Are You Clutter-Blind? Or Do You Know Someone Who Is?

One thing that continues to surprise me about the nature of good habits and happiness is the degree to which, for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm. More, really, than it should.

In the context of life of a happy life, something like a crowded coat closet or an overflowing in-box seems trivial—and it is trivial—and yet I find that I get a disproportionate charge of energy and good cheer from clearing clutter.

An orderly environment makes me feel more in control of my life, and if this is an illusion, it’s a helpful illusion.

Many people feel that way, and even people who thrive on a little chaos tend to have a limit, and enjoy orderliness to some degree.

Oblivious to Clutter

However, there’s a group of people who seem oblivious to clutter. They don’t appear to see it at all. Just as some people are color-blind, these folks are clutter-blind.

“Clutter-blind” doesn’t apply to the people who can stand to see dirty dishes scattered around, because they know if they wait, a spouse will collect the dishes — perhaps complaining all the while; see these crucial facts about shared work.

The fact is, very often, people in a couple or in a group have different levels of tolerance for clutter, and the ones with the least tolerance end up doing the most tidying, and the ones with more tolerance end up doing less. Again, this is a problem of shared work. However, in most cases, the messier ones would eventually cave and do some clutter-clearing, too. They want to be in environments that are reasonably orderly (though others might disagree by what is “reasonable”).

But some people don’t seem to register clutter, ever. A friend told me, “My husband never notices anything. As an experiment, when we got back from a trip, I left a suitcase full of his dirty clothes right in front of the front door, so he’d have to step over it to get in the house. I wanted to see how long he’d put up with it.  After a month, I called off the experiment and dealt with the suitcase myself.”

Have you found anything that works?

If this describes you — I’m curious:

  • Does clutter simply not register, or does it just not bug you?
  • Do you ever feel there’s any value in creating an orderly environment, even if disorder doesn’t particularly bother you — or is it not worth the energy and time?
  • Do you have trouble finding things, or do you know exactly where to find your belongings?
  • Is this a source of conflict with other people, or do they accept this aspect of your nature?

 

If this describes someone you know :

  • How do you deal with this aspect of their personality?
  • Is it possible to cajole folks like this into being more orderly, because it’s important to you, or is it impossible, because they simply don’t see it?

 

Over and over, I’ve been asked, “My spouse is clutter-blind. Living in a big mess just doesn’t bother him/her, and nothing I say or do makes this person help me keep things orderly. It makes me crazy, but I don’t think it’s fair that I have to do all the clutter-clearing, just because my spouse doesn’t care. So what do I do?”

What should that person do? Have you found anything that works?

In my limited observation, such folks often just can’t be changed. They’re not thoughtless or rude; they simply can’t address clutter because they don’t see it.

  • Elena

    My parents, particularly my mother is this way. Too tired to help them declutter, I sometimes
    I think of getting psychological support although I believe it is they who should be doing it.
    Even if we do a perfect decluttering things just accumulate again in a couple of months. I think it is also a result of an exaggerated manner of being too frugal. “You can never throw away that empty jar or that worn out tablecloth. You don’t know how difficult it was to obtain things 40-50 years ago.” is the kind of talk I hear all the time. Although I don’t live with them it disturbs me a lot when I visit. It sure doesn’t mean anything to them to say that it is important to me. It is almost impossible to change them, may be a good psychological therapy would do.

    • Alana

      I read an interesting article recently about how “minimalism” or an extremely clutter free environment is really only something that individuals of a certain socio-economic class can realistically achieve. In other words, if you’re poor and not at all confident you can afford that thing you may need “someday” you probably won’t get rid of it so easily as someone who is confident they would be able to go buy it back. Slightly off topic, but thought I’d mention it because, for the poor, or those who grew up feeling poor, it is a real thing that needs to be respected.

      • PDX

        This is true. I was raised by Depression era grandparents. You didn’t toss everything. You reused it until it fell apart and then tossed it.

      • This is a very very real aspect for me personally. Stella

    • PJ

      Certainly folks who grew up during the depression may have wanted to keep things in case they could put them to use some day.

      Another factor with some older folks, like my parents, is that a lot of their memories are “stored in” (attached to) their physical stuff. In my parents’ final years, when they both suffered memory problems, the stuff would spark their memories. So they did not want to get rid of anything. After they died, it took my husband and I over a year to clean out their house so we could sell it. There was valuable stuff jumbled together with stuff that was not, so we had to carefully go through everything. I don’t think they were hoarders, but it was definitely a very cluttered house.

  • Maia

    I’m not sure that he doesn’t see clutter. I would believe that he doesn’t think it’s a task he should do, consciously or unconsciously.
    When I was young, my mother would always put things at the bottom of the stairs for us to bring upstairs. And my sisters, my father and I would never think about tacking care of that. She would have to always remind it to us and would complain about that.
    And when a few years later I read this exact scene in a book (“I don’t know how she does it”), I realised it’s really a thing women/mothers are more taught about.
    And now I live with roomates, I can see that same scheme back. Mostly, boys don’t see obvious stuff liying around. (of course I exagerate a little bit, I’ve met guys who took better care of their place than me, but mostly girls do better, and I think it’s because we’re taught to do so.).
    Also, there is a kind of large focus on things/focus on details. And for people who accumulate a lot, isn’t it a fear of loosing stuff, of missing, a difficulty to separate oneself from stuff ?

  • Alexandra

    My fastidious sister once said that she “hears” clutter. I think it absolutely describes how I feel too. I find clutter as unsettling as a neighbor’s constantly barking dog. Unfortunately, while my partner admits that it is nicer when there is less clutter, it just isn’t something that she really sees or that bothers her enough to change. Mostly I don’t mind being the declutterer (because it brings me the visual peace I crave), but there are some specific things that are chronic and do cause friction between us. It is an ongoing negotiation.

    • gretchenrubin

      People really do have different levels of tolerance for clutter. It’s an issue for a lot of couples.

      • Have you noticed how both “sides” of this issue urge people on the other side to “just relax and….”? For myself, I am an ADD person who cannot function or think in a cluttered environment, let alone relax. Our young adult son, also with ADD, says he feels nervous when his room is too clean. It flabbergasts me, but I believe he tells the truth. It is a major source of conflict between us, even though we are trying to be understanding and tolerant of each other’s needs.

  • Linda G

    Not only is my spouse pretty clutter-blind, it is a point of pride with him. I have a pretty high tolerance, but occasionally, I am ready to just throw it all on his side of the bed. But then there wouldn’t be enough room for me!

  • Anxiety is a big part of my experience as a clutter blind person. It’s not that I relish living in a cluttered space, nor is it that I don’t see it… I’d much prefer to live in an uncluttered one, to be honest… However, the act of decluttering for me tends to evoke such strong feelings, generally an anxiety so visceral that I feel it would be better to be dead, that it overpowers the will to get to desired result of an uncluttered space, so I often resort to disassociating from my surroundings and resorting to live with the low level discomfort of clutter because at least it isn’t evoking a debilitating and irrational emotional reaction which has you fearing for your life despite the fact you’re not actually in any danger.

