How to Declutter More Effectively By Understanding 4 Personality Types

Our styles are personal.  Our homes are personal.  And so is our clutter.

After all, those piles that crowd your space and linger in your life are piles that you (or someone you live with) created while you dressed, worked, cooked, and played in your home.


Find decluttering success

Clutter is personal, but it's not unique.  Humans in general have a tendency to acquire things, but your habits likely reveal you as "one of four distinct organizing personalities" (or a combination), according to Deborah Cabral, professional organizer and founder of The DeClutter Coach.  She calls them Visual, Social, Tidy, and Multitasking.

(Full disclosure:  I'm Tidy – which you might guess – but also Visual.)

There are many decluttering strategies, but some may work better for you than others because of your organizing personality.  Get ready to learn which methods suit your viewpoints and tendencies, and gain more understanding about the different organizing personalities of your family members too.  You may find decluttering success where you've failed before.


You are Visual if you:

  • are imaginative and artistic;
  • like to keep belongings, tools, and supplies in sight for inspiration;
  • want your surroundings to be beautiful and stimulating;
  • work on many projects at once, but don't always complete them.

You're not particularly attached to your stuff, but it does tend to collect.  You may have piles all around your house.

As a Visual person, your stumbling block is change.  You're used to the way things are.  Your home may be cluttered, but you ignore it as you get lost in your projects.  You're also afraid that owning less will be boring.  You think minimalist rooms are dull, not realizing that "uncluttered" and "colorful" can go together.

Your best decluttering plan:

  • Look at before-and-after pictures of other people's decluttering projects.  Don't worry about a written plan, but find images that appeal to you and keep you motivated.  Create a real-world or electronic vision board of your dream spaces.
  • Take pictures of your decluttering progress and share them online.
  • Use organizing containers that keep things in sight such as clear plastic bins or glass jars, bulletin boards, open shelves, color-coded labels, etc.
  • Create one completely clear surface in a public space, such as a kitchen counter or table.  Whenever the area has been used, return it to its clutter-free state.  Let this naked space be your reminder of success.

To begin:  Stimulate your desire to declutter by streamlining a space you use every day, such as your desk or nightstand.  Remove trash and duplicates, relocate items that don't belong, and repurpose containers you already own to store office supplies, action files, or jewelry where you can see and access things with ease.


You are Social if you:

  • feel emotionally connected to your belongings;
  • are passionate about collections, mementos, and heirlooms;
  • find comfort and happiness in your possessions;
  • truly believe you'll need things someday, even if you've never used them.

You may be mostly unaware of clutter, since you see a collection of things that contain stories and memories.  Your possessions are like friends that accompany you through life.

As a Social person, your stumbling block is indecision.  How can you choose which items to keep and which to discard when they all mean so much?  Start by reminding yourself often that memories and relationships aren't in physical objects, but in your mind and heart.  Realize that if everything is special, then nothing is.

Your best decluttering plan:

  • Work with someone you trust to guide you through decisions and ask the hard questions, such as "When was the last time you used this?" "Who are you saving this for?" and "Have you ever worn this?"
  • Avoid debating the merits of items.  You'll try too hard to find reasons to keep everything.
  • Do several rounds of decluttering to give yourself time to fully let go.  One pass will probably not be enough to clear all that you need to.
  • Set boundaries for what you'll keep.  For example, decide to store one bin of baby/preschool items for each child, or to keep and use or display only two of your mother's quilts.

To begin:  Start with impersonal spaces – such as the entryway, bathroom, or guest room – and leave more personal areas like your bookshelf, clothes closet, or china cupboard until after you've built some decluttering muscles.  Consider a family-and-friends-only estate giveaway so that cherished items can go to people who will love and use them now.

Related article:  How to Uncover Your Treasures by Decluttering Your Keepsakes


You are Tidy if you:

  • thrive on structure, order, and details;
  • keep your home neat and clean – at least on the surface;
  • prefer to have a place for everything and everything in its place;
  • work well with outlines and lists.

For you, clutter may not be a constant.  It will tend to accompany out-of-the-ordinary events, such as a holiday, a new baby, a move, a promotion, or bereavement.

As a Tidy person, your stumbling block is perfectionism.  You continually tweak and improve, which means you have a hard time feeling finished with a project.  You may go overboard buying organizing supplies, or create a pretty but unwieldy system that takes too much effort to maintain.

Your best decluttering plan:

  • Make a list of areas that bother you the most, and decide what you want to do with each space.
  • Break big projects into smaller goals.  For example, instead of considering an entire closet, think about how you want to use each shelf, drawer, and bin.
  • Include bullet points or check boxes so you can mark off each job as you complete it.  You may also be motivated by choosing a target number, such as keeping your five favorite sweaters or your top ten mugs.
  • Assign due dates.  You can always revise, but you'll work best with a specific goal.

To begin:  You may find great success and motivation if you start with your file drawer, pantry, or clothes closet.


You are a Multitasker if you:

  • have a lot of commitments every day, but don't always recall the details of what you accomplished;
  • tend to procrastinate and/or lose track of time;
  • feel a constant sense of pressure and urgency;
  • would rather be doing something you enjoy.

You have a lot on your plate, so clutter is an annoyance.  It slows you down and gets in your way.  But you don't really have the time or energy to deal with it, and there are a lot of other things you'd rather do.

As a Multitasker, your stumbling block is lack of focus.  No sooner do you start on one thing than another is demanding your attention.  You'd like a simpler, straightforward home and work space, but don't have any idea where to start.

Your best decluttering plan:

  • Choose an accountability partner to verify that you completed a project.
  • Make decluttering as fun as possible.  Play your favorite music, work with a friend, and give yourself small rewards as you make progress.
  • Always opt for the simplest solution.  Use a single tray to deposit your keys, sunglasses, wallet, and phone rather than multiple homes for those necessities.  Keep just one personal calendar and one family calendar.  Remember that Lazy Susans and wall-mounted magnetic strips can organize more than spices and knives.

To begin:  Start with something you're interested in.  Like to cook?  Declutter and organize the utensil drawer tonight.  Enjoy getting dressed for a party?  Declutter and organize your makeup, hair accessories, or jewelry.

As you may have noticed, success looks a little different for each organizing type, but the end goal is to "have a home where you can find what you need with minimal effort," according to Cabral.  With strategies that fit your personality, the piles that crowd your space and linger in your life will become things of the past.


  1. Of course! Thinking about minimalism in terms of personality seems so obvious, but the idea tends to get lost in the idea of "less". Thanks for sharing these thoughts, it has inspired me to embrace my natural tendencies as I continue on this journey.

    1. I didn't think about this for a long time either, but of course personality and natural tendencies affect everything we do. So glad this was helpful to you, and good luck with your minimizing!

  2. Goodness! I am all of these except Tidy! At any given moment I will switch between the other 3. No wonder nothing gets done!

    1. I hope this insight helps you work with your tendencies instead of against them. Good luck!

  3. I’m a Social, I can see that now. I’m stumbling over not sending everything to the dump; I want to pass these things on to people who will use them.

    1. Glad this article could help you gain some insight. The reality is that you may not be able to find homes for everything, but you could start by passing a few small heirlooms to family members (ask first). This post might give you a bit more incentive:

      Good luck!

  4. Interesting. I find that I am like the previous commenter…a mish-mash of all four types. However, one category is most prominent…visual followed by multitasking with tidy and social vying for third place.


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