What Behaviors Can Trigger Clutter in Your Home?

Picture of a person writing in a journal

There is always a trigger. The first step is identifying your triggers. The next step is to learn why your trigger is a trigger. What is the root of your trigger?

I am responsible

When I am stuck or whining I like to remind myself that every step I have taken over the years has brought me to exactly the place I am today. This reminder serves a purpose that I got here myself. No one else is responsible. I am not a victim.


This saves all the time it would take to blame my day on other people, places and things. Hauling resentments around is a waste of my energy and time. I have trained myself over the years to pick up one of the many tools I have to see what is triggering this latest obstacle.

For me it usually boils down to losing something I have or not getting what I think I want. In this situation fear is the trigger.


If the obstacle you are facing today is too much clutter, writing is a tried and true way to find your answers or triggers. Remember clutter is both physical and mental. I believe we all have all the answers we need inside of us. We just need to do a little, or a lot! of detective work.

Letting go of the past

When we write about what holds us back the past often rears its ugly head. Unearthing of past traumas can be difficult. It may be safer and/or easier for some to enlist the help of a trusted counselor or other professional.

This writer is not a doctor or licensed therapist. I write from experience, research and my track record of helping others. Please seek a licensed therapist or doctor if you need professional help. No shame.

How to Identify Triggers

Self Reflection

By writing, or seeking counsel with a therapist or trusted friend you will unearth your triggers. The answers are not going to necessarily come overnight. Most people I have worked with, as emotional as the information they have detected is, find a great sense of relief to finally learn the buried triggers.

Support is Available

I cannot stress the importance of seeking professional help if you are experiencing runaway negative emotions. I am sure with due diligence you can find a trusted therapist that works for you.

A few mindful breaths

Explore the many ways available to practice mindfulness. You will find at least one that is compatible to you. Keep it simple. My go to is my breath. When I am feeling overwhelmed I stop and pay attention to my breath.

Specifically I take a long deep breath – 8 counts in – while visualizing a peaceful setting or just by thinking the word peace. I then expel a long deep breath – 8 counts – visualizing stress and chaos leaving my body. Peace in. Stress out. A few mindful breaths work like magic for me!

Letting Go

Letting go of everything out of my control is my answer to most things. learning how to let go of possessions that no longer serve me or bring me joy is such a gift. I suggest starting very slowly with a firm goal in mind, or better still write your goal down.

The writing technique I teach will get you to success for sure. There is no rush. You did not get here overnight. If you are impatient by nature consider this a lesson in acquiring patience too. Two for one! Help yourself to 10 free writing prompts. My gift to you!


If you happen to be crazy mad about something or a terrible thing happened and you are having trouble letting go try Acceptance. The famous Serenity Prayer you have likely read is famous for a reason! The first line has the wisest words ever written. ‘Accept the things you cannot change’.

No matter how many times you hit replay in your head the situation is carved in stone and will not change. Move on. There are tricks and techniques to help us get to acceptance of a thing. We will discuss in future writings.

Practice gratitude

For me at the end of my day it is the people I spent time with that matters the most. If I had the good luck to be able to help another during the day this is a bonus. Extra points for not telling anyone about the good deed!

The piece of my day that brings me contentment and peace is not related to material possessions. You will find your joys and come to know, and better yet expect, peace.

Again, it’s important to note that working through past traumas or emotional issues can be a complex and difficult process, and may require professional support.

Triggers may be mental, physical or both?

Let’s explore mental triggers that cause us stress.


Volumes have been written about the topic of procrastination. In fact a good way to procrastinate finding your triggers would be to read about the myriad forms of procrastination. I say this tongue in cheek of course.

Procrastination is often one of the mental triggers causing the physical buildup of clutter. First step is finding the trigger to your procrastination. Procrastination has negative consequences, such as increased stress, missed opportunities, and decreased productivity.

Decision making

Lack of making timely decisions is another big stumbling block. This used to be me and at times still is. Look for progress not perfection. I would go back and forth forever. It drove me crazy.

My trigger for this indecision come to find was a tight budget. If I made the wrong decision it could be quite costly. Find your trigger if you have difficulty making decisions.

This is the only tchotchke I keep near my desk because for me the only wrong decision today is NO decision.


Curating your sentimental objects will usually be your most challenging part of your decluttering journey.

This is a tough one. This is everyone’s personal decision to make. No easy answers. Writing about it will guide the decision making process of what to keep and what to discard.

We will talk more about how to deal with this later. One quick tip is if you take a picture of a sentimental object you may find it easier to let go of it.

Now let’s talk about physical behaviors:


Having a designated space for everything is necessary to live an organized life. Otherwise clutter just gets scattered around our homes haphazardly. That said the solution is not to run out and purchase storage totes. This is actually one of the last steps to living a life free of clutter.

