6 types of hidden clutter and how to banish them

Some clutter is easy to see. Piles of old mail, newspapers or magazines, overflowing toy boxes, overstuffed closets and drawers, pretty much any junk drawer (I mean, it has “junk” in the name!) – these are some of the most obvious culprits. But did you know there are other hidden and commonly overlooked forms of clutter? It’s more than just junk making messes.

Before we begin, I’ve put together a  free decluttering starter guide for busy moms that will take you from feeling like a hot mess, embarrassed and overwhelmed all the time, to a confident, “I got this,” mom who doesn’t feel trapped by mess all the time.  It includes a cheat sheet, proven simple decluttering process you can apply to any space (even if you don’t have time to shower) and a bonus four-week maintenance routine. Grab yours here:

Now, here’s how you can identify the 6 types of hidden clutter in your life and how to banish them:

  • Hidden Clutter: Overbooked calendar

    • You’re rushing, rushing, rushing. Your kids have to be to multiple events, you feel exhausted just trying to keep up. You rarely get to sit down to have dinner together as a family. You feel like everything is constantly just go, go, go! And in order to get everyone where they need to be, it’s often up to you to nag, nag, nag!
    • Don’t be fooled, this is clutter. Take a step back and ask yourself what you’re getting out of all of these activities. Are they all necessary? Are the kids getting everything they should be from these activities? Is it worth the cost of your time and energy (and theirs) to make it happen?
    • If the answer to some of these questions is, “No,” then it may be time to reevaluate your priorities as a family and declutter your calendar. You don’t have to remove everything, but before you make a commitment, ask yourself what it will really cost you. Not just in terms of budget, but of your time, energy, stress levels and to your family goals. If family time is high priority to you, for example, it may not be worth the investment of an extra swim lesson or PTO Committee. You need downtime and time to connect as a family. And your kids do too. It’s ok to decline sometimes. And you don’t owe anyone an explanation for that.
    • Advanced tip: Pick one day each week that is a nothing day. Be very defensive of that time and really consider the value of any activity or event that you do choose to commit to on that day.


  • Hidden Clutter: Toxic Relationships

    • Sometimes the best way to love someone is from a distance. If a relationship with someone in your life seems to be mainly one-sided (meaning you’re the one doing all the giving), makes you feel stressed or bad about yourself and constantly eats up all of your time and energy with drama and negativity, you may have a toxic relationship cluttering your life.
    • You don’t have to have a confrontational conversation or even tell anyone about your choice, but putting some distance between yourself and the clutter culprit is the best way to keep their negativity and stress out of your own life. This might mean limiting calls or visits with the person, or declining them altogether. But remember that you need to take care of yourself if you’re going to be able to have any energy to take care of anyone else. The blog Midlands Minimalist also offers some great tips for decluttering toxic relationships.
    • Don’t let a toxic relationship poison your life. Set firm boundaries.


  • Hidden Clutter: Distractions

    • Yes, distractions can be a form of clutter – and you can read more about that in my post: How to minimize distractions so you can get more done. Examples are phones, screens and electronic devices, multitasking, disorganization and poor habits.
    • Be mindful of what they are and set boundaries so they don’t get the best of you


  • Hidden Clutter: Stockpiles & Fixer-Uppers

    • These are things you may have purchased because, “they were such a good deal.” But, do you really need 25 tubes of toothpaste hogging space in your bathroom? The few cents you might have saved per tube probably aren’t worth the real estate.
    • Another example is something that is broken that you were planning to repair but haven’t gotten to yet. A pair of pants that need to be hemmed? A hand-me-down piece of furniture you wanted to upcycle or refinish but haven’t touched in a few months? Let it go. If you haven’t made it a priority, you probably don’t need it. Donate it and let someone else fix it up and enjoy it.


  • Hidden Clutter: Trash

    • Expired food lurking in your pantry or fridge, mail you haven’t dealt with, kid school work – all of this is clutter.
    • Come up with a maintenance plan to stay on top of it. Clean out your fridge once a week, check your pantry inventory on a regular basis. Have a plan to deal with mail immediately. In our home, most of it gets chucked into the recycling bin. Anything that stays goes into an appropriate folder (Coupons, Action Items, and To File), which we then review on a regular basis. Make a hard a fast rule that no one is allowed to just set something on a counter or a table to be dealt with later. The same goes for all the paperwork that comes home from school on a regular basis. I have a folder for each child where we store Action Items (notes that need to be returned to school or details for projects/permission slips). Most of the rest is reviewed and then recycled, unless it is deemed special by either my child or us. Then we display it on their designated board that I shared in this post.


  • Hidden Clutter: Gifts or things you keep out of guilt

    • I know, I know, you got that set of dishes as a wedding gift from your Great Aunt Ida and that sweater with the puff balls on it came from your sweet Granny. But, do you think these items were given to you so that they could collect dust and take up space in your home? Have you ever given anyone a gift so that it wouldn’t be used and loved? No! It’s ok to let these things go. Chances are the giver will never even know. And if they do, I’m sure they’d rather you have something you love and need than something to shove to the side and forget about. Anything that you don’t need, love or use regularly is clutter. Let someone else enjoy it.

Don’t forget to grab your free decluttering starter guide and go from Hot Mess to Free & Confident.



Which of the above types of hidden clutter do you need to deal with next? Leave a comment with your answer or e-mail me at Kristin at totally the mom dot com. I love hearing from you!

6 types of hidden clutter and how to banish them