Alex Miller


Project Summary

Understanding Clutter explores the role clutter plays in people’s homes and everyday lives. Taking a wide view, it asks how clutter is understood culturally, its social role in people’s interrelationships and how clutter (might) shape identity and selfhood. The research studies how people think about and understand clutter, what they do with it and why. The research is sensitive too to the active role that clutter plays in creating homes and lives, the ways in which it acts to enable, constrain and create particular, situated, lives and lifestyles.

Understanding Clutter draws on data gathered from 25 participants, five of whom self-identified as having a problem with hoarding. Methods were mixed, and included home tours, photo-elicitation, object-elicitation and semi-structured interviews, a discourse analysis, and an online qualitative survey.

Research Questions

What is clutter?

  • What discourses do people draw on for understanding and talking about clutter?
  • How does something become clutter?
  • What isn’t clutter?
  • How is clutter different from other objects / object categories?

What are the social meanings of clutter?

  • What are the social and cultural meanings of having a cluttered home?
  • How should clutter be managed?
  • How does clutter affect people’s interrelationships?
  • What are the social and political implications of labelling things, spaces and people as clutter/ed?

What do people do with clutter?

  • When, how and why is clutter disposed of?
  • When, how and why is clutter kept?
  • How are these decisions made?
  • Where does clutter come from / why do people have/keep clutter?
  • How is clutter managed day-to-day?
  • What sources of knowledge / discourses do people draw on for their management of clutter?

How does clutter act upon people’s homes and lives?

  • (How) does clutter impact on people’s identities?
  • What are the implications of this?
  • (How) does clutter impact on people’s everyday home practices?
  • How does clutter co-/construct the home?
  • (How) does clutter impact on our sense of home?
  • Does clutter have agency? What kind? How does this work?


  • ESRC +3 Studentship


  • 2013 - Full Fees Scholarship for Masters study
  • 2013 - Fowler Prize for best overall finalist student in the School of Geography, University of Leeds

Professional Memberships

  • Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Postgraduate Fellow of The Royal Geographical Society

Work Experience

Research Intern. 2017. The Donut Project: Evaluating the Impact of Small-Scale Non-City Centre Arts in Leeds.


Miller, A. 2018. (Invited). Hoarded things: Excess, context and contestation. Meaningful Objects and Their Role in Health and Mental Wellbeing, 10th May, York

Miller, A. 2017. Co-constructing (a sense of) home: Cellars, attics and other storage spaces. RGG-IBG Annual International Conference, 29th August-1st September, London.

Miller, A. 2016. Keeping, disposing, valuing: Exploring 'hoarders'' object worlds. Association of Social Anthropologists Annual Conference, 4-7th July, Durham.

Miller, A. 2016. (Invited). On perseverance: Personal challenges in research. WRDTC Annual Conference, 15th June, Leeds.

Miller, A. 2015. Hoarders at home: Mental health meets material culture [Poster presentation]. Materialities of Care: Encountering Health and Illness through Objects, Artefacts, and Architecture, 16th September, York.


  • MA Social & Cultural Geography: Distinction, University of Leeds, 2013-2014
  • BA Geography (Hons.): 1st Class, University of Leeds, 2010-2013