensils, spices, or a blender can quickly be taken in and out of a cabinet, should there be room for it, but coffeemakers or a toaster oven would likely be left out.
2. Your home tends to get messy and cluttered frequently.
For those wondering: How do you tell if your house is cluttered? Or, how do you know if you have too much clutter? How quickly and easily your house gets destroy with messes to clean up is one telltale sign.
Therefore, if you feel like you’re having to constantly clean and organize your home, it may be a good sign that a good decluttering job is in order.
Even if you’ve decluttered previously, things often tend to pile up again as we accumulate more stuff in some form or another. Plus, there could be things that you might have missed or perhaps changed your mind about since your last decluttering.
3. You struggle to find things or items never seem to have a home.
If you’re home or room is hard to organize, or you can’t seem to find a home for things, resulting in stuff just sitting out or being left in a pile of mess, it may be a clue that you need to declutter as well as properly organize.
Oftentimes, people accumulate things without even being fully aware of them or lose sight of what they have and later forget about it entirely. In many cases, they may not even like, use, or want specific items or have too many of the same thing.
It’s also often the case where they struggle to find a home for particular objects or clutter due to lack of space, holding onto things due to feelings of guilt or FOMO (fear of missing out), or simply because they have one too many things in general.
Reducing what you don’t want, need, hardly use, or maybe have duplicates of can be a great place to start in the decluttering process.
4. One of your favorite things about vacationing is staying in a nice, clean environment, and you often feel depressed when you go back home.
Ever stay at a nice hotel, timeshare, Air BnB, vacation home, or relative’s or friend’s for a while and instantly feel at ease, more relaxed, and even dread going back home? Or, once you return home, do you instantly get feelings of anxiety, depression, like you want to redo the place, or get the sudden urge to move when you first arrive?
It may be a sign you need to declutter your home.
I often used to go through this, and it was a major sign that I need to overhaul our home. The part I hated the most was returning home and, while the home wasn’t filthy or overly thrashed, it just never felt as relaxing, tidy, or put together.
The Trade Secret
But the real trick to a lot of those places, or even places like model homes and homes in magazines, is that they don’t have a lot of clutter. You often feel less stress at a hotel or vacation home because it’s usually not cluttered and kept tidy. However, in many cases, places like model homes, hotels, and vacation homes aren’t nearly as clean as you might think…or even hope, for that matter.
Model homes or perhaps that “neat freak” friend or relative of yours may not clean as much as you think, or the house may not be as immaculate as you think. They just have less clutter out and/or an efficient weekly or monthly cleaning chores.
5. Cleaning your home seems to take forever or can feel impossible to maintain.
Feeling like you have to clean your home often is one thing, but it’s an entirely different fiasco when you feel like it takes forever too. While this can be due to cleaning habits, or maybe lack thereof, it’s often the result of having too much clutter.
You can drastically reduce the amount of time it takes to clean a room, whether routine cleaning or deep cleaning, just by reducing the amount of clutter within it. That’s whether you’re dealing with the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, living room, garage, etc.
My Decluttering Personal Experience
My true cleaning eye-opener was when I went on a massive declutterfest during and after a move. Not long after, I saw how much faster and easier everything was, from my daily or weekly routines to my spring/seasonal cleaning.
It basically cut my time for each room in half, if not more than that. So I decided to keep on decluttering regularly, eventually adding in easy maintenance cleaning routines and tweaking things until it worked for my situation.
6. You rent storage space or containers to hold the extra stuff.
Renting out space to store some of your possessions is a fairly popular concept in certain parts of the world.
However, unless you’ve recently downsized, need something temporary, or live in a small place, having to rent a storage facility to store things may be a big sign that you may need to declutter.
In fact, it’s often the case where people who accumulate so much stuff that they need to rent space or use up certain areas of the house, like the garage or basement, may not even know what they have.
