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Why Women Have So Much Clutter.

Updated on April 21, 2011

This hub is partially inspired by another hub I read recently written by Lazur and partially by a hilarious newspaper article I read this week that rang very true to life. I hope you enjoy and identify with the subject of this hub, and that it will make you chuckle.

Ornamental Plates
Ornamental Plates
Novelty Tea-Towels
Novelty Tea-Towels
Oompa Loompas from 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory'
Oompa Loompas from 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory'

For many years I have known my Mum is a compulsive hoarder. Her favourite weekend hobby is driving around the local car boot sales, charity shops, jumble sales etc, trying to pick up a bargain. The result of this 'hobby', is that she has a house, garage and loft, full to bursting point with stuff she rarely uses and will most likely never see the light of day in her lifetime. My Stepfather despairs of her, and whenever he tries to get her to de-clutter he fails miserably as she always insists that she needs this stuff and must keep it.

To make matters worse she insists on buying my Sister and I 'stuff' we don't really want (with rare exceptions) from these places. Rather than hurt her feelings I usually say thank you and take the latest plastic plate with a cat picture on, tea- towel covered in sea fish (as she thinks if I run a coarse fishing lake containing freshwater fish, I must be into all kinds of fish), or the blouse I wouldn't be seen dead in home, and dispose of it in my next clear out for the local charity shop, (making sure I allow enough time for her to not to ask me where it has vanished to). Yes I know it is thoughtful of her, which I why I seldom complain when she presents me with the latest battery operated, flashing Christmas earrings or the Doberman fridge door magnet (even though I no longer have a Doberman). I don't like to sound ungrateful, but really don't know how to stop her, and it is such a waste of her money if I am simply going to get rid of most of these offerings later on. Don't get me wrong, she is great for hunting down a bargain if you tell her you specifically need a certain item, such as a good condition set of curtains for the living room, but I just wish she would stick to the items we request.

My Sister is really into collecting Egyptian type furniture and ornaments, so one year my Mum thoughtfully bought her a Tutankhamen CD case for part of her Christmas present. As my sister said when we were discussing this yesterday, the problem with the case was that it was totally out of proportion, and poor old Tutankhamen looked like an 'Oompa-Loompa' from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory'.

In addition to her bargain hunting, my Mum also likes to hoard clothes, newspapers, frying pans (the last count she had 12!) etc. Her argument for the masses of newspapers is that she 'is still going through them'. Every few weeks my Step Dad James forces her to read through them again and discard the ones she has 'finished with'. As he said to me the other day, 'I have this great fear that if I die before Mary she will gradually vanish under an ever increasing pile of newspapers'. To further drive us mad Mum will cut out any article she thinks we should read and present us with a stack of them each time we visit, e.g. articles about the perils of smoking, cannabis, alcohol etc, or cutesy articles about animals, or worst of all, cruelty stories about animals with brutally upsetting details.

Her multiple wardrobes and drawers contain clothes, many of which she hasn't worn for years, not to mention all sorts of other easily dispensable with junk that is no longer needed, e.g. the calipers my Sister once needed for her leg following her stroke, which was over 16 years ago.

Their loft is stuffed full of such needless things as the accounts from my Father's business, and he died 22 years ago, a number of years after he had retired.

Her kitchen cupboards and shelves are crammed full of saucepans, ancient recipe books, bags of assorted spare cutlery, hundreds of various wine glasses etc.

The home they live in is crammed full of ornaments, old encyclopedias and newspaper cuttings that my Mum will not part with. She takes nostalgia for deceased loved ones to the extremes, and we had the devil's own job simply to persuade her to part with her late Brothers bed, even though it was ancient and falling apart. If James gets a skip delivered to dispose of some of the rubbish, Mum promptly goes through the skip and takes half of the contents back out again, much to James frustration.

ebay shopping
ebay shopping
tacky ornaments
tacky ornaments

Is this a problem that only women have? I doubt it, but it does seem fair to say they are worse than most men in this respect. The newspaper article I read this week written by Alex Proud in the Daily Mail made some fantastic comments, some of which I would like to quote here for those of you who didn't see the actual article itself.

'Every time I walk through my front door, I look carefully around, knowing that somewhere my wife will have bought a little something for our home........It's not a good thing. Rather it's a Chinese water torture-but with ornaments'

' I do like to be able to cross a room from one side to the other without having to zigzag my way around like a slalem skier.'

