More often than not, the clutter that fills your house falls into a few specific types of clutter.
These types of clutter are things we all have to deal with. And often, once you identify what type of clutter you’re dealing with, you’re better able to figure out what strategy to use to get rid of it.
That’s what you’ll find in today’s post. I’m breaking down 11 super common types of clutter. And sharing how to handle each specific type so you can declutter efficiently and effectively!
11 types of clutter & how to deal with them
1. Gift clutter
Items you’ve received as gifts, but don’t end up using, needing or liking are one of the most common types of clutter.
You might hold onto gifts you don’t use, need or like because you feel guilty getting rid of them. Or out of a sense of obligation because it was a gift.
But keeping something you don’t use, need or love is how clutter builds up in your home. Regardless of whether it was a gift or not, anything you don’t use, need or love is stealing your time, your space and your peace.
Getting rid of gift clutter can help you create an intentional home you love. Without being overwhelmed by clutter and distractions.
How to deal with gift clutter
The best way to deal with gift clutter is by remembering the purpose of a gift.
People give gifts to show their love for other people. Once the gift is given and both the love shown and the gift itself have been acknowledged and appreciated, the gift has served its purpose.
Now the gift belongs to you, and it’s up to you to decide if it will be something you use, need or love. Or if it will just end up as unused or unloved clutter in your home.
2. Expensive clutter
Another really common type of clutter comes from items you bought that were expensive or you spent a lot of money on, but then haven’t used or loved as much as you thought you would.
Again, this comes back to feelings of guilt and obligation. It’s hard to let something go when you spent a lot of money on it. You may feel like you “should” keep it simply because of the cost of the item.
But in reality, no matter how much you spent on it, if you’re not using or loving it, it’s not adding value to your life. It’s become clutter.
How to deal with expensive clutter
The best way to deal with expensive clutter is to think about it in terms of sunk costs.
Keeping the item won’t recover your money. The money is already spent and the price you paid is now a sunk cost. Therefore, the money spent, or sunk cost, of the item shouldn’t impact current and future decisions about what to do with the item.
Let go of the sunk cost and only think about the value it adds to your life right now. If the item is not adding enough value to your life, because you don’t use or love it, get rid of it.
You can try selling expensive items to recoup some of the money you spent. However, it’s important to keep your expectations realistic when re-selling expensive clutter.
The price you paid does not determine the current re-sale value of an item.
Be realistic about what price you can sell the item for. And be prepared to only recover a fraction of the price you paid for the item in most cases.
But remind yourself that the time, space and peace you gain by getting rid of the clutter is valuable too!
3. Perfectly good clutter
One of the trickier types of clutter are things that are still perfectly good, but you just don’t use, need or love them.
It can be hard to let go of perfectly good items. You might feel wasteful. Or like you should keep them just in case you need them someday because they are still in good condition and usable.
How to deal with perfectly good clutter
Remind yourself that anything you don’t use, need or love is still clutter. If you’re not using or loving it, it’s not adding value to your life, regardless of its usefulness or condition.
Instead, let it go and know that it can go to someone who will use, need or love it. Let it add value to their life. And help remove another type of clutter from your home and life!
4. Broken, but fixable clutter
Another really common, but tricky, type of clutter are items that are broken but could be fixed or repaired.
Especially things you just never seem to get around to repairing. So they sit – sometimes for months or years! – waiting to be repaired, causing clutter in the meantime.
You might feel wasteful getting rid of broken items if they could be repaired and used again. So you hold onto the items.
Or you simply might not have the time, skills or money to do the repair or get the repair done.
How to deal with broken, but fixable clutter
First, remind yourself that your home isn’t a landfill. If something is broken and you can’t or don’t want to fix it, don’t keep it just because you feel guilty creating waste. Your home is your space for living, not a place to fill with things you feel guilty about throwing away!
Next, if the broken item is something you will use or love, give yourself a deadline to repair it or get the repair done. If you haven’t fixed it by the deadline, will you realistically ever spend the time or money to fix it?
Remind yourself that if repairing the item is not a priority, that’s a good sign you don’t truly use or value the item.
If it’s something you use or love, you’ll miss the item when it’s broken. Getting it fixed and usable again will be a priority.
However, if it can sit awaiting repairs for months, do you really use or love it?
Also, it’s a sad fact that many items today aren’t designed to be repaired when they break. Sometimes the repair is more expensive than replacing the item. And planned obsolescence of many items means repairing them isn’t always even an option.
Moving forward, you can always shop for quality items that will last. But in the meantime, sometimes you have to accept that repairing items isn’t always practical or optional.
5. Past lifestyle clutter
It’s easy to hold onto things you aren’t using, needing or loving right now, because it’s something you used to use, need or love in a previous season of life.
Life isn’t static. Our needs, interests and the season of life we’re in are always shifting and changing. What you used to use, need or love, isn’t always the same stuff you continue to use, need or love.
How to deal with past lifestyle clutter
The first step is being honest and realistic with yourself about what you use, need and love today.
If you haven’t used, needed or wanted something in the last six months, year, or whatever time frame seems reasonable to you, you likely no longer need to keep it.
Acknowledge and accept that your season of life, needs, interests and lifestyle have changed and you no longer need, use or want everything from your past lifestyle. Then let go of the things from your past lifestyle you aren’t using or needing today.
6. Future lifestyle clutter
The other side of this is future lifestyle clutter, or aspirational clutter.
The things you hope you’ll use, need or love. The things you wish you used, needed or loved. Or the things some version of yourself that you aspire to be would use, need or love. Or even the things you like what they say about you because it’s the image you hope to project to the world.
How to deal with future lifestyle clutter
Future lifestyle clutter requires some honest and realistic thinking on your part.
