The curious phenomenon of clutter blindness

Just about everyone suffers from clutter blindness. When you start decluttering, you start to see things through different eyes and notice clutter in your home you didn’t realize was there.

Clutter blindness

“Looked but failed to see” is a major cause of road accidents. There’s something similar, though not as potentially fatal, that can occur in our homes in relation to clutter. It’s called clutter blindness, and just about everyone suffers from it in some way.

How clutter blindness develops

It happens so easily. You arrive home one day with something new. It doesn’t yet have a place where it belongs, so you put it somewhere “just for now”. And there it stays, sometimes for weeks, months or even years. Eventually, you get so used to seeing it that you don’t notice it anymore. It becomes “part of the furniture”, as they say.

Or you acquire something new, give it a place where it belongs, but never actually use it. You’ve paid money for it so still want to keep it, but don’t realize it was clutter from the day it arrived.

Or you acquire something new and do use it, but only for a while and then forget about it. There it sits, taking up space for no reason at all. In Chapter 13 of Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, I give the example of a grand piano that’s never played, clogging up someone’s living room. There it was, in plain sight, but the owner had learned to see through it as if it wasn’t there.

When you start decluttering, you see with different eyes

What happens when you decide to declutter your home is that you start to look through different eyes. During my 21-day Fast-Track Clutter Clearing online course, many participants have epiphanies such as this:

I have learned what clutter is! Even in the first few days of the course, I would suddenly spot something on the dresser (an unwanted gift from someone no longer in my life) and realize: ‘That’s clutter’. How could I not see that before?!  So my ability to see has changed. This enhanced clarity is life-changing. I feel in the driving seat at last.

Clutter has an anesthetizing effect because of the stagnant energy that accumulates around it. When you live surrounded by this, it causes a dulling or numbing of emotions. When you start to clear it, you feel more awake and experience life more fully. You can rise above the mundane level of existence that clutter keeps you trapped in. You feel more alive.

What photos reveal

One of the best ways to see your clutter through different eyes is to photograph it. Stand in the doorway of each room of your home and take a photo. Then open all your cupboards and drawers in each room and take photos of what’s inside them too.

The best way to view the photos is not on your phone but on a large screen — the bigger the better because it will show the most detail and be the most revealing.

What you are looking for is any items that belong in the four categories of clutter:

  • Things you do not use or love
  • Things that are untidy or disorganized
  • Too many things in too small a space
  • Anything unfinished

This technique allows you to see things more objectively. If you still can’t spot any clutter, try imagining that a national TV company is coming to your home tomorrow to make a film about how you live. What would you want to tidy or change?

Other ways to overcome clutter blindness

Another good way to see your clutter with fresh eyes is to take a good look around your home after you’ve been away on a trip. Things that have become clutter will stand out more than when you saw them every day but didn’t really “see” them.

But the best way of all to overcome clutter blindness is simply to start decluttering. After a while, you will naturally start to notice items that you never “saw” before. Things that previously just blended into the background will suddenly be revealed as the clutter that they are.

Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd 2019, updated 2023

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About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fourth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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2 Responses to The curious phenomenon of clutter blindness

  1. I’m afraid this made me laugh out loud as last year a national (Welsh) TV company really did come to film us in our home, and delighted in filming every embarrassing corner. However, it was a film about ordinary people’s antiques and collections, and I suspect they wanted to present us as lovable (I hope) eccentrics. I have managed to get rid of over a dozen banana-boxes of books, plus kitchen gadgets, etc., since then, but that is only scratching the surface.

  2. Yes! I just finished the Fast Track Clutter Clearing course and this was the biggest revelation to me. I didn’t think I had any clutter because everything was tidy and “in place”. So looking at every single object, one by one, and giving it the “clutter test” revealed a lot of things I’d become blind to! This is so powerful: “”…the best way of all to overcome clutter blindness is simply to start decluttering”. Exactly! Thank you for bringing my clutter-sight into focus, Karen!

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