When does stuff become clutter? When does what you own become more of a burden than a blessing? When does the disarray deserved to be disposed?

You can’t stop thinking about it. You’re stressed. You’re disorganized. Yet, you keep buying, stockpiling, hoarding…

Clearly, it’s not just the stuff that’s bothering you.

The stuff you see is only part of the mess. There’s stuff underneath the stuff.

Clutter is crafty and contagious. It pervades first our minds, then our bodies, hearts and homes. It seeps into our calendars, offices, careers and bank accounts.

Your mind is the first to get cluttered before you ever see the repercussions in your living space.

Can you catch it before it gets out of hand? Before it becomes debilitating?

Let’s find out how to tell when stuff becomes clutter.

When can you call it “clutter”?

Is it clutter when it overflows out of drawers and closets? Is it clutter when it occupies your every thought? Is it clutter when you’re so scatterbrained that you can’t think straight?

Sounds like clutter to me.

But I dub you Merriam-Webster, it is in your power to define something as clutter or not. It is merely a label.

However, there are tell-tale signs of a cluttered life. If you’re completely honest with yourself, you’ve probably noticed them, inside and out.

Are you open to something being clutter in your life? Are you open to evaluating if it will stay or if it will go? I hope so. Even when you detect clutter, it simply means that you can now give your attention to it. You can check in with yourself, see why it is clutter, and decide what to do from there.

Here are 3 ways you can gauge if it’s clutter:

1. When it ceases to serve you.

If it’s not serving you, if it’s not providing a benefit in the moment, it’s clutter. If something is hindering or not promoting your well-being, it’s not serving the whole you. It’s not reflecting the divinity of who you are beneath the flesh and bones.

Some stuff is only good for so long; most things have an expiration date. The novelty wears off. The utility. The functionality. Whether something is useful or not is a matter of perception and subject to the phase of life you’re in. If something has met its end in your life, it’s safe to pass it on.   

Not only what is visible, but thoughts can cease to serve you, too. Beliefs, memories, opinions, etc. People and relationships, even.

If you determine a relationship is clutter, you don’t have to discard the person. What about the relationship isn’t serving you? Are you two disconnecting, and just need to bond again? Is it the negative conversation? Is it different hobbies and interests? Once you look deeper, you can find the areas that have been neglected and work on intimacy there. (Intimacy, not only for lovers.)

2. When it distracts and disrupts.

When stuff distracts you from your priorities in life and disrupts your peace of mind, it’s clutter. If it derails inspiration and creativity, if it detracts from your inherent wisdom, it’s clutter.

Some stuff is in your way. It obstructs your path. It knocks you off course. When you come across a road block, you can evaluate if it’s worth taking a different path or if it’s telling you something about your direction.

Or is the distraction you? Are you letting fear stand in your way? Are you distracting yourself from things you don’t want to see? Are you buying more stuff because it numbs the pain you’re scared to feel? Are you eating that third slice of cake because you’re feeding the anxiety in your belly?

What’s got your attention? Is it in alignment with your priorities, purpose and peace? When you’ve done the introspection necessary to discover your priorities, your purpose and what brings you peace, you’ll see clearly what’s in the way of each. You’ll discover what stands as a hindrance more than a help. And you can ask it to step aside.

3. When it loses that loving feeling.

What is that loving feeling? Most likely, it’s what caused you to acquire that thing in the first place. And when that feeling is gone, it becomes clutter. It becomes something that depletes energy rather than adds energy.

Clutter depletes energy because it blinds us from love. It transmutes loving energy to fear and distrust. It turns our attention to lack and limitation. Let it, and it will suffocate you.

Love is an energy, like passion, excitement and joy. When your stuff (people, places, things) loses its energy, then it means you’ve lost your connection to it. You’ve lost the energy that once synced you to it.

Intimacy and gratitude rekindle lost passion; quality time can resurge a lost connection. Before you spend that time, check if the energy it once had aligns with your current state, where you are in your life now. Would allowing that energy back into your life be regressive or progressive? Is there anything there left to love?

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If any of your stuff checks off any of the 3 above, then you can consider it clutter.

Then, gauge the degree of clutter against how you feel about it. Look inside yourself and see why it’s clutter.

The label, clutter, is not good or bad. Sometimes, stuff loses its place in our lives. Nothing more to it. No need to attach to what was. Focus on what is, now.

We’re changing every moment. It’s our adaptive and transformative nature in this human form. So, welcome the changes rather than resist them. Open your eyes to what the change is showing you. When you resist looking, you hoard dead energy—and the tangible effects of clutter stack up.

How serious are you about decluttering and cleaning up the energy around you? When you discover that your stuff is clutter, you have two choices: keep it or let it go. You decide.

If it doesn’t empower you, let it go. Why hold on to stuff (and stories) that keeps you down?

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[Side note: If I was being completely upfront, I’d let you know that it’s not about the stuff. It’s about you. Have you deliberately shunned something or someone from your life because you’re bored? Are you creating the clutter because you like the distraction? Are you denying the love that was there because you’re on to the newest, latest model? When you see clutter, it’s time to look at the person who’s doing the seeing.]

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