31 Days of Decluttering, Day 16: What’s the Big Deal about Clutter, Anyway?

Are you decluttering your home, too? I’d love to be able to share your success story with other KOAB readers! Please consider submitting the before & after pictures of your decluttering project — you can do so HERE.

3 Simple Tips for Keeping a Clean Home

Every since I pushed “publish” on my first 31 Days of Decluttering post, my brain has been churning with questions:

Does all this decluttering stuff really matter?

Why do so many of us (especially women) think it’s important to keep a tidy home? Is it yet another way that we women guilt-trip ourselves?

And what about that opposite axiom, that a messy house is a sign of a well-lived life, especially when one has young children? If I eschew that mess, what does that say about my motherhood?

Does my distaste for clutter have more to do with me — or what I’m afraid others will think of me?

And while we’re at it, why does clutter bother me so much — especially when it barely seems to raise an eyebrow of my better half?


3 Easy Tips to Clean Your Home Clean

One of my children had some “sensory stuff” when he was younger. With the help of occupational therapy and maturity, he’s outgrown most of it. But I learned a lot from having to figure out what was going on with him when he was two and three years old. First and foremost, I discovered a window into how my son “works”, as I came to appreciate that “too much input” — visual, auditory or textural — could trigger such seemingly strange behavioral disruptions in him.

And with that, I also discovered a window into how I work. Because, as it turns out, I can also struggle with too much input! I just never  realized it was a “thing” — or that that thing had a name.

For example, when everyone in my family is talking to me at the same time (often), and G-d forbid the radio is also on, or there’s some other sound going on in the background, I start to feel like I’m going to lose my mind — or at least my cool. My heart beats faster and my teeth clench. Honestly, if I don’t remove myself, I’m likely to snap at the people I love. “Turn it off! Stop talking! BE QUIET!”

Yes, I’m shouting at them to be quiet. The irony doesn’t escape me. All this, from too much noise.

clean counters

I’ve also learned that I can have a similar response to being visually overstimulated. You know how the typical kindergarten classroom has something covering every inch of the wall and most of the floor? I have always found this set-up to be incredibly overwhelming – like my eye doesn’t know where to settle. The same thing happens to me when there is too much going on in my house – stacks on the table, random toys on the carpet, even an abundance of crumbs on the floor can make me feel a bit off-kilter.

Because I’m human, I don’t always react to this off-kilter feeling in the most positive, constructive way. 😉 Meaning, I get crabby and am not very pleasant to be around.

What’s so interesting to me about all of this is that the response to clutter is so unique to the individual. My husband notices when the house is picked-up (and admits that he prefers it that way – although when we first got married, he really didn’t notice one way or the other); however, he has zero emotional response to our house being a mess. He notices, but he doesn’t really care. And it certainly doesn’t make him feel off-kilter and crabby!

I’ve even read that for some people clutter and creativity are positively linked, meaning the clutter is actually a product of their creativity (and in some cases can even inspire it!). I find that so hard to imagine, and yet the fact that so many creative geniuses keep a messy desk seem to prove that it’s true.

3 Simple Tips for Keeping a Cleaner Kitchen

For many of us, however, clutter can have the exact opposite effect. Rather than nurturing creativity, clutter can breed depression – especially, apparently, in women.

I know in my own life that clutter has a paralyzing effect. When a space hits that “critical mass”, paralysis sets in — and the clutter becomes larger than my will. I wouldn’t say I find myself depressed by the clutter (although that could be because I’m pretty ruthless about editing stuff in our house), but as I’ve said, I’m definitely prone to clutter-induced moodiness.

My mom will tell you that I wasn’t always like this. I remember many battles in my teenage years about the messy state of my bedroom. But the older I’ve gotten, the greater my distraction has grown. There is no doubt that today, my mood tanks when our house spirals into “mess” zone — and immediately improves when we “reset” it.

I’m far from a stylized homemaker (most of my furnishings are hand-me-downs or Craigslist finds!), and I haven’t the foggiest idea about how to choose paint colors or coordinate decor items. So to me, the state of our home is really about minimizing the visual stimulation and creating clear spaces — in my house and my brain.

{Parenthetically, I found the information in this post about electronic clutter pretty edifying as well. While I’ve been focusing in today’s post on the impact of living in a cluttered home, I know without a doubt that when my desktop and inbox are overrun, so am I! }

Have you given any thought to how clutter affects you? Now that I’ve bared my soul, I would so love to hear from those of you for whom this post has resonated. Do you get crabby — or worse — when your life becomes too cluttered? Is your mood a barometer for the mess in your house?  

(P.S. All the images in this post are from our previous home — when we had it on the market. Halavei it was always that clean!)

31 Days of Decluttering

Do you, too, feel the need to get a better handle on the stuff in your house? Join me for the 31 Days of Decluttering challenge! Everyone is welcome!

Day One: Decluttering the Toy Storage Closet
Day Two: Decluttering the Top of a Bedroom Dresser (Finish What You Start!)
Day Three & Four: Decluttering the Master Bathroom
Day Five: Decluttering My Desk
Day Six: Join the Decluttering Challenge
Day Seven: Decluttering the Computer
Day Eight: Decluttering the Night Stand
Day Nine: Decluttering a Kitchen Counter in Less than 10 Minutes
Reader Share: Decluttering the Front Door Hallway Table
Day 10: Decluttering a Bedroom Closet
Day 11: Taming the Paper Clutter
Day 12: Decluttering the Coat Closet
Day 13: Decluttering the Linen Closet
Day 14: Reader Share: Decluttering the Play Room
Day 15: Reader Share: Decluttering the Front Hall Table


  1. Reading that made me feel like you had somehow climbed into my brain and spoken my own thoughts and feelings out loud. Scary. Glad I’m not alone!!

    • Oh gosh – I’m so glad you’re not alone, too (especially since that means I’M not alone either 🙂 )

      I’m so glad this resonated. It was kinda scary putting my crazy out there like that!

  2. So beautifully said. I can’t function when the house isn’t clean. Before I start any project- be it cooking, baking or work- the room I’m in has to be organized, or I can’t think. My biggest problem in organizing is the last few bits and pieces that have no specific place, and the fact that I run out of energy at the end to actually find a proper place for them!

    • Mara Strom says

      Such an interesting observation, Leah! I have that exact same issue with the last few bits and pieces! It helps to take on smaller projects/spaces to declutter, I’m learning.

  3. galileegirl says

    I can totally relate. A few examples – When sick, I will clean up the family room before lying down to watch TV because I CANNOT relax with the mess around me. I have been known to wash the kitchen floor BEFORE cooking for Shabbat cuz I can’t work in a dirty space. I live with 2 teenagers so there is often music blaring through the house which only seems to drive me nuts…

    P.S. Your house is beautiful!

  4. I know what you mean about too much input, for me it is especially noises. But there seems to be a difference in how I perceive a room full of things, but everything has it’s clear place and order and a room where maybe there are less things but stuff seems “half done”. Do you know what I mean?

    Found you via #ThriftyThursday. Have a nice weekend 🙂

    Alex – Funky Jungle

    • I think I do – because that “order” is reassuring in and of itself. (Although the less stuff helps with the putting back – because it takes less time and there are more decisions to make.)

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