    However, there does come a point where things have to be dealt with… and more often than not, when it gets to that point the most effective way through is to invoke the support of others. If someone else is holding the reigns of the decision making and giving me marching orders to clean the bathroom or do the dishes or throw out all the trash in the living room, I can muddle through and won’t end up in a puddle of tears. However, it doesn’t really get to the root of the problem which is that I don’t have the habits to maintain having a clutter free space for any extended period of time. It’s a quick fix, that generally doesn’t last.

    There’s definitely a shame factor that’s in the mix as well… I know my tolerance for clutter is excessive, and I’m incredibly self conscious about it. I don’t generally invite people to my home socially because I want to avoid being judged and criticized by well meaning friends with much lower clutter thresholds than I have. I judge myself harshly enough on it as it is, I don’t need anyone’s help! The amount of times I call myself a lazy good for nothing slob who doesn’t deserve to take up space on the planet is pretty staggering…

    It’s definitely something in my life that I wish was different, but it’s such an ingrained and sensitive issue that it’s difficult to tackle, and the best thing I do for myself at this stage is to have compassion for myself and try to do the best I can.

    I’m single and live alone these days, but I can say that my clutter issue has often been a point of contention with former partners and roommates… What I found was that the more pressure that was put on me to declutter and organize, the more I would tend to balk and make a mess. If the person I was living with liked things to be tidy and organized, and just did that of their own accord without cajoling or pressuring me to follow suit, I generally would be much better about picking up after myself.

    • I’m with you on this. Cleaning gives me anxiety because it makes me feel overwhelmed– especially if I’ve waited too long (but I wait so long because of my anxiety!).

    • Nanaverm

      I’m like you, and like Allison below. Except that I’m married to someone who also doesn’t keep his area or even the dining room table cleared of his paperwork.

      Something that makes me uneasy when I (seldom) do get things very tidy: echoes in empty rooms. It feels cold and un-homey, stark and barren. I can actually hear the difference living there, and to me, it’s unpleasant.

      • gretchenrubin

        It’s interesting that some people find clutter warm and homey; others find clutter distressing and draining.

    • Caroline Telfer

      omg! I never thought of it like that before, but this describes me EXACTLY (except I’ve gotten over the bit about not inviting people to my home – and in fact when I do, my husband will run around cleaning up so that HE is not embarrassed.)

    • BR

      Yes, this is me. I’m fine with cleaning chores, but when I try to de-clutter I become immobilized. My anxiety ratchets up with each object I handle until I collapse. I can usually last about a half hour, and then it takes me a month to recover. I hold on to so much paper that I “might need”; each time I shred a piece, I re-examine all my (irrational) fears about why I would ever want to keep it.

      Take old electric bills as an example. I reassure myself that the electric company isn’t going to over-charge me; that I’m not selling my house, so there are no future buyers wondering about our electric rates; and that keeping it to compare with the future electric bill from the same month next year would not provide me with meaningful information. Then I shred it. Okay, so that’s one piece of paper taken care of. I just need to do that for the other 15 papers left on the desk before I can move on to the dresser, and so on.

      I consider it a victory that I have convinced myself that I don’t need to FILE all this paper. And in desperation I have three boxes to use when I really need to clean a surface quickly. I can just sort the paper into three piles, one for Financial information, one for Future Trash and one for “Other”. Since I’m not disposing of it when it goes into the box, it doesn’t make me as anxious. I just have to promise myself that I will come back to it.

      I’m not at a place where I could shred the Financial info, but I can shred the Future Trash after a couple months without too much struggle. It takes me a couple years to be able to handle the stuff from the Other box. (as long as I don’t feel sentimental about it…)

      “What if I need it” is the biggest issue for me handling paper but I really need help in de-cluttering clothing and books and other objects that take up a heck of a lot more space than paper. “What if I need it?” gets all tangled up with nostalgia – “What if I forget it?”.

      I wore a dress to work last week that I hadn’t worn in twenty years. I first bought it to wear to some good friends’ wedding 25 years ago and wore it maybe twice after that, until it was relegated to the back of the closet. But that wedding was so fun, (and my friends are still married!) and I had such a good time in that dress, so I kept it. Still, the dress is out of style (it even has shoulder pads!), so I pulled it out to give to Goodwill. But I thought I would wear it one last time. So I wore it to work. Last week. Then I washed it and wore it again this week. And now it’s back in my closet. Sigh…

      So, that was a whole lot of energy invested in trying to give away one dress. At least the nostalgia part makes it less stressful when I fail….

  • Darlene

    Unless a person is legally blind, they see clutter. Even if it doesn’t bother them, they should respect and adapt to the person they are living with if their roommate/spouse prefers a tidy environment. Although a person who states they don’t mind clutter might say it doesn’t bother them, they are likely to frantically run around looking for their keys/books/papers for work, etc. which negatively affects those with whom they live. My mother was known for keeping a very clean and orderly home for our family of six. We were taught from an early age to always check a room prior to leaving it, to make sure we left it the way we found it (which was tidy to start). I still find myself quickly checking a room before turning the lights out, to see if anything is out of place. (Side note: our friends loved coming to our home as it was an inviting environment.)

    • gretchenrubin

      This sounds like the fair and considerate way to behave, but I know some people who, while otherwise kind and considerate, simply don’t seem to be able to do this. It’s weird. It’s like they really JUST DON’T SEE IT. No matter what they “should” do.

      Has anyone else encountered this?

      • You know, some of this strikes me as a love language issue…

        I can understand why folks who are inclined to be tidy by nature tend associate not having to pick up over someone who has a tendency toward being cluttered as a sign of love and mutual respect.

        However, as someone who has a tendency toward being cluttered and absentminded about my things, I feel really loved when someone who’s tidier than me takes care of the things that I’m not so good at.

        Also, I think it’s a good practice to pay attention to what your partner DOES do… One of the things that was often frustrating to me in relationships was that I could do a days worth of chores…. laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, mop the floor, clean the toilet, etc… but all the effort I put in to do those things would be completely overlooked as if I did nothing at all because I didn’t put away the things cluttering up the coffee table.

    • maria

      Actually, they don’t. Some people have very different visual skills and an inability to perceive things the way most people do. A visual processing disorder can be the root of clutter blindness, and it has nothing to do with preference.

    • tessa_spanton

      What about a bit of give and take on both sides? Why should it be the ‘clutter blind’ person who has to do all the adapting?

      • Lisa Y

        This was my thought. Wanting things completely tidy is a preference, but people can tend to see it as the RIGHT way to be and being ok with clutter as WRONG. In my opinion, if you married someone you know is not as tidy as you, you better be prepared to do some adapting yourself.

