13 Reasons You Struggle to Declutter & How to Overcome Them

13 Reasons You Struggle to Declutter & How to Overcome Them

There are many reasons we struggle to declutter. Taking the leap and decluttering your home can often be scary, overwhelming and intimidating. But the benefits minimalism brings to your home and your life are completely worth the time and effort required. Decluttering and embracing minimalism will give you time, space and freedom to live life on your own terms.

If you are struggling to declutter, sometimes the best approach is to figure out why you are struggling. Often times, once you know why you are struggling, it becomes easier to move past it.

Here are 13 common reasons you may struggle to declutter, and what you can do to overcome them. Use this list to figure out what is the root cause of why you’re struggling to declutter. Then, use the tips to overcome each reason you struggle to declutter to motivate, encourage and inspire you to continue decluttering.

13 Reasons You Struggle to Declutter & How to Overcome Them

13 Reasons You Struggle to Declutter & How to Overcome Them

1. Keeping items “just in case”

This is a big reason many of us struggle to declutter. We have things we don’t use or love, but keep “just in case” we need it sometime in the future. Or we worry if we get rid of the item, we’ll need it down the road and regret decluttering it. So, we keep it “just in case”.

It can be easy to talk ourselves into keeping almost anything “just in case”. Then, before we know it our house is full of things we don’t use or love, but keep “just in case”.

How to overcome this:

First of all, try to honestly think about a specific and realistic time or event you’d need the item. Let the item go if you can’t think of a realistic and specific time you would need it. If you have thought of a time or event you could use the item, how realistic is it? If you aren’t currently using or loving the item, what makes you think you’ll use or love it in the future?

Simply being realistic and honest about when you would need the item is often enough to help you see you probably don’t need it. Usually if a scenario does come up where we could use a “just in case” item, we either forget we have it, or find a suitable alternative to use anyways.

If you’re worried about regretting decluttering an item, remember that there are very few things you’ll regret getting rid of. If you aren’t using or loving it now, you most likely won’t use or love it in the future. Most of the stuff you declutter you won’t even remember after a week or two!

Even if there is the odd thing or two you wish you kept, it’s not worth keeping a house full of clutter “just in case” you may need one or two things one day. To me, the cost of maybe needing to re-buy the odd thing, is worth it to have a clutter-free home.

2. Keeping items to use “someday”

Another reason we struggle to declutter is keeping things you plan to use “someday”. We usually have good intentions of using the item, but often never get around to it.

How to overcome this:

Again, be realistic and honest with yourself about how likely you are to actually use the item. If you are convinced you will use it, give yourself a deadline. Put a reminder in your calendar, and if you haven’t used the item by the deadline, get rid of it.

3. Feeling guilty for wasting money by getting rid of things you spent a lot of money on

Many of us struggle to declutter things when we know we spent a lot of money on them and now feel guilty about wasting money.

How to overcome this:

Remind yourself that the money is already spent. Holding on to the item won’t get your money back. If the item isn’t adding value to your life, it shouldn’t stay in your home. Let it go and let go of the burden, guilt, clutter and stress it adds to your life.

Then the next time you are shopping, use your decluttering experience as a lesson to help you shop more thoughtfully and intentionally.

13 Reasons You Struggle to Declutter & How to Overcome Them

4. Feeling wasteful getting rid of items that are still useful

Another common reason we struggle to declutter is feeling wasteful getting rid of something still in good and usable condition.

How to overcome this:

If you aren’t using or loving an item, it is no longer useful to you. It isn’t adding value to your life, so it shouldn’t be in your home. Get rid of it, either donating it or selling it, so someone else can use or love it. Only keep things that add value to your life, either because they are useful right now or they make you happy.

5. Feeling guilty or obligated to keep an item

Sometimes we struggle to declutter because we feel guilty getting rid of an item or obligated to keep it. Maybe the item was a gift so you feel guilty getting rid of. Or maybe it is a family heirloom you feel obligated to keep.