'My wife however, considers a clean line an abomination and an empty space a gaping void that needs filling. It is instructive that when people want to describe a house full of junk they refer to a "mad old ladies house". But they could almost drop the word "mad"; by the age of 65, almost any lady's house will look like that'

'Whenever I suggest that the jewellery box that's overflowing with rubbish might do with a clean-out, my wife reacts as if I've just asked her to melt down the family silver. Of course, as a man, I have no truck with sentimentality. But I'll allow that, perhaps one feels a certain attachment to the wedding ring of a deceased grandparent or an 18th birthday trinket. But the cheap jewellery you bought in Camden as a stroppy 17 year-old? Please.'

tacky jewellery
tacky jewellery
cheap plastic toys
cheap plastic toys

'When a woman announces she is going to "de-clutter", what she really means is she's going to move picture frames and ornaments around. When a man announces he's going to de-clutter, he comes armed with bin bags'

'This is not to say you can't have a bit of art and perhaps a few magazines in a rack. In the end it's just pragmatism. After all, when you've had a glass of wine too many, you can't knock over a table of ornaments that isn't there'

'Indeed, I have a theory that clutter may have been the key driver behind the failure of the Sixties and Seventies council estates. When they were built they looked clean, light and futuristic. People hailed them as a huge improvement over the Victorian slums they replaced. But after a few decades of a woman's touch they had faux-leaded windows, fake Tudor doors, deep shag carpets and untold shelves of tacky collectables. They looked awful and it's a surprisingly short journey from porcelain miniatures to dealing with drugs in stairwells'.

'Yes, men do buy stuff. But what we buy is cars and electronics. There's a cost bias against our cluttering up. Most people do not buy 20 stereos or 12 Jags. The same cannot be said about picture frames'.

'The worst of all worlds is women's desire to keep things which are not just cheap, but those that are actually designed to be thrown away. Here I'm talking about my wife's magazine hoard. I think the hint with magazines is the month on the cover.

At the end of the month, you get a new one and should operate a one-in, one-out policy. But no. I labour amid piles of Elles and Vogues which date back to when my wife grew out of Smash Hits. In fact, for all I know she's got them too, down in the basements of her periodical skyscrapers.

She claims she keeps them for inspiration and ideas. But the only thing they have ever inspired me to do is to start a massive bonfire.

The female propensity to keep magazines has other, less obvious, downsides, too. My wife's piles of papery clutter soon reach a kind of critical mass where, blackhole-like, they start to suck in other, more important things around them.

Like bills and credit-card statements. One day I'll discover that I have the credit rating of a serial bankrupt - all because of a million old copies of Marie Claire'

picture frames
picture frames
draft excluders
draft excluders

'And so it goes up to and including the national car-boot sale that is ebay. Actually, ebay is far worse than a car-boot sale - it is a bizarre scheme whereby people the length and breadth of the country sell tat, which until recently they'd have thrown out, to each other.

Sometimes I'll look on my laptop to see my wife 'watching' several dozen items all coyly presented in gushing terms like 'vintage' (i.e. worn out) and 'shabby chic' (an oxymoron if ever there was one).

I suppose I should be excited about ebay, as it enables you to sell clutter. But, in our house at least, the postman always brings more than he takes away. Green types dream of being carbon neutral. I dream of being ebay neutral.'

'The clutter was bad enough when it was just my wife and I. But then my Son Ulysses arrived on the scene.

It's amazing. My wife is incapable of visiting any sort of commercial premises without buying at least three pieces of clutter for Ulysses.

His nursery has gone from a clean, stylish room suitable for a young male to a plastic Chernobyl. My only consolation is that as soon as he's old enough to make taste-based decisions of his own, he'll throw it all out.'

'What's a man to do? I recommend 'zoning' your house. His and hers zones. My zones are the study/library and the living/dining area. In them, a clean modernity reigns supreme.

Hers are the shed (which I never visit) and Ulysses's nursery. The rest of the areas - kitchen, bedroom and so on - are accorded a kind of 'disputed territory' status. Potential flashpoints are the kitchen (which I think of as a kind of Kashmir) and the bathroom (the Golan Heights).

But zoning is only a stop-gap - a more permanent solution would be separate houses. I'm not suggesting we live across town from each other; I love my wife, just not her clutter.

Rather, we should buy a large plot of land and build not one but two houses. The two will be joined by a glass corridor. With a lockable door at my end, which has a bin outside it.'

I hope you enjoyed this Hub, and would be interested in your opinions about hoarding and what kind of things tend to be hoarded, not to mention the compulsive bargain hunting where people seem to end up buying things that they don't really need, would never have shopped for and will never use, simply because they are a bargain.


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    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      I remembered, it is called 'churning' and if these women can't do this or touch their belongings they get extremely stressed as a result. It is all a part of the mental illness.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      I really feel for you Jim. I have watched documentaries about such women, and you can barely move in their homes, not to mention the vermin problems they end up with, yet they can't seem to recognise they have a problem.

