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Decluttering Fears: 11 Reasons Decluttering Can Feel Scary & What to do About it

Decluttering Fears: 11 Reasons Decluttering Can Feel Scary & What to do About it

I’m convinced a big part of why decluttering can feel so hard at times is because of the fear it can bring up. These decluttering fears can cause you to hold onto the clutter. Continuing to allow it to steal your time, space, energy and freedom.

But the good news is overcoming your decluttering fears doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, the best way to overcome your decluttering fears is by tackling them head-on. Facing them directly takes away the power they have over you.

Name it to tame it

The first step is always identifying exactly what fear is holding you back when it comes to decluttering. Once you know exactly what feels scary about decluttering, you can address the fear head-on and have a plan in place to deal with it.

Then, not only does decluttering become a lot easier but letting go feels a lot less scary!

With that being said, let’s work through 11 of the most common decluttering fears that come up as you’re decluttering. These are the most common decluttering fears that can interrupt your progress and throw you off track.

In today’s post, you’ll not only learn how to identify the underlying fear that’s making decluttering feel scary. But you’ll also learn exactly what to do to overcome the fear and reach your decluttering goals!

11 Common Decluttering Fears & How to Overcome Them

1. Not knowing where to start

Not knowing where to start is often a fear rooted in either perfectionism or overwhelm.

Decluttering might feel scary to you because you want to do it perfectly. You want to start in the right place and clear the clutter from your home in the perfect way.

What to do about it

The truth is there is no perfect way to declutter. And as with most things in life, if you wait to start until you can do it perfectly, you’ll never start.

Decluttering is a messy, emotional process for most people. And the only way to clear the clutter is to get started.

Sure there might be ways to get started that help you ease into the process and build up momentum and confidence as you go. But the best way to start decluttering is simply by getting started.

Use these suggestions of great places to start. Or just pick a spot that feels right for you and get started.

Accept that it will be messy and likely involve a lot of trial and error. But trust me, clearing some clutter imperfectly is always better than waiting and worrying about clearing clutter perfectly!

2. Feeling overwhelmed with too much work ahead of you

Another common decluttering fear that keeps you from getting started decluttering is simply feeling overwhelmed.

You might look at the amount of stuff and clutter in your home, think about how much work it’ll be to sort through it all and feel completely overwhelmed before you even get started.

What to do about it

The best way to overcome fears, anxiety and overwhelm about how much work it’ll be to declutter your entire home is to stop thinking about decluttering your entire home.

Instead, break the work down into small steps that feel a lot more manageable and a lot less scary.

Don’t think about decluttering your entire house. Think about decluttering one room. And if that still feels like too much, think about decluttering one drawer, one shelf, one box, one pile, one area, etc. at a time.

Your home didn’t become full of clutter overnight. It likely took years to accumulate what feels like an overwhelming amount of stuff in your home. So let yourself off the hook and stop thinking about decluttering it all overnight too.

Tackle decluttering one small step at a time and know that every step counts and moves you closer to reaching your decluttering goals. Even the baby steps!

If you’re looking for more guidance to help you break the decluttering work down into small, manageable, stress-free steps, check out my complete decluttering guide, Your Clutter-Free Home.

Inside Your Clutter-Free Home, you’ll find all my best tips, tools and strategies to declutter with confidence and clarity. And you’ll also get room-by-room decluttering checklists that make it easy to clear the clutter one small step at a time.

Learn more about Your Clutter-Free Home HERE.

Your Clutter-Free Home: decluttering guide & checklists

3. Fear of losing the memories

Many of the items in your home hold special memories. And letting go can feel really hard. You might be afraid of losing the memories the item reminds you of if you let it go.

What to do about it

The best way to deal with fears of losing important memories if you let go of sentimental items is to remember where your memories are. Your memories aren’t in the item itself. The item only reminds you of a special memory. But that memory will be in your heart and your mind regardless of whether or not you keep the item.

A great way to hold onto the memory without needing to keep the item itself is by taking a picture of the item. You’ll still have a reminder of the memory without keeping as much “stuff”.

