How to Get Rid of Stuff: 11 reasons why it’s hard to declutter & what to do about it

How to get rid of stuff: 11 reasons why it's hard to declutter & what to do about it

Today, I want to talk about how to get rid of stuff by addressing 11 common reasons why it’s hard to declutter!

Why is it so hard to declutter?

Decluttering can be hard. We feel attached to our stuff, and letting go isn’t always easy. Today I’m sharing 11 common reasons why clearing the clutter can be hard, and what to do to overcome them.

Often once you understand why it’s difficult to declutter, letting go becomes a lot easier!

How to get rid of stuff: 11 reasons why it's hard to declutter & what to do about it
Photo by Tomas Jasovsky on Unsplash

1. Lack of time to declutter

One of the biggest reasons it’s hard to declutter for many people is simply lack of time. Our lives are busy and full, and sometimes it feels like there’s just not enough time to add decluttering to our never-ending to-do lists.

But the great thing is the more you declutter, the more time you’ll end up with.

Decluttering does require that you put the time in up front to start experiencing the benefits. But the benefits of clearing the clutter are totally worth prioritizing decluttering now!

How to get rid of stuff when you have no time

Remember that decluttering doesn’t have to mean working for hours at a time. Instead, try decluttering for 5 to 10 minutes every day. These minutes will add up over time, making a big impact on your home and life.

Consistency is more important than intensity when you’re decluttering!

Making an effort to declutter as you go about your day is another great way to declutter even if you are short on time. Instead of setting aside time exclusively devoted to decluttering, add decluttering into other tasks you’re already doing.

For example, as you get ready in the morning, sort through your make-up and see if there’s anything you can get rid of. Or when you’re tidying up during the day, look for anything you don’t use, need or love and get rid of it right then.

Always keeping a watchful eye out for things you can get rid of will help you clear the clutter and requires little to no extra time at all!

2. Lack of energy or motivation to declutter

Similar to feeling like you don’t have enough time to declutter, it’s easy to feel like you don’t have enough energy to tackle decluttering either. At the end of a long day, the last thing you want to think about is decluttering!

But keep reminding yourself that the less stuff you have, the fewer things there will be taking up your time and energy. Giving you more time and energy in the end!

How to get rid of stuff when you have no energy or motivation

Schedule it

The best way to tackle decluttering if you can’t find the energy or motivation to do it is to stop making it optional.

Decide for yourself that decluttering is worth the effort and prioritize it. Add decluttering times into your schedule and stick to them. Even 10 minutes a day will make a difference!

Have a plan

Next, make a decluttering plan so you don’t have to think about where to declutter or what to do next. Make it easy to dive in and get to work during your decluttering times.

Remember your “why”

Remind yourself why clearing the clutter is important and what you want to achieve by decluttering.

Maybe you want more time to spend with your kids, more time for a hobby you love, or simply to create a home that’s a sanctuary, not a source of stress.

Whatever your “why” is, keep reminding yourself of it to stay motivated towards reaching your decluttering goals.

3. Saving things “just in case”

This is one of the biggest decluttering hurdles for many of us.

If you try hard enough, you can probably convince yourself to keep just about anything. But remember, your goal is to clear the clutter so you have more time, energy and freedom to focus on your priorities.

More often than not, we keep things “just in case” out of fear. Fear that we will get rid of something we’ll later need and regret our decision to get rid of it.

But I can personally tell you there are very few things I’ve decluttered and later regretted. In fact, I can’t even think of anything right now!

To me, it’s not worth keeping a house full of clutter (and the stress that clutter adds) to avoid potentially, maybe regretting getting rid of something, sometime in the future!

How to get rid of stuff you’re saving “just in case”

The best way to get rid of stuff you’re keeping “just in case” is logically thinking through all of those just in case scenarios.

How realistic is it?

First, think about how realistic it is that your “just in case” scenario will happen. Has it ever happened before?

For example, if you’re keeping enough towels just in case you ever host 15 people all at the same time, how realistic is that? Who would those 15 people be? Have you ever hosted 15 people at the same time before?