How to overcome this:

Remember this is your home and you get to decide what you allow to stay in it. Only keep things that add value to your life or are important to you. Don’t let feelings of guilt or obligation force you to keep your home cluttered.

Remind yourself that gifts are given to show love. When given a gift, you appreciate the gift and the intention behind it and express your gratitude to the giver. After that, what you decide to do with the gift is up to you. If it turns out to be something you aren’t using or loving, get rid of it. Remember the gift already served its purpose as an expression of love for you from the giver.

If it’s a family heirloom you feel obligated to keep, think about who is making you feel that way. Explain to the person you are decluttering and no longer want to keep the item. Offer the item to them if they think it’s important to keep. But remember, if they don’t want it in their home, they can’t expect you to keep it in yours. If it is not important, useful or valuable to you, let it go!

6. Struggling to let go of sentimental items

Decluttering sentimental items is one of the most common reasons we struggle to declutter. It’s easy to attach emotions and memories to sentimental items, making it hard to let them go.

How to overcome this:

First of all, remind yourself that your memories are not in the physical item itself. Your memories are in your mind and your heart. They will always be there, whether you keep the item or not.

There are many ways to help you declutter sentimental items. Sometimes taking a picture of the item is enough to be able to let go of the item itself. Or find ways to use or repurpose sentimental items so you can use and appreciate them everyday. Giving yourself a clearly defined space limit to store sentimental items is an excellent way to help you decide which items are most important to keep.

7. It’s something you used in the past and letting go is hard

Sometimes letting go of things we used to use or love in the past, but no longer use or love, can be difficult.

These items could be things like old baby gear, items left over from a past career or hobby, etc. Whatever it is, sometimes we struggle to declutter things from our past because it’s hard to let go of that part of our lives.

How to overcome this:

The best way to overcome this struggle to declutter is to face it. Take a moment to sit with the way you are feeling. Often times, taking a moment to acknowledge and sit with whatever you’re feeling helps you move past it and let the item go.

Letting go of the past can be hard. But allowing your home to be full of clutter from the past makes it difficult to live in the present. Let go of the past and make time and space to enjoy new moments and create new memories.

8. Having lots of stuff makes you feel safe and secure

Sometimes we struggle to declutter because having a lot of stuff makes us feel safe and secure. Decluttering and getting rid of stuff makes us worry we will not have enough when we need it. This scarcity mindset keeps us hanging on to things, even if we don’t use or love them. Because they give us a sense of security.

How to overcome this:

Decluttering doesn’t mean you have to get rid of everything. It simply means getting rid of anything you don’t use or love. Creating more time, space and freedom to enjoy the things, people and activities that add value to your life.

Too much stuff actually burdens you and adds more stress to your life. Once you begin decluttering, you usually realize you don’t need as much as you think to live a full, happy and complete life.

9. Thinking a clutter-free home will be boring

Sometimes we have this idea in our heads that a clutter-free home will be stark, uninviting, or even boring. We think our stuff makes us happy, and are hesitant to ruthlessly declutter.

How to overcome this:

Remember, decluttering and embracing minimalism doesn’t mean you have to get rid of everything you own. And it doesn’t mean you need to live in an all white house with no personality. Your version of minimalism can look however you want it to. It can be as unique and as personal as you are!

Having a home filled with clutter doesn’t bring you more happiness or add more personality to your space. A cluttered home actually causes you more stress. When decluttering, you can still keep the things you use, love and make you happy. You simply get rid of the excess so you can highlight and enjoy the things you do use, love and enjoy more.

13 Reasons You Struggle to Declutter & How to Overcome Them

10. Thinking you need to organize, when really you need to declutter

Often, we think we just need to organize more or better, and that will solve our clutter issues. We think if we have the right baskets, containers and system to get organized, then our home won’t be cluttered.

How to overcome this:

Organizing is not the answer. Organizing stuff we don’t use, need or love wastes our time, space and energy. It doesn’t solve the root of our clutter problem. Eventually the stuff you carefully organize will make its way out of your baskets, containers and systems and clutter your home again.

