7 Reasons Your Life is Cluttered & HOW to release the clutter

7 reasons your life is cluttered

Inside: clutter is any excess in life or emotional baggage we haul around that weighs us down, distracts from our purpose, or robs us of joy and mind-body-spirit health. 7 reasons your life is cluttered and what to do about it.

My husband and I moved 9 times in the first 11 years that we were married. We became experts at taking apart our flat-pack IKEA furniture and often hauled load after load in laundry baskets rather than packing tidily in boxes. It was quicker this way. We were broke students or repaying student loans in this season of life which, along with the frequent moves, and living in small spaces, prevented us from cluttering our lives with too much stuff.

Since then, despite my husband’s struggle to get rid of anything, and my children’s freedom (within boundaries) to decide for themselves what is valuable and deserves space in their lives, I am a chronic declutterer so have managed to keep our home fairly organized and streamlined.

But clutter does not only come in piles of paper or heaps of unfolded clothing. It does not only show up in too many toys or an overabundance of kitchen gadgets.

And clutter is in the eye of the beholder. If your dusty floor-to-ceiling book collection, the hodgepodge of eclectic art adorning your walls, or your second wardrobe of vintage clothing brings you joy and aligns with your bigger life vision, then I’d argue it’s not truly clutter at all. No matter what someone else thinks.

I believe that clutter is any excess in life or emotional baggage we haul around that weighs us down, distracts from our purpose, or robs us of joy and mind-body-spirit health.


Over the years, as we settled in to raise our family and put down roots in our community, my life got full. Maybe even overstuffed at some points. With comparison and perfectionism and trying to keep up. With pain and fear, trying to be a good girl, and neglecting my need for rest.

I have needed to do a lot of hard, messy work to heal and let go of the emotional or mental clutter that kept me bound.

There is a lot of talk online these days around how to and the benefits of shedding the excess to live with more intention. And I love it all. But if you do not examine the underlying motivation that drew you to a life of too much in the first place, chances are you will find yourself right back in that space all over again.

The unexamined life is not worth living, but the unlived life is not worth examining. -Andrew Klavan

Let’s really live, shall we? If you desire an uncluttered life, step one is admitting that your life is full to the brim or overflowing. Step two is getting honest about WHY.

7 Reasons Your Life is Cluttered

1. You are hungry or lonely

You regularly neglect your basic needs, leaving yourself at risk of making poor, unfiltered decisions. You refuse to deal with the grief about burying your dad and end up online shopping at midnight again with the credit card bills to prove it. You restrict your eating to the point that your stomach hurts and compensate by buying more furniture that you cannot afford. What you really need is to make the effort to build some good friendships but that feels hard and scary so instead you cuddle up with Netflix and 5 kinds of Haagen Dazs and eat until you feel sick and heavy with shame. All forms of excess or clutter.

2. You are numbing and running

You are in pain or in fear but not yet ready to deal with it so you run and numb. Drugs, sex, alcohol, hiding out with TV or social media, over exercising, obsessive cleaning, shopping, binge eating… you’ve tried them all. Is the credit card debt worth it? Does that closet full of trendy clothes that you don’t even like that much make you feel better about your life, for real? Does your family life feel calm and loving when instead of seeking help for your pain and addiction you stuff it down until the dam bursts wide and you spill rage all over your family? It’s time to stare fear in the face.


Fear of missing out has you signing up for one more class, buying one more book or course, scrolling for yet another hour instead of going for that walk and getting into bed. It is a bondage that whispers to you that everyone else’s life is better, more exciting or refined. That you cannot rest or you will fall behind. If you don’t stay constantly watchful you will miss the next big thing and be left out of all the excitement. Or you could just decide to opt out and craft a life that shifts you from mere surviving to joyful thriving. (I’m still working through this one!)

4. You are too busy or comfortable with the familiar

Your busyness can be another form of running and numbing (see point 2); getting honest about what is and is no longer serving you and committing to change requires you to slow down for a bit and do some hard work. You are comfortable with the familiar and the thought of slowing down and creating physical and emotional white space in your life feels terrifying. You justify your unhealthy choices because they are normal – all your friends live like this. But “normal” has robbed you of joy so jump off that hamster wheel as though your life depends on it. It does.

5. You fear the future

You have known struggle and lack and have a hard time letting go of stuff or living within moderate boundaries; you might need it again. There might not be enough tomorrow. Even when something is broken or ragged you cannot let it go. You dream of freedom and a life of creativity but stagnate as you hold on tight to who you used to be. You hide instead of risking, pull back instead of reaching out. Life is scary and you don’t really trust people because, after all, you’ve been hurt before. You need to release what was to make space for what will be. There is beauty and provision and opportunity yet to come.