Think it through. More often than not, once you think through your “just in case” scenario, you see it’s not very likely to happen.

What else could you use?

Next, think about what else you could do if you didn’t keep this item “just in case”.

Could you use something else in its place? Could you borrow from a friend? Or maybe could you make do without it?

Often, it’s easy to find alternatives with a little creativity or thinking outside the box.

Often times, when you keep things “just in case” when the time comes to use it you either forget you have it or can’t find it anyway!

If you’re still struggling, try to think about the last time you actually used the item. If you can’t remember or aren’t currently using it, how likely is it that you’ll really need it in the future?

As the wise Courtney Carver of Be More With Less says, “Just in case = never.”

4. Keeping things for “someday”

Just as it’s easy to keep things “just in case”, another easy decluttering trap to fall into is keeping things for “someday”.

Someday you’ll have time to use all those scrapbooking supplies. You’ll go skiing someday and use your equipment. You’ll get to reading and rereading all those books someday.

We often have good intentions of using the stuff we own, but sometimes, it just doesn’t happen!

How to get rid of stuff you’ll use “someday”

First, just like the “just in case” items, ask yourself how realistic it is that you’ll actually use the item? If you aren’t currently using it, how likely is it that you’ll use it in the future?

A great way to put this to the test is to give yourself a deadline. If you’re convinced you’ll use an item someday, give yourself a deadline. Put a reminder in your phone or on your calendar, if you haven’t used the item by the deadline, let it go!

5. Guilt

Holding onto things out of guilt is a really common decluttering challenge. Guilt is a powerful emotion, and can make it really hard to let go of stuff!

The guilt associated with our stuff can often fall into a few different categories. Here are the common “guilt” categories and what to do to let go of this guilt:

Gifts

Many times you feel guilty about getting rid of items that were given to you as a gift.

How to get rid of stuff if it was a gift

Remind yourself that the purpose of a gift is to show love from the person giving the gift to the person receiving it. Once the gift has been given, and you’ve acknowledged and appreciated both the love and the gift itself, it’s served its purpose.

Now the gift belongs to you and it’s up to you what you want to do with it. If it’s not something that’s adding value to your life, let it go!

Obligation

Sometimes you keep things because you feel obligated to keep them. Maybe it’s a family heirloom or something passed onto you by a family member and you feel guilty not wanting it.

How to get rid of stuff you feel obligated to keep

Remind yourself that you get to decide what fills your space and takes your time and energy. If the item isn’t adding enough value to your life to justify the time, space and energy it takes up, you have the right to decide to get rid of it.

If it’s something given to you by a family member, talk to them. Let them know you’re simplifying and are planning to get rid of it. If it is important to them, let them know they are welcome to take it. If they don’t want it, let go of the guilt and the item!

Money spent

Feeling guilty about spending (and wasting) money on something you no longer use, need or want is very common when decluttering.

How to get rid of stuff you spent money on

Remind yourself that the money you spent on an item is already gone. Holding onto something you don’t use or love out of guilt won’t get your money back. All it will do is continue making you feel guilty every time you see it.

Let go of the item, then use it as a lesson moving forward to help you shop more intentionally and thoughtfully in the future.

Perfectly good items

It can be hard to let go of something that’s still in perfectly good, usable condition. It’s easy to feel guilty or wasteful getting rid of perfectly good things you aren’t using.

How to get rid of perfectly good items

This is primarily about shifting your mindset. If you aren’t using or loving an item, it’s not useful to you. Let it go so someone else can use and appreciate it.

6. Struggling with sentimental items

Decluttering sentimental items can be hard. But carefully curating your sentimental items means you can value and appreciate what you do keep more.

“When everything is important, nothing is.”
~ Patrick Lencioni

How to get rid of stuff that’s sentimental

First of all, decide what is truly meaningful to you and only keep those items. Sometimes items you’re keeping as sentimental, aren’t that meaningful to you, you just feel like you should be keeping them.

Another great strategy is giving yourself a limited amount of space for sentimental items. It helps you figure out what is most important to you when you only have a limited amount of space to keep sentimental items.