        • liina

          I agree that there are extremes (OCD) however I suggest that basic tidiness is seen as right because it is better for many reasons (safety, cleanliness, ability to find keys pay bills etc…). We have certain expectations of grooming in my country that other countries don’t, and it can be a shock to be around others that are used to their odors. I like my way, and they are perfectly happy and oblivious to the fact that their scent is offensive. It’s hard to define what level of tidiness is “normal”, but the home should be able to be cleaned weekly. If floors can’t be swept, mopped or vacuumed, the home is not just cluttered, it is unclean. Mold can start growing in there. Bugs nest. And so on. Perhaps people living together will be happiest agreeing on a level of cleanliness in their homes and finding a balance they can all live with.

      • PDX

        Exactly. OCD tidiness is just as “crazy” and annoying as clutter blindness. My friend’s mom used to yell at her when she “left the kitchen in a mess”. There was a water ring from a glass on the counter.

  • Maryalene @ The Mighty Widow

    I think I qualify as clutter-blind. Here are my answers:

    Does clutter simply not register, or does it just not bug you?

    A little bit of both. Usually I don’t notice the clutter unless I’ve been someplace very neat and clean (like a hotel or a tidy friend’s house). Then I come home and realize I have a lot of clutter. But even then, I have a super high tolerance for it so except on rare occasions, it’s not something that gnaws away at me. I feel no urgency or restlessness (that I’m aware of) because of my clutter. I attribute a lot of this to the fact that I grew up in a cluttered house so it’s all I know.

    Do you ever feel there’s any value in creating an orderly
    environment, even if disorder doesn’t particularly bother you — or is it
    not worth the energy and time?

    Absolutely! I work so much better at the library or when I’m on vacation (in a hotel) in large part, I believe, because everything is so neat and clean. A couple times a year I go on a major purging binge, and I love, love, love the way the house feels when I’m done. But then the stuff accumulates, and it’s just not a priority for me to maintain. That said, I often secretly wish the house would burn down so I could start over without all the stuff. I don’t mind my clutter, but at the same time, I wish I could get rid of it, if that makes any sense.

    Do you have trouble finding things, or do you know exactly where to find your belongings?

    Usually I have a good idea of where things generally are, but I do lose things quite a bit and spend way too much time hunting down that one piece of paper in the stack of hundreds.

    Is this a source of conflict with other people, or do they accept this aspect of your nature?

    I’m a widow so I have no one to keep me in check now, but when my husband was alive it was a major source of conflict. He was such a neat and tidy minimalist, and poor guy married a girl with a major case of messiness.

    • gretchenrubin

      So interesting to hear your perspective.

  • My father is clutter-blind. My mother says it is because he was raised in a cluttered home ( she was raised in a home where everything was returned to its place each night). They’ve been married over forty years and only “solution” she’s found is to clear his clutter herself, reinforcing her frustration.

  • Mimi Gregor

    I have to say that I am the opposite: People comment on the sparseness of my home. I mean, I have furniture and electronics and stuff… but I’m not one for nic-nacs and nostalgia and saving stuff for “just in case”. I feel uncomfortable in cluttered surroundings. I’m afraid I’m very judgmental about it, in fact. Just today, I made my husband take some exercise equipment that he hasn’t used for several years to Goodwill. He’s not going to use it; I’m not going to use it. What is the point of keeping it? When my home is pared down and clean, I feel more relaxed.

  • Valerie Johnson

    Does clutter simply not register, or does it just not bug you?
    Mostly doesn’t register. (Especially if I am focused on something else – computer, phone, cooking, reading a book, petting the dog, or just out of the house entirely.)

    Also doesn’t bug me. Definitely not germ-phobic.

    Do you ever feel there’s any value in creating an orderly environment, even if disorder doesn’t particularly bother you — or is it not worth the energy and time?
    I am 100% convinced my life would be better clutter-free. Part of the problem is OCD tendencies (or maybe something else), but here’s what goes through my head: “Boy. I should clean the kitchen. Yikes! That means I have to do all this: pick up the clutter, wash ALL the dishes and counter and stove and toaster and olive oil bottle (etc), vacuum the floor then wash the floor. Yuck, the range hood, microwave, and inside and outside of the refigerator are pretty gross too. I should clean those too. HA HA HA, never mind, that is way to much work to do! I will just read this magazine instead…then I can put in the recycling bin…which still counts as “cleaning”!!!”

    Do you have trouble finding things, or do you know exactly where to find your belongings?
    99% of the time I know where my things are, and where my partner’s things are.

    Is this a source of conflict with other people, or do they accept this aspect of your nature?
    Yes, I am a bad influence on my partner – he is naturally more clean than me, but if I’m not cleaning, why should he?

  • Clutter doesn’t bother me and I don’t tend to see things in the same way as my wife does. I do try to make an effort for her sake but I don’t have a problem with it. I’m not sure if it’s a man thing but most men I know are the same

    • gretchenrubin

      I really don’t think it’s a man/woman thing! I know many men/women on the opposite side of the split.

  • Ruth Carter

    Like the woman with the suitcase by the door , I undertook an experiment on my father. One day I had done all the ironing and I left his clothes on an airer at the bottom of the stairs. I thought the fact that he had to step around it each time he went up or down the stairs would mean he’d get annoyed about it and put his clothes away. I asked him to put them away twice. I didn’t want to nag. The clothes stayed there until I next needed to use the airer. I had spent the whole week falling over the airer and how I didn’t break my leg I’ll never know. My father seemed to float past the airer as if it weren’t there. One of the joys of moving into my own flat has been that I no longer have to pick up after someone else.

    • gretchenrubin

      In the case of your father, do you think it’s that he truly DID NOT SEE IT? Or just figured you’d deal with it eventually, so why should he bother?

      Because often, I think people get angry, because they think the person is being thoughtless, lazy, inconsiderate…
      But to me, it seems like they simply don’t even SEE IT. It’s hard to grasp that, especially if you’re sensitive to clutter yourself.

      • Maryalene @ The Mighty Widow

        Can I share my own suitcase story here?

        I just unpacked the suitcase from our Christmas vacation two weeks ago. It was by the foot of my bed and in front of a bookcase. I walked past it every day for months but it wasn’t until I had to move it to get into the bookcase that I thought ‘oh, I haven’t unpacked and put this away yet.’

        This is such a fascinating subject for me, particularly because I would define myself as a simplicity lover. So why am I comfortable being surrounded by so much clutter? (To be clear, I’m not a hoarder, and I have no trouble getting rid of things. It’s just not something I think about on a daily basis.)

        Someone else mentioned that their husband was raised in a cluttered house, and I wonder if that’s the key here. As I mentioned it my other comment, I was raised in a cluttered house too. My mom kept everythingiimmaculately clean but there was stuff everywhere. I think you just get used to living that way and all the stuff blends into the background.

      • Ruth Carter

        I honestly don’t think he saw it. He could leave things lying around for ages and it seemed to me that he really didn’t see them.

        • gretchenrubin

          This is the thing that’s hard to understand. How does a person NOT SEE IT? And yet, it really does seem to be the case with some people. And so I wonder if efforts to try to make them clear clutter are futile. It doesn’t seem fair, true, but maybe it’s just a part of that person’s nature outside conscious control.

