Sometimes when you’re decluttering you can experience a lot of anxiety about getting rid of stuff. It can feel hard, scary or even overwhelming to think about getting rid of things.
Today, I’m sharing some tips to help make the process of letting go easier. Sharing strategies you can use to help ease your anxiety about getting rid of stuff and start making more progress decluttering.
Mild to moderate anxiety about getting rid of stuff
Before we begin, I want to clarify that the tips in today’s post are meant for people who feel mild to moderate anxiety about getting rid of stuff. If you experience severe distress or anxiety about getting rid of stuff, I encourage you to seek professional help.
Hoarding disorder is a mental health condition where a person accumulates significant amounts of stuff, that often becomes unmanageable. And experience extreme distress when faced with trying to let go of any of it.
If you or someone you love is affected by hoarding disorder, seek support from an experienced professional.
How to overcome anxiety about getting rid of stuff
With that said, here are 8 tips to help you overcome anxiety about getting rid of stuff. Use these tips to help yourself be more ruthless as you’re decluttering, without fear or anxiety holding you back.
1. Have clear goals
When it feels hard to make decluttering decisions, one of the best ways to get back on track is remembering why you’re decluttering in the first place.
Before you begin, set clear decluttering goals. Know exactly what you want to achieve. Know what you want more of (time, space, freedom, etc.). And what you want less of (stress, time spent cleaning, losing things, etc.).
Think about what you stand to gain by clearing the clutter from your home.
Have a clear vision for the end result you want to achieve. This becomes your goal and your “why” for putting in the work to declutter.
The more you can remember this vision and your goals, the more motivated and focused you’ll be as you declutter.
2. Start with the easiest stuff
If you’re feeling anxious about getting rid of stuff, it’s likely not a good idea to start with the hardest, most emotional stuff to declutter.
Instead, start with the easy stuff. The stuff that feels easy to let go of. Things like garbage, stuff you have little attachment to, or stuff you don’t ever use or even like.
Practice getting rid of things. The more you do it, the easier it starts to become.
Decluttering is a skill you get better at the more you practice it. Start with the easy stuff and build your skills so when it’s time to tackle the more challenging decluttering decisions, you’ll be ready!
3. Keep your favourites
Another great strategy to use when you’re feeling anxiety about getting rid of stuff is shifting your focus from what you’re getting rid of and focusing on what you’re keeping instead.
Remind yourself you’re not getting rid of everything. You’re just getting rid of the stuff you don’t use or love.
Remind yourself that you’re keeping all the stuff you use regularly, need and love. You’re just getting rid of the stuff that’s taking up space but not adding any value to your life.
You’re keeping all your favourite things. And with less clutter, you’ll be able to use, enjoy and appreciate your favourite things even more!
4. Declutter a little bit at a time
If you’re feeling anxiety about getting rid of stuff, doing a lot of decluttering all at once can often feel overwhelming.
Instead, break the work down and do a little bit at a time. Maybe try decluttering for 15 minutes at a time, then taking a break. Or just aiming to declutter for 15 minutes a day and that’s enough.
When you do this consistently, you’ll make great progress decluttering over time. And you won’t have to make a whole bunch of decluttering decisions all at once and overwhelm yourself.
5. Make some rules for yourself
Another great way to avoid anxiety about getting rid of stuff is by giving yourself some rules or guidelines to follow.
For example, maybe focus on getting rid of duplicate items first. Things you have more than one of the same or similar item. Keep your favourite and the one you use most, then get rid of the extras.
Or decide you’ll get rid of anything you haven’t used within the last year.
Having some rules or guidelines to follow can help make decluttering decisions more automatic. Reducing the amount of debate you can have with yourself and making letting go feel easier.
6. Think through the worst-case scenario
A lot of the anxiety you feel about getting rid of stuff is rooted in fear. Fear of not having enough, not having something if you need it, fear of depriving yourself, etc.
One way to work through that fear is by facing it head-on.
Walk through the fear that’s coming up and go all the way to the worst-case scenario it’s making you fear.
Once you get to that worst-case scenario, ask yourself, is it really that bad? How likely is it that the worst-case scenario would actually happen?
If it did happen, what would or could you do to help solve the problem if you no longer had the item? Could you borrow the item, use something else, or make do without it? Could you handle regretting one decision knowing you’ve significantly improved your life by decluttering?
If there was no other option but to re-buy an item you got rid of, would it be a hardship? Could you find it inexpensively second-hand?
Often when you walk through the worst-case scenario, you see that it would be ok. You could figure it out. You don’t need to hold onto piles of clutter to potentially avoid every possible scenario that may or may not happen at some point in the future.
7. Acknowledge the fear & emotions that come up
Speaking of fear, another great way to overcome anxiety about getting rid of things is by acknowledging and processing the fear or other emotions that come up as you’re decluttering.
As the anxiety or fear comes up, try to go deeper and see what’s underneath it. Try to figure out the source of the anxiety.
Do you have a scarcity mindset, feeling like you don’t have enough because, at one point in your life, you really didn’t have your needs met?
Is your self-image tied to the things you own?
Are you feeling guilty about the money spent on something or because it was a gift?
Are you feeling wasteful getting rid of so much?
Maybe you’re worrying about all the possible “what if” scenarios and want to keep things “just in case”.
Whatever it is, try to figure out where it’s coming from and work through it.
For example, if you’re feeling guilty about the money spent on something, keeping it won’t recoup your money. It will just keep clutter in your home.
If you’re feeling wasteful, try to find ways to ensure the items you’re getting rid of can go on to be used and appreciated by someone else.
If you have a scarcity mindset, take some time to remind yourself of the abundance in your life now. You even have more than you need now and that’s why you need to declutter.
Whatever it is, acknowledge it, then work through it so it won’t keep you holding onto the clutter. Remember your goals and your vision for your home to help make it easier to work through the emotions that come up.
8. Keep your eyes on the prize
And finally, as you’re decluttering, don’t forget to keep your eyes on the prize.
You’re doing the work to declutter to reach your decluttering goals. Keep your goals as your focus so you can keep the big picture in mind. It’s easy to get stuck in the weeds of decluttering. Keep reminding yourself to zoom out and focus on the big picture you’re trying to achieve to help make the individual decluttering decisions easier.
I hope the tips in this post will help you overcome anxiety about getting rid of stuff. Making it easier for you to reach your decluttering goals and create a home and life you love!