Is It Clutter Or Just A Little Mess?

I read a interesting article this morning about how the author learned to accept the clutter in her home as evidence of a life well lived. The article made me think about what is the true definition of “clutter”. So I looked it up in my trusty old Webster’s New World College dictionary.


Clutter: a number of things scattered in disorder; jumble.

Then I decided to look up the definition in The New Century Dictionary I have, last copyright date of 1952. Clutter has been around for awhile. That definition is:

Clutter: noun – A disorderly heap or assemblage; litter; hence, confusion or disorder. Verb – To heap together or strew about in a disorderly manner.

With all the TV shows, articles, and books on clutter I think we have lost the meaning of what real clutter is. We either have a total huge disorderly heap of things all over our homes or it’s magazine perfect. There’s nothing in between.

As a result of this kind of thinking we’re always setting ourselves up for believing we’re failures. Yes, there are those who have “perfect” homes but they are usually either highly focused, high energy, or obsessed about keeping everything in order. Then there are those people who live in total chaos and probably need to address the underlying issues with professional help.

Temporary Messes

Which leaves the rest of us. Some of our “clutter” is really just messes from everyday living that haven’t been picked up yet. It’s in a state of temporary mess or disorder.

Last night’s dishes left in the sink aren’t clutter if they are cleaned up the next day. Just a temporary mess.

If the last couple of day’s mail is still on the kitchen table, then you have a temporary mess that needs to be taken care of.

Those dirty clothes on the floor from the last day or two would be considered a temporary mess.


It’s when a temporary mess starts to become a permanent fixture in our homes that we have to look at the mess as clutter.

When last week’s dishes are still in the sink and all over the counter, then there is a clutter problem.

If there are piles of mail from the last six weeks waiting for you to decide what to do with them, then there is a paper clutter problem.

If you can’t walk into the bedroom without stepping on dirty clothes, then that’s another clutter problem.

We need to learn not to be so hard on ourselves. We also need to learn the difference between a little mess from everyday living and true clutter. The key is to establish some routines that keep those little everyday messes from becoming clutter.