What does your ‘clutter hot spot’ reveal about you?

It’s never about the stuff – it’s about what the stuff represents. In my experience, through working with hundreds of clients struggling with chaos and disorganization, there appears to be an emotional connection to the ‘clutter hot spots’ (the rooms where most of the mess accumulates). It’s as if each room in the house holds special significance to an aspect of our lives.

Through over 10 years of consulting, I’ve witnessed hundreds of clients change their lives for the better after uncovering the emotional link to their clutter. If these symbolic meanings ring true for you, take steps to clear the clutter in the offending room and see if it brings about changes to the corresponding areas in your life. It may increase your organizing success and lead to lasting results.

Clutter in the front hall:

Does the entrance of your home say ‘welcome’ or ‘go away’? Clutter by the front door can indicate difficulty transitioning between who we are at work vs. home; we appear in control and polished at work but feel out of control and frazzled at home. Or, it could reflect a disconnect between our inner and outer selves; perhaps we’re smiling on the outside but crying on the inside. There may be difficulty navigating life’s path. It can reveal a hidden desire to block access to visitors. It may show that our home is not considered a refuge from the outside world.  If you want your home to reflect who you are and feel like a sanctuary, clear the clutter in the front hall.

Clutter in the kitchen:

Clutter here can indicate that our health and wellness is being neglected. There may be a resistance to nourishing our body and nurturing our spirit. It can illustrate a lack of emotional support and self-control. If you are ready to take back your personal power, decluttering the kitchen is a good place to start.

Clutter in the living room:

Clutter in the living room can reveal an absence of camaraderie and fellowship with others. It is symbolic of burying our true self from others and can be associated with feelings of isolation. If you want to improve your social life, begin by clearing the clutter in your living room.

Clutter in the dining room:

Clutter in the dining room can illustrate difficulties bonding with family and friends and/or conflict in the family.  If you want deeper, more harmonious relationships, create a clutter-free environment in your dining room.

Clutter in the bedroom:

Probably the most important room in the home to keep clutter-free, excess stuff here can reveal several things; intimacy is not cherished, connections are broken and life force is dim. It can also indicate deprivation of restful sleep, resistance to solitude, and inability to relax. If you want to rekindle the romance, attract a mate, or get a good night’s sleep, make space in the bedroom.

Clutter in the bathroom:

Clutter in the bathroom can illustrate a lack of reverence for one’s self and feelings of unworthiness.  There may be issues with body image or personal presentation. It may also indicate a lack of a sense of safety and a feeling of vulnerability. Increase your self-confidence by tackling the build-up in the bathroom.

Clutter in the home office:

Clutter in your home office may reveal a lack of personal accountability. It may indicate difficulty managing the business of the family. Creative and self-expression may be blocked.  It may be connected to an unhealthy relationship to money, work and priorities.  If you want to gain control of your financial health, stimulate your creativity, and achieve more work/life balance, declutter the home office.

Clutter in the basement:

The basement is the foundation of a house; if stuff is piling up here, it can indicate that life is built on a shaky foundation. It may also reveal an inability to release past baggage in relationships. If you want to move forward and attract new opportunities and experiences, let go of the clutter in the basement.

Clutter in the closets:

Crammed closets may indicate a tendency to stifle our intuitiveness and insightfulness.  Clearing closet clutter may help you make better decisions and act on your hunches.

Clutter in the garage:

Clutter here may reveal that an individual is hampered or overly cautious moving forward in life. It may block independence.  If you want to feel liberated and free, remove the debris from the garage.


Anthony Lawlor, in his book A Home For the Soul, says:

“If we do not learn how our homes can care for the soul, there will always be a gap between who we are and where we live.”

Ready to make things better?

Are you ready to bring about positive change in your life? I invite you to choose a room that represents the area that is most significant to you and take small but consistent steps to declutter and organize it. (If you need to find a professional organizer to help, please feel free to contact me for a referral).

There appears to be no scientific data on this important topic. To further my research so that I can be of greater service, please share  your thoughts and comments below. Let me know if these emotional links resonate with you. (These are often buried deep in the subconscious, so you may need to do some excavating). After you have taken action, let me know what changes you experience in the areas related to the room you’ve organized.

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This post has 18 comments

  • Kathy Davidson says:

    I have sooooooo much clutter (mostly paper & read piles), both at work (law library) and home (Regal business), I need to read TWO de-cluttering blogs for the added motivation. The thing I need most is time & money. The challenge, of course, is that they only happen when one de-clutters…

    • jennifer says:

      Hi Kathy:

      I didn’t know where to start either, and I have certain areas of my home that are always clear, but others, just stuff is everywhere. But papers… papers ellude me. I have so many piles of papers, I never know where to start with them. When I have 5 minutes I try to get rid of a pile. I start by throwing out everything the pile that is past it’s date — lets say a permission form from kids school, or notice of an upcoming date, or expired flyer I was keeping for whatever reason… try getting rid of the “past due date” stuff first, it will cut the pile in half. Take it right to the recycling pile, do not pass go, do not collect $100!!!! Get it out of the house. One of my friends told me to take a small shopping bag… like a grocery store bag, fill it with your stuff, clutter, piles etc. Do one of those a week and you are on your way. When it’s double up garbage day, walk around the house with a green garbage bag and fill it up and take it to the curb. Or if you don’t want to part with it, leave it in the garage for a week, then get rid of it. These are all my little tricks. Sometimes I have to remind myself of them too. I have piles of reading stuff too, my mother reads the paper from front to back every day and clips articles for me and my siblings and every week I get a pile from her. I have them 3 bags full on my dining room table. Last week I finally unrolled them all. 1/2 were flyers, i dumped those, then i decided which i really wanted to read…. now I have a smaller pile….. still a pile! I try and force myself to read a few a day to get rid of them. I bring them with me to kids programs to read while they have their lessons, then I dump them wherever I am — because then I don’t have to bring them back home.

      Just try 5 minutes. You’ll get energized and make a start…. I’m no better but sometimes you just need a hint.

      fellow reader and also stuck….

    • jennifer says:

      I just wanted to clarify what I was trying to say above with my plastic shopping bag… so a friend of mine encouraged me to take a shopping bag per week, and fill it with stuff and chuck it…. and so that way you are getting rid of your stuff a little bit at a time, and by the end of the year that will be 52 bags worth of stuff less in your house. Try it, it’s kind of fun. It can be anything, just walk around your house and dump stuff! I like to do that when I’m pmsing! It’s great stress relief!

      ciao, good luck. I’m going to go home tonight and grab a garbage bag!

  • Evelyn Lew says:

    Hi Helen –

    Can’t say I can relate, for myself, to a connection btwn some significant aspect of my life with what room my clutter dwells in. Any emotional link to my clutter is really my difficulty with throwing stuff out and has no relationship with what room in the house they are “stored”.

    I struggle with all the self-defeating behaviour you’ve described in all your other emails eg. can’t throw “this” out b.c. it’s so useful I might need it sometime later if not now, or this is valuable so need to keep it, or this used to belong to my parents so I don’t want to part with it, or this information is so relevant that I need to keep it for future reference (all I need is to be able to remember I have this in the 1st place and then where in the world have I stored it), etc. etc.

    I’ve been able to throw out some stuff, but need to be able to do a lot more. So it’s an ongoing mission I have to keep working at. But I read and appreciate all your emails.

    • Mir says:

      Hi Evelyn;
      I just really want to say that I relate.
      If it’s any consolation at all – you are NOT ALONE.
      For me it’s not about the room, or about not caring for myself or welcoming others.
      It’s just the inability to let certain things go, and a huge difficulty making the decisions.
      I have ADHD, I have been surrounded by mess all my life.
      I lived in apartments that were messy and cluttered.
      I married an amazing guy who also appreciates “stuff”, but doesn’t find time to cull or sort it.
      We got a house, which we love, but it’s full of amazing stuff (not in a “hoarding sense), and objects are on every surface. There is the problem of sorting, culling, and storing what we choose to keep. If things are too hard to put away, they stay where they are.
      It’s complicated by my environmental concerns, and I don’t want objects to be wasted or go in landfill. Responsibly recycling things in our city takes WAY more work than putting things in the garbage, and becomes a task all its own.

  • Evelyn Lew says:

    Hello Mir –

    Thank you for your comments.
    I wish you luck in your endeavours with your “stuff”.
    It’s not easy, but we don’t give up, and that’s very important.

    A lot of things you say is the same with me.
    And we’re not talking about “hoarding” here though,
    which is a whole different and more serious poroblem.

    My “stuff” is all organized – put away in boxes that are labelled.
    And I have in my computer a “where to find it list” of “stuff” that can get lost,
    and this list is in alphabetical order.
    When something miraculously gets thrown out, it is deleted from this list.

    I do have “piles” of stuff though – articles from different places, “things” like recipe booklets, pkts of seeds I collected from my flowers in the garden this year, a terrycloth pocket-mop that needs a velcro strip sewed back on, etc. A lot of this stuff just needs me to commit to taking care of them (always a choice, if this then not that) so though they sit and sit and sit, they’re do-able. The tough “stuff” are articles that tell me how to do something and why it’s a must-do but I have neither the extra time nor the inclination to do it. So articles IE paper and more paper, like this end up sitting probably until I’m 195 (hope not).

    But I keep plugging at it. And reading Hellen’s articles. Every so often my husband will ask when am I finally going to take care of that pile “stuff” over there, and so my focus gets redirected to “that” particular pile. He is pretty good, I must say. He doesn’t get too excited, and it’s good that he gives me a prod every so often.

    So keep on plugging, Mir.