      There are specialist counselors who can work with these women (or men), but it isn't easy and this is a mental health problem. I can only suggest you mention rats and mice (if she is scared of them) as a potential risk, even if you have to plant 'droppings' to prove a point, alternatively you could leave for a a week or two and hope she panics enough about wanting you back that she agrees to declutter. Last resort, at the risk of all hell breaking loose, send her away on a weekend break with a friend or at a spa or something, and round up some friends to help you get rid of all the clutter once and for all whilst she is gone. By the time she comes back it will be too late, although I recommend full body armour for this plan.

      I sincerely wish you luck, I get mad just watching those people on TV, and in comparison my Mum is a saint, although a minor hoarder.

      I should add that apparently this problem quite often stems from insecurity, and these people had important possessions taken away from them early in life, even if only a toy or two. I don't think it is greed, so much as it is a need for the security of possessions being around them. These people even do this weird thing where they have to keep touching their possessions, (there is a name for it, but it escapes me right now).

    • profile image

      Jim K 

      7 years ago

      I live with a woman who at 63 still has her mini-skirts from the late 60's. Being an orderly neat person by nature I find it is extremely frustrating living with someone who lives to collect other peoples discards and storing it away in our home. We have been married for 43 years and it has not been easy toning down my standards. What is galling is she does little or no house work, as I have done it all since we were first married including the yardwork. Recently she has taken up cooking which is nice but she is now collecting cookbooks and recipes at an incredible rate and the hallway and stairs are cluttered with cookbooks, and if I move them I hear about it all day.The truth is I believe this disorder as some would call it is just insatiable greed. If I could afford to get out from under this womans thumb I would but I cannot afford to move elsewhere. Her mother was worse than she and when she passed away we became heirs to her collection of crap ontop of my wifes.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Well that could explain a large amount of cases I suspect Bernie. Thanks for commenting

    • profile image

      Bernie de Guzman 

      9 years ago

      I read an article indicating these are all symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), a mental problem! The illness has just been recently recognized.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      10 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Gosh Bard, you sound as bad as most of the aforementioned women :)

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 

      10 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      I had 25-year's worth of clutter and hoarded stuff to get rid of before I moved and I said to myself, "Don't do this again!" I have pretty much stuck to that but I nevertheless have big piles of newspapers, a collection of dead watches, drawers full of flyers, batteries, letters, glasses cases, etc etc and several broken electrical appliances (just in case someone can fix them! lol)

      I get cardboard boxes for Tiggy too but she gets fed up with them fast and every now and then I declutter the current collection - only three here at the moment!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      10 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks Anna Marie, glad you enjoyed the hub, and not too surprised to find out it can be men who have this problem too :)

    • Anna Marie Bowman profile image

      Anna Marie Bowman 

      10 years ago from Florida

      I loved reading this!!! NO, it's not a problem reserved only for women! My step-dad is a hoarder! It's pretty bad! LOL! This also reminds me of the hub I wrote on moving, in regards to all the stuff that accumulates!

    • 2patricias profile image


      10 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      We (both patricias) love the Flylady website because it introduced us both to de-cluttering in a way that we could manage. If anyone really does want to be able to increase the floorspace in her house, take a look at Flylady.

      I stress - we have absolutely no connection with the website, we are just converts. There is still a lot of junk in my (Pat's house) but at least I know a system for reducing it.

    • Kika Rose profile image

      Kika Rose 

      10 years ago from Minnesota

      lol! I am a pack-rat! But like I said, it's not that I go out and buy all that junk, it seriously, honestly just shows up in my room. Like, last night, I was looking for my sewing supplies when I found a whole pile of CDs and asked aloud, "Where on earth did these things come from? I don't remember buying them, no... They're copies... So how did they end up on my desk?" There must be a pack-rat monster living in my room somewhere that goes out during the wee hours of the night and finds the most random crap, then returns to place said random crap in completely random places within my four walls of a room. I swear, there is no other explanation! o.o

    • trish1048 profile image


      10 years ago

      Hi Misty,

      I hear that.  My kids tease me (but I believe they will do it) that they'll just tip the house up on its end, let everything fall, and into the dumpster.  It is my intention to clean out the place (since I can no longer buy) long before I'm gone.  If that doesn't happen, when the time draws near, I'll rent the dumpster myself.

      I had an old boyfriend who also liked to collect but not to the extent I do.  We once went out for a drink, stopped in a bar called the White Elephant, and what do you suppose was there?  Not only could you sit and enjoy a drink and a meal, the place was loaded with collectibles, hanging from the ceiling, stacked on shelves around the perimeter of the place all with little price tags attached. I had never seen anything like it in my life. He commented to me several months later, said, hey Trish, why don't you just put tags on your things so when people come to visit they can shop at the same time lol.  So, not only was I out for a nice evening, I was definitely in my element.  I showed great restraint though and came home with a teensy basket.  It was a lot of fun.

