Dealing with guilt can be a big obstacle when you’re trying to declutter and are finding it hard to let go. Today’s post is all about how to overcome decluttering guilt and learn how to declutter without feeling guilty.
Where does decluttering guilt come from?
There are many reasons why you might feel guilty as you’re decluttering. It might be because you’re feeling guilty about the money spent and what feels like money wasted on things you don’t use, need or love. It could be guilt over the environmental impact of your consumerism and purchasing habits.
Sometimes it’s because something was a gift and you feel guilty getting rid of it. Or guilt because something has sentimental value and it feels hard to let it go. It can be feelings of guilt or fear that you’ll regret getting rid of something you’ll need in the future. Or it could be guilt coming from another place entirely.
Wherever the guilt is coming from, guilt can make decluttering really hard! Even when you know decluttering will improve your life, the guilt still makes it hard to declutter.
Let go of the clutter and the guilt
But guilt isn’t a good reason to keep your home cluttered and stressful to manage. The best thing you can do is clear the clutter and the guilt that goes along with it. Free yourself from the stress that clutter adds to your life and the stress the guilt brings up for you too.
It might sound easier said than done, but the tips in today’s post will help you do just that. Use these strategies to let go of decluttering guilt, clear the clutter and create a home you love instead!
How to overcome decluttering guilt
1. Donate whenever possible
When possible, a great way to reduce decluttering guilt is by donating the items you’re getting rid of, instead of just throwing them away.
While it does take a little bit more effort to gather donations and drop them off at your donation center, it’s still quite easy. And knowing the stuff you’re getting rid of will be able to be used by someone else instead of ending up in the landfill is a great way to ease some of the decluttering guilt you might be feeling.
Of course, don’t donate things that are actually garbage. That just delays the inevitable and wastes time and resources at the donation centers. If it’s broken, worn out, beyond repair, etc. some things have to be thrown away.
But, when possible, aim to donate what you can instead of throwing it away.
2. Imagine someone using & appreciating what you donate
There’s another way donating the stuff you don’t use, need or love can help ease decluttering guilt. And that’s by knowing you’re giving your clutter the chance to go on and be used or loved by someone else.
Just because you aren’t using or loving it, doesn’t mean someone else won’t!
Help ease your decluttering guilt by imagining the stuff you’re getting rid of going on to be used and appreciated by someone else.
Maybe that sweater that never fit you quite right will go on to be someone else’s favourite. The mugs you’re getting rid of might fill the cupboards of a college student’s first apartment. The book you never got around to reading might be the exact book someone has been searching for.
Let go of the decluttering guilt you might be feeling by picturing the usefulness and joy your items could bring to someone else!
3. Remember your “why”
Remembering your why is a great way to get yourself back on track and ease your decluttering guilt.
Your why are the reasons that are motivating you to declutter. Maybe you want to spend less time taking care of your home and everything in it. Maybe you want more time for your family and friends. Or maybe you want to create time and space in your days for a hobby you love and that brings you joy.
Also, think about exactly why you’re getting rid of things. Are they unused? Maybe they don’t fit? Maybe you just don’t love them? Is it because you don’t have enough space and need to keep only your favourite few items? Is your home feeling like too much to manage and you want to lighten your load?
Your why includes both what you want more of (time, space, energy, freedom, etc.). As well as what you want less of (stress, time taken up by “stuff”, housework, etc.).
Whatever your why is, remind yourself of it often. You’re decluttering in order to achieve your why. Your why is important and matters a lot to you. It requires you to make hard decluttering decisions and let go of the guilt you might be feeling. And it will be worth it when you create a home and a life you love!
4. Remind yourself of the benefits of decluttering
If you’re not super clear about what your “why” is, think about the benefits of decluttering. There are many reasons why decluttering is worth it. And reminding yourself of these benefits is a great way to ease decluttering guilt.
It might be hard in the moment to let things go, but it’ll be worth it when you get to experience the benefits of decluttering.
Things like having more time for the things and people you love. Or spending less time and energy maintaining and managing your house. Feeling less stress when it comes to managing your home. Or even starting sleeping better, improving your financial situation and feeling more confident in yourself!
There are so many benefits of decluttering, even some unexpected ones! Remind yourself of them to keep you focused on your goals, your “why” and to help you let go of decluttering guilt.
