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Clutter churning versus decluttering

clutter churning - piles of kitchenware on the floor

Have you heard of clutter churning? It means moving items around in an attempt to get organised, when actually you need to declutter.

Clutter churning examples:

  • Reorganising piles of stuff on your bench tops and floors to make them look neater.
  • Moving items from bench tops and floors into tubs.
  • Sorting your stuff into piles which kind of make sense in the short term but don’t follow any logic that you will remember.
  • Sorting your stuff into piles but the volume is way beyond your needs and you simply can’t mentally keep track of it.
  • Taking your mess and shoving it into lesser-used parts of the house (spare room, linen press, garage) Out of sight, out of mind, right?
  • Rummaging through DOOM boxes, pulling things out and moving them elsewhere.
  • Buying new items and moving the older versions into a storage area.
  • Allowing the Endowment Effect to rule the process, so that nothing is allowed to exit.
  • Making a pile of donations and then promptly forgetting what the pile is, so the items never leave.
  • Buying ‘organising products’ (another bookshelf, fancy caddies, divided tubs, colour coded systems, labelled organisers, attractive folders in this season’s colours, etc) and moving your clutter into them.

Churning is the opposite of the OHIO (Only Handle it Once) decluttering method, which admittedly is not always practical. Sometimes double-handling is necessary. But clutter churning involves excessive handling of items, and constantly moving things around in an attempt to gain control.

Reality check – when you have too much stuff you never really have control and you will be organising it all your life.

Clutter Churning – why?

  • We do it because decluttering is hard, and making decisions is hard.
  • We do it because our stuff is a big part of our identity, and looking after it can feel like self-care.
  • We do it because of the Endowment Effect.
  • We do it because of the fear of regret.
  • We do it because we are bombarded with messaging that stuff will solve our problems, so removing it is scary.
  • We do it because we are desperately trying to find the right system which will solve our clutter problems.

Clutter Churning – how do I stop?

  • Remember you are stronger than your stuff!
  • Remind yourself that you are giving your stuff too much of your time and energy. Release it to a new home.
  • Look at the OHIO method.
  • Think about how to make useful decisions.

Until a bunch of items leave your premises, you are just clutter churning and any improvements are only short term.

You can’t organise clutter… you have to get rid of it.

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