11 Reasons Your Apartment Is Always So Cluttered & How To Fix The Problem

I kind of have a love/hate relationship with clutter. On the one hand, I think apartments that are always cluttered are sort of cozy and homey. But I also totally admire minimalists who have, like, one book on their coffee table.

And yet, despite my appreciation for all things Zen, my apartment always tends to go the former route. Clutter abounds, no matter what I do, and it often feels pretty stressful. If your place is the same way, then you likely share my feelings of overwhelm.

But why is it, exactly, that a little extra stuff can be so bothersome? "For most people, clutter produces a low level of anxiety and guilt, where you feel like you don't really deserve to relax in your own home," says Storing & Organizing Expert Emma Gordon of Clutter.com, in an email to Bustle. "Plus, when you constantly have to 'make room' for one activity or another, it makes you less inclined to do anything at home and that leads to a cycle of boredom."

If you're nodding your head to this, then read on for some of the top reasons why your place lives in messy infamy, as well as what to do about it.

1. You Collect Paper Like It's Going Out Of Style

You dump mail on the counter, toss old receipts on the table, and can't seem to throw away those old magazines. Individually, each habit isn't a big deal. But combine them all together and that excess paper can get to be a bit much. "Even if paper's not technically 'dirty,' its unwanted and overwhelming presence can make a home feel messy," said lifestyle writer Adrienne Braux on ApartmentTherapy.com.

What To Do

Be all about that recycling. "[Prevent] paper from coming in by keeping a small recycling bin just inside ... your front door to get rid of junk mail instantly," suggested Braux. Also, consider going digital when it comes to things like bank statements and receipts.

2. Putting Things Away Is A Concept That Escapes You

Tidy people put things away after they use them. But us untidy folk tend to just put things down, according to Gordon. This habit results in counters that are littered with junk and furniture that is strewn with coats and laundry. (Whoops.)

What To Do

Whatever you do, don't set things down mindlessly. "Break that habit, and you'll see a huge difference in your home," Gordon says.

3. You Simply Have Too Much Stuff

"Clutter begins to appear most prominently when we own too much stuff," note Joshua Becker on his lifestyle blog, BecomingMinimalist.com. If this is the case for you, it could explain why your apartment always feels overwhelming and messy.

What To Do

Take a look around your home. Do you actually need half the things you own? If not, get on board with some cathartic purging. "The most important key in completing this step is to start with the small and easy projects first," Becker suggested. Clean out your junk drawer, or clear off a shelf, and move up from there.

4. You Think Putting Things In Boxes Is "Cleaning Up"

Yes, there's something very satisfying about buying cute storage containers and hiding away all your junk. But sometimes too many "storage solutions" can end up being just as bad as the clutter itself.

What To Do

"If you can, limit your purchasing to things that actually improve your clutter condition, like wall-mounted storage to get things off of your floors ... and filing cabinets that'll replace the boxes of paper you need to keep," said Alan Henry, the Editor-in-Chief of Lifehacker.com.

5. You Have The Wrong Kind Of Storage

Besides having too much storage, you can also have the wrong kind of storage. "For instance, I held onto a dainty vintage mail caddy that definitely didn't suit the deluge of mail I was getting, so I wound up with a mail pile at one corner of the kitchen table," Gordon says. Sound like something you'd do? (Me too.)

What To Do

Again, make sure that you are thinking realistically when hitting up the organization aisle. The mail caddy mail be adorable, but will it really do the job? Probs not.

6. You Buy Tons Of Things You Don't Need

It may not be ideal, but it's totally normal to buy things you don't need. As Becker said, "To live is to consume. It cannot be avoided — especially in our society and culture." And especially if you make a hobby out of shopping.

What To Do

If you know going into Target means leaving with 20 things, then avoid popping in on a whim. But if you do, plan ahead before you buy. For example, if you lay eyes on a pretty candle, don't get it unless you can imagine exactly where it will go in your home.

7. You Don't Have A Tidying Routine

Instead of staying on top of clutter, you let things get out of control. De-cluttering becomes a once-a-month ordeal, and it's overwhelming AF.

What To Do

Gordon suggests doing a daily sweep of your apartment. "For instance, at some point during your morning ritual go around the house and round-up any wayward laundry and recycling," she says. This habit should help keep clutter from growing to epic proportions.

8. You Own Two Of Everything

When your apartment is cluttered, it's impossible to find things. So instead of looking for your spatula, you go out and buy a new one. Now you have two spatulas. Repeat this process for all of your other lost items, and you've got yourself an even more cluttered apartment.

What To Do

Find a home for all your things. If you always return items to their rightful place, then you don't have to question where anything is. And when you don't have to question where anything is, you won't have to buy it for a second or third time. Easy as that.

9. You Get Attached To Things On A Sentimental Level

This one is admittedly my biggest problem when it comes to clutter. I get attached to things and have a hard time throwing them out. If this is also your problem, it could be because you've had the item for a long time, it has special meaning to you, or you worked hard to spend your own cash on it, according to Henry. (Exactly yes, to all of those things.)

What To Do

Go slow when getting rid of sentimental things. "For example, put the items you can’t quite part with in a cardboard box out of sight with a date on it," Becker said. Don't worry about it until that date comes, at which point it may be easier to pass the items on.

10. You Have Too Many Hard Copies

If you're like me, then you have boxes upon boxes of old, duplicate photographs. And shelves packed with DVDs. And maybe even a CD collection...

What To Do

Remember what I said about going digital? This is when it really becomes important. "Scan [photos], organize them, and upload them to safe places so they're backed up," Henry said. Do the same with your DVD collection, and give up those dusty CDs in favor of Spotify. (It'll be better, I promise.)

11. You Feel Guilty About Tossing Things

It's really sweet that you best friend gave you all her old sweaters, but now you're stuck with an overflowing closet. It'd be nice to get rid of them, but she entrusted those sweaters to you. How can you possibly throw them out?

What To Do

Yes, gifts are nice. But it doesn't mean you have to hang on to them forever. Same goes for things you inherit. "Select a few objects with strong associations to your late grandmother, say, and keep them in places where you’ll see them," Elizabeth Fennel suggested on Real Simple. Everything else can go into the recycle bin.

That's really one of the best places to start, when it comes to tackling clutter — start getting rid of things. Recycle, donate, and give away your excess stuff. Follow up by not buying more, and your apartment should be clutter-free in no time.

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