Buying too much

It is important to learn why you keep buying stuff you don’t really need or want. This can be done by writing. The answers are buried within you. I am telling you, writing about why you keep buying stuff will show you important information about yourself. Start writing!

Lack of cleaning

Maybe you just really hate to clean? Maybe you don’t know how to clean? I happen to be a clean freak. I believe a clean house is a happy house. Maybe just getting rid of all the clutter will make cleaning so easy you will be inclined to clean regularly. If not there are plenty of great house cleaners around. Still though you need to get rid of the clutter so the cleaners can clean.

Overall, clutter in a messy and disorganized home can be caused by a combination of mental and physical behaviors. By identifying these behaviors, we can work to address them and create a more organized and clutter-free living space.

Let’s dig a little deeper

The definition to Procrastination is a common behavior where a person delays or puts off tasks or responsibilities until the last possible moment or even beyond that. There can be several reasons why people procrastinate.

Fear of failure

Being a recovering perfectionist is what broke my habit of procrastination. Fear of not doing a task or project perfectly caused me to keep procrastinating. As an artist this was tough. I had to give myself license to make a bunch of art I did not like. This is what today I call practice. Now I know it is perfectly fine to make a bunch of meh art before I get to my favorite creations of art!

Lack of motivation

I was guilty of this too! As a glass artist I do a lot of custom work. Over the years some of the commissions I accepted were not very challenging and would make me feel like I was just a little factory melting glass into designs I didn’t necessarily like.

I reasoned that lack of motivation was something I could fix.

My antidote to that was to stop accepting these requests. Pretty easy. Scary too, because I am my sole support by the sales my artwork generates.

I had to write and write to get to this happy place, until I found the solution and had the guts to stop repeating that which clearly was not working for me. The answers are always within me. I just need to be motivated and make time to find the answers.

Writing always gets me there.


If a task feels overwhelming and you do not know where to start begin anywhere. Just starting will help guide you. Some painters experience white canvas syndrome.

This is when an artist is afraid to put the ‘wrong color’ down on the pristine blank white canvas for fear of making a mistake. I am not painter, although I do enjoy dabbling from time to time.

Knowing this I always throw any color paint on the canvas as a first step. It doesn’t even matter what the color is because I can always paint over it. Now I have started. Starting is often the hardest part.

Time management

We all have the same 24 hours in a day. If you are not getting a reasonable amount done in any given day you may need to take an inventory of your time. This is just what it sounds like, just like an inventory of store merchandise.

I did a time audit for 5 consecutive days and was blown away by what I learned!

An inventory of your time will reveal where your time is being spent. Maybe you are interrupted by a phone call(s)? Note the amount of time. If you work from home those little trips to the kitchen for a snack add up!

Make a note of all your actions for a day or a few days and learn where your time is actually being spent. You may be surprised. There are apps available to do this.


Last but not least this is my favorite! As a recovering perfectionist I can tell you it is well worth the work involved to let go of perfectionism. This can be complex. Ask a friend or family member if you are a perfectionist if you need help deciding. No pun intended!

Decision making issues

The ability to make decisions varies from person to person. There can be several factors that contribute to this.


Making decisions seems to be easier for confident, assertive people. Of course there are always exceptions. Less confident and inexperienced folks may waffle because they are unsure of themselves.

Information overload

In some cases, having too much information can make it difficult to make a decision. People may feel overwhelmed, then frustrated and decide to procrastinate and walk away. I definitely can do this.


Some people may avoid making decisions quickly because they fear making the wrong choice. This fear can be especially strong when the stakes are high or when there are significant consequences associated with the decision. Low finances is a common cause of fear of decision making.


Some decision makers go with their gut. Some analyze the pros and the cons. Personally I do both.. I have bought cars if my gut only okays the purchase. Alternately I have spent hours analyzing what dog food to buy.

I certainly consider the stakes high for both pet care and vehicle safety. This topic interests me a lot. I have watched others make decisions as research. One friend adopted a dog in less time than it took to toss 4 old pillows!

The dog is 6 years old now, adopted 3 years ago and the pillows are still there. I definitely know what emoji I would insert here!

In my opinion emotion and the circumstances around one’s personal style are at play. Will the decision just impact you or will others be involved in your choice?

In the example with the car and dog food – I happened to trust the person involved in the car sale transaction and I knew nothing about dog food kibble.


There really is a lot involved in this topic of decluttering.

By the way I have loved the car I bought since day one and decided after tons of research to feed my dogs fresh food!

If you need help finding what stands between you and a peaceful grateful heart I urge you to start writing. Finding your triggers will help enormously.

Marj pic

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.

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