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How To Recognize And Fix Clutter Blindness

  • Zak 
clutter blindness explained

Have you ever heard of clutter blindness? It’s actually a real thing.

But what is it?

Great question! Allow me to explain.

Clutter blindness is described as a state of being in which you become desensitized to or unable to recognize clutter in your surroundings.

The distinction between someone who is tolerant of clutter and someone who is clutter blind is awareness.

A high tolerance for clutter simply implies that you can see clutter or disorganization, but it does not bother you or disrupt your life. Someone may notice a dirty environment but choose to ignore it for whatever reason.

Perhaps they’re lazy, extremely busy, or aware that someone else will clean.

A person with clutter blindness simply does not notice or recognize the state of their surroundings.

Related article: 10 Reasons why decluttering is hard

Several Factors Contribute To Clutter Blindness

1. Routine And Habits

Building routines or habits is a great way to automate your behavior and minimize the amount of mental energy exerted during certain activities. But what could happen is that the engagement of daily routines amidst clutter can create a sense of normalcy, making it easier for individuals to overlook and ignore a mess. This reinforces the idea that clutter is acceptable and normal. Put differently, routines and habits minimize your awareness of a cluttered environment because your brain and body enter a state of automation, filtering in a pattern of similar thoughts and avoiding change.

2. Adaptation

People are resilient and flexible. What may appear uninhabitable and intolerable can become acceptable through frequency of exposure and time. This adaptation can lead to a reduced ability to perceive or acknowledge the mess that was once noticeable or intolerable.

3. Overwhelm

When a space is consistently cluttered, people may feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of items. Uncomfortable emotions often trigger our fight, flight, or freeze state, and in this state, we may choose to escape or repress our feelings. The most effective way to do that would be to ignore our surroundings until we become oblivious to them.

4. Cognitive Filtering

It has been said that our brains have a natural tendency to filter out information that is perceived as unimportant or irrelevant. Cognitive filtering can often be seen in athletes who ‘enter the zone’ or a state of flow. In this state, they can perform at extraordinary levels because their mind and body are focused primarily on the game, drowning out everything else, even the roars of a lively crowd. In the case of clutter blindness, it may downplay the significance of the mess, allowing us to focus on other stimuli or more important tasks despite the environment.

What Are The Signs Of Clutter Blindness?

I’ve been observing my father, who is undoubtedly the messiest person in our home. Without a doubt, he has clutter blindness because it never registers to him how untidy things can be and how unaffected he is by it.

I’ve been observing his behavior more and doing my own research to compile a list of signs of clutter blindness.

Here’s what I’ve noticed about people who are clutter blind:

  1. They don’t have organizational skills or a filing system.
  2. When they work, they don’t notice anything besides their objective, often creating a mess.
  3. They leave most tasks incomplete, especially when it comes to tidying up.
  4. They can never remember where they left things.
  5. They struggle to let go of stuff.
  6. They don’t put things back where they found them.
  7. They feel hurt and annoyed when others complain about their environment

Related article: 13 Signs you own too much stuff

How To Fix Clutter Blindness

If I had clutter blindness, I would try minimalism or extreme decluttering without getting rid of my belongings until some time had passed to avoid giving away something I needed. My thought process is that it would be more effective to elicit a change in mindset through physical change.

Once you observe and experience the difference between a space that has been decluttered or altered according to minimalist practices, there’s a strong likelihood that your brain will understand the differences and be more inclined to notice clutter going forward.

Because people are more inclined to make long-lasting changes if they experience noticeable benefits and results, this approach makes the most sense to me.

Related article: 12 Tips to make decluttering easy

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