5 Types Of Clutter And How To Declutter Your Life

bright color lines creating chaotic look and text stating 5 types of clutter

Most people think of a clutter problem as too many messy piles of stuff. There are five types of basic clutter – Physical clutter, paper clutter, digital clutter, emotional clutter, and spiritual clutter. There is usually emotional clutter and spiritual clutter where there is physical, digital and paper clutter.

It is a pretty safe bet if you don’t figure out why your physical environment is cluttered you will be doomed to repeat it. Most people find having to declutter their homes a daunting task and have a hard time starting the decluttering process.

When you get to the point you are seriously wanting to make a difference in your life the best thing to do is to entertain the idea that clutter is multifaceted. Otherwise why bother going through all this work if the pattern of clutter is not going to stop.

The 5 different kinds of clutter

As a professional decluttering, organizer and life coach I can tell you – Physical things, paper clutter, digital clutter, emotional clutter, and spiritual clutter boil down to one thing – too much clutter.

Physical Clutter 

What is physical clutter? 

Overall physical clutter is too much stuff in your home and work environments. Common sources of physical clutter are books, clothes, any of too many objects, kitchen counter spaces, living room and all of your rooms stuff.

Negative effects of physical clutter

Physical clutter takes a toll on our productivity Likewise clutter is frustrating which is emotional. How much time have you spent looking for stuff? Have you said ‘I don’t know where it is, I’ll just buy another one, which means physical clutter is now effecting your finances.

Pretty easy to do today considering with the click of a button stuff magically appears at our doors. All this of course takes a toll on the environment.

Physical clutter effects a lot of stuff and most importantly our overall well being.

Tips for decluttering physical objects 

1- I have found great success guiding people to focus on one object at a time. Decluttering just one single item is usually manageable for most folks. I like to remind people if all they can focus on to declutter is one object a day these daily actions will lead to feeling 365 items lighter and freer in one years time.
2- Another tip is when looking to purchase new things be mindful of the fact you are potentially creating more clutter. I always ask myself if this new purchase is just one more thing I will have to declutter and will end up in the landfill.
3- I lean toward living a minimal lifestyle therefore when I make a large purchase I have a plan to remove an object of similar description from my space.
4- Here is a list of 50 Quick & Easy Declutter Tips I compiled.

Establish a management system

So you have managed to declutter, Yeah! Great job. I have never known anyone to stay decluttered without great organizational systems. There are numerous benefits to being organized. Convenience and accessibility is number 1 for me.

I seem to be wired in a naturally organized way. In my home kitchen stuff only is in the kitchen. Same for bathrooms and bedrooms. Clothing can be found in closets only with the exception of coat hooks by entrance doors. My art supplies are in a designated space and tools in another. If I had a garage my vehicle would be parked in it.

If you find you have stuff scattered throughout your home I suggest getting a bunch of bags or containers to sort items into first. Then put the individual containers in the rooms where they belong. This will give you a good start. You can work on storage systems next.

Paper Clutter 

What is paper clutter? 

Common sources of paper clutter are piles of unopened mail, scattered receipts, old documents, photographs, tax returns, old magazines to name a few. 

Negative effects of paper clutter on productivity and mental well-being 

Not being able to find stuff when needed is chief among paper clutter. How frustrating is this! Kind of like the only time your printer doesn’t work is when you need it.

Because we can pretty much go paperless today there basically is no need for this. My mail comes in the house and gets opened immediately over the recycle container. Then it goes to my desk.

Tips for decluttering paper

Thankfully we all have many options today to opt for paperless billing, receipts etc. We can store almost all paper documents digitally today. I save 7 years back taxes in paper form in case I get audited by the IRS. Most everything else in my life is stored digitally.


Photos are a whole entity on its own. In addition to sentimental and physical objects some people are loaded with boxes of photos. What is one to do with all their old photos? I wrote an article about decluttering photos and got lots of feedback about this.

Establish a paper management system

Digitize important documents and make a separate file folder for each group of similar documents.
Create a filing system for essential paperwork. 
Regularly purge outdated or unnecessary papers.

Digital Clutter

What is digital clutter?

Well, we digitized all our paper so now we have digital clutter. You can’t make this stuff up!

In addition to desktop computers today we have laptops, tablets, phones etc that all have the potential of building clutter. All of these computers hold an abundance of document files, apps, emails, texts, graphics and videos.

Worse yet many of us have all our digital systems synched so the clutter fills all the devices.

The impact of digital clutter on focus and productivity 

This can be a nuisance because often our systems storage is filled or close to full and this can slow our systems down and prevent programs and apps from opening efficiently, if at all. How many folks still have the first email they ever received? Why?

It is time consuming to delete content when it gets to these extremes. This compromises our productivity and if we have everything stored helter skelter finding content can cause us frustration. Are you seeing the patterns in the different types of clutter yet?

Tips for decluttering digital files

1- Organize files and folders and hard drives.
2- Delete or archive unread emails and text messages
3- Unsubscribe from unnecessary email lists 
4- Remove unused apps and files from all your computers, including your phone.
Interesting note: One old 1 hour podcast episode is 120 MB per hour of data on average and some platforms even more. A two hour standard definition video can take up to 8K GB depending on the quality, frame and bit rate and other factors.