      Thanks again for a fun hub.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      10 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Feline Prophet, thanks for commenting, sounds like my Mum and your Mother-in Law should move in together :)

      Kika Rose you sound like a typical example of 'a Woman' as featured in this hub, as you put it, 'a true pack rat'. Thanks for commenting :)

      trish1048, you are definitely a classic case. What always worries me is that when my Mum finally passes away, it will be my Sister and I who have to sort through all her mountains of clutter and will no doubt dump most of it. I have tried to tell her this, but she still keeps collecting anyway. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, glad this made you laugh :)

    • trish1048 profile image


      10 years ago


      I've just walked through my home through this hub. You name it, I have it. And no, people don't understand that if you found a tray or box or trinket or whatever, it won't just do to have one. You have to then go acquire 20 more. An addiction? Absolutely. Yes, I've been asked to de-clutter. Even I myself look around and think, good Lord, what a dump. It really makes no sense. How much nicer my place would look if I made room and was even able to display what I consider treasures. (After de-cluttering, of course). It's gotten to the point that if anyone were to come in and do a clean-out, I probably would not only miss anything, I wouldn't even know what left.

      I so identify with people who can't bear to part with things. The sad part is I never used to be this way. Is it a woman thing? an age thing? I really don't know. If I could develop enough backbone and take a short trip, leaving behind instructions for my friends or family to clean me out, they would do a happy dance. I would then come home to someplace I wouldn't recognize, and be totally amazed that I could then walk a straight path to any room without tripping on something lol.

      I enjoyed this hub and especially the humor that was injected in it. If I couldn't laugh, I'd cry.

      Thanks for sharing.

    • Kika Rose profile image

      Kika Rose 

      10 years ago from Minnesota

      I don't really shop for random junk I'll never need. It magically appears out of thin air from whence it came to my over-stuffed closet/junk drawers/leftover bookshelf space/desk top/floor. Most of it's crap my grandma thought I'd like that I actually despise, while the rest are things that I'd picked up throughout my lifetime. I'm a complete and total pack-rat, and I will admit to this fact. But at the same time, I like my junk. I like finding strange trinkets during my many expeditions through my dresser drawers in the attempt to find some shirt I want to wear or a book I might've set down, forgotten about, shut up in a drawer, and then later realized I wanted to read.

      I tend to do that book thing a lot... >.>

      But alas, I can't get rid of my junk. I just can't do it. Every time I'm told to go through my room and empty it of the excessive amounts of crap-ola (as my mom calls it), I worry that I'm going to throw away something I might want or need later in life, then convince myself I just cannot throw it away, THEN move it to a new location so it LOOKS like I cleaned. :-P I have discovered that this tactic works well. ^_^ For Mom, anyway. lol!

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 

      10 years ago

      Hehe...your mother sounds very much like my mother-in-law! Getting her to throw away anything is a Herculean task. I have to devise devious ways of getting things out of the house!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      10 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks Violetsun, sounds like your neighbours were a potential fire hazard :)

      Please you stopped by marisue, clutter is a nightmare, and I tend to be fairly ruthless where it is concerned, but glad you get round to dealing with it eventually !

      Thanks Aya, guess it must be kind of hard with 'Bow' around to keep all the magazines in one piece!

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 

      10 years ago from The Ozarks

      Misty, great hub. I have a similar problem, only I like to think I am getting it under control! I used to collect old magazines and only recently have realized that I have to stop...

    • marisuewrites profile image


      10 years ago from USA

      I too, can be disorganzed with papers, and sometimes clothing. I love to decorate tho and when I'm stressed or energized, and not writing, I'm cleaning and then I can really organize. Wonder why some of have to be "in the mood" - a woman thing? nesting? not sure. I have friends who shop a lot, I shop in bursts, not for long periods, loving to get out...go to a tea room, look, think, but not shop racks and racks and shelves and 's too over stimulating to to have a good time out tho.

      Clutter is a complicated issue. I like to store containers, boxes, weird bottles, etc. maybe therapy?

    • VioletSun profile image


      10 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

       I used to have nice neighbors in NY whose husband would not throw away a newspaper or magazine, and there were stacks after stacks of periodicals all over their studio apt almost reaching the ceiling; his wife told me she could not get him to get rid of this obsession, and they were married for over 30 years. The apt was clean but the clutter of the periodicals didn't leave room for them to have a nice home.

      I am disorganized with papers, but rolled up my sleeves and fixed my file cabinets about three weeks ago, go rid of what I don't need,  as it was getting out of hand.


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