When it comes to clutter and tidyness, do you follow your parents’ example?

Child playing in tidy home

Over the years speaking to hundreds of people, I’ve seen how the type of environment we grow up in has a huge impact on how we relate to our home as an adult. The way this manifests itself is complex though. Maybe, if your parents had a cosy, albeit cluttered home, then that may be what you have re-created. Having lots of things around you is normal and so helps you feel ‘at home’. For others, the exact opposite is the case. Their childhood home is something they want to break away from. Rather than recreating the familiar environment, they’ll be more focused on creating a home that expresses their own identity. So, someone who grew up in a minimalist home may be drawn to maximalism or even clutter, and vice versa. 

How did your folks relate to their home?

As I described in my blog the psychology of home I find it helpful to consider that there are four different ways we can relate to our homes. 

  1. Obsessive-compulsive. You find it hard to relax unless everything in the home feels in order and under control. ‘A place for everything and everything in its place’ may be taken to an extreme 
  2. Hoarding. You collect a very large number of objects and exaggerate their value. This may be a way of trying to feel more secure or of coping with past traumatic events. 
  3. Cluttered and disorderly. This is not as severe as hoarding, but you may feel overwhelmed and stuck when it comes to creating order in your home. This often has an impact on many areas of your life. 
  4. The secure home. This is what we usually seek: a healthy relationship with our home, where it is neither obsessively orderly or neglected. A key aspect of my decluttering process is to help people move towards this secure, nurturing and supportive relationship with their home. 

Which applies to your childhood home experience?

Which of these best describes how your parents or main care givers related to the home you grew up in? Or maybe one caregiver was closer to one type, and another was quite different.

Do you mirror this, or have you gone in a different direction in reaction?

If you are a bit like me, you probably carry different aspects of the family and the home where you grew up inside your head or in the objects that have meaning for you. As a result, it may feel as if you have a combination of different aspects of your self battling inside your head. A bit like a discordant committee, all pulling you in different directions. To find out more about who is dominating your relationship with your space, it may help you to learn about Voice Dialogue. A great introduction to this is to do the quiz here.

Childhood experience certainly has a huge impact on our psychology. This is something I’ve become increasingly fascinated by during my studies in psychotherapy and the writing of my upcoming book.  In the process of thinking more deeply about my work with clients, I’ve developed greater awareness of how our experience growing up is reflected in our homes. I really believe understanding this better is key to unlocking your clutter habits and changing your relationship to your home. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts

2 Comments on “When it comes to clutter and tidyness, do you follow your parents’ example?”

  1. My childhood needs (some unmet) for order and security, does manifest through the things I can control in my adult world ie my private space and does lead to some obsessive / compulsive behaviours. It also means though that I give an enormous amount of thought to what may create the ‘safe’ environment I need aiming to avoid sensory triggers.

  2. This resonates with me. I grew up in a very modern house, everything quite angular and uncluttered, no ornaments.
    I’ve recently had a baby and (in the weeks leading up) found myself obsessing over creating a neat orderly nursery, everything categorised and folded away. Now baby is here and it’s impossible to keep everything in order, rooms quickly become chaos – interesting how “letting go” of control is so difficult. Old habits die hard..

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