6. You live in the land of comparison and always find yourself lacking

You look outside yourself for validation and constantly compare yourself to others. You always come up short. You see the cute coffee mug and tea towels in your favorite Instagram feed and end up spending way too much money at Anthropologie. You read a new popular book about a blogger/homesteader and all of a sudden you’re googling how you can raise chickens in the middle of Montréal. You were content in your home and life until your cousin came to visit and your eyes opened up to all that is shabby and wanting in your life. You never speak up to share your ideas at work because they’re probably ridiculous anyways. But you are not meant to be a replica of anyone else; just show up and be imperfect but amazing and beautiful you.

7. You have not learned the power of “enough” 

You deep-down believe that you need to perform, perfect or acquire to be worthy of love and acceptance. You are stuck in black and white, all or nothing thinking. 90% well done is not enough, it is failure. Your kids are amazing but have some struggles; you suck as a mom. You work your butt off loving your family and serving your community but still you can never keep up or please everyone; you are not enough and never will be. You are adopting healthier eating habits but went on a weekend binge; you always fail so why bother trying again. All lies! You will never truly live an unshackled life until you make peace with enough and “all or something.”

So now that you’ve identified that your life feels cluttered and we’ve discussed 7 possible reasons WHY you’re carrying around unwanted emotional or physical clutter, let’s turn to step three: HOW you can release it and keep it from creeping back in.

Over a year ago I put together a PDF for you to help you think about WHY you carry around emotional and physical clutter and some ideas for HOW to take steps to get rid of it once and for all. This simple PDF includes my Shift Your Thoughts worksheet with examples – one of the most important tools I believe I could possibly offer you. (1:1 support to do this work is often beneficial)

DOWNLOAD THIS FREE GIFT NOW: Live Uncluttered Worksheet Set

Extra reading to help you move from cluttered to calm


Krista xo

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10 comments on “7 Reasons Your Life is Cluttered & HOW to release the clutter

  1. I definitely see myself in number 6. I try to take regular social media breaks because too often I find myself feeling like I am lacking in some way, even though in my heart I know that I have far more than I could ever need. The constant comparison makes it so hard to ever arrive at “enough for ME”, which is going to look different for someone else anyways.

    I deactivated my Facebook account back in the winter, partially for this reason (the other part was just the general emotional/mental overwhelm I often experienced whenever I was on it.) I do miss seeing your content there, though! Glad you still post lots on Instagram. 🙂

  2. Perhaps another point for family commitment clutter for people like me who are daughter to a 89 yr old recluse mother who left it late to get her last years organized so family is caught helping her. Mother to a daughter with mental and physical health challenges including having children removed and family look after her three young children, affects my ability to remove myself to calm peace and do what I need to mentally declutter continual stress in my life. Life is messy stressful and no where do I see the end of this. My health is terrible. Taking three weeks away is great to try to destress clutter but back home it starts all over again putting me right back in the proverbial crappy stress cluttered life. Children are minors reliant on family to nurture and protect them so adults shove personal needs aside constantly. 4 yr old grandson is going crazy kept indoors as smoke outside has triggered his asthma, 12 hrs in ER for treatment. His mom had ER visit last night for dental infection. Both reliant on family. Then there are other day to day malfunctional stress factors. Coasting thru on empty!! How does one de clutter this??

    • I am so sorry for all the challenges in your life. It is hard when life feels that much of it is out of our control and we are just doing our best with what we’ve been given. In the middle of hard seasons it can be even more useful to simplify anything possible – cleaning routines, how much laundry we do, meal prep. Ask for help when possible (ex. respite care if that were a possibility). Creating rhythms and routines for the day and week can help bring a bit more order to a life that feels stressful. Practicing self-care in small ways (ex. are you getting some fresh air, green food, and lots of water each day?) does not take much effort but makes a difference in our moods and energy.

      Working on our mindset is so powerful – did you get a chance to read through the free PDF I offer through email sign-up?

      I am not trying to minimize your pain or frustration… just to encourage you to take an honest look at where you CAN bring a little more structure or healthy routine to your life to help you manage all on your plate.

  3. Thank you. You have me a starting point, and I appreciate that. You have a calming voice, or wisdom, about you that I recognize. Michelle t

  4. Thank you for this:
    “But you are not meant to be a replica of anyone else; just show up and be imperfect but amazing and beautiful you”
    I talk myself out of doing things and saying things because of being imperfect and it sadly silences me sometimes and I become uncomfortable….you always remind me to push back those thoughts! Its funny because I question my thoughts now and say “OK what would Krista remind you to do” haha

  5. Krista – I love your work because you synthesize helpful answers to our real-life challenges by “shifting” our perspectives. My husband died suddenly (age 62); and even though I’d been a minimalist for years, clearing out his “stuff” pushed me to clear out the rest of my own (along with re-sorting and labeling adult children’s belongings to take or donate). As you so aptly state, “boundaries beget freedom”, and I now enjoy the freedom to travel, work on my own business, re-connect with people (this is the BEST part), and really relax when my day reaches “good enough”. PS – Thank you for the VIPER acronym – it’s light and easy to carry around.

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