And don’t forget when you have too many special items, they start to lose their specialness because there is simply too much. But when you keep a smaller selection of the most important items, you can see, use, value and appreciate each of them more.

4. Worrying about wasting money getting rid of items

It can be difficult to see all the stuff you bought and spent your hard-earned money on, but now don’t truly use, need or love. And sometimes letting go of that stuff can feel like you’re wasting your money.

It can feel like keeping the clutter means you’re not wasting the money you spent.

What to do about it

The important thing to remember here is that you’re not wasting money by getting rid of something you don’t use, need or love. The money was actually wasted when you bought something you didn’t really need or love.

Keeping an item you don’t use, need or love won’t get your money back. All it will do is add clutter, stress and guilt to your life, all while stealing your time, space and energy.

The money is already spent. Let go of the item and the guilt that goes along with it. Then use it as a lesson to help you shop more intentionally moving forward.

5. “What if” and “just in case” fears

Keeping things “just in case” is such a common decluttering fear. You might worry you’ll need it or be able to use it someday, so keeping it “just in case” feels safer.

What to do about it

The first way to overcome “what if” and “just in case” fears is by allowing yourself to think through the scenario. Let yourself walk through whatever your fear is suggesting.

Is it realistic? Has it ever happened before? When was the last time it happened and you used the item? Could you use something else instead? What would be the worst thing that could happen if you no longer had the item? If you’re keeping an item as a backup, would you actually choose it or find something else instead?

If you’re still really worried about getting rid of something you might need in the future, put it to the test. Put the item(s) in a box, seal the box and put it somewhere out of sight. Set a reminder in your phone for a date in the future, maybe 1 month, 3 months, even 6 months.

If you haven’t needed (or even thought about!) the items in the box when the reminder goes, get rid of them knowing you’ll manage just fine without them!

6. Scarcity fears

Scarcity fears are a big source of fear and anxiety when it comes to decluttering.

You might worry you won’t have enough, won’t be safe, won’t have as much security, etc. Having extra “stuff” might make you feel safe and secure, even when it’s adding clutter and stress to your life.

What to do about it

The first way to overcome scarcity fears is to start paying attention to what you regularly use and need in your home. If you can’t think of the last time you used or needed an item, you don’t need it to feel safe and secure. You’ll have enough without it.

If you notice you tend to buy more than you need because you feel a sense of urgency or fear missing out on a good deal, take some time to reflect where that urgency is coming from. In most cases, that sense of urgency is completely artificial and created by marketers to encourage you to buy more.

Remind yourself that there will always be another sale or another option to buy when you truly need something. Remind yourself of the money, space and stress you’ll save yourself by not buying into the sense of urgency to buy more than you need because you’re afraid to miss out on a deal, not have enough or not be able to buy an item later.

7. Worrying about having to replace items

Another common decluttering fear is worrying about having to replace or rebuy an item if you declutter it now, but end up needing it later.

What to do about it

Again, once you know this is at the root of your decluttering fears, you can reframe it and question its validity.

Decide what’s more important to you. Keeping everything you might, possibly, maybe need at some unknown time in the future, but have to live with a home full of clutter (and the stress it causes) in the meantime?

Or clearing the clutter, creating a home you love and freeing up your time, space and energy now, but running the risk of maybe, possibly needing to rebuy or replace the odd item in the future?

It’s really up to you to decide what is more important to you.

And don’t forget, just because you might need an item again in the future, doesn’t mean you’ll need to rebuy it. You might be able to borrow it, find something else to use, do without it, etc.

8. Fear of hurting someone’s feelings

Sometimes someone gives you something you don’t use, need or love, but you keep it because you’re afraid to hurt their feelings by getting rid of it.

What to do about it

The best way to address this fear is by reminding yourself of the purpose of a gift.

A gift is given so someone can show you they care about you. When you accept the gift and thank the giver for the gift and the love behind it, the gift has served its purpose. After that, it belongs to you and you get to decide if it’s something that needs to stay in your home.