The only solution is to get to the root of the problem – that you simply have too much stuff. Get rid of the stuff you don’t use, need or love, and you’ll never have to deal with it again. And the bonus is, setting up and maintaining an organizational system is so much easier when you have less stuff. In fact, after decluttering, you won’t even need to spend much time organizing. You’ll likely easily have space for everything, and organizing becomes significantly easier.

11. Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work to declutter or not even knowing where to start

Decluttering your whole house is a lot of work – physically, emotionally and mentally. It can feel overwhelming at times. Or maybe you don’t even know where to start and are feeling defeated.

How to overcome this:

Usually, when facing a big job, like decluttering your whole house, the more you procrastinate doing it, the more overwhelming and stressful it becomes in your mind. One of the best ways to beat the overwhelm is to just dive in and get started. Pick a small, easy area to declutter and just start!

The more you declutter and get rid of, the more motivation, momentum and confidence you’ll gain to keep going. Take baby steps, and declutter one small area, like one drawer or cupboard, at a time. Remember, progress is progress. Start small and work at decluttering a little bit everyday. Over time, those small steps will add up to big decluttering results.

It can be helpful to make a decluttering plan to keep you on track and motivated, especially when you begin to feel overwhelmed.

There are even ways to make decluttering more fun so it goes from something you dread to something you begin to enjoy!

12. Feeling like you don’t have time to declutter

Life can be busy. Sometimes we want to declutter and start living with less, but are struggling to find the time.

How to overcome this:

The good news is you can easily declutter even if you are busy and short on time. You don’t have to declutter everything all at once, or spend hours at a time decluttering. Be diligent about using small pockets of time to declutter, even five or ten minutes a day. Over time you will begin to see big results from these small decluttering sessions.

Spend a few minutes a day quickly and efficiently decluttering and over time, your efforts will add up.

Another great way to declutter when you’re busy is to keep an eye out for things to get rid of as you go about your day. When you come across something you don’t use, need or love, add it to your decluttering box rather than putting it away or letting it stay in your home. If you do this everyday, you’ll soon start to see results.

13. Not knowing what to do with the stuff you’re decluttering

One of the biggest reasons many of us struggle to declutter is not knowing what to do with the stuff we’re getting rid of.

How to overcome this:

Before you begin decluttering, plan what you’ll do with the stuff you’re getting rid of. There are three general options for what to do with the stuff you are decluttering – garbage, donate or sell.

The first option is to throw away or recycle anything broken, damaged beyond repair or simply garbage.

The second option is to donate items still in good, usable condition. Many places accept donations of clothes and gently used household items. Find a donation center in your area that you feel good about donating to. Find out their donation policies (what they accept, when they accept donations, etc.). Then you’ll know exactly what to do with items you’re decluttering.

The third option is to sell items. You can sell used items on online auction sites, on buy/sell websites and groups, or even host a garage sale. Find out what’s available in your area so you know your options when you find something you’d like to sell.

A quick note about selling items:

I recommend being strategic about what you try and sell. Selling items takes a lot of time. You need to take pictures, post items, correspond with buyers, arrange pick-ups, account for people who don’t show up, etc. This can significantly slow down your decluttering progress.

Rather than trying to sell every thing you’re decluttering, maybe only try to sell the larger or higher value items. And remember, just because you paid a lot of money for something, doesn’t mean it’s still worth a lot of money. Everyone’s situation is different, but sometimes it’s better to make faster decluttering progress than worry about trying to sell items.

Acknowledging why we struggle to declutter is important

These are some common reasons we struggle to declutter our homes. But often, once we acknowledge what is holding us back from letting go of stuff we neither use nor love, it’s a lot easier to overcome these decluttering roadblocks.

What is your biggest struggle to declutter? Leave a comment below and let me know!