First, be honest with yourself about who you are, and what you truly use, need and love right now. Not what you hope or wish you use, need or love.
Then be realistic about the things you wish you used, needed or loved. When will you use them? How certain are you that you will use, need or love them?
Aim to only keep what you use, need and love right now. Or will use, need or love in the definite foreseeable future.
Your home and the things you own should be a reflection of who you are today. Not who you wish you were or may or may not be at some indefinite point in the future. You are good enough just the way you are. And your home should reflect that!
7. Other people’s clutter
Sometimes the clutter in your home belongs to other people and other members of your family.
How to deal with other people’s clutter
Unfortunately, if the clutter belongs to someone else, it’s not always yours to decide what to do with.
Decluttering other people’s stuff can make them feel violated and lose trust in you. And it can even make them hold onto their clutter tighter!
Instead, always start with your own clutter first. The stuff that belongs to you and you can make decisions about.
Your decluttering might inspire the other people in your home and your life to start decluttering too!
If they’re open to it, offer them help or encouragement to declutter. But ultimately their stuff is theirs to keep or get rid of.
Check out this post for more tips about how to deal with other people’s clutter.
8. “Stocking up” or bargain clutter
Sometimes clutter comes from times when you buy more than you use or need of something to “stock up” or because it was a good deal.
This can often lead to having more than you will realistically use or need. Or having more than will comfortably fit in your spaces and your home.
How to deal with bargain clutter
The first step in dealing with “stocking up” or bargain clutter is to avoid buying more than you realistically use or need.
When you’re tempted to stock up, first be very honest and realistic about how much you truly need. Also be realistic about how much space you have for extras.
Then, take inventory of what you already have. Pass on what you know you don’t realistically need or won’t use. And make sure you use up what’s left before buying any more.
9. Stuff with no home
Another common type of clutter comes from the stuff you do use, need or love, but just doesn’t have a designated home to keep it.
These are the things that can make your home feel messy and cluttered, simply because they float around the house without a specific place to keep them.
How to deal with stuff with no home
First, decide if you truly use, need or love the item.
If you don’t, get rid of it.
If you do, find or make a home to keep it so it doesn’t end up causing clutter around your house.
Start by deciding where would be the most logical place to keep the item.
Then find or make a spot to be the item’s “home”. This may require some decluttering to find room to keep the item where you want to keep it.
10. Sentimental clutter
Sentimental clutter can be tricky because you likely have a lot of emotions and memories attached to your sentimental items.
Clearing sentimental clutter can sometimes require quite a bit of thought and emotional work to let go of it. Because of this, I don’t recommend starting by decluttering your sentimental items.
Start somewhere easier instead. Somewhere you can make more logical, and less emotional, decluttering decisions.
Places like the bathroom, the pantry, a coat closet, etc. are all great places to start decluttering.
Then tackle your sentimental items once you’ve built up your decluttering skills.
And when you do, don’t be afraid to go slow and be gentle with yourself. This can be some of the hardest decluttering work you’ll do.
How to deal with sentimental clutter
When it is time to tackle sentimental clutter, first remind yourself that when everything is special, nothing is. Too many sentimental items dilute the value of all your sentimental items. And end up getting lost amongst each other.
But when you only keep the most important and special sentimental items, you can find, see and appreciate what you’re keeping even more.
Start by picking out the items that are most important, meaningful and special to you. Focus on what you want to keep more than what you want to get rid of.
Then, sort through what’s left in comparison to your most meaningful sentimental items. This helps you notice what’s truly important and what’s just adding clutter.
You can also take pictures of sentimental items, then let go of the item itself. This helps hold onto the memories while keeping fewer sentimental items.
Or try finding ways to repurpose, use or display your most meaningful items so you can see, use and appreciate them every day. Just be careful you’re not shifting sentimental clutter from your storage room to other areas of your house!
For more ideas on ways to handle decluttering sentimental items, check out this post.
11. Garbage clutter
And finally, the last common type of clutter is simply the garbage and trash that hangs around your home making it look and feel cluttered. Things like newspapers you’ve read, broken toys, packaging and tags, etc.
The good news is this is the easiest type of clutter to deal with. But it can be easy to let little bits of garbage pile up, making your home feel messy or overwhelming.
How to deal with garbage clutter
First, take a few minutes to sweep each space for garbage.
Then, make it part of your routine to clear out any garbage on a regular basis so garbage clutter doesn’t have a chance to build up or get out of control.
How to deal with different types of clutter
I hope this post gives you some ideas about how to deal with the most common types of clutter most of us have.
Once you know what specific type of clutter you’re dealing with, use these tips to help clear that type of clutter more easily and effectively.
Which of these types of clutter are the easiest for you to deal with? What are the most difficult types of clutter for you to deal with? Leave a comment below and let me know!
Monday 2nd of November 2020
Amazing post, Melissa, you really have covered it all! I never thought of the ‘past life’ and ‘aspirational or future life’ items in such a descriptive way, I think it will help me when I get to that stage of my decluttering process. Thank you!
Simple Lionheart Life
Monday 2nd of November 2020
Thank you, Denise! I'm so glad to hear this post was helpful for you! I agree - the more you are able to identify clutter, the easier it will be to get rid of it. Thanks for reading and for sharing your kind words :)
Sunday 1st of November 2020
I've been reading your posts for years and even bought the "Your Clutter-Free Home" checklists. But I gotta say, this latest post is the best I've ever read from any minimalist blogger. You've really moved the needle for me with this one - thank you!
Simple Lionheart Life
Monday 2nd of November 2020
Thank you so much, Tony. I'm so glad to hear this post was so helpful for you. Thank you for your ongoing readership and support. I greatly appreciate it!