It can also indicate that it’s more than just not having enough space to put things, but rather that you may be dealing with potential hoarding tendencies.
Store Less & Save More
If you find that you need to rent space or are invading other areas of your residence to convert it into storage for your stuff, it may help to think of it from another perspective—especially where money is concerned—such as by thinking about and asking yourself some of the following:
Take time to assess your situation:
Keep It Real
Sometimes people have a tendency to store things because they no longer need them but don’t want to do with them. At other times it may seem like a waste of hard-earn money to get rid of items or they may feel sentimental or like an obligation to keep, and so they spend gobs of money to hold onto it.
But when you step back and really consider what you’re spending hard-earned money to store, you might just find that it’s really not worth or all that important to you after all.
7. Your home never really feels clean, even after you’ve just cleaned it.
If you find that it’s generally hard to keep your place clean, then it may be a sign that you may need to declutter your home in order to make things easier and more efficient for yourself.
While things such as bad habits, poor scheduling or lack of routine, other household members, lack of space or storage, pets, children, and overall laziness or a lack of cleaning know-how can often make it hard to keep a home clean long-term, too much clutter can also be a major cause.
By reducing the amount of clutter within a space, you can effectively reduce the amount of time it takes to clean while naturally making it easier to maintain.
Plus, having fewer things sitting out or within a space can make it a lot easier for you and others to spot when something is out of order or if there’s a mess to pick up.
8. You don’t really enjoy your home as much as you used to and may even avoid certain areas.
If you once enjoyed your home but found it less appealing later on or find that you now avoid certain rooms or areas, sometimes having a lot of clutter can be a big reason why.
Over time, even if we didn’t start with a lot of loot, stuff can quickly begin to add up, and we may not always get rid of the things we want, even as those newer items start rolling in.
So, if you feel that your once-loved abode isn’t quite cutting it, and it’s not due to neighborly issues or traumatizing landlord experience, try seeing if decluttering helps.
9. Chores frequently pile up, making you feel anxious and likely to procrastinate on tidying up.
Few things are worse when it comes to cleaning than stuff that’s left to pile up for too long, often resulting in a time-consuming and energy-sapping mess. And things can wind up being far worse off when there’s a lot of clutter in the mix.
In fact, having too much clutter in a room is often when messes start to accumulate, and procrastination begins to take shape.
There’s also the disadvantage of clutter distracting you and others from areas that may need to be actually cleaned, such as countertops, floors, baseboards, etc.
10. You notice clutter is starting to pile up outside the home, such as in the backyard or garage.
One clear sign that you may need to declutter your home is when things begin to leak outside—especially if it’s making that space unusable or creating problems with family, neighbors, property managers, city authorities, or HOA.
Common exterior hotspots:
Assess the Situation
If it’s been a while since you’ve seen any belongings that you might be keeping in these areas, it may be good to see what’s out there, the kind of shape it’s in, if it’s worth keeping, and how you can better organize what you do want to hold onto
It might also be a good time to consider if some types of clutter are more of a hazard rather than something of value.
This is more so the case because areas such as these also tend to be exposed more to the elements, rodents, insects, and other critters, all of which can quickly destroy your items or make homes out of your belongings if things aren’t properly stored.
This is also an excellent time to see what items matter and figure out if there’s a better place to store them. That way, you can get rid of what might not be a priority and take care of what is.
You can then work on finding ways to use up those items, particularly if you’re afraid to waste anything. And you might be able to find a means to get better use out of the more valuable things you want to keep.
11. You own a lot of duplicates, many of which you don’t even use, notice, or really need.
People often collect duplicates of things they’re afraid to run out of, have a fear they’ll never see them again, or want to have on hand in the event the original item runs out or gets lost or broken.
Duplicates are also collected if someone keeps collectibles or if they feel they might need more than one of the same items. And, in some cases, it may even be a bit of an addiction or fave item that they love buying and using but may not always have room for.
