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5 Ways Clutter Hurts Our Relationships

5 Ways Clutter Hurts Our Relationships

We all know how clutter can negatively impact our mental health, hamper our productivity and, cost us time and money, but did you know it can also ruin relationships with others?


Here are five ways clutter hurts our relationships:


1. Clutter drains energy meant to go towards making connections 

The saying goes: "Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions." We think our stuff doesn't affect us but in reality, our brains are constantly being signaled that something needs our attention and therefore our full attention can never be devoted to the one we love. 


2. Clutter creates obstacles to intimacy

As I've noted in this post: Uncluttered Bedrooms Mean More Romance, a messy boudoir is a big turn-off. If you're tripping over stuff to get to get into the bedroom, have to push aside piles of laundry to lay on the bed, and are staring at piles of clutter on the dresser, these things don't exactly set the mood. 


3. Clutter causes tension and conflict

With clutter piles building higher it's only a matter of time that tempers will rise too. This can further lead to issues of shame and blame.


4. Clutter can lead to lying behavior 

Many times the "Collector" has issues with excessive amounts of stuff that they may begin hiding or mounting credit card debt that they push under the rug. This deception can undercut the foundation of the relationship and the lying can easily create a wedge in a marriage. 


5. Clutter can be a physical barrier to connection

Too much stuff can literally feel like a wall that keeps people out. The non-collecting partner may start to feel that the stuff is more important than they are. In addition, outside social contact can also be impacted as you're not having company over or hosting family gatherings anymore.


If you find that your clutter is starting to negatively impact your relationship, it's time to address it. Involving a professional organizer or therapist can help.


For the self-help types I'd recommend these books:

The 5 Love Languages: The Secret To Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman

Digging Out: Helping Your Loved One Manage Clutter, Hoarding, and Compulsive Acquiring  by Michael Tompkins and Tamara Hartl

More Time For Sex: The Organizing Guide For Busy Couples by Harrier Schechter and Vicki Gibbs 

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How To Free Yourself and Your Family From a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson


Categories: Odds and Ends, Mental Health / Hoarding


  • I don't remember where or when, but I've heard of the 5 Love Languages before. Your recommendation makes it even more interesting...
    2/12/2018 3:47:09 PM Reply
    • @Janet Barclay: It's a great book for couples in any stage of a relationship. It gives a helpful framework for understanding the inner workings of both you and your partner's preferred method of communication. When you have a common language it makes it that much easier to work through any kind of conflict.
      2/12/2018 5:25:51 PM Reply
  • Totally agree with this. I see it a lot, especially #3. It leads to arguments. Of course, we all have our own preferences and tolerances, and it seems to be common that a "keeper" often ends up with a "minimalist." In some ways, this provides a healthy balance. However, if a couple finds they are fighting a lot over stuff, there may be a problem. Professionals can really help here, because we aren't aligned with either side. I just had a client this week who was telling me she didn't really like a very large bowl, but her husband had given it to her, and she didn't want to hurt his feelings. When we came through later in the session, I was able to sort of toss it into the "should we keep this" pile, and found a way to make the choice to let it go without anyone getting upset.
    2/9/2018 8:53:04 AM Reply
    • @Seana Turner: Yes! Professionals are so helpful in these situations as we're the neutral party that can help ease the tension. How great that you were able to navigate that challenging situation with your client with understanding and sensitivity.
      2/9/2018 4:05:32 PM Reply

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