Overcoming eight obstacles to a clutter-free creative space – pt 1

As a creative person, you see things differently to other people. You’ve lots of ideas, a great imagination and loads of energy to start things. The downside is you can sometimes be chaotic and not great at completing and finishing projects. The result: you often have a home or workspace that is piled high with clutter. Mess is okay in the midst of a creative project, but not as a way of life. The good news is that you’re a resourceful personality type, and so with the right approach you can overcome this.

Why do people have clutter?

The first step to change is awareness. Clutter isn’t just physical stuff. It accumulates as a result of avoiding making a decision about something or sometimes even burying an unresolved emotional issue. The clutter itself can become a distraction from being present or avoiding starting or completing a challenging personal change or creative project

Making the change

Once you have made the courageous step of recognising you have a problem, the next step is to make a decision to change. However, we all know that change isn’t that easy and even when you’ve done that your unconscious may still try to sabotage you. In conversations with hundreds of people who are struggling with clutter, there are eight common things I hear again and again. In this blog, I’ll reveal what these are and some effective ways to deal with them.

1 “I feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start”

95% of my clients tell me they’re stuck because they feel overwhelmed.  They DO want to sort it, CAN sort it, but just don’t know where to start. To address this, it really helps to have a clear, structured approach. I have six-step easy to follow process and work with illustrated prompt cards to help people make decisions. The inspirational images help engage your inner child with the process. I’ll set out some of the key principles of my six-step method here. For more details, check out my Home Declutter Kit at homedeclutterkit.com and download a sample chapter here.

2 Lack of motivation

Let’s face it, for most people the idea of sorting out your clutter is not something that fills them with excitement. The process is hard work, and although it can be fun it’s not easy to get motivated when you are looking at piles of stuff. The key is to motivate yourself with clear objectives and goals. Imagine the positive outcomes you want and write them down. Stick this up somewhere clearly visible when you’re decluttering. When your motivation or energy levels drop, read it again and remind yourself why you’re doing this. Most people find it helps to pledge their goals in our Home Declutter Kit Community group on Facebook and check in there to be accountable.

3 Emotional Challenges

The best way to declutter is to work quickly – making lots of gut decisions: “Do I keep, bin, donate or recycle this?” If you have emotional connections or reactions to certain things, you may struggle to make these decisions. Try not to get caught up in this thinking. Simply put the item in a ‘Don’t know’ pile and move on to the next thing. At the end of the session, come back to the ‘don’t knows’. Hopefully the pile won’t be too big! If it is, I suggest sleeping on it or chatting it over with someone. This is where a friend can come in handy, ideally someone who’s a good listener and happy to talk through any difficulties you’re facing.

A few things may have such a strong emotional charge that you won’t feel ready to look at them: these are your ‘gremlins’. Put these in a box, seal it up and give yourself a time limit. How long do you feel needs to pass before you’ll be ready to face it? Aim for no longer than a year and put a date on the box. Then put it somewhere you can’t easily get to and note the date in your diary when you commit to dealing with it by.

4. Procrastination and distraction

People often start with the best of intentions then get distracted.  This is particularly true when doing something you don’t like, or find challenging and emotionally overwhelming.  And let’s not forget the allure of social media, texting or even things like doing the washing up that can become really compelling when faced with a declutter project!  Try to be mindful or your decluttering time will be quickly eaten away.

Ask someone to help shift and carry in things for you to decide about. They can also keep you on task and prevent you getting distracted. You can then stay seated and focus on making decisions. Don’t get caught up in putting things away until the end. This is my best tip for you! Practice delaying gratification and reward yourself.

‘Read it’. In the midst of a decluttering session, it’s amazing how a magazine you’ve found can suddenly become really interesting. Maybe you’ve unearthed something that is genuinely of interest, or perhaps you’re looking for a way to avoid carrying on with your declutter. Either way, now is not the time to start reading it. Instead, have a ‘read it later’ pile. Put those articles, recipes and old love letters there and carry on sorting the clutter! At the end of the day, you can enjoy reading them to your heart’s content.

‘Action it’. If you come across something that you need to action, watch out for the urge to get drawn into doing it there and then. Put it into an ‘Action it’ pile. At the end of your session, revisit this and make a list of what you commit to doing. Gather the items into a box so you can get to them easily, or put them in an in-tray. Label it ‘Action’ and create a to-do list, committing to a time and date when you will action it by. No more procrastination!

I hope you find these tips helpful. I’d love to hear what obstacles you find when trying to get organised. If you need a little more support, visit my website helensanderson.com/declutter and book in for an online mentoring session to get you going.

Check back and read my next blog for the final four obstacles and how to deal with them and look out for my upcoming workshops. Register your interest here.



  1. Why You Have Clutter: nine possible reasons - Helen Sanderson - […] Creative people who have lots of ideas often live in their heads. They may follow a muse or a…

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