Keep It Sweet and Simple
For instance, I sometimes have the urge to hoard quirky or fun-themed coffee mugs, ceramic bowls, and the odd assortment of certain cooking utensils. But having all of it often leads me to procrastinate to clean things out ever so often. It also kind of stressed me out visually, even if I didn’t know it right away.
I had to force myself to really think about whether I needed all of those items or if I could just keep my favorites. As it turned out, a lot of the mugs and bowls weren’t used all that often, if at all. And, if I was honest, I didn’t actually love all of them, just the ones I often preferred to use anyway.
I also realized that if I eliminated some of the utensils—many of which I hardly used that much either—I’d be able to reduce what I had in my utensil drawer and have easier access to what I needed. This helped it not feel so overloaded.
12. You often forget about some of the things you own until you see them again months, or even years, later.
If you find that you frequently forget about certain items for months, if not years, or until you go through your storage areas, it could be a sign that some decluttering is needed.
This is an issue that a lot of people experience. It might be old clothes, toys, decorations, devices, or even something someone else gave you or used to own. Either way, they’re generally things you forget even exist under your roof, even if they once held more importance earlier in your life.
If this happens to you often or at least every once in a while, it might help to consider whether those items are worth keeping or if they’ve served their purpose and could go to a better home, potentially where someone else might use them more regularly.
Plus, chances are good that if you forgot such items existed before, you’d likely do so again, regardless if you decided to keep it or gave it a good home elsewhere.
13. You and/or other household members have a lot of clothes, toys, or other like-items that you never use (or even like much).
As with the previous clues as to when it might be time to declutter your home to some degree, another may be when you or another household member possess a lot of toys, clothes, or like-items that aren’t being used.
Such items might be things you’re saving for the future, such as clothes that don’t fit, toys that you may be saving for a possible future child, or that breadmaker you’re really one day going to use (promise).
Unused or unnecessary clutter could also be something like dinner or serving ware that you might one day need even though you’re a total introvert and hate having people over.
It might also include your dog’s first dog toy that you can’t seem to get rid of but that he likely doesn’t even remember because he’s too busy off frolicking with his newer dog toys. Pfft…
A few common items that add up and might go unused:
14. It’s hard for you to store things due to a lack of space.
Unless you live in a tiny residence, lack a closet or cabinetry, and have few options to work with, chances are good you may be on the verge of having too much clutter if you have a hard time finding homes for items regardless of how hard you’ve tried.
Good examples of this would be having one too many cooking utensils or spoons, too many socks, décor pieces, and kitchen containers that somehow seem to multiply on their own (and always seem to lose their lids too).
It may also come down to some of your favorite items you like to have around (a.k.a. small shopping addictions). For instance, I’m, for some reason, into mugs, serving ware, socks, vacuums and mops (yeah, don’t ask), Star Wars Christmas ornaments, things with happy affirmations or funny sayings on them, and cooking gadgets.
Why? No idea, except for the happy saying plaques, but it’s something I try to watch carefully when out and about or online browser-window shopping.
Less is More
Try cutting down on some of the numbers if you have several like items. Ask yourself if you need all of them or decide whether you’ve actually used certain ones or not since you’ve had them.
If you’re not quite ready to let go of them, consider putting a few that you’re unsure of in another location and use what you feel you might want to stick with or cut down to having.
For instance, you could hide a few spatulas, tongs, or spoons that may be clogging up your drawer for a month or two and see if there’s anything you’re missing. Keep messing with it until you feel comfortable.
15. Closets, cabinets, drawers, the floor, and other areas often overflow with stuff.
Places such as cabinets, drawers, the floor, entryways, or that strange cubby hole that looks like a miniature closet, often in that creepy part of the house, tend to be areas where clutter accumulates the most.
Consider taking some time to whittle down what you might have stash in the areas and try to find them a good home or consider donating, selling, or giving them to a friend or relative.
