It’s All About Organizing: POC Blog

Advice for Helping Someone Who Has Clutter

October 7, 2019


We all know someone who has a cluttered space they want to tackle. The question is how to be helpful and make a real lasting difference in their home and life.

You May Get Asked "How Can I Help Someone Who Has Clutter?"

There are no one-size-fits-all solutions when it comes to clutter. Relationships can also vary greatly which might alter your approach. For example, our advice for someone you live with is much different than for someone you work with.

If you do know someone with clutter, the best behaviours you can have towards them are being empathetic & showing concern, setting clear limits, and most importantly, patience.

The most problematic behaviours you can have towards them are being frustrated, supporting the disorder, making excuses for a loved one, and associating relationship dissatisfaction.

Either way, here are some tips:

1. Acknowledge Who Has the Problem

The truth is that often times the issue with things is really your own. So first we want to make sure everyone is on the same page about how we define clutter and next, what levels are considered to be a safety issue. Compare some spaces visually using The Clutter Image Rating Scale – anything that compares to a 5 or higher on the scale is an indicator that clutter could be a problem.

If you share the spaces with this person, but it turns out they’re not too high on the clutter image rating scale, then maybe you need to relax your expectations. Setting boundaries for your own space will also help everyone maintain spaces that they can enjoy. Remember, it’s not a crime to be messy or have piles of stuff. Some people, in fact, enjoy “crowded” spaces, but it’s okay to ask that your personal areas are not affected.

2. Use Inspiration to Create Change

One of the most difficult steps in the process of clearing clutter is actually letting it go. Often times the person with clutter knows they want to change, but still finds it challenging to get started (or even talk about it). We’ve found that starting with motivational stories and videos can sometimes be a great tool for starting a conversation. Here are 4 Ted Talks that really get the juices flowing.

3. Can They See Their Clutter?

Clutter blindness is a real condition. Over time we get used to our environment and become “blind” to the potential issues that affect others, but not ourselves. At least we think it doesn’t affect us. One exercise to help our clients see their clutter is this: We meet at a neutral location, like a cafe, and show them a photograph of their space. Often times they’re shocked at what they see, which wasn’t obvious to them when they were actually in their space. Here are 3 signs that a person could have clutter blindness.

4. Their Stuff is Important

We absolutely have to stress the importance of understanding what it’s like to be in their shoes. It is essential that you don’t minimize their attachment to their belongings. Remember the old adage, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” You may not fully understand the reasons why they keep what they do, but it’s important to recognize they, at one time or another, valued it.

When you come from a place of respect for their belongings trust can be established, which is important for helping them move forward with deciding what stays and what goes. From there, they are more likely to agree to boundaries and find homes for the items they truly use and love.

5. Help Them See the Costs of Clutter

We don’t know many people who enjoy losing money, time, or energy. Helping a person find ways to eliminate frustrations and save more money, time, and energy could be your gateway into helping them deal with their clutter. Here are some great tools to help you with that.

6. Promote Their Passion

The number one reason we have found success with clients overcoming their clutter is because they see the potential to pursue their passions. When the clutter is gone, there is more time and space to do the things they love. So help them remember the things that make them happy. When people start doing things they love, somehow harder tasks (like letting go of clutter) become easier to accomplish because there is light at the end of the tunnel.

As mentioned at the beginning of the post, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions for clutter. However, hopefully you have found some starting points to assist you in your journey.

Content Credit:
Samantha and Emilio of KW Professional Organizers
Samantha and Emilio are POC Cyber Chapter members
Extract taken from KW Professional Organizers Blogpost