Circulation. Clutter builds up for a number of reasons, but one of the most common is poor circulation.
Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

Clutter builds up for a number of reasons, but one of the most common is poor circulation. To illustrate this point, think about the human heart. The heart is the center of the body, and therefore it is important for blood to be constantly flowing into and out of it. Problems arise when there are blockages in the veins, arteries, and valves that keep the blood from moving and interfere with the heart’s ability to perform its function.

In much the same way, your home/office is the center of your life, and items are constantly moving into and out of your space. As long as an item enters, performs its function, and either moves out or gets used up, the home functions well. Unfortunately, physical objects often get “stuck” in our space, piling up and creating blockages. When this happens, the objects become a hindrance to, rather than an asset for, daily living.

Note that I’m not advocating an empty space. Just as the heart would be useless without blood, we all need supplies and resources to nourish ourselves and complete our tasks. The key is to establish systems so that our belongings serve our needs and don’t pile up. In other words, it is critical to prioritize our easily accessible space for objects that serve our current needs, and then keep everything else moving… either to the trash, a charity, a reseller, or a final storage destination.

So how do we tell the difference between what is needful and what is obstructive? Here are some examples:

Supplies for a craft or hobby in which we are actively engagedSupplies for a hobby or sport we previously enjoyed (or feel like we might return to “someday,”) but are not currently pursuing
Paperwork for the current yearTax paperwork for 5 years ago sitting in a prime desk drawer
Clothing that fits us nowLarge quantities of clothing that we hope to fit into when we lose weight
Dishes and serving pieces we useSets of dishes to pass on to children who have expressed disinterest
Books we are currently reading or frequently referenceOld college textbooks or back issues of magazines that we never look at because we Google the information when we need it
A box or two of memorabilia that we enjoy pulling out and looking atAn attic piled with boxes of memorabilia that we haven’t looked at in 20 years
A trophy or award that we worked hard for and which brings back wonderful memoriesA pile of “participation” medals, ribbons, or trophies that hold little sentimental value
Toys the children love playing withToys the children never touch, but we spent a lot of money on and feel guilty about giving away
Electronic devices, charging cords and keys that we useA drawer full of old keys and cords we can’t identify, but feel we should keep “just in case”
A couple of boxes for shipping and gift givingAn attic full of empty boxes kept out of a vague anxiety about always having “the right size box" if we need to ship something
A shirt and loose button you will sew back on within the weekA garage full of broken items that we have no idea how to fix, but feel that we should
A greeting card with a meaningful, handwritten note from a friend or loved oneA box or bag full of cards that were written by Hallmark and signed “Love, ____________”

Odds are, much of your clutter is simply a pileup of items that have outlived their usefulness. Whenever an object comes in, quickly move it to where it will serve its intended purpose, such as an action file, a drawer, a shelf or a container. Periodically, go through these places and remove anything that is no longer active, freeing your space to hold what matters now.

If you walk around your space today, what blockages can you identify? Are you ready to clear them out?

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31 thoughts on “Circulation”

    1. Thanks, Jill. I used this analogy in one of my presentations and it seemed to resonate with the audience, so I thought I’d write a blog about it!

  1. We definitely ride the line between healthy and unhealthy. It’s been a work in progress. It makes so much sense about the circulation of the human body and whatnot. I read somewhere that cleaning up clutter is VERY good for anxiety.
    Tamara recently posted…But When Worlds Collide..My Profile

    1. I would definitely agree that clearing clutter is good for anxiety. Clarity is sort of the opposition of apprehension/uncertainty, and when I get stressed out, I declutter and streamline. Just ask my family – they know when I’m feeling the pressure because I start whirling around restoring order all over the place!

  2. Wow! Love this list and love the analogy you used. It’s true that we need a flow of items in and out of our homes and offices. When we get stuck, a big clog happens, and chaos ensues.

    1. That’s so true, Ellen! Chaos always follows when something gets blocked up. I’m sitting at an airport with a cancelled flight, and I can certainly attest that there is chaos as the gate agent tries to deal with this clog of people!

  3. that chart is extremely helpful and makes it easier to see the difference. I am trying to get rid of the unnecessary clutter so we can enjoy our life…but the pack rat I live with makes it difficult
    karen recently posted…This Week I Read…My Profile

    1. I love a chart, Karen! Sometimes seeing things repeatedly helps it stick, and having some specific examples can give you ideas on how to work in your own space. The pack rat spouse is a thing, though, so I’m sending you some love on that one!

    1. Okay, I’m heading over to your blog right now. Never feel ashamed, though, because almost everyone has a space where “life” has simply accumulated. Life happens, and we are often so busy dealing with the daily demands on our life that we put off dealing with the blockages. But this is fixable, so I’m sending you good vibes as you tackle the project:)

    1. That’s an interesting one, Nina! Clutter doesn’t necessarily mean dangerous, but especially when children are very small and in an unfamiliar space, obstacles that are “out and about” could inhibit healthy play.

  4. I love your list of healthy and unhealthy clutter examples. The example you mentioned about memorabilia that is stored for 20 years and not looked at resonated with me because on my recent flooring project in my daughter’s room, I realized how many scrapbooks my daughter has from years of me scrapbooking. They may not look at them now, but they better take them with them when they move out. lol. Thanks for sharing. This is great!
    Sabrina Q. recently posted…Organizing A Boys Room TipsMy Profile

    1. I have years of scrapbooks as well, and frankly my oldest daughter doesn’t have room in her tiny DC apartment for them. BUT, they did enjoy looking at them as they grew up, and I think they will enjoy looking back in the future. Plus, one year, because we had them, we were able to recreate a choral resume from all the performance brochures I had saved, which felt terrific!

  5. I couldn’t agree more with this post Seana! I get frustrated when I hear people saying they are going to declutter once and for all. I just don’t think that’s possible unless you are circulating items the rest of your life and are very disciplined about it. You can declutter for 2015 and the set a date to do the same in 2016. As long as you are bringing things in things should be circulating out. You provided such excellent examples! Thank you!

    1. Yes, decluttering “once and for all” just doesn’t line up with reality. It’s a constant thing, or at least a periodic thing for sure!

  6. GREAT LIST! I could use most of them. Our house is somewhere in the middle as I’ve already learned to get rid of things that aren’t of use anymore. When I see clutter, my head spins! LOL. But there are also stuff that I don’t know where to put yet.
    Rea recently posted…How To Make Your Day ExtraordinaryMy Profile

    1. You are pretty organized, Rea, so I’m sure you don’t have big pile-ups. But it is a good habit to be mindful whenever you get something new in your space about where exactly you are going to use it and keep it. Have a great day and thanks for the comment:)

  7. You know, I’ver never really thought of my clutter in this context. Considering that I blog about organizing all the time, I’m embarassed to tell you how many of the things on that list, I am totally guilty of! That’s a bit of an eye opener. I did send about 6 big boxes to charity last month, but it sounds like I’d better round up some more boxes.

    1. Stuff piles up on everyone, even organizers! The great thing is, it is never too late to load up a box – or 6!!!- and move it along:)

  8. Thanks, Debbie. I’m sure you’ve seen similar situations, right? I find it can help go give very concrete examples, and I love getting feedback on what to add to the list!

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