How clutter suppresses emotions

Many people unconsciously use clutter to suppress emotions they don’t want to feel. But this can block the flow of joy in their life too. It’s a form of self-sabotage.

English seaside town

The four categories of clutter

In Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, I list 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

The story I am about to tell is a lovely example of the untidy and disorganized type of clutter, how it can affect you, and the remarkable changes that can come about when you restore order to your space.

Clutter as a coping mechanism

This is the true story of a 13-year-old Norwegian girl, who once travelled to the UK in a group of 20 students, as part of a four-week language programme for them all to improve their English. Each stayed in the home of an English family in a small seaside town. The idea was for them to become fully immersed in the culture and speak English all the time.

It was the first time she’d ever been away from home by herself and long before the era of mobile phones. The only way to stay in contact with her parents was by letter and she soon started to feel homesick. She yearned for them to come to England to collect her and take her home. But they never did.

The coping mechanisms she developed for this situation were to create huge piles of clothing on the floor of the room in the house where she was staying and a mound of cheap cosmetics on her desk, purchased with the pocket money she had been given for the trip.

This outer chaos mirrored the internal chaos she was feeling. She also found that in some magical way, it helped to dull her feelings and make the homesickness more bearable. If she couldn’t control where in the world she was, well at least she could control the state of the small room she felt forced to live in.

‘I remember telling myself, that when I felt better, I would clear my room,’ she said.

How clearing clutter can change your life

Then one day, she woke up and couldn’t stand the mess any longer. She completely tidied her room. ‘And guess what?’, she said. ‘I started to really enjoy my experience abroad!’

She was the youngest of the group of students and discovered to her delight that they really liked her and gave her a lot of support. The married couple she was staying with were lovely and she started to enjoy the visits they took her on to local places of interest and the beach. When it was time for her to return home to Norway, she liked being in England so much that she didn’t want to leave.

Looking back on the experience, she is certain that the turning point happened at the moment she tidied up her room. Up until that time, she didn’t want to be there and had refused to open to the adventure. The act of tidying up her space didn’t just put her belongings in place. It changed her inner feelings too.

Clutter suppresses emotions

There is always more to clutter than meets the eye. All four categories of clutter suppress emotions in one way or another. It’s easiest to see with the type that is untidy and disorganized but it is always involved in some way with the other types too.

For example, living surrounded by things you do not love or use allows stagnant energy to accumulate in your home. This dulls your feelings and causes you to feel stuck in the past. Having too many things in too small a space inhibits the flow of energies, which causes a numbing of your emotions and an inability to move forward. And unfinished tasks or projects take their toll on your psyche, making you mentally or emotionally less available for anything new.

Clearing any kind of clutter immediately brings about a change at the physical level as well as the mental and emotional levels. And if you go deep enough and learn to forge a healthier relationship to your possessions, it can also facilitate changes at the spiritual level too.

All this just by clearing your clutter?

Yes. Its effect can be truly amazing, as our 13-year-old Norwegian girl discovered and still remembers to this day as a woman in her fifties. England has remained one of her favourite places in the world and she knows that regular clutter clearing has helped her to continue to open to and embrace new experiences, which has kept her life on track.

Related articles
The power of tidying as an antidote to chaos
The art of living with clear space in your home

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Copyright © Karen Kingston 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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6 Responses to How clutter suppresses emotions

  1. Jay U says:

    Thank you Karen for your incredible knowledge and wisdom! I have a lot of Feng shui books including two of yours, “Clear Your Clutter with Feng shui” and “Creating Scared Space with Feng shui”. They are my go-to books as I refer to them often!


  2. Trudy R says:

    When I am moved after 30 years from the desert to the ocean, instead of leaving one entire moving van of stuff at the previous home, I took it all with me. Now 20 years later I really don’t know what it is an all those boxes. Yes I am blocked. Just started giving it all away. I feel I must find homes for my things before I can let go. Stuck!

  3. Bhadra says:

    There are lots of things around the house which i dont love anymore but my husband doesn’t want to give away that stuff neither does he really look at the stuff to enjoy it …so its a horrible feeling when i keep having to see stuff which i don’t enjoy having around because i do have to dust/organise and keep it somewhere…

  4. Rosemary R says:

    Thank you for this story Karen. I accumulate small piles of clutter around the house. For example, I enjoy washing the clothes, seeing them out on a washing line drying and I enjoy ironing (my Mum and sister both like it), but the point I hate is putting away the clean clothes, I can leave piles of clean stuff around the bedroom for a couple of days before shifting it. The reason I have for it is that I can see the result of all the other jobs in laundering clothes, but I put the clean, ironed clothes away and they are out of sight and I cant see the work I have put in. But the reward comes when I take out a clean garment to put on, then I can admire the clean and ironed garment.

    I also let stuff build up in the kitchen, e.g. clean dishes, in the lounge is a pile of magazines to be read, mail to be dealt with. And my main email account has 11,000 unopened emails!

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