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20 Comments

  1. Oh, the guilt of getting rid of everything my mother buys me… she’s a collector and buys me so much junk that I don’t even want or like and I feel like it’s okay to get rid of after a certain amount of time passes… even though I wanna throw it all out immediately.

    1. It can be hard to let go of things people who are important to us have given us. Just remember that it’s your home, space and time, and you get to decide what fills it. Thanks for reading and I hope the post was helpful for you!

    1. Yes, I think a lot of us struggle with keeping things “just in case” and struggling to let go of sentimental items. I’m glad you found the post helpful. Doing some decluttering before the holidays is a great idea. Thanks for reading!

  2. This is a great list of reasons people hold on to clutter that is weighing them down. I can relate to many of them! I think my biggest challenge is letting go of items that I used to use but don’t anymore. This leads to thinking I will use the item again “someday.” There is definitely overlap in the reasons you listed above!

    You also listed some great tips to try to overcome these obstacles. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks Tara, I’m glad you enjoyed the post! Yes, I completely agree. Sometimes one reason we struggle to declutter leads to another reason we use to talk ourselves into keeping stuff. But often once I realize why I’m struggling to let go of something, and logically think my way through it, it’s a lot easier to let things go. Thanks for reading and sharing your insights!

  3. Wow, all of these reasons hit really close to home for me! Except #9 – when we moved into our apartment and before the moving truck came, all we had were camp chairs and inflatable beds in the apartment. All 5 of us agree that we liked it a lot better before all of our “stuff” arrived!

    1. I’m glad to hear you could relate to the post Kiersten. I know exactly what you mean about enjoying life without your stuff sometimes. That’s one of the reasons I love travelling and staying in a hotel. It’s so simple and you only have the basics, but it’s always enough. Thanks for reading and for sharing your insights!

  4. Great tips! I have a rule that if I haven’t touched something in 6 months, I may not touch it for another 6 months and there it should probably be tossed away. Used to be a major hoarder but I love doing routine “spring cleaning” every few months!

    1. Thanks Aileen! And thanks for sharing your decluttering strategy, that’s a great way to gauge if you want to keep something or not. Regularly decluttering is a great way to stay on top of clutter. Thanks for reading and for sharing your tips!

    1. I’m glad to hear you could relate to these Rachael. And yes, sometimes we don’t even realize why we struggle to declutter. But once you know what’s holding you back, it’s easier to move past it. Thanks for reading!

  5. Perfect timing on this. My husband is helping my in-laws move from their home of 40+ years, and their house if full of clutter. I keep telling him that we can’t let the same thing happen to us. Definitely sharing this with him!

    1. I’m glad this post came at the right time for you Christine. It’s definitely important to think about decluttering now so you don’t burden your family members with your clutter when you are older. I hope your husband finds it helpful as well. Good luck with the decluttering and thank you for reading!

  6. This is great and normally I agree with you. Last year I got rid of 3-4 pair of jeans that I felt I was never going to get back in to – it had been at least 4 years since I wore them. I have SUCH a hard time finding jeans that fit. Finally last spring, even the jeans that fit me were getting tight so I decided to do something about it. Well…it worked. Now they’re all too big and I SO desperately wish I hadn’t gotten rid of those others. I really don’t feel like spending the time or honestly money on new jeans. So bummed…but oh well…I guess you never know. I thought it was the right choice at the time. Now if I could get rid of some other stuff.

    1. This does happen occasionally Gina, where you declutter something and then could have used it later. But I like to think of it this way: I would rather have decluttered a whole bunch of stuff I wasn’t using or loving from my house, and given myself a lot more time, space and freedom because of it, even if there ends up being the odd item here or there I wish I kept. As opposed to living with a cluttered home or closet and having to deal with the burden of having too much stuff and clutter I’m neither using nor loving, just so I don’t get rid of anything I’ll wish I kept. I hope that makes sense! That’s how I like to think about it to avoid hanging on to things “just in case”. Thanks for reading and sharing your experience. And congrats on you weight loss!

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