          • mrs_helm

            I am clutter blind and I can say that it isn’t so much “not see” as “not a problem”. If it’s ” in progress “, and I put it there – not a problem. If I don’t know what else to do with it yet- not a problem. If there is a plan for it (X goes out Tuesday) – not a problem. We dealt w it h this in our marriage by having certain spaces that are “clutter free zones” (kitchen counters, entry table) and I have an office where all my “in progress” stuff lives.

          • From my observation it’s not that they don’t ‘see’ it, it’s more like a wall or stairs or a door ‘it is’ so you walk around it. It does not trigger any concept of ‘it’s in the way’, ‘I should do something about that’ or anything along those lines. Stella.

  • Imogen_Jericho

    I seem to remember this being called out as a trait of one of the Myers Briggs types, maybe INTP? I’m having trouble finding an authoritative reference though — it’s driving me crazy 😉

    That really struck me at the time, not that they tolerate clutter or can’t manage it, but that they don’t even see it. My husband is this way a bit, and I suppose I am, to a lesser degree — certain types of clutter become “part of the landscape” to me after awhile, and cease to call out to me as something to be tidied.

  • Jude Ofthenorth

    I think one issue is that many of us tend to have a lot of stuff and little storage space. Another issue is that people in a family may have different levels of tolerance for/comfort with clutter and messiness. When my three children were growing up, I expected them to keep their own bedrooms and their playroom tidy, and helped them and taught them how to pick up their toys. However, despite this, one of my daughters always was very messy, and as an adult, although she tries hard to set up a well organized and welcoming home, there always is quite a bit of clutter. Another daughter married a very tidy person, and they keep their house clean and neat even with two small children. My son is in between the other two in terms of order and level of clutter.

    For me, one solution is to have different standards for different areas of the house. I like the shared areas to be less cluttered, but am comfortable with family members arranging their personal space as they wish. For example, I insist on having little clutter on the kitchen counters and work spaces or on the dining room table. But my husband has a “man cave” in the basement that is extremely messy, and that is fine.

  • HannahLee

    I have never been clutter blind, but when I was young and busy all the time, I will say that I was less likely to keep things clean and picked up because I simply didn’t have time, nor did my husband help me. He would actually call me “Pigpen” after the Charlie Brown character because he said where ever I dropped something, it stayed there. And yet, he NEVER HELPED.

    So now years later, I am completely OCD about cleaning. You could literally, eat off the floors in my house and I would come behind you and clean up and disinfect where you ate. And my husband has moved on to other things to complain about. Maybe I should clean him.

  • Sarah

    Does clutter simply not register, or does it just not bug you?
    I think for me, it mostly does not register and takes a lot of mess before it bugs me. I remember sharing a hotel room with my dad for a week (who is super OCD about keeping clean) and feeling like I was doing a great job of staying tidy. Well, at the end of the week, he pointed out that I had left a stack of papers on the counter for pretty much the whole time we had been there and it had been driving him crazy, and I was honestly surprised.

    Do you ever feel there’s any value in creating an orderly environment, even if disorder doesn’t particularly bother you — or is it not worth the energy and time?
    Yes, I feel like there is value because it bothers other people. I try really hard to clean up so I don’t annoy my husband. It helps to have a list of discrete tasks that I can do to contribute. For example, I do all the laundry every Sunday. But I probably won’t notice my books that are all over the table.

    Do you have trouble finding things, or do you know exactly where to find your belongings?
    I usually know where everything is.

    Is this a source of conflict with other people, or do they accept this aspect of your nature?
    When I was a kid, it was the one thing I would get in trouble for. I was a very successful student and followed all the rules. But my mess would drive my parents crazy. I think with roommates and now my husband, it annoys them, but they know I’m trying and don’t do it on purpose. When people give me a task to do, I will do it, but I often need help identifying what needs to be done.

  • Jennfier

    Clutter doesn’t bother me that much. In fact, I like to have things out where I can see them, especially things that I am working on. Yep, my office has paper strewn all over the place but if I put it away–
    1) I worry I won’t find it again
    2) I will just forget about it.
    Seeing things that I just come across sometimes triggers ideas for me. I heard that some people are “everything outers.” They like everything to be out. It made my ex husband crazy–but I think I was able to find something as easily as he was. Granted, one of my life mantras is “it will turn up.” I also have a much harder time for things that don’t have a specific place.

  • My boyfriend is fairly clutter-blind and when I asked him if clutter doesn’t register or just doesn’t bother him, he said it’s a bit of both. I don’t feel like I’m clutter-blind, but I feel like we’re reasonably well-matched in terms of tolerance for it. I mean, there are some places where it bothers me more (I often ask if he can clear his papers/other stuff off the table we eat at, and I like keeping the kitchen counters pretty clear), but I do tend to have some spots of clutter of my own.

  • Star

    I could be described as “clutter blind,” especially by my husband, who likes things neat. I would say that I “don’t see” the clutter, but I mean that I see the physical objects, they just don’t register as a problem.

    Clutter does not bother me, and I don’t think my life would be better if I lived in a more orderly space. Places that are too orderly look like model homes…soulless, inhospitable, like no one lives there. It seems fake and contrived, and I wouldn’t want to spend too much time there, lest I soil someone’s pristine place by sitting on the couch or moving a pillow. I make hotel rooms my own while I’m there, by putting my things in the room where they seem they should be.
    I know where my things are, and where my husband’s are, as long as no one “helps me” by organizing my things. I can’t find anything my husband “organizes” because his system makes no sense. It’s out of sight, all thrown together in a drawer, in a fashion that is illogical to me.

    • BR

      Yes, I’ve never wanted to buy a brand new house for this reason. It’s more appealing to live in an existing home and changing it to suit me than creating a home out of nothing.

  • Zupamum

    I would love to live an uncluttered life, but I can’t seem to get rid of anything. Many items have memories attached to them, or a sense that I might need certain things some day, i don’t know how to organize things and sometimes I feel guilty getting rid of things because someone special gave them to me! . I always said if someone worked with me to put things in an organized way and threw out things along with me I believe I could get it all together and organize it all! My kids think I am a hoarder, and to an extent I am. I am also a perfectionist in some ways, so if I don’t think I can do a job well, like getting my home organized than I don’t want to do it all! Failing at it would make me feel like a failure!

