There Are 4 Clutter Personality Types — Which One Are You?

published Jul 13, 2023
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illustration of four different dressers with various items inside that describes the four clutter personality types: the collector, the sentimentalist, the pragmatist, and the bargain hunter

The thing I love about helping people declutter is listening to the way they talk about their stuff. Not long into my career as a decluttering coach, I began to see that everyone has distinct reasons for holding onto things. It wasn’t until I recognized my own clutter tendencies that I began to create categories based on the conversations I was having with my clients. I would pay attention to the way they describe their possessions and their reasons for holding onto things they know they don’t need.

Here are the four clutter personality types I identified, and what to do if one of them makes you say, “Oh, that’s me.”

The Collector

I’m a Collector. I realized this after purchasing a green ceramic owl at a thrift store. My first ceramic owl was blue; a large vase that sits atop my dresser. I’d had it for a while when I brought home a companion; a blue ceramic owl with a deliciously scented candle poured into it. They looked great together! So when I saw this other owl, I thought I’d better get it. And thus, a collection was born. 

Later, amid a decluttering spree, I looked at this trio. “Why,” I wondered, “am I collecting ceramic owls?” Walking around the house, I started to see all the collections I’d created — some large, some in their infancy. I realized that as soon as I had two of something, I wanted more. Sometimes this collecting was intentional, but sometimes, as with the owls, it was absolutely accidental. I immediately got rid of two of my owls and dodged an unwanted collection.

The Sentimentalist

One client often told me how she’d acquired her prized possessions, mostly inherited from family members or friends. When deciding whether or not to keep an item, it seemed harder for her to part with things that were associated with fond memories or people who were no longer around. She’s a Sentimentalist! She loves things that remind her of happy times and people she loves.

I often see this when working with people who have inherited things from family members who have passed. It’s hard to let go of items our loved ones loved, even if we keep them stashed in a cupboard and rarely, if ever, take them out to enjoy them.

The Pragmatist

The Pragmatist keeps anything that may come in handy. They never needed that Coleman lantern before, but if there’s a prolonged power outage it might be useful! Most of us have at least a bit of the Pragmatist in us. The trick is to determine when you’re being practical and when you’re kidding yourself. 

A true Pragmatist usually owns an enormous number of things they’ll never use, even though those things are theoretically useful. If you describe yourself as having a Great Depression mentality, chances are this is you.

The Bargain Hunter

This is someone who prides themselves on getting excellent deals on everything they buy, which on the face of it is a terrific trait. The difficulty for this type when it comes to decluttering is twofold. First, they’re apt to buy multiples of things if they’re deeply discounted, and may never have the chance to use them all. And it can be hard for them to part with something they’ve gotten at a super-low price; it almost feels like throwing money away.

How to Use This Information

You may already recognize yourself in one or more of these descriptions. Here’s how to further determine your tendencies. When you look at a possession you love, ask yourself why it’s so important to you. Do you love it for its aesthetics? Because a dear friend gave it to you? Because it’s worth more than you paid for it? Or because it’s going to be serviceable for years to come? You may be a combination of types, or you may hew very strongly to one. Notice the way you talk about the things you own, and see what patterns emerge. 

Once you’ve identified your type (or types), the key is to ask yourself questions. If you’re a Sentimentalist, do you have other things that belonged to a dear friend? Maybe just one is enough. For the Pragmatist, do you have other items that would do in a pinch? Maybe you don’t have to keep everything. For the Bargain Hunter, would it make you feel better to give this item away, knowing someone else will benefit from your keen eye? And for the Collector, is this a collection that has meaning, or are you just acquiring it for the sake of it?

Owning fewer items that are truly special will enrich your life far more than holding on to everything.