Clutter as a Symptom of Narcissistic Abuse

Written by Angela Atkinson

Are you living in clutter? One of the least-discussed symptoms of CPTSD as a result of a toxic relationship with a narcissist is the way you keep your space – your home and/or office. This can take one of two forms: extreme organization and obsessively clean – or cluttered and disorganized. In both cases, there parallels we can draw to our pasts and our toxic relationships.

But when survivors are obsessively clean and organized, most people won’t see this as a negative issue (unless it gets to the point of OCD, but that is another video). Today, though, we are going to discuss clutter and how it is often a symptom of CPTSD, as well as some solutions you can try to resolve this in your own life.

Let’s start by discussing what problematic clutter looks like for those of us who aren’t sure if we fall into the “problem” area here. This video offers everything you need to know.

Signs Your Clutter is Out of Control

  • You feel uncomfortable at home due to clutter
  • You are told (or you say) that you have “too much stuff”
  • You feel embarrassed to let people into your house because of clutter
  • You feel kind of paralyzed and like you cant clean or organize due to all the “stuff” you have
  • Strong emotional attachments to some of the stuff in the house – certain items or collections
  • You waste a lot of time because of the clutter
  • You have piles or overstuffed shelves/drawers – maybe even a room you never let anyone in due to clutter
  • You want to declutter, but you feel like you have trouble deciding what to let go
  • You get more stuff – you keep shopping – despite the fact that you have no more places to put things
  • You get so overwhelmed that you rent a storage space to put your clutter into
  • You have problems at home, work or in relationships caused by cluttering
  • You have areas in the home that are unusable due to cluttering
  • You don’t really have a “place for everything,” therefore you don’t always put “everything in its place”

Narcissistic Abuse Can Cause You to Feel Stuck With Your Clutter

I remember seeing this episode of Oprah years ago where she talked about how your home is an external representation of your mind and your soul – this really struck home with me because there I was, living in a cluttered mess. And when I thought about it, I realized that she was right – something in me had been broken and it left me flailing. I didn’t know how to get out from under it, and every time I even considered trying, I would walk in, take one look and then turn around and walk out.

Here is the thing.

When we are in a toxic relationship, we have no control. Whether the narcissist dictates our cleaning schedule (like my first narcissist did) or they make us feel out of control in other ways (like my ex-husband did), we often find ourselves feeling stuck, lethargic or just plain exhausted during and after these relationships. We keep things for sentimental reasons, for example, or we keep them because we think we will use them one day. We might keep stuff because it helps us feel secure or in control in some way.

Some of us even have “organized clutter” – tons of boxes and bins, all labeled properly and stacked neatly – none of which we will ever use or need.

But in any case, we can look at clutter like extra weight in our lives – it’s overwhelming and feels impossible to drop, but when we begin to take one baby step at a time, we can drop both the weight and the clutter. (Often when we get control of the clutter, we also figure out how to get control of our weight).

The solution isn’t going to happen overnight but there are things we can do to change our ways for the better and improve our lives.

You already know that clutter can make you feel stressed and leave you less free time to enjoy your life. We know it can ruin our social lives and cause tons of other issues. But did you know that simple mindfulness can quickly allow you to cut through the clutter (even more than cleaning)?

Why We Can’t Let Go of Our Stuff

Most people hold on to clutter because they assign the possession some kind of emotional significance. For example, a broken toy might still be in the closet because it was the last toy that a loved one gave a person before they passed away. So the owner of the wagon associates the love with the wagon.

One of the reasons that so many people struggle to get rid of things, both physical and emotional, is because the decluttering process can be painful and overwhelming – especially when you look at it as a whole.

The Key to Letting Go and Decluttering After a Toxic Relationship

Mindfulness can help you get rid of clutter because it allows you to maintain your focus on one area or one issue at a time that needs to be dealt with. You’ll be able to simplify your life, keep what needs to be kept and let go of what you need to be free from.

Focus only on what truly matters to you. By using mindfulness to help you clear out the clutter, you’ll get rid of stress, too. The things we keep and the emotions we won’t let go of can be reminders of what was.

You might think that if you don’t address them, then you don’t have to deal with these things. But clutter hovers and you sense it in your subconscious. When you let mindfulness help you declutter your life, you’ll be able to maintain a better ability to focus in all areas of your life.

You’ll feel better emotionally when you let go of things. You’ll also be able to find things when you need them instead of searching and getting stressed when you can’t find something.

Plus, you won’t spend as much money buying things that you forgot that you already had. A big benefit of using mindfulness to let go of the clutter is that it does more than give you more room in your home or in your office.

It allows you to let go of the mental and emotional clutter so that you’re able to have more improved mindfulness, too. For the best results, go through every area of your life one portion at a time and clear out the clutter.

Practical Solutions for Decluttering After Narcissistic Abuse

1. Get some help! If you can afford it, pay someone to come over and help you get things organized. Or recruit your kids. Or offer to help a friend declutter their home and in return, ask them to help you declutter yours. It can be very overwhelming and sometimes just having a second set of hands makes all the difference.
2. Take baby steps. I have a free 30-day decluttering program over at Life Makeover Academy – go check that out and sign up. You don’t have to do it all in 30 days – but if you take the time to work through the steps when you can, your home will be decluttered by the end of the program.
3. If you’ve always found it too difficult because you think the task is too big, give yourself fifteen minutes a day to focus on the clutter. When you break a task down, you’ll find that it’s easier to do.

If you’ve personally managed to overcome a clutter habit, share your best tips and tricks in the YouTube comments section now!

Still struggling to declutter your home and life after narcissistic abuse? Try this free 30-day decluttering program at Life Makeover Academy!


  • Angela Atkinson is a certified trauma counselor and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery, and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships since 2006, she has a popular narcissistic abuse recovery YouTube channel. Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own. Atkinson offers trauma-informed narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and has certifications in trauma counseling, life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation, and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves. Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse here at and at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online.

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