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How to Purge Your House: 11 Tips When Decluttering is Hard

How to Purge Your House: 11 Tips When Decluttering is Hard

Today’s post is all about how to purge your house, even when decluttering feels hard.

There’s no doubt that decluttering isn’t always easy. You might feel emotionally attached to the things you own. You might struggle with guilt over getting rid of them. And sometimes it just feels so daunting and overwhelming, you don’t even know where or how to start!

If you want to learn how to purge your house, but decluttering feels hard, you’re not alone. Even for seasoned “declutter-ers”, somethings are harder to declutter than others. And some times you feel more or less motivated to declutter too.

In today’s post, you’ll learn 11 tips and strategies you can use, particularly during those times when decluttering feels hard.

Use these tips to not only learn how to purge and declutter your house. But also, how to push through and get it done. Even when you feel stuck, overwhelmed or decluttering simply feels hard!

(white wall with white curtains) title graphic: How to Purge Your House - 11 tips when decluttering is hard
Photo by Stephanie Harvey on Unsplash

How to purge your house, even when decluttering feels hard

Each tip may not apply to every decluttering situation. But you can use this list as a tool to help you learn how to effectively purge and declutter your house. Exploring if something is worth keeping because it adds value to your life. Or if it’s only adding clutter and you can let it go.

If you’re feeling stuck or like you’re not making progress decluttering, use these tips and strategies to try and push through and make decluttering decisions.

1. Ask yourself when you last used it

This is such a simple way to check in with yourself as you’re decluttering. The things that are adding value to your life are the things you use, need and enjoy often.

If you come across something you forgot you even had, or haven’t used in the last 6 months to a year, it’s probably not something adding a lot of value to your life. And you could likely get rid of it.

If you can’t remember the last time you used something, again, it’s likely not something you use, need and enjoy often and you can probably let it go.

2. Track how often you use things

If you’re not sure how often you use something. Or are still feeling hesitant to let something you rarely use go, try tracking how often you use it.

This could be as simple as turning your hangers in your closet to face backwards. Then hanging them the right way after you wear something. After a few months, look at whatever hasn’t been worn and let it go knowing you don’t wear or love it.

You can also try making a list of all your clothes and tracking each time you wear an item for a set period of time. Then, notice and get rid of what never or rarely gets worn.

You can also track your usage of things beyond just your clothes. An easy way to do this is with sticky notes.

Take your kitchen for example. Either put a sticky note on every item in your kitchen. Or just on the items you want to track how often you use. When you use the item, take the sticky note off. After a set period of time, notice what still has a sticky note and consider letting those items go.

You can use this tracking method for all kinds of other things too. Put sticky notes on books, DVDs, makeup, craft supplies, etc. Make note of when you applied the sticky notes. Then pay attention to what still has the sticky note on it after a set period of time.

It can be eye-opening to see how many items you’re holding on to that you never use at all!

3. Check the condition of items

Sometimes it’s easy to hang onto things that are broken or need repair, telling yourself you still need it and intend to repair it. But in the meantime, the item sits unused and still in need of repair for quite some time.

If the item is truly something you use, need or love, repairing it would be a priority. You would notice that it’s not available to use or enjoy, and want to get it fixed so you can use or enjoy it again.

If you come across something in need of repair as you’re decluttering, give yourself a deadline to do or get the repair done. Actually write it in your calendar! If it’s not important enough to spend the time and/or money repairing, you likely don’t really need or love it enough to keep!

4. Let go of “sunk costs”

You might be hanging on to something because it was expensive to buy initially. Even though you no longer use, need or love it, it’s hard to let go because you know how much you invested buying the item.

The thing is if it’s not something you use, need or love, it’s only adding clutter to your home and your life right now. Regardless of how much it cost.

You’ve already spent the money on the item. Keeping something you’re not using or loving won’t recover the money you spent.

In business, they use the term “sunk costs”. Sunk costs are costs that have already been incurred by past actions and cannot be recovered. Because the money has already been spent and cannot be returned, these costs should not factor into decisions moving forward.

The idea of sunk costs can come in handy as you’re decluttering.

For example, the money you spent on a pair of shoes you never wear because they hurt your feet is a sunk cost. There’s nothing you can do at this point to recover the money you spent. So the cost of the shoes should not be a factor in deciding what to do with the shoes moving forward. Instead, the decision to keep or get rid of the shoes should be based on whether or not they are adding value to your life now.

When you stop thinking about the sunk cost of an item, and instead focus on whether or not it’s adding value to your life now, it can make decluttering decisions easier. Especially when you’re stuck on an item or struggling to let it go.

5. Ask yourself why you want to keep each item

When you’re decluttering and are struggling to let go of something, even when you know you don’t really use, need or love it, ask yourself why you’re holding on.

Is it out of guilt? Because the item was a gift? Because of the sunk cost of the item? Are you holding onto it out of fear that you should keep it “just in case”?

Often, once you get to the root of why you’re struggling to let go, it can become a lot easier to logically think through the decluttering decision and make a more rational (and less emotional) decision. Which is an important skill as you learn how to purge and declutter your house.

6. Don’t get stuck

And speaking of getting stuck, this is another common decluttering roadblock that can make decluttering harder.