It’s also important to remember that getting rid of a sentimental item doesn’t mean you’re getting rid of the memories. Your memories will always be with you, regardless of whether you keep the physical item or not.

Try taking a picture of the item, but letting the item itself go. Or try using sentimental items in your home so you can see, use and appreciate them every day.

7. Burning out

Decluttering is hard work. And sometimes you take on too much, too fast and feel burnt out, discouraged or like quitting altogether.

How to get rid of stuff when you’re burnt out

The best way to get back to decluttering if you’re burnt out is by not decluttering at all!

Take a break and come back to decluttering after you’ve had a chance to rest and recharge.

When you get back to decluttering, take small steps. Instead of tackling a whole room at once, work on smaller decluttering projects. Tackle one drawer, one shelf, one pile at a time so you won’t end up feeling burnt out again.

Small steps still count and they will add up to big results over time!

8. Feeling overwhelmed or not knowing where to start

Maybe the thought of decluttering your whole house is simply overwhelming or you don’t even know where to start.

How to get rid of stuff when you’re overwhelmed or don’t know where to start

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of decluttering, the best way to overcome this is simply getting started. Dive in and do something, anything, to break the ice and start clearing the clutter. Usually, it’s a lot easier to keep going once you’ve gotten started.

Start small, but be consistent. Pick one small decluttering project and tackle it. Do another small project the next day. You can read more about my favourite ways to get started decluttering here.

9. Not knowing what to do with the stuff you’re getting rid of

If you don’t know what to do with the stuff you’re decluttering, there’s a good chance it’ll sit in a corner of your house, either adding to the clutter, or even worse, eventually getting spread back out over the house un-doing all of your hard work!

How to get rid of stuff when you don’t know what to do with it

Plan ahead!

Figure out what you’ll do with the stuff you’re decluttering ahead of time so you can get it out of your house quickly and easily.

If you plan to donate it, decide where you’ll donate it and when.

If you plan to sell it, decide where you’ll sell it and give yourself a deadline to get it listed for sale, along with a deadline of how long you’ll wait before donating unsold items.

10. Keeping the stuff that represents your “fantasy self”

Sometimes it’s hard to let go of things that represent who you want to be, or think you should be, not who you actually are.

For example, maybe you like the idea of going to lots of fancy events, and have a collection of dresses in your closet. But actually, prefer to spend most of your evenings at home curled up with a book.

Or maybe you love buying books and plan to read them all, but never seem to make a dent in your pile.

How to get rid of stuff that represents your “fantasy self”

This is a tricky one because it involves some inner reflection. The best thing to do is start noticing and paying attention to what you think you use or wish you use, versus what you actually use.

Keep reminding yourself that the more you let go of the things you aren’t using or loving, the more time, space and freedom you’ll have to enjoy what matters most to you!

11. Keeping the stuff that represents your past self

In the same way, it’s easy to hold onto things from your past self as well.

Maybe you used to be an avid knitter but haven’t used your supplies in years. Or maybe you used to play a certain sport, but can’t remember the last time you played.

How to get rid of stuff from who you used to be

The biggest thing is to accept that your life changes and evolves. What you used to use, need and enjoy won’t always be the same. The season of life you’re in changes, your interests changes, your lifestyle changes, etc.

Remind yourself that hanging onto the things from your past that you no longer use, need or enjoy, makes it’s hard to have the time and space for what you currently use, need and enjoy. Let go of the past and embrace what your current season of life holds!

How to get rid of stuff by understanding why it’s hard to let go

I hope digging into these common reasons it’s difficult to declutter will help make it easier to declutter more quickly, easily and efficiently.

So often, once you better understand why you’re struggling to declutter it becomes a lot easier to get rid of the clutter from your home.

These are common decluttering struggles many of us face, myself included. But learning how to get rid of stuff becomes a whole lot easier once you know exactly what is holding you back.

What is the biggest reason you struggle to declutter? Leave a comment and let me know!