  • Sharon

    I too am probably considered clutter-blind, but as with nikkiana it’s not that I don’t see it or that I wouldn’t like a tidy space, it’s that I have learned to block it out. I suffered from massive depression for years and had zero energy to face the piles of stuff so now that I am recovering I am having to learn a whole lot of new habits and it is still a struggle. Having an unsupportive partner who would moan about the mess while not lifting a finger to even tidy his own stuff didn’t help! I hope I will get there eventually! Good luck to you nikkiana

  • kdraney

    My ex-husband was — and still is — clutter-blind (one of the many reasons he’s now my ex-husband). I’d leave a tool on the stairway, or a pile of his papers on his dresser, and they would stay there for, quite literally, months, even years. Our garage was so full of tools, wood, old furniture, and miscellany that you could not walk into it, let alone park a car in it.
    I should have seen it coming — his apartment, when I met him, had almost no clear floor space, and no place to sit. Piles of papers, pizza boxes, homework assignments, bills, covered almost every surface — floor, couch, chairs, table. He used his apartment to eat pizza at the kitchen counter, shower in the bathroom, and sleep in his bed.
    There was nothing I could do to persuade him to change (and over 20 years of marriage I tried everything I could think of). He thought there was something wrong with me because I wanted one room in the house with no clutter, where I could sit down, relax, and think.
    My 14-year-old son is now turning out just like his father (in spite of significant training when he was in elementary school). He comes home, throws his backpack and his jacket on the floor of his bedroom, and steps over them for the rest of the night. His towels are on the floor, dirty dishes are on his desk — and even when I insist he pick them up, he only gets about half of them. He’s recently been diagnosed with ADHD (inattentive type), and I wonder if there’s a connection — his brain is so busy thinking about so many other things, all at once, that there’s no room to pay attention to the space he is in. His school backpack looks like a miniature version of his room.
    Oh — and my ex-husband’s house is full of piles of laundry, dirty dishes, used pizza boxes, and so forth. Maybe he has ADHD too. 🙂

    • Sara

      I briefly dated a man who I discovered was a hoarder, especially with mail and paper. He bought a condo and moved, leaving all his stuff behind, but it wasn’t long before his new place was growing the same kind of piles. That was over 20 years ago, and I bet his place is filled again to the brim, with only maze-like spaces to get to the bed, bath and kitchen. It’s truly a mental disorder.

  • Monica

    My husband and I have gone to counseling about this, because he has been “clutter blind”. Turns out, the thought of him getting rid of anything in order to declutter, gives him anxiety – Dr. Phil calls this “disposaphobia” – VERY interesting! It’s a form of hoarding. So, to tackle the fear of lack or of disposing of things…Sigh.

    • Sara

      What did your counselor say about this? I’m at my wit’s end with my husband’s clutter. He CAN. NOT. throw anything away. If the shampoo bottle is empty, he will not put it in the trash. Every receipt he’s ever had, he still has. Some are on thermal paper and the print has disappeared, but he still will not throw them away. Help!!!

      • Monica

        Sara, ask him to go with you to talk to a professional. That level is pretty layered – my husband opened his eyes when we watched the Dr. Phil episode on hoarding. Maybe you can find it online. It has to do with anxiety and not letting go and not trusting the process of life. We’re going to a Tony Robbins seminar and that’ll most definitely get him a jump start into “feeling” what’s at the core. That’s likely the case with your hub – not letting himself really feel.

        • Sara

          Thank you so much Monica… I’ll talk to him. He doesn’t think it’s a problem, so I’m not sure what his reaction will be, but it’s worth a try, and if it bothers me that much, he may be willing to go just because of that. My son just went to a Tony Robbins seminar and it was life-changing for him. Have a wonderful time… What a dynamo!!

          • Monica

            Gosh Sara. I’m convinced that if he says he doesn’t think it’s a problem, it’s because he’s in denial or is afraid to get real about it. As I said to my husband, “well it’s a problem for me. and therefore for our marriage.” that’s reason enough to step up the importance to get real with things. remind him that going to a professional means temporary discomfort for him vs. not going means infinite discomfort for you. good luck to you honey and that’s just so cool your son went to TR! woot woot!

  • Cameron

    We have a nice, spacious house, and it always seems to be drowning in clutter. Paper is the worst: real bills get mixed in with those dratted credit card pitches that have to be shredded, magazines that I want to read again or clip are swamped by newspapers that should have gotten into the fireplace kindling bin… The hours before a dinner or party (we do family holidays here, and I really do like to entertain), I dash around madly piling stuff into baskets and humping them into the bedroom or my office where I can shut the door.

    At this very minute, there are bins of out-of-season clothes parked in front of my dresser, waiting to be moved to their seasonal home… and they’ve been there since *last* spring. Ditto the closet. To say nothing of the boxes of things meant to be donated to the charity shop clogging up the garage and mudroom.

    I guess I ‘see’ them infrequently — most of the time I work/walk around them, and can find pretty much anything else I’m after. But when I do notice them, I am ready to shoot myself for leaving so much clutter around. I make assorted excuses to myself (there’s been a lot of family medical drama in the last two years, and four of the boxes are medical kit), but really, I think it boils down to not having an assigned place to put the whatever-it-is.

    I have a good friend who finds my clutter very uncomfortable, and she makes a point of complimenting me on the tidiness of the house at parties or dinners — maybe she hopes that will encourage me to make a habit of tidying?!

    I bought Marie Kondo’s book, and plan on trying the spark sorting technique this summer. I also made one resolution that has actually helped cut kitchen mess to almost nothing: namely, if I have to wash my hands, wash something that’s in the sink (cat dishes and grill pans, mostly!).

  • Julie Duffy

    Ooo! Me! Me! Me! It took my husband years to figure out that I really, honestly didn’t see clutter. He knows I’m was willing to help clear up, because it clearly makes him unhappy, but I just wasn’t seeing it, so he points things out now. (It works best if it’s done BEFORE he gets really irritated though, since that puts me on the defensive.)

    THE BEST thing we ever did, to help with this, was hire a cleaning service for a couple of years. We had to declutter every couple of weeks before the cleaners came, and, after they left I could finally see what a clean house really looked like. Once I had that picture in my head, it was easier to start to see the clutter. When I really concentrate….

    I will say, though, on the rare occasions when the whole house (every room, every corner) has been clutter-free, I feel a little on edge.

  • Cynthia Phillips

    I don’t want to change my clutter. It is important to me that I see projects that I am working on. I am always working on several at a time. To me, it isn’t clutter. It is a very sophisticated organization system. I am thinking about my work all the time. Sometimes, it takes a little while to get there.

    It’s like reading books. Some people read several books at a time.

    I don’t have trash. I don’t have dirty crap lying about. It’s not stinky. I know exactly where everything is and what state it’s in.

    It’s who I am. Love me or not. If I changed it I would not be creative.

  • Nosson Rodin

    I used to be clutter blind other than the fact that I would feel guilt about living in a mess.
    However living with my wife who needs order actually caused me after a few years to need order in my life and more c often than not I find myself cleaning up after her or the kids.

  • mlane78212

    When we moved to a big old house, we decided not to repeat the past hassles of agreeing (or disagreeing) on how to design/decorate by dividing the space. Bottom floor mutual except for kitchen (because I am the cook). Next floor MINE. I made it my space: decor, lack of clutter (mostly) and my sleeping space. ( I have sleep apnea and we both snore. ir read that partners who sleep with a snorer lose up to 4 years of life expectancy! And the older we get, the less we want to sleep with someone who keeps us awake!) Top floor HIS. He designed it, decorated it, and cluttered it. I don’t expect it to be neat or tidy. No irritation, arguments, resentments. Both happy. Voila!