  • E. says:

    I am sooo sick of the piles of paper everywhere: the magazines I have to read cover to cover before getting rid of them (which I can do), all the free reading material I pick up at the library or health food store, etc., lists that I start and then abandon and/or lose track of, scrap pieces of cardboard that I am sure I can use to make projects/crafts with my children (hardly ever happens). I am going through a tough emotional situation this year, and do see that it is much harder to manage/prevent the clutter right now. I feel like I don’t have the wherewithal/ energy to bother tidying/ organising, but then I feel so downtrodden when I look at the mess I am living in.

    • Laurie says:

      Hi E – I take my fully read magazines to clinics or Doctor’s offices for the waiting patients – they love them there and I feel good doing it! If I have ones I must keep, I put fall issues with the fall decorations, and so on, so when I open the box next year, it is like a new magazine has arrived. L

  • Carrie says:

    I don’t believe there is a link between clutter in a particular room and specific areas of one’s life, as described by Hellen in her article. People will have clutter for many reasons, but clutter will tend to be anywhere and everywhere, unless an individual makes the effort to keep one particular area clear of clutter.

    The advantage of Hellen’s article is that it could motivate an individual to choose one room to practice keeping an area clutter free. From there, maybe the practice travels to the rest of the house.

    Personally, I like to keep my kitchen work surfaces relatively clear of clutter, which makes for much easier food preparation, but there are other areas of the house that pick up extra clutter, until I get to clearing it out.

  • Rosemary says:

    I relate to this so well! (It’s a bit like Feng Shui which I also relate to.) I am prone to clutter and hording but as Carrie says I practice on keeping particular rooms clear of clutter (the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen). I did have a 4br 6 car garage and with 2 kids it was quite full with all the stuff – but it was organised and tidy. When I downsized to 2br unit with a single car space and small garage storage I didn’t go through my stuff, so different rooms became incredibly cluttered. There was reasonable cupboard space in the unit but not enough.
    The office used to be so organised and tidy, now it’s full of stuff and clutter and has been for the last 18 months, things have come unstuck financially and with my work and business priorities.
    The dining room has become a catch all for anything that doesn’t fit anywhere else and since there’s only me now I don’t eat there. The kids and family members used to come visit more than they do now.
    The cupboards are chock-a-block full of things that I haven’t accessed for some time and probably won’t, but haven’t had time to go through it all and my decision making has been all over the place – or lack of decision making!
    While I can see the point of previous posts that mess and clutter don’t cause issues, and that the particular area of your life is not having issues, you could clear out the clutter in a specific area and see if it makes that area of your life better …. anything’s worth a try.

  • Mary says:

    I relate to the meaning of each room of clutter. It has gotten worse since downsizing after a marital split and subsequent division of marital home. The financial impact is so great that hanging on to things in case I can’t ever replace them is intense. I feel trapped and clutter is becoming a stranglehold I cannot seem to control. I am constantly afraid someone will come over and be judgemental yet I seem powerless to deal with the situation. It is on my mind all the time.

    • Rosemary says:

      I totally relate to the hanging on to things after a split. You’ve lost so much already it’s hard to sort and clear any more. The clutter is more noticeable if you also have to cram what you have been able to keep into a smaller place. I deferred some of the sorting issue (after my split 15 years ago) by boxing everything (no sorting) that made the new place look cluttered and and putting it in storage. The new place then was a better place to live in. I felt less burdened with “stuff that has to be done”. I know it’s deferring the de-cluttering decisions but it may help in the short term. Now I’ve just got to following my own suggestions!

  • pisgah2005 says:

    I don’t particularly agree with the logic of this post, but Hellen has been such a help over the years that I forgive her this one! I have clutter because I hold on to too much memorabilia and I have a hard time letting go of my child’s toys. I have struggled with a cluttered basement, garage, dining room and kid’s bedroom, as well as closets and drawers, for the past 10 years. I recently showed photos of my cluttered areas to a friend/coworker of mine, and she told me, not unkindly, that, in addition to getting rid of a lot of unneeded stuff, I must stop bringing so much into the house. I am really working hard to not be such a consumer…And every time I clean up an area or take a load of stuff to charity, I send my friend a photo…That’s a great incentive to keep going!

  • Victoria says:

    Totally resonates! My adult son moved back home and it didn’t take long for me to realize that he has a hoarding problem. His mess is bad enough (he’s basically overwhelmed the entire basement, his bedroom, the main bathroom and his junk is also ‘leaking’ into the spare bedroom). I understand that his hoarding is a psychological problem, rather than one of poor character, but living with all of this junk is oppressive. Now the dining room and the kitchen have become cluttered with MY stuff, reflecting the breakdown in the family relationships and the havoc the stress is creating on our health. I started reclaiming the kitchen last week – it feels good!

  • Lori S. says:

    The areas in my house where we have clutter tend to be those where we spend the most time so we tend to store lots of things there to have them at hand (the kitchen), or those rooms that we don’t use often so it’s an extra space that we use as a ‘holding area’ (the dining room, the office.) I can’t say that the underlying emotional meanings Helen describes ring true for me.

  • Jen says:


    Have you read “House as a mirror of self”?
    I used this book, interview subjects, and journal articles to do a paper for a university class on clutter/organization & personal spaces.