5. Let go of “sunk costs”
Sunk cost is a business term referring to costs that have already been incurred, cannot be recovered and shouldn’t factor into decisions moving forward.
The idea of sunk costs definitely applies to decluttering. Often you hold onto items not because you use them often or love them. But because of how much they cost when you bought them.
Maybe you bought a beautiful pair of expensive shoes but never wear them because they hurt your feet. You’re not holding onto them because of the value they add to your wardrobe and life. You’re holding onto them because you spent a lot on them and likely feel guilty about getting rid of them.
But keeping the shoes won’t recover your money or give you your money back. It’s already been spent. Instead, keeping the shoes just adds clutter and guilt to your life!
Try to let go of the sunk costs of items and think about the value they add (or don’t add!) to your life right now. Base your decluttering decisions on value added, not sunk costs.
6. Challenge “just in case” thoughts
Fear is another reason that drives a lot of decluttering guilt.
Fear of regretting getting rid of something you might need some time. Or feeling like you should keep things “just in case” you need them in the future.
The best way to work through “just in case” thoughts and fears is by challenging them directly. Walk through the scenario your fear is making you worry about.
If you got rid of the item and then did need it in the future, what would happen? Could you use something else? Or maybe borrow it from a friend? Could you make do without it?
Let your mind go to the very worst-case scenario and play it out. Often, you’ll discover that the very worst-case scenario isn’t that bad. While it might be frustrating to not have something you used to have, usually there’s a solution if you think outside the box.
Even if, in the worst-case scenario, you need to re-buy something you got rid of, it might not be so bad. Maybe you could find the item inexpensively secondhand. And even if you need to buy it again, think about all the clutter (and stress clutter causes!) you got rid of in the meantime to make up for having to re-buy one item. In most cases, it would be worth it!
7. Remember the purpose of gifts
It’s easy to hold onto guilt when trying to declutter something that was a gift.
In these cases, remember what the purpose of a gift is. A gift is given so someone can show their love for you. When you accept the gift and appreciate both the gift and the love behind it, the gift has served its purpose. What you choose to do with the gift now is up to you.
If it’s not something you use, need or love, pass it on to someone else who will use, need or love it. And let go of the guilt in doing so knowing the gift has already served its purpose.
8. Give yourself permission to make mistakes
A great way to reduce decluttering guilt is by accepting that you won’t declutter perfectly and giving yourself permission to make mistakes.
You don’t have to put the pressure to declutter perfectly on yourself (in addition to the decluttering guilt you might be feeling!).
Instead, recognize from the onset that you’ll make mistakes. You’ll get rid of something and then need it the following week. You’ll keep something you’re sure you’ll use, then never use or need it.
Embrace the idea of making progress, not aiming for perfection. And cut yourself some slack. You’ll make mistakes. But life will go on.
Keep doing your best to clear the clutter and know your efforts will improve your home and your life, even when you make a few mistakes along the way.
9. Out of sight, out of mind
And finally, remind yourself of the old saying “out of sight, out of mind”. It definitely applies when you’re decluttering!
You might be agonizing over whether to keep something or get rid of it today. But next week you’ll likely have forgotten about it altogether!
If the items you’re agonizing over aren’t things you love or use and need regularly, they aren’t adding value to your life, they’re just adding clutter. And because you don’t use, need or love them, you likely won’t even think about them once they are out of your house.
Remind yourself that the guilt you’re feeling is temporary and you will quickly forget about the clutter you’re getting rid of.
Learning from decluttering guilt
I hope these tips help you let go of decluttering guilt so you can make progress in clearing the clutter from your home.
The best thing you can do to ease decluttering guilt is learning lessons along the way as you declutter. Notice what you’re buying that you didn’t use, need or love. Then, use it as a lesson to help you purchase more mindfully moving forward.
The best thing you can do is learn from your mistakes and aim to do better moving forward. That’s all any of us can aim for!
Let go of the clutter and guilt you’re holding onto now. Then aim to do better moving forward so you don’t end up in a cycle of decluttering and buying more without thought or intention.
Do you struggle with decluttering guilt? Which of these tips are most helpful for you to let it go? Leave a comment below and share your experience!