  • PDX

    Not sure I’d say clutter ‘blind’. I see it. I just don’t mind it much. I like looking at my stuff. I forget things if I don’t see them. Jobs that start with “clear out the…” sound like they will take forever. Also, I do a lot of things not at home, so when I am home, I’m really not interested in spending my little bit of alone/relax time doing a bunch of cleaning. That Konmari thing really makes me laugh. If I were to get rid of the stuff that didn’t bring me happiness, it would be the cleaning products and the vacuum cleaner. Like someone else said, I don’t really feel comfortable in super tidy ‘perfect’ houses. It’s like no one lives there. May as well be a hotel room for all the personality there is. I always wonder if their only hobby is cleaning. If so, they’re welcome to come over and clean my bathroom. 🙂

  • JanetMPatterson

    Clutter annoys me a lot, but exhaustion annoys me even more. One of the interesting “side effects” of being off night shift while recovering from surgery and having radiation was having a chance to sleep every night for weeks on end. Even considering the need for rest and recuperation in both instances, I STILL got more decluttering done than I usually do when I’m working full time nights. It was a revelation, and in the long run a spur to go into semi-retirement, so that I can take better care of myself and my surroundings. If it’s indeed “your money or your life”, I’ll take my life, thanks. Tidily. 🙂

  • Annie

    As some of the previous commenters said I believe it to be about different perceptions and tolerances about what constitutes clutter. My fiancé and I are not the most tidy people and you could say that our apartment is quite cluttered but we do have different levels of tolerance for certain things. I for example am slow to put things in the dishwasher so I just put them on top which drives him crazy. He, on the other hand, seems to be completely oblivious to clutter or rather even dirt. He isn’t bothered by breadcrumbs or a dirty countertop or dust. Also, after I clean our apartment he doesn’t even seem to notice the difference. So yes, I believe it to be some sort of blindness toward clutter or rather some sort of perceptional blindness. I asked him about this once and he said that it just didn’t bother him and asked me why I’m not bothered by the dishes on top of the dishwasher….
    Also, I believe it to be a more masculine trait at least this is what I can say about the men I’ve lived with.
    The part about clutter and mental health problems stroke me as really interesting! I’ve also often seen this problem about attaching a lot of emotional value to things (which might be considered clutter by others) and then not being able or having great difficulty to throw things away.

  • Lesley Martin

    My husband is clutter-blind – but only to his clutter! His stuff has to be left out all along the hallway and around ‘his’ chair in the living room, because it is ‘work in progress’, and if he put it away in his study he would forget about it. Whereas my stuff, in the kitchen or dining room because I don’t have a study – is clutter.
    As a conflict avoider and in the interests of marital harmony (30 years and counting) I have learnt to put up with it and manage my stress about it by making passive aggressive posts like this one 🙂

    • LoriM

      LOL

    • Tina G Adams

      I understand where your husband comes from. Forgetting something I am working on causes me stress. I need to see my active stuff. Glad you have worked it out. I do try to keep my “Mess” “Work in progress” in my office area.

    • kpond

      Lesley- I hear you on that one! I’m not the perfect housekeeper, but my husband leaves a path of his clothes and whatnot yet calls me out for crumbs on the countertop!

    • Amy McDougal Albrecht

      Lesley, I am right with you! My husband used to complain about my “piles” until I pointed out to him that not only do I not HAVE piles anymore but his recliner is being taken over by HIS piles! And I replaced his dresser with a smaller one that is used also as a bedside table and he is STILL complaining that he has nowhere to put things! He still hasn’t looked through the bag of stuff I removed from the FIRST dresser!! It must be a comfort thing.

    • PHS

      Yes, sounds familiar. Our house is covered with my husband’s projects in progress. None of that seems to bother him. However, my clutter is supremely annoying.

  • Dragomara

    I am pretry clutter blind. I don’t see clutter until it is too overwhelming to deal with it.

    On the other hand I love orderly surroundings and with a family using the same living space it is just not practicable to allow clutter invade every free space.

    So I am trainig myself to purposefully look for clutter.

    Also finding things was not often a problem when I lived on my own. But that was quite a time ago.

    I recommend the blog aslobcomesclean by Dana White for everyone who suffers from or wants to understand people with clutter blindness. She calls it ‘slob vision’.

    Dragomara

  • This is facsinating. I never knew there was a name for what I am, but I am definately clutter blind. I’ve always felt it’s because I’m an introvert. This effects my approach to clutter in two ways. First, I genuinely don’t see it. Whatever I put down just blends in with my overall environment. I live so much in my head that I don’t see what’s right in front of me. The clutter also puts a barrier between me and other people. I don’t invite people into my home becuase my house is always a mess.

    • gretchenrubin

      This is interesting. I’ve never heard of this aspect of personality being tied to introversion. I’d be surprised to hear that. Many introverts seem to be simplicity-lovers who revel in bare, simple spaces. So I bet they are independent of each other. Interested to hear what others think!

      • Ruth Carter

        I’m an introvert and I hate clutter. Clutter is as distressing to me as an event with too many people. I think it’s the “too much” nature of it all.

      • sarah

        A vote for the clutter-blind-introversion connection. I feel some things that are barriers to social interaction make me more comfortable. At some points in my life being overweight has played the same role — reducing social exposure, especially in the dating realm.

    • valleycat1

      I would respectfully disagree that it has to do with being an introvert as a general rule, though it certainly could be one aspect of YOUR introversion. The most clutter-blind couple I know are also the most extroverted people I know, and they are always entertaining or even having people live with them without always feeling like they have to clean up the clutter before letting others in their house. I have learned to be clutter blind in their house!

  • LoriM

    Oo, I can’t wait to read the other comments. My husband is clutter blind and I am (somewhat) dirt blind. He’s always vacuuming and cleaning floors – and I’m always gathering up clutter. He complains if I move too much so I try to stack the mail in neat piles and use baskets for his other cluttery stuff (He hates that, too, but it helps ME).

    We are empty nesters. He has two grown children; I have none. Can’t imagine living with young children in the mix. Every time we have his darling 3YO grandchildren over, I about go nuts with the clutter. 🙂

  • Jenn

    I am like maybe…75% clutter blind. Meaning that I am very very good at tunnel-visioning it away when I’m busy, or when I’m doing something that I enjoy. The second that stops, I see it, and it bugs me.

    I attribute this to the house I grew up in. My mom didn’t keep a neat house, and we had a zoo of animals (at least 7 or 8 at a time.) I developed a coping mechanism so that I just didn’t see any of it when I needed to focus or relax. I’ve kept it all my life, and it drives my husband NUTS! I always tell him to just ignore it until we’re done with xyz or until after we relax, but he literally cannot relax if there’s clutter. I just choose not to see it until I’m ready to deal with it!

    • Gabi Montoya-Eyerman

      I like that you have a percentage, that works for me too. I have a very cluttered studio because I am running out of places to put things! The living areas are not cluttered because we make an effort to keep them neat, playroom a bit more cluttered. Husband can’t stand it and usually avoids the cluttered rooms, however his work bench is a disaster with things piled up willy nilly. Its a puzzle. I love getting rid of stuff, it just piles up rather quickly with five kids.

