What’s your clutter ratio?


I once heard about a study conducted by a Finnish art student who decided for her final thesis to use traditional archaeological methods to inventory every object in her 2500 square foot home (approx. 232 square meters).

She discovered that she owned a total of 6,126 items, and what I found so interesting was her analysis of how often she used each one:

Items used every day – 61
Items used every week – 401
Items used every month – 587
Items used less frequently than once a year – 2209
Items never used – 1457

In other words, 1% of her possessions were used every day, 16% were used every week or every month, 23% were used once or twice a year, and the rest were either used less than once a year or never used at all. That’s a clutter ratio of 60%!

Now, I’ve never lived in Finland but I don’t expect Finnish clutter is very different to clutter in the rest of the world. And most people have a lot more stuff than a student does!

These statistics give pause for thought but now let’s add another dimension. Let’s look at the energetic effect of objects that are kept for years and are rarely or never used.

Most people keep things because they believe they will come in useful one day, but what they do not realize is that the stagnant energy that accumulates around these items over time will create a corresponding stagnation in their life (and also the life of anyone who lives with them). So instead of being an asset, things that are kept “just in case” are, in fact, a liability.

How do I know this? By observing the effects in the homes of people who have clutter. They are always stuck in their lives in some way.

Ah, you may say, but what about items that are not actually “used” but are kept for decorative or sentimental reasons? Well, some items may certainly fall into this category, but surely not 60%!

I’ve been hand sensing energies in buildings for over 35 years now, and the energy that surrounds clutter is unmistakable. It has a stale, sticky, cobweb-like feel that is very different to the light, joyous energies that surround things that are loved and used. So unless decorative or sentimental items are actively appreciated, just as much stagnant energy will accumulate around them as around other things.

Most people do not have the time or inclination to inventory the objects in their home but a quick stroll around will reveal whether there’s clutter or not. What’s your clutter ratio do you think?

Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd 2015

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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 fifth 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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8 Responses to What’s your clutter ratio?

  1. Interesting; I have done a “furniture inventory” recently; amazing I have so much furniture in a Studio Apartment! I have decided to “give up two wooden blue and white chairs”; I will put them in the bldg. Laundromat room:! Voila!!
    I might lightly retouch them with some blue paint first! AR : )1

  2. Hi Karen,
    Would you mind telling me the name of the Finnish artist? I’d like to see, read about her thesis. And thank you for being an inspiration to me!

    1. The artist’s name was Outi Liusvaara, and the information about her project came from an article that was published in Finland in a magazine called Pirkka. I’m not sure of the exact dates, but I think the article was published in 2002 and the thesis was was done about seven years earlier.

  3. Karen, thank you for this article. It really is food for though. I am moving to another country over 3 months, so its time to start packing. I declutter reguraly but still have too much stuff in my own opinion. Luckily I have no emotional attachment to a lot of the stuff, its just a matter of starting of getting it out. I like the dividing mentioned, so I will be looking and sifting the stuff in that manner. I am very sure at the moment I have a lot of used once a year(s).

  4. These numbers are tall! I wonder how items are discretized: is a box of 12 colored pencils 1 item or 12 (or is it 13 for the 12 pencils plus the box they’re in?

    I will definitely do this exercise – I never tire of decluttering 🙂

  5. What’s special about Finland is that we have four distinct seasons. We need to own things suitable for both wet and dry, hot and cold weather. I’ve often thought how much less would be enough if the climate was like that of California, for instance.

    That being said, however, does not mean one has to have more clutter in Finland, only more stuff. But more stuff often leads to more clutter…

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