How to get rid of stuff: 11 reasons why it's hard to declutter & what to do about it
Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash
How to get rid of stuff: 11 reasons why it's hard to declutter & what to do about it

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12 Comments

  1. I love this blog Melissa. It reminded me of where my cluttering habit began. My father was a hoarder. He was surrounded by so much it made him feel secure. He lost his mother at birth and brought up by an elder sister must have had an impact on him for sure. My clutter habit was learned. With your help I am unlearning this. Most of the clutter now gone I find it easier to get clutter out of the house. I know if I don’t see it my heart won’t grieve over it. It is the attachment to things that has been the struggle for me and I am sure many people identify with it. But this post is to let anyone know that it is possible to change the habits of a lifetime. I have done so and now I find it easier to observe if something is not being used and to part with it. Even if it is new and not used is O.K. I wouldn’t give away anything I couldn’t use myself so everything must be in good condition out of respect to those who will use any item. I hope it brings them the same pleasure it brought me. It is a way of blessing others. I took some clutter out to the garage today in readiness for the next drop off at the Church for the sale. It is all going down and the house is looking better. My husband kept hoarding things and was going to use them when he retired. Sadly he died 7yrs ago today and he did not get the chance to use anything. A reminder to use things. NOW! Don’t leave them for a better day. That day may never come. Enjoy what you have NOW.
    Best wishes to everyone on this journey.
    Thank you Melissa!!

    1. Thank you for sharing more of your journey and experience with us, Doreen! The work you have done decluttering your home and your life is truly inspiring! It’s been such a pleasure to follow along with your journey and the insights you are learning and sharing! Your perspective is wonderful. I agree – use things you love and enjoy now, rather than saving them for someday. I’m sending you love on the anniversary of your husband’s passing. Thank you for reading and sharing your experience and insights with us all!

  2. I am trying to go through everything but I am having a problem getting rid the things. If I can give it to someone who wants it that’s ok. I can do that. I think your suggestions will really help.

    1. I’m glad this post will be helpful for you, Delores! I agree, knowing the things you’re getting rid of can go to someone who will use and appreciate them is a great perspective to take to help you declutter. Thanks for reading and good luck as you continue decluttering!

  3. This is super info! I have clothes I haven’t worn in 7 yrs -holding in case I need them or for a special occasion-your info made me stop & wonder why I haven’t worn? Some are dresses-I’m a nurse-Semi- retired, I I’ve in the south, I have dogs, I exercise-I wear uniforms & shorts & capris-not dresses! Maybe my fantasy self? Anyway I have given some away to a friend who likes wearing dresses -she was thrilled! Still have so much to go through but at least I understand why I hold onto things now & can move forward from there
    Thanks

    1. That’s amazing!! Good for you!! Yes – so often, once I’ve figured out why I’m holding on to things (even if I know I’m not using them), it makes it a lot easier to let go. I’m glad this post was helpful for you! Thanks for reading 🙂

  4. Guess you would call me a “pack rat!” When I was young, we didn’t have a lot of money and so kept things “in case” since if we discarded things, we may not be able to replace them.
    Now that I am nearly 82 (good health), I think about our Son having the responsibility of disposing of ” stuff” when “our time comes!” It is “just him” and we have no relatives in this state. I also have some crafts and think that, if something happened to my husband before me, I might need some crafts to fill my time alone!! I do not mean to be morbid, but a reality we must face. Your list and reasoning has helped – now if I can put it into action. Thank you for your help. God bless. Jan Simmons.

    1. I’m glad to hear this post was helpful for you, Jan. I agree with what you shared – there are a lot of different reasons and factors that come into play with our relationship with the stuff we own and how we feel about letting some of it go. I can see that you have already done some good work thinking through some of the reasons you are keeping certain things. That’s great. I really do think once we know why we are holding on to certain things, it helps us decide if we are ready and willing to let go of those things or not. Thank you for reading and sharing your experiences and thoughts with us, it is greatly appreciated! Take care!

  5. Love this! Thoughtful insights into why we hang on to stuff and how we can let go. I struggle with most of these and the strategies here are very helpful. Thank you!

    1. I’m so happy to hear it was helpful for you! That’s so great. Knowing why I want to hang on to things has been so helpful in being able to let go of the things I don’t actually use or love. Thanks for reading, I’m glad it helped you!

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