      • Jenn

        I relate to this, too! 🙂 We live in a small home with very little storage and a multitude of hobbies, plus 3 kids and 3 pets and in some areas of the house, it’s impossible for me to keep up with the clutter. I figure it’ll get better someday! 😉

    • Ari

      I like this percentage thing. I think I’m about 60% clutter-blind. I have a teeny-tiny “island” in my kitchen were all mail ends up living it’s about a foot tall and I can easily avoid looking at it. My husband never touches it unless he needs something. My need to declutter it is starting to kick in but that’s only because it has gotten to the embarrassing point that stuff is falling off. I just feel like we have too much stuff. My husband can’t get rid of anything, he has a ton of clothes, so much so that our clothes can no longer fit in what we have and it creates clutter and makes me feel dirty. I don’t know what to do because I can only get rid of so many of my clothes to make room for his clothes.

  • valleycat1

    My husband’s clutter blindness with his personal things used to drive me nuts. I tried everything to help him at least organize his desk at home that we used to share (he is self employed) and finally gave up & got my own desk. I have learned to be blind to the pile of clothes on TOP of his dresser; next house we buy will have a walk in closet with open shelves instead of drawers, so at least the pile will be contained out of sight. He learned to quit just dropping tools wherever he used them when our farm got large enough that he has employees who also needs to be able to find them. He had denied he had that habit until we found a screwdriver and a wrench in the well under the hood of the car from when he changed a wiper arm.

  • Donna

    Our grown son is clutter-blind (so glad to have a word for it). We are neat and so is his brother but his room was so cluttered that we closed the door and told the cleaning lady not to enter. We decided to have a good relationship with him and hoped he would better care for his own home. He was personally clean but left a trail of clutter wherever he was in the house. His own home is dirty and so is his car. We act blind when we see it. If we are invited over he tries to clean up but it is obviously something he is not good at. He is a talented musician and lawyer. He puts most of his energy into music and treats law like a “day job”. People love him and accept him. He has a girlfriend now who is the same and they are both happy minimalists who shop thrift stores and are into not working hard but having leisure with other musicians. He has his own money and home so we are happy too in our neat home with a place for everything.

  • Carolyn

    Well, where do I start? I stay at my dgtr’s to take care of grand during week. I’m not a “clean-freak” but I do like a relative level of tidyness. My dgtr goes to work early, gets home late, and just wants to spend the few hours in evening with her son. Fine. But weekends are go here, go there, throw a load in and leave in dryer…you get picture…no PLANNED time to clean house. I come in each week and try a little “straightening up” and she gets upset. At my home I do clean, but I live with a “clean-freak” (a retired husband). So I don’t have to do a lot. Like a live-in housekeeper. I’m at a crossroad, to not do anything but what need to for the child and step-over everything or risk upsetting her. Help!!

    • Paula_S

      I’ve been in your daughter’s shoes and I think the most important thing for you is to respect her choices. If she’s as overwhelmed as it sounds like she’s likely embarrassed about the state of her house and you cleaning anything up only makes the embarrassment worse (since in an ideal world there wouldn’t be any cleaning left for you to do). The best thing for the both of you would be if you could together discuss some ground rules like what and where you are allowed to tidy up and what to do with things you don’t know where they go. And most important of all – try to relax and enjoy the time with your grand without being stressed out by the clutter.

  • Gabriella Farcais

    Is “clutter blind” the new “slob”? Regardless, there is the matter of having consideration for the people with whom you share space and love; if a neat and orderly environment is important to them, why wouldn’t you try to make them “happy” by changing your ways to accommodate them? Even if it’s not second nature to you, at least try to change – it’s not hard to put things away and clean up after oneself. A little bit of tidying a day keeps it simple and avoids the overwhelming, and you have a peaceful, beautiful space in which to relax and refresh, not to mention be able to find things you need quickly and move on with your life. This entire topic has just made me Unhappy, and I’m sorry I opened the article. 🙁

  • Paula_S

    You could probably call me clutter blind as well, but I’m blind to more than clutter. I tend to accept changes in my environment really really quickly, to the point where I can feel that things have always been like that about things I see for the first time if it changed while I wasn’t there. This is very discouraging for my husband who can spend all day tidying up the garden (mowing, weeding, trimming the hedge) and I don’t even notice.
    I also have a tendency to put things to the side to finish later and that tends to build up into clutter and bother my husband. I know I’m going to put it away eventually, so why should I feel upset about the clutter? It’s only temporary until I have the time and energy to finish the job.

  • Carolyn

    Well, having said what I did earlier and then reading others (should read comments first), I will put in a word for Daily Routines of some general picking up, returning things, clean counters, put dishes in/out of dishwasher, make bed, hang clothes when take off, not drop on floor and leave or in dirty clothes hamper, wash them …get the picture? Then you might SEE what’s left maybe SOME clutter.

  • Tina G Adams

    I am definitely clutter blind but I also know there are certain things that bother my other half so I purposely look for those things and fix them. In my office however I keep things in my “nifty wifty filing system” as my partner calls it. It never ceases to amaze him that I find exactly what I need when I need it even though it looks like a total mess. My issue is that once I put things in a drawer or file or out of site they go out of mind and I forget about them. That is why I keep things front and center resulting in a cluttered work area for most people but it works for me. The same thing at work. Drives my boss crazy that I have a cluttered desk but he knows I get things done so doesn’t give me too much grief.. Just shuts my door,
    and that is my two cents on the matter.

  • Rosemary Disqus

    I’ve always been an untidy person, nagged constantly to tidy up and put things away. I like being surrounded by my possessions, and I am reluctant to get rid of things with sentimental or collectible value. I also have a weakness for books and magazines, yet insufficient bookshelves to store them. I know where to find things in my room with minimal effort.

    Whenever I get into a “tidy up” mood, the problem is often where to put things while I am sorting them. Our house is small, and “tidying up” one room often involves cluttering up another one. I can never get the job accomplished in one day, and that depresses me. Dividing the task into micro-sections helps — not just one room, but one small section of one room. Still, I don’t see the point of “tidying up” sometimes. Stirring up dust gives me breathing problems too.

    Growing up, I resented when visitors passed remarks about our house and
    the items we have. “You should get this, you should get rid of that.”
    Our house should be for *our* enjoyment, not be a showpiece worthy of
    Decormag. it is part of the reason we almost never have people over
    these days.

    I live with my mom. She was in the hospital in February and March, and I took the opportunity to get an early start on spring cleaning. I did not get as far as I hoped — life, including three falls on ice, got the better of me. A tall neighbor helped me change a lightbulb, he was in the house only 5
    minutes but commented on the pile of newspaper waiting to be sorted
    and recycled. When Mom came home, did I get any credit for picking up junk in the hall and making a dent in the laundry? NOOO I got my head to play with for “messing up the linen cupboard, her pride and joy.”