That is a lot of storage space for stuff you likely will not access again. Delete it or put it on an external hard drive if you plan to revisit. Go though your camera roll when standing waiting in line somewhere and delete the pics you no longer need. Picture storage adds up.

Emotional Clutter 

picture of stressed out lady with sticky notes attached to her face

Understanding emotional clutter and its connection to physical and mental clutter 

Sources of emotional clutter may be unresolved conflicts, negative thought patterns, long held resentments to people, places and things.

The toll of emotional clutter on mental health and relationships 

Where to begin… Emotional clutter owns us and relates to everything – relationship issues, social life, finances, higher stress levels, high cortisol levels and the list goes on to include other physical health issues

Strategies for clearing emotional clutter

Practice mindfulness and self-awareness 

So many practices are available today to combat daily stress ie, physical exercise, yoga, breath work, meditation. Just look at how gymnasiums have grown over the years.

Practicing forgiveness and letting go of resentments are not easy and will make a world if difference in your overall well-being.

Seek professional support when needed 

I wish we lived in a world absent of stigma around mental health issues. Maybe then more folks would take advantage of mental health care services.

Engage in self-compassion and self-care

There is a reason we are taught to take care of ourselves first. The most important reason is we are of no use to others if we are unwell. People having grown up in a home with 1 or 2 dysfunctional parents will attest to this. Finding the time for self care is important.

Spiritual Clutter

Who is a spiritual person?

This is definitely not for me to say. Some people define spirituality as including a higher power. Others not so much.

Some believe a sign of a spiritual person are those with the capacity to live and let live. These are kind and pleasant folks to be around They tend to allow others to be themselves without judgement. These folks usually have a kind word to say and offer motivating words. They walk with integrity as one among many with hopes we all live in peace.

Defining spiritual clutter and its impact on inner peace and purpose

Everyone needs to define what is spiritual for them. Everyone needs to define what is obstructing their desires to move forward, or worse yet having no desires.

Sources of spiritual clutter

unfulfilling relationships, lack of purpose, undiagnosed medical issues both physical and mental can cause spiritual clutter.

Recognizing signs of spiritual clutter in daily life 

Everything starts from within. Some of us are so busy getting through chaotic stressful days filled with responsibilities and obligations with little time to sleep let alone check in with ourselves.

So many books have been written on this topic. So many could benefit from the wisdom and guidance within these teachings and many feel helpless not knowing where to start. How does spiritual clutter manifest in you?

Steps to declutter spiritually

Reflect on your individual values and beliefs 

Identify meaningful activities and connections 

Practice gratitude and mindfulness 

Let go of attachments to material possessions

Seek professional help when guidance is needed

Integrating Decluttering Practices

Addressing all clutter holistically, which means the parts of something are interconnected to the whole, can bring a wide range of benefits to both your physical and mental well-being, as well as positively impacting various aspects of your life.

12 benefits to addressing clutter holistically

1 Reduced stress and anxiety

2 Improved focus and productivity

3 Enhanced creativity

4 Enhanced decision-making

5 Improved relationships

6 Better time management

7 Financial savings

8 Increased self-discipline and self-esteem

9 Positive mental attitude

10 Environmental benefits

11 Better sleep

12 Improved health

Create a personalized decluttering plan

Where to begin?

If you need help sorting this out you may wish to try journaling. By noting your thoughts on paper, or digitally if you prefer, you will be able to find patterns. This will enable you to identify what needs to come first. In essence you are making a road map for yourself.

Set realistic goals and timelines 

What is your goal? You need to have a goal or you will never know where to start. First the goal, then the plan. A written goal posted in a place you see often is best.

Start small, one object at a time is a great place to begin.

Implement decluttering habits into daily routines

The simple ‘one touch’ rule will help enormously with your effort to stay organized. Simply put if you use a pair of scissors put them right back where they belong when your task is completed. Don’t wait til ‘later’ when you have to touch the scissors again.

Celebrate progress and track results

You have made a start! Yeah you! Don’t waste a moment on negative self-talk about how you got into this mess. Stay in the present and stay focused.

The biggest challenge you have is deciding to get started. If you have read this far consider that you have done the first thing necessary. If you have been thinking about decluttering your life for a long time now, there is no better time to start than today.

Peace of mind is sure to follow because the transformative power of a clutter-free lifestyle on your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being is beyond the beyond.

pic of author

Marj Bates is a life long ridiculously organized declutterer and artist. Less is more are words Marj lives by in everything she does except collecting dogs. “Dogs are like potato chips! Can’t have just one.” says Marj. Marj wonders if growing up with a fanatically clean Jewish mom means her decluttering and organizational skills are in her blood.

For more Declutter Buzz & Freebies check out our safe and private Decluttering community on our Facebook page. We are a safe and private space of like minded folks tackling this all encompassing clutter thing once and for all. No shame allowed! We will have a few laughs too!

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One Comment

  1. Thank you for a safe, private blog! It is a God-send for me. Decluttering for the first time in my life seems hopeful, attainable. Now my hope is melting into fear that I won’t accomplish my goal. : ( First I will Journal Daily to find threads, themes so that I can break through past chaos into clarity and good choices. Then I will follow your outline for decluttering with a goal, a plan and specific steps you have created to lead the way.

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