You know you don't want to keep clutter in your home, but how do you disentangle yourself from some of the reasons you give for holding onto things you don't need? Check out the following common reasons and learn how you can change your mindset.
by Susan McCarthy
Let’s face it, decluttering is difficult. You’ve had these things for a while, so you’re used to owning them. And you can probably explain why you think you should hold onto this stuff. But here’s the thing if you’re here, reading this, you want to declutter those things.
You know that your home would look less chaotic if there wasn’t so much stuff around. And you’d feel less stressed if you weren’t losing items or bumping into piles or trying to scurry around and hide the excess before allowing someone into your home.
Here are ten common excuses for holding onto things and some reasons why you don’t have to be ruled by these reasons.
Remember, decluttering isn’t about getting rid of everything…it’s about deciding what you want to keep because you use it, want it, and like it.
Ten reasons for keeping clutter in your home
A lot of times, people want to hold onto things because of the memories they connect to the item. But here’s the thing, your memories aren’t in the items, they are inside you. Getting rid of a memento isn’t saying that event or person associated with that item is no longer important. You could always make videos of you holding different items and telling the stories associated with them before letting go of these things.
Also, trying to keep everything associated with every event and activity diminishes their importance. Curate your sentimental items – pick the things connected to the best memories and those items (and memories) will stand out as special.
I don't want to do this wrong.
You’re tripping over your perfectionism. Let me tell you that there is no single right way to declutter or organize. Aim for “good enough.” You can always go back and tweak areas once you start living in your cleared spaces. If you aren’t certain, put something in a box for a month. If you don’t miss it (or even think about it), you can probably let go of it.
If you find yourself arguing with “rules” like getting rid of anything you haven’t used in six months, then don’t follow that rule. Really. Follow the rules that make sense for you, maybe because you’ve made them yourself.
This activity used to be important to me.
Life changes and you don’t have time for past interests because you’re doing other things that are more important to you now. Yes, it’s an emotional experience to see these examples of the passage of time. And maybe someday you’ll have the time to return to an interest.
But does that mean that you really need to hold onto supplies for twenty years until your kids are out of the house and you have time? Things (even things that don’t get used) wear out, dry up, and become dated. Will a bunch of old stuff really inspire you to return to an interest or activity?
I’ll do these activities when I have the time.
There are only so many hours in the day, and even if you won the lottery and never had to work again, you’d still end up choosing what to do with your time. Do you really want the pressure of having all those books, craft supplies, kitchen gadgets, and supplies for home renovation projects clamoring for your attention?
And if you bought some of these things for your fantasy self (the person who would do those sorts of things), is it time to acknowledge that you aren't that person? If you didn’t do an activity or read a book or make a recipe, would you really regret it?
None of the mess belongs to me.
Maybe you live with people who leave their stuff everywhere in the house. Or maybe part of your home has become a storage unit for someone who doesn’t live in your house. The saying, “a place for everything and everything in its place” isn’t just about being neat, it’s about setting boundaries.
This requires that you identify where things belong. Telling someone to put their stuff “away” will likely baffle someone who has no issue with leaving their sneakers in front of the couch for a week.
I’ll declutter later.
Unless you attach a day and time to an activity, it’s all too easy to find yourself waiting for “later.” Sometimes it takes seeing something on your calendar to get yourself to act because then you’ll treat decluttering like an appointment.
Also, don’t feel that you must wait for some magical day in the future when you’ll have the time to devote yourself to decluttering. Unless you need to move from the home you’ve lived in for thirty years in the next few weeks, decluttering shouldn’t be treated like your job or the reason you need to use vacation time.
Putting in 15 minutes of effort a day adds up to over 90 hours in a year. Why wait for later when a little consistent effort can make such a difference?
I don't know where to start.
Quick start your efforts by grabbing a trash bag and start at your front door, moving around each room clearing away obvious trash (you can toss mail and old magazines in the recycling bin). Focus on the visible areas first – counters, tabletops, the floor, any other flat surfaces – before dealing with the items in cabinets and closets.
After you clear the trash and recycling (an hour or two, tops), grab a laundry basket to fill with things that are in the wrong room. You don’t have to put them away neatly, just get stuff in the right space.
Chances are that as you’ve been moving around the house, you’ve identified the room that needs your immediate attention.
I might need this someday.
Just because something is useful doesn’t mean that you’ll be the one to use it. If you’re thinking that you should hold onto something just in case, try to be specific about when and how you see yourself using this item.
And if you’re thinking that you should hold onto all those serving dishes just in case you hold a dinner party someday, consider what else you could do if you didn’t have those dishes. Could you borrow dishes from a friend? Rent them? Make creative use of things you own?
What’s more important to you? Having the space now or needing one item (out of the hundreds you’re holding onto) five years from now?
I'd feel guilty getting rid of these things.
Question the thoughts at the source of your guilt and then address that. If you’re concerned about how much money you spent on items, then try selling them (but understand that in most cases you’ll get far less than what you spent).
If the items were gifts, keep in mind that the things now belong to you, not the giver. If you think the giver will be upset, you could offer to return the item to them. Or tell them a story about giving the item to someone who fell in love with it and needed it (if you donate the item, this is likely to happen).
I’m a collector.
Fantastic. Grouping items near similar items can make a collection seem more cohesive. Others will see the items as a collection instead of a bunch of similar things strewn about your home. Collecting everything will lead to chaos. Choosing to give space to the special items, highlights that they mean something to you.
When you see a collection displayed nicely, how does it make you feel? If you’re thinking that the items are important to you because you’ve had them for years or because they cost a lot of money, you may want to consider what they say about you and your life now.
However, if you still feel a bubble of joy when you look at these items, they still have a place in your life.
Are you ready to stop keeping clutter in your home?
Just because you can identify the reason that you’re holding onto items doesn’t mean that you’re ready to get rid of these things. However, it can give you something to consider when you find yourself tempted to hold onto things “just because.”
Remember, decluttering isn’t about getting rid of things for the sake of saying you filled x bags of stuff. Decluttering should improve your life. The idea of ‘less clutter, more life’ means that letting go of things that add clutter, confusion, and distractions to your days creates space for the things – the activities, people, and experiences – that are important to you and help you live a better life.
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