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Clutter Meaning And Its Origin

Clutter is a term that most of us are familiar with, but what does it actually mean? When we hear the word clutter, the first thing that often comes to mind is a disorganised and chaotic space, filled with items that we no longer need or want.

However, clutter is not just limited to physical spaces; it can also be present in our mental and digital environments, which can also negatively impact our lives. Understanding the meaning of clutter and its origins can help us create decluttering strategies that can lead to more organised lives and better well-being.

The Meaning of Clutter

Clutter, in essence, refers to a collection of things that are either messy or unnecessary, leading to disorganization and inefficiency. In order to better understand clutter, let’s examine the three broad types of clutter that exist, as well as their defining characteristics.

Physical Clutter

This type of clutter is probably the most familiar one, as it pertains to the excess items and disorder that accumulate in our physical spaces, such as our homes, offices, and cars. Physical clutter can manifest in various forms, including piles of unworn clothing, stacks of unsorted mail, or disarranged household items. Physical clutter, when left unchecked, can create stress or even harm one’s mental health, leading to feelings of guilt, shame, or stifled creativity.

Mental Clutter

Less tangible but equally important is mental clutter, which refers to the excess thoughts, worries, or emotions that can weigh heavily on our minds. Mental clutter can make it challenging for us to focus, think clearly, or make well-informed decisions. This form of clutter can originate from numerous sources, situations that cause stress, anxiety, or fear, as well as negative thoughts patterns, such as rumination or self-doubt. A cluttered mind can often lead to a decrease in productivity and overall mental well-being.

Digital Clutter

With the advent and widespread use of technology, digital clutter has become an increasingly prevalent problem in our lives. Digital clutter refers to the excessive amount of digital information or files that we accumulate on our devices, which can lead to disorganization and hinder our ability to locate or utilize important information when needed. Examples of digital clutter include an overflowing email inbox, disorganized file directories, or an excessive number of applications or browser tabs open at once.

Characteristics of Clutter

Now that we have explored the types of clutter, we can delve into the defining characteristics of clutter. These characteristics are common across all three types and can help us recognize clutter when it becomes evident in our lives.


Clutter tends to create a sense of overwhelm, making it difficult to focus on tasks, make well-informed decisions, or even fully relax. Experiencing overwhelming clutter can often lead to feelings of stress, anxiety, or even guilt for allowing our lives to become cluttered in the first place.


A key feature of clutter is its disorganization. Whether it’s physical items scattered haphazardly across a room or a disarray of digital files on a computer, clutter often lacks an orderly system or organization. This disorganization can make it challenging to locate specific items or efficiently use the space or resources that are available to us.


Lastly, clutter is characterised by its excessive nature. Clutter goes beyond what we need or want, and its presence often leads to strain on our physical, mental, or digital environments. This excess can quickly become unmanageable and impede our ability to live organized and efficient lives.

The Etymology of Clutter

Believe it or not, the word clutter has been around for quite some time. In fact, it dates back to the 1400s! The word “clotern” was originally used to describe a type of blockage or clot that formed by heaping things on top of each other.

Over time, the word evolved into clutter, which was first defined as a verb in the 1550s, meaning “to collect in heaps and crowd together in disorder.” By the 1570s, clutter had become a noun, meaning “things lying in heaps or crowded confusion” [source: Online Etymology Dictionary].

The Impact of Clutter on Our Lives

While clutter may have been a problem for centuries, what’s more recent is our awareness of its impact on our homes and wellbeing. This is where the importance of professional organisers comes in. These experts bring a wealth of knowledge and experience about how clutter arises and how to manage it.

Professional Organisers (POs) can help you understand why clutter may be happening in your home. They’re skilled at guiding you through the process of decluttering, making decisions about what to keep and what to let go of, and setting up systems to help you maintain a clear space. Importantly, they do this without judgement and with your goals in mind.

Social Responsibility and Clutter

At Little Miss Organised, we take a socially responsible approach to decluttering. One of the benefits of working with us is that we remove donated items at the end of each session, so you can enjoy clear spaces immediately. We maintain a network of specialty charities so that your items are given a second life and go where they are needed most.

In addition to donating items, we also advise on how to responsibly dispose of recyclable items. For example, we partner with local social enterprise Substation 33 to remove e-waste from your home. This means you can clear out that old TV without worrying about where it will end up.


In summary, clutter is a word that has been around for centuries. However, our understanding of its impact on our lives is more recent. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by clutter in your home, a professional organiser can help you work through it and set up systems to keep it under control.

And, with socially responsible approaches to decluttering, you can rest assured that your unwanted items will be put to good use or disposed of in an eco-friendly way.

Use these tips to improve and reorganize your life, whether it’s your home, work, or personal life.




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