You arrived on earth without clutter. Your parents and doting relatives started you on a pathway to accumulation. By the time you were a year old, you had mounds of functional clothing, twenty outfits suitable for dress-up, too many stuffed animals, custom-sized furniture, a silver spoon, and a plastic Winnie-the-Pooh bowl. Perhaps there was also your christening gown: an heirloom already packed safely away waiting for the next generation. You had not even become a toddler yet, and you had already embarked on the road to the clutter trap.

Perhaps your most treasured possession during this time was a favorite “blankie.” This was one item that just made you feel good when you dragged it everywhere you went. You also had a rattle that served two valuable functions. It made noise, and it was handy to chew on when your gums hurt. And the most attractive item in your crib area was that mobile of the shiny fish that swam above your head. Even at this early age, you were surrounded by some things you loved, some things you found useful, and some things you found beautiful.

And there was other “stuff” too. There were broken toys, clothes you were rapidly outgrowing, a quilt someone made that felt scratchy. These were the beginnings of clutter in your life. But were you caught in the clutter trap? No! You weren’t trapped because you didn’t care. You didn’t interrupt your life’s work (eating, playing, sleeping, and saying “no”) to worry about any of this. Your caretakers worried about them on your behalf.

By the time you became an adult, the story was different. While you were still surrounded by clothing, toys, furniture, and heirlooms, by now you had added two hair dryers, four televisions, three telephones, a computer, a washing machine, a lawn mower, a partridge-in-a-pear-tree decoration and other machinery for life. Friends, family, and colleagues had given you gifts, paintings, china, and things you never used, and didn’t particularly like. But you could never quite decide to get rid of them.


Although fifty to ninety-five percent of your life is operating very well, and you feel successful in most areas, you sometimes:

• Feel overwhelmed when you look at your closet or the garage or attic

• Put off important things because they seem too massive to tackle in your current state of mind

• Avoid having people visit your home or office because it looks too messy

• Tremble at the thought of an audit, because you probably couldn’t find supporting records

• Spend hours looking for your car insurance documents

• Get headaches, neck and back tension, or grind your teeth because you can’t seem to find a place to relax anywhere

• Wonder what is wrong with you that you can’t seem to stay organized

• Consider taking yet another time management course to get it all under control

• Yearn to escape to a desert island Here’s the simple truth. Everything—everything—you have in your life either nourishes you or drains you. It either supports your dreams and desires or sabotages them. If too much stuff in your immediate environment drains you, you are caught in the Clutter Trap.

The Clutter Trap is a state of cumulative disorder that diminishes your physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, or financial health. It is a dangerous threat to your productivity, your prosperity, and your peace of mind. Underestimate that threat at your own peril. The Clutter Trap is more than an occasional temporary mess you make while finishing a project or getting dinner ready. It is a multiplicity of messes. It is a chronic, cumulative, chaotic, cramping, creeping disorder.

You just read a part of a chapter from the new 20th-Anniversary publication of my book, Love It or Lose It: Living Clutter-Free Forever, which my friend/colleague Maggie Bedrosian and I wrote together. 

Get your own copy today at Love It or Lose It: Living Clutter-Free Forever.

Then consider joining us for our 4 Week Home Office for the Business of Life Bootcamp to begin taking control of your clutter with us!

Author's Bio: 

In 1978, Barbara took out a $7 ad in a New York City newspaper to advertise her professional organizer business. For 20 years, she focused her business on organizing paper and physical clutter for home offices and organizations. Then the Internet Age came about, and she utilized her principles and expertise to help clients with digital clutter.

Over the past 40+ years Barbara has helped 1000's of companies, and became an icon and top expert in the industry. She has been featured on national media platforms such as Good Morning America, The Today Show and CNN Nightly News. She has also been showcased in publications including USA Today, New York Times, Fast Company, Reader’s Digest, Real Simple and Guideposts.

Barbara and her team teach business owners a 9-step system to go from overwhelmed to optimized. Step 1 is a free Assessment that can be found at