Is it possible to clutter clear too much?

Many people find it hard to get started with clutter clearing. But there are others who go too far and find it difficult to stop. It can become an obsession.

Clutter clearing obsession

It’s quite rare, but occasionally I meet someone who has gone totally overboard with clutter clearing by purging their possessions much too radically.

How clutter clearing can become obsessive

The main aim of clutter clearing is to let go of the things around you that you no longer use or love, and then organize what you have left so you can find things when you need them. There are other aspects too, such as creating harmonious flows of energy in your home, reducing the quantity of belongings you have so that they fit in the space you have available, completing any unfinished projects, and so on.

At first, it can feel challenging. Where to start? How to do it? What to keep? What to let go of? But if you start small, in bite-sized manageable chunks of say, 20 minutes, and begin with an area that is easy to clear such as a small drawer or shelf, the endorphin release that you experience on completion usually inspires you to continue and do more. And it is this endorphin release that can become addictive.

The endorphin effect

Endorphins are a type of neuropeptide that our bodies produce to calm us and help us tolerate pain. They also produce the feelings of euphoria and joy that can sweep through us when we achieve success in some way, or engage in certain activities such as exercise, meditation, massage, sex, laughter, and so on. The word “endorphin” is short for “endogenous morphine” and is a form of opiate the body produces naturally that can be up to 250 times more powerful than actual morphine.

It is this quest for endorphin “highs” that is implicated in various types of addictions such as gambling, exercise addiction, internet addiction, social media addiction, pornography addiction, sex addiction, and so on. Sometimes a person with an addictive personality will switch from a more health-devastating addiction such as drugs or alcohol to one of these apparently less harmful forms, but unless the underlying cause is discovered and treated, the consequences can still be serious.

Don’t take clutter clearing too far

If someone with addictive or obsessive-compulsive tendencies takes clutter clearing too far, they may make unbalanced decisions that they, or those they share their home with, will regret. It can leave them with too few possessions for everyday activities and a feeling of never being satisfied, no matter how few items they have left.

If you are concerned you may be doing clutter clearing too intensely, and especially if you find yourself boasting about how much you have done and your level-headed clutter-free friends seem incredulous or appalled, then it’s time to stop and seek advice.

The purpose of clutter clearing is to find the right balance — not so many possessions that they hold you back but enough to be able to live your life to the full.

Related article
Why people keep stuff
What’s missing from minimalism

Copyright © Karen Kingston 2014, updated 2019


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 Is it possible to clutter clear too much?

  1. Jacqui says:

    I also love clutter clearing and get a lot of pleasure from getting rid of things that I don’t want. I feel that I do have a balance though because there are a lot of things that I am dying to see the back of but I need them at the moment so I will have to wait. I think I am a bit obsessed though because I think about it alot and use it as a kind of therapy. It makes me feel like I am moving forward and not living in the past. The only problem is that I never feel completely satisfied and I would like to get rid of everything and start again but its not practical to do that. I often do without things that would make life more comfortable and when I do buy something I want to get rid of something to redress the balance. I have always been like this and have never had a clutter problem. I don’t feel that I get the benefits from clutter clearing that you talk about in your book and wonder what I could be doing wrong.

  2. Rosalind says:

    I love clutter clearing sessions, on a regular basis but don’t think there’s much danger of going too far. I know could live with a great deal less ‘stuff’ before any feelings of deprivation set in!

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