16. You feel the need to tidy or clean up before guests come over.
If you find that you want advanced warning whenever someone plans to drop by or practically kill yourself trying to clean or before they show, you may want to consider taking the time to declutter your home.
The cool part is that you might wind up surprised by how thoroughly decluttering your home won’t just reduce the amount of time it takes to clean. It can also reduce the frequency of those cleanings too.
“Wow, your house is so clean! You must clean all the time!”
Once I cut back on my former household’s clutter, keeping the house clean felt almost like a breeze, took half the time, and required far less effort. Best of all, I no longer felt the need to tidy before people came over.
In fact, because I had super-easy morning and evening cleaning routines that usually only took about 10 minutes each, coupled with keeping the house reasonably decluttered, my house started to always look clean, even at its so-called “worst”. And visitors always seemed to remark on how clean we were, which is a statement I’d never thought I’d hear in my lifetime.
The truth was, we didn’t become “neat freaks” or cleaning fanatics or magically turn into perfect tidiers. We learned to clean smarter. And if there’s one crucial step in cleaning smarter, it starts with having less to clean up or filling up the room.
The funniest part about it is I didn’t feel like I was doing more to keep it that way, but rather doing a lot less. It almost felt like cheating.
17. Surfaces such as desks, dressers, nightstands, tables, or the floor are usually covered with clutter.
Decluttering your home and organizing what you end up keeping can also help prevent one recurring problem for most households in some form another: surface clutter.
Surface clutter would be those items we often use but don’t put away, as well as things we may not know where to store when it’s not in use.
And, sometimes, it may even be an issue of individuals being too lazy to put things away, which often comes back to the first two causes and just poor habit, and it’s something I was very much guilty of for many years.
18. Your garage, attic, spare bedroom, or basement is too cluttered to use for anything else but storing clutter.
Another telltale sign that clutter may be getting out of control within the home is when it starts taking over precious or useful real estate.
For instance, many households tend to use basements, garages, extra bedrooms, and attics for storage instead of using them as some much-needed living space.
It’s about this time in the clutter game when it’s sometimes good to ask whether or not those valuables you’re keeping are worth more than the space you could gain.
Ask the Scary Questions
Other questions and considerations might include whether or not the clutter or stored items served more of a purpose than the actual room might if you used the area appropriately. Is the stuff you’re storing in that room safe or possibly a hazard? Is it a haven for bugs or rodents?
If using the garage, is it likely that your more expensive car might get damaged due to the elements, or is it at risk of being broken into just to save any “clutter” items? Will you get dinged/fined by your neighborhood HOA if not careful, assuming you have an HOA in your area?
In this post, we covered 18 different signs that it’s time to declutter your home. And while each household may vary, the more obvious clues that you need to work on decluttering often involve times when if you feel overwhelmed, anxious, or stressed in your home, avoid certain areas, or feel uncomfortable when trying to relax, then you may need to work on decluttering.
The same goes for those who might procrastinate to clean and feel that it takes too much time, or struggle to find a home for the items you have.
Fortunately, it’s more than possible to take your time and ease into the process if you need to, particularly if you struggle to get rid of things on average or have a lot to contend with. However, some people may prefer more rigid or strict systems in order to help them get through the clutter.
In the end, decluttering isn’t a one-time fix but something to try to stick to regularly to keep the momentum going or keep things in check. However, many people find that they get better at it and can even let go of items they struggled with previously the next time they declutter, often finding it easier each time.
Above all, many find that it becomes something they look forward to due to how freeing and uplifting it can feel to eliminate items you don’t really need.
In the next few weeks, we’ll be covering steps on how to declutter your home and ways to help reduce what you have on a more consistent basis, and preferably without trigging Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) reactions.
Meanwhile, feel free to check out some of our spring cleaning posts, which touch on the decluttering process as well, or you can check out some of our related topics down below.
You can also read some of our affordable top-pick decluttering books for further insight or more in-depth processes.