11/03/2011 08:58 am ET | Updated Jan 03, 2012

Could Clutter Be Making You Unhappy? Take Our Test

One of the things I've noticed about happiness is this: For me, and for most people, outer order contributes to inner calm. More than it should. In the scope of a happy life, a messy desk or an overstuffed coat closet is a trivial thing, yet I find -- and I hear from other people that they agree -- that getting rid of clutter gives a disproportionate boost to happiness.

If having a home, office, garage, car or yard filled with clutter is such a drag on our happiness, why do we put up with it? There are many reasons, and having a clearer understanding of why you have clutter helps show you how to attack it.

Test yourself. Do you find yourself repeating these phrases, to justify keeping something that you don't use or don't even particularly like?

  • Someday, I might need this
  • This thing is so useful that someday I'll find a way to use it
  • This thing is so useful that I can't just throw it away, but I don't know how to get it into the hands of someone who would want it
  • This thing was a gift, so I need to keep it out of respect for the giver
  • Just wait, someday this thing will be a collector's item!
  • I never had this thing as a child, so I want to have it as an adult
  • The more things I keep, the more I will leave my family one day
  • Going through my things stirs up my emotions, and I can't handle that right now
  • I don't have the time or energy to sort through my clutter to figure out what I want to keep
  • I've had this thing for so long; I can't get rid of it now
  • I forgot about that thing! I never use that closet/drawer/garage so I didn't even realize it was there.

What have I left out? Have you found yourself justifying some clutter on some other grounds? The more I examine the issue of clutter, the more effort I put into combating it, because it really does act as a weight. (In that vein, here are 10 tips to fight clutter, in less than 5 minutes.)

William Morris admonished, "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." That's a great test for identifying clutter.

If you're also looking for a good book, please consider The Happiness Project (can't resist mentioning: #1 New York Times bestseller).

Order your copy.

Read sample chapters.