Beyond that, think about what the gift giver would want. Would they want you to keep clutter in your home just because they gave it to you? Would they even remember they gave it to you?

Also, as hard as it might be, if someone in your life does expect you to keep everything they give you, this might be a time when firm boundaries and clear communication are required.

Explain your goals to simplify your home and your life and why it’s important to you. Then be honest about letting the gift go, even though you fully appreciate the gift and the love behind it.

It’s up to you to decide if it’s worth holding onto clutter and guilt to “keep the peace”. Or if having honest conversations and clear boundaries will serve you better in the long run.

9. Fear of getting rid of something that might be worth something

Often, people hold onto things because they might be worth something someday.

What to do about it

In our world of mass production and quickly changing trends, most things don’t hold a lot of value after you buy them. And it’s not worth holding onto everything, just in case something in there might be worth something one day.

Instead, think about what’s valuable to you today. If it’s not adding value to your life today because it’s not something you use, need or love, get rid of it.

Remind yourself that the benefits of decluttering now are more important than living with clutter for years just in case something might be worth something one day.

10. You could use that/fix that

It’s easy to get caught up seeing the potential of things you’re getting rid of.

In truth, if you try hard enough, you could likely think of a reason to keep just about anything. But if you’re ready to declutter and simplify, you have to be willing to be realistic about the potential usefulness of items you’re getting rid of it.

What to do about it

First, be realistic about how long an item has sat unused and/or broken. If you haven’t used or fixed the item by now, will you ever?

Next, ask yourself if a broken item is actually worth the time and money to repair?

And finally, give yourself deadlines. If you haven’t used or repaired an item by a certain date in the future (put a reminder in your calendar to hold yourself accountable!), let it go and trust it’s not a big enough priority to justify keeping.

11. Focusing on recuperating your money spent

It’s easy to hold onto clutter with the intention of selling it to recoup some of the money you spent on it. But this can often become an excuse to hold onto clutter.

What to do about it

If you have the time and want to put in the effort, selling items you’re getting rid of can be fine. Just make sure you follow through and actually get the items out of your house, not just hold onto them because one day you’re going to get it listed and sold.

Ask yourself if it’s worth the time and energy to sell and if you’re willing to use your time and energy that way. Maybe donate anything worth less than a certain dollar amount.

Hold yourself accountable by setting deadlines to list items for sale. As well as time limits to donate unsold items to make sure they don’t hang around indefinitely.

Decluttering fears: don’t let them hold you back

I hope addressing and walking through these common decluttering fears will help you as you’re decluttering.

Remember, the best way to deal with decluttering fears is to get to the root of the fear. Then address it head-on. Often once you know exactly where the fear is coming from and have a plan to deal with it, the fear loses a lot of its power.

Do you recognize any of these decluttering fears from your own decluttering journey? Leave a comment and let me know which ones you’ve dealt with or struggle with!

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Jessalynn Jones

Sunday 17th of October 2021

Great thanks post Melissa! I have probably had every one of these fears. My mother is very frugal and always reusing things which is great but sometimes I feel super wasteful letting go of my “new” shirt that is 4 years old and has holes in it. I also tend to think I can fix things like clothes because I can sew. There comes a point where I have to honestly appraise how much I’ve used the item vs how much I continue wanting to use the item and if I really have the time or interest to fix it. Overcoming decluttering fears is the key to successful decluttering and the better you get it the more free you will be!

Simple Lionheart Life

Tuesday 19th of October 2021

Thanks, Jessalynn! I think I've experienced them all at one point or another too! I love the thoughtful way you're approaching letting go of things and handling your fear of being wasteful. Good for you! Thanks for reading and sharing your insights!

Andrea Schaub

Sunday 17th of October 2021

All of them! We moved a little over a year ago, quite quickly and ended up keeping way more than we needed. Now after finding a new home we are tying to be really good bout what to keep. This came at just the right time as we are tackling the things we stored and hoping to have a simplified and beautiful home! Thank you

Simple Lionheart Life

Tuesday 19th of October 2021

That's great! Good for you! I hope the post helps. Happy decluttering and thanks for reading!

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