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I've never been really good at clustering elements. Y'all make it look so easy, but this took me two hours and it's still just "meh." Tips on clustering for us non-creative types?

I'm not necessarily the greatest at it, but I'd say what you want to do is have a range of item sizes within the cluster, for visual interest, as well as good contrast in the colors.

Pick a focal item for the cluster and make sure that's the most prominent part of it, as well as probably the largest item. Then place a few other, smaller items (resize as needed) around it to accentuate the item without drawing attention away from it.

For colors, you can check by briefly turning the cluster greyscale to check its contrast. If it's a muddy grey mess and difficult to make out items when you do so, then you probably need to switch up your colors a bit to improve the visual contrast so it's more interesting and less "flat."

With the cluster you've got on your page there, the three flowers and the two ends of the key are competing with each other for the focal point. I'd either make the key and two of the flowers smaller so one flower can be the focus, or make the three flowers smaller and move them off-center of the key a bit so the key can take more focus. The ribbons and other elements are largely okay. It's mostly the flowers and key fighting over the focal point.

@Amanda Good tips! Thank you so much!

I think you did a great job! I'm going to follow here, because my layouts are very minimal in terms of clustering.

Tracy I think that you are too hard on yourself. Your cluster is lovely. When I make clusters, I design on a 12X12 paper, with a white background. Then I use a basic formula of flowers, leaves, ribbon or bow, perhaps a background mat, and then some paper item, such as a label, ticket, or journal block. Maybe even a Polaroid photo frame. Match those items to your color palette and theme. I usually save my work then come back to it later, and look at it with fresh eyes. Sometimes I make adjustments and sometimes I don't. The more you make clusters, the more you find your groove. Keep up the great work!

I love clusters ~ I think a variety of different sizes give life to a cluster ~
try place 2-3 leaves / foliage - then ad a few bigger flowers - a new leaf - an element like your key just smaller - top the cluster with some flowers in different sizes and a beautiful curly ribbon / bow
at last but maybe the most important is the shadows ~ if new to adding shadows then try out Sheila's awesome Shadow Styles
Elif have some awesome shadow styles, too - Realistic Shadow Styles and Style No.8: Realistic Shadows

one of my layouts ~

Ah, yes, definitely make sure the shadows are there and work. They will give depth to your cluster, so it doesn't look too flat, and help the individual elements stand out from each other better.

Beautiful clusters, @Chili. I love the colors, as well. I also use the shadow styles by the designers here at Pixelscrapper.