When Facing Your Clutter Feels Too Overwhelming by Cheri Gregory

  • “You take everything so
  • “You over-react to everything.”
  • “You’re just too

I’ve heard these accusations all my life. I’ve also been labeled

  • High Maintenance
  • Attention Seeker
  • Drama Queen

For four-and-a-half decades, I thought there was something very wrong with me.

That I was defective.

Beyond repair.

Then, I read Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking and learned that I’m not defective, just different.

I’m an HSP: a Highly Sensitive Person.

When Facing Your Clutter Feels Too Overwhelming IMAGE

HSPs and Clutter

According to “16 Habits of Highly Sensitive People,” an HSP is likely to

  1. be overwhelmed by strong sensory input.  (i.e. visual, auditory, etc.)
  1. be bothered by intense stimuli, like loud noises or chaotic scenes.
  1. feel more deeply.
  1. be more emotionally reactive.
  1. take longer to make decisions.
  1. become more upset if she makes a “bad” or “wrong” decision.
  1. take criticism more personally and experience its effects more strongly.

De-cluttering can trigger every one of these, causing me to over-react, shut down, or both. (Sometimes simultaneously!)

I’ve learned that in order to stay out of the “Overwhelmed Zone” while de-cluttering, I need two things: awareness and an HSP-specific plan.


In Clutter Free, Kathi says,

Owning is not bad. But we must understand that there is a price to be paid for everything we own. Owning too much chips away at our freedom.

HSPs can pay a higher-than-average price for owning to much stuff, and the de-cluttering process can be especially stressful.

For years, I felt blind-sided by my own reactions to the de-cluttering process, even though they happened every time I tried. When I started to accept and even predict them, they became far more manageable.

Every time I de-clutter, I have three main reactions:

  1. The visual chaos becomes over-stimulating. Suddenly.
  1. Sorting through my stuff evokes emotions. BIG emotions.
  1. Deciding what to keep and what to toss takes time. Lots of time.

Quote-6An HSP-Specific Plan 

When I de-clutter, I give myself these permissions and reminders:

  1. DO start small. Set a timer and do what you can in a short time span. Then take a break.

Don’t force yourself to keep going–that break is vital. (And whatever you do, don’t haul everything out of a closet and spread it out all over the room to “force” yourself to deal with it all!)

  1. DO acknowledge your feelings. De-cluttering is a loss process. Every item has a story; much of your stuff holds memories. Honor your heart even as you let go.

Don’t get stuck in guilt or shame. You don’t have to keep gifts to “prove” that you love the giver. You don’t have to hang on to old purchases to “punish” yourself for spending so much money.

  1. DO develop criteria ahead of time. This prevents analysis paralysis. For example, deciding “If I haven’t worn it in ___ months, out it goes!” puts you in an objective frame of mind.

Don’t force yourself to make big decisions on the spot. It’s okay to say, “I’m not ready” about an area or an item. It’s okay to move on for now and come back.

Finding What Works for You

Every HSP is unique. Make your own lists so you can become aware of what happens for you…and what works for you.

Be sure to check back next Monday, when several special guests will share their HSP Clutter Free stories and tips!

Wonder if you, too, might be an HSP?  Subscribe to Cheri’s blog and receive your FREE “HSP–Who, Me?” PDF.


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