    I can’t win. 🙁

  • Dawn

    My husband and I are both procrastinators, which tends to lead to extra clutter (“I’ll put this away later”). But I know that if putting something away takes less than a minute, I’ll usually opt for that. My husband *never* puts anything away until “later”. The problem is, the stuff accumulates to a level where he then get’s flustered and doesn’t know where to start.

    I’ve found that I occasionally have to set aside time for us to declutter his little piles around the house. I simply have to hold up each item, ask if it’s trash or where it should go, and put it in an appropriate pile. Then I send him off with each pile to the room it belongs in, and he’ll happily put them away.

  • Ali Murphy

    I guess you could say I have a high tolerance for clutter. I’m not oblivious to it, by any stretch. My main problem is I have a lot of stuff, and I like my stuff. If I put my stuff away, IT IS INVISIBLE TO ME. I can’t remember where I store anything. I have a great memory in many respects— I have a talent for remembering names and faces, but in other respects, my memory is poor. I can’t even file things away in a filing cabinet and find them later. I can’t remember what heading was on the file folder. This means things of which I want to keep track must be pretty much in my line of sight at all times. I think of myself as a “pile person”. I have a great memory for what’s in my piles. I am able to put clothing away in a closet, but that’s about it. Anything stored in a plastic box in the garage, shed, attic or basement is gone for 20 years, until it decays to the point where it’s only good for a dumpster.

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  • Jennifer

    I’m definitely more of the clutter clearer, because I have found that having such mess around makes it hard for me to think straight. I don’t actually think my husband does much better with it–he just works a full-time job and has more limited time. I think some clutter overwhelms him. I’ve been working to find strategies that bring less clutter into the house. I finally encouraged him that we could automate the majority of our bills and go paperless. I do appreciate that my husband is very frank and has a sense of humor about his mess. He rarely points out my messes, which I appreciate. And he helps me with other things which would otherwise frustrate me to death, like computer problems or where did this screw come from? 🙂

  • Michaela

    So interesting to read the article and all the different views!

    My theory is that there is a certain ,clutter setpoint’. People get used to the amount of clutter around them and accept this as normal. E.g., a friend whose mum keeps her house absolutely full of stuff remarked my apartment looked so empty. Then another friend, used to a different environment, claimed my place was cluttered.

    As for me, trying to cut down feels difficult as I feel something is missing after weeding out. I do get used to that amount eventually, thus lowering my setpoint.

    I wonder if others feel the same?

    • McB

      I usually fill the space right up. I think your set point idea may be correct and I want to simplify my life and possess less so I have decided to donate many great things that others can use but I do not really need.
      I believe my husband would say I am clutter blind, if asked. I have five siblings that seem to be even more clutter blind too.

  • Jane

    I’m clutter-blind. I just don’t “see it”.

    My husband has been patiently training me to “see” clutter for the past ten years. It started with the kitchen bench (which is a central magnet for piles of clutter). He made it clear that it upset and unsettled him to see it piled with random stuff. And since I love him, and he was diligently trying to change aspects of himself that bothered me, I tried to “see” the clutter and do something about it. This was quite a big issue in our marriage but I’ve really worked on it and have slowly trained myself to see it, and then do something about it. After years of clearing the bench to please him, Ive discovered the pleasure of a clear bench. Now a messy kitchen bench offends me too!

    This has been one of the biggest sources of conflict in our marriage – my “stuff” all over the place. Every now and again he would throw a wobbly and threaten to get a skip and throw it all away. Those threats did not work. I would great angry and feel threatened and become belligerant. What worked best was when he respectfully asked that I keep a particular place clutter-free. First it was the kitchen bench, then the hallway, and then finally that the clutter in the lounge. And gradually I was able to see the clutter and then to like the clear space.

    Tens years into our marriage our house is mostly clutter-free, except my study and around my chair. My side of the bedroom used to be very messy with piles of things but I’ve managed to deal with that. Ive discovered the joy of tidiness, although I agree that if things are too tidy then the house looks sterile and impersonal like a hotel.

    Fundamentally I like abundance. I like collecting things. I keep paper and rip out articles, and buy more books and materials for projects that I’ll probably never get around to. I know where I can find my things in among the mess. However the clutter is so great in my study that it is hard to do projects and attempts to tidy it leave me overwhelmed and usually with the room in even greater disorder.

  • I don’t think that clutter blind is the right term for me — clutter tolerant is probably more accurate, but only up to a point. It doesn’t bother me if there are papers on the dining room table, or things on the kitchen counter, as long as those things don’t interfere with being able to use those spaces. And, I do find it unsettling when things are “too” neat — it feels stark and impersonal, and I don’t feel as relaxed. However, when clutter starts to accumulate, it makes me feel overwhelmed and stressed out. My husband has a much lower tolerance for clutter, and he is helping me to manage clutter more effectively. On the other hand, like several others have said, paradoxically, he seems blind to types of clutter that bother me, so it’s something we work on constantly.

    I find that I am often indecisive about where to put things, because I want them to be in the “right” place, so I delay making decisions, and then clutter starts to pile up. I do make a regular, concerted effort to go through piles of paper, fold laundry, clean up the kitchen, etc., but when life becomes more hectic, things in my house get more cluttered. I also find it somewhat stressful to decide to get rid of things, but I am getting better about this, and usually feel a sense of relief once I have given things away.

    It is important to me to have a home that is clean and comfortable for others to visit, and our house can usually be made ready for guests with a couple of hours of effort, but it’s never going to be a show place, and that is not my goal.

  • Geri

    My husband is clutter-blind and I do the cleaning. When I brought it up with him I discovered he truly ‘doesn’t see it’. He has so much going on in his own head about work and fixing the car, etc. He suggested that if I just ask him to do something that needs done, he is willing to do it. Instead of thinking “how can he not see that the sink is full of dishes?!?” I just ask him – would you load the dishwasher please while I switch the laundry? and he does it. Once I got past my struggle with having to ask him, I could let go of my resentment and get his help. I love my husband much more than I love a clean house and asking for help isn’t hard once you get used to doing it.

  • sarah

    What a great phrase “clutter-blind” is! Describes me perfectly, I’m afraid. I grew up in it like a fish in water.

    My cognitive prosthesis for this blindness is a camera. I walk around the house taking pictures. Once my environment is in this artificial frame, I can take it in and use the photos to guide what needs work.

  • Lisa Holmberg

    This is definitely my husband. My theory is that his family is just messier than mine was as a child so he doesn’t see it. Recently, i walked past two hand size pieces of white paper on our brown stairs for 2 days before i finally just picked them up. after 20 years of marriage, it doesn’t bother me too much. He will help when i point messes out to him. He tries to be tidier and i try to not care as much. I think i’ve moved the needle some because one time when we were visiting his parent’s home, he asked if he thought I they would mind if we cleaned up their house for them.

  • Laurie Leonard Malloy

    Thanks for sharing and what an interesting term “clutter blind!” I think as professional organizers though our clients sometimes want a different perspective which we can offer. So we can help open their eyes to maybe what they don’t see!