Sometimes, as you’re decluttering, you come across something you don’t know what to do with. When you get stuck on an item, it can sometimes derail your whole decluttering session. You start looking through it, agonizing about what to do with it, and your decluttering work and progress comes to a halt!

Instead of getting stuck on an item you can’t decide what to do with, set it aside, continue decluttering the rest of the space and come back to that item again later.

Of course, you can’t do this with every item, or you’ll never really make any decluttering progress. But if you’re struggling to make a decision about an item here or there, you don’t have to let it stop or slow down your decluttering session.

Sometimes you need more time to make a decision about some items. Or you might be able to come back to it another day with a fresh perspective and be able to make the decision then.

Either way, don’t let one or two items keep you stuck. It might make more sense to have a small pile of hard-to-let-go-of items to go through again in the future if it means you are able to declutter the rest of the space in the meantime.

7. Use a maybe box

Giving yourself a little time and space to make the decluttering decisions you’re struggling with can be really helpful.  A “maybe box” is the perfect tool for this!

A maybe box is simple. If you’re struggling to let go of something, or worrying you’ll regret getting rid of it, put it in a box, seal it and put it out of sight. Mark a date in your calendar for some time in the future, maybe 3 months from now. When you get to that future date, if you haven’t needed, wanted, or even thought about the items in your maybe box, you can get rid of them knowing you’ll be just fine without them.

A maybe box can be like your decluttering safety net. Letting you experiment living without the item and making more ruthless decluttering decisions, without fear holding you back.

8. Pay attention to what kind of clutter fills a space

Clutter can be the result of having too much stuff, and keeping stuff you don’t use, need or love. But sometimes clutter can be the result of things you use, need or love simply not having places to keep them.

Take some time to notice and pay attention to the spaces in your home that often become cluttered and messy. Then ask yourself what is causing the clutter.

Is there too much stuff in the space? Is the clutter mostly things you don’t use, need or love? Or is the clutter and mess caused by things you do use, need or love, but don’t have specific places to keep them?

Declutter first, organize second

The first step is always decluttering the things you don’t use, need or love.

But the second step is noticing what kinds of things you do use and love that are lying around adding clutter to the space. Then coming up with a better solution or system to manage those things.

For example, if there’s always a pile of papers and mail on your kitchen counters, you may need a better system to manage paperwork.

If your entryway is always a mess of coats, shoes, bags, keys, etc. you may need a better system to give each of those items easy-to-access homes.

When creating systems to manage the stuff in your home the first goal is to give each item a home. When everything has a home, it’s less likely to be left out, floating around the house causing clutter.

The second goal is to make sure it’s easy to put everything away in its home. This might mean clearing the clutter to make space to easily access and put away the things you use, need and love.

The easier it is to put things away where they belong, the more likely they will actually be consistently put away. The fewer barriers to keeping your house tidy and organized, the better!

9. Stop bringing home more stuff!

Clearing the clutter you already own is important. But if you want to make progress decluttering your home, it’s equally important to stop or at least slow down, bringing more stuff into your home.

Any progress you make decluttering your home won’t last if you continue to add new stuff all the time. Making an effort to buy less, shop less and bring home less stuff in general, is a great way to ensure the progress you’re making decluttering won’t be undone!

10. Make simplifying a lifestyle, not a one-time event

Decluttering your home is not something you do once and are done. Your home and your life are not static. Your needs and interests change over time. And no matter how careful you are about trying to keep clutter out, some new stuff always finds it’s way into your home.

Always be on the lookout for stuff you no longer use, need or love that you can get rid of. Keep an ongoing donation/decluttering box handy. Then add things you are ready to let go of to it as you come across them.

11. Remember your “why”

One of the most important aspects of learning how to purge your house and make progress decluttering is by being really clear about and remembering your “why” for doing it.

Sometimes it’s easy to get hung up on the details of decluttering. But you have to remember not to lose sight of the forest through the trees.

If you find yourself feeling stuck or struggling to declutter, come back to your why. What do you want to achieve by decluttering? What’s not working for you in your home right now and you’re trying to fix by clearing the clutter?

What do you want to make room for more of by clearing the clutter? More time for your family or a hobby you love? Less stress in your life and less time spent managing the “stuff” you own?

Whatever it is, use your “why” to bring you back to the big picture of what you want to achieve. Then ask yourself if the item you’re struggling to decide what to do with is moving you closer to your “why” or keeping you further from reaching your “why”.

It can also be helpful to decide how you want to use each space, or what purpose you want it to serve before you start decluttering. Then use that to guide your decluttering decisions.

How to purge your house, even when decluttering feels hard

I hope these tips and strategies will help you continue making progress clearing the clutter from your house, even when decluttering feels hard.

Learning how to purge and declutter your house is not always easy, but it’s definitely not impossible either. Making consistent, steady progress, and learning how to work through the decisions about items you’re struggling with are the keys to decluttering success.

What’s something you’ve struggled to make a decluttering decision about? Which of these tips and strategies will be most helpful for you? Leave a comment and let me know!

(wood topped dresser with round mirror on wall and tropical plant) title graphic: How to Purge Your House - 11 tips when decluttering is hard
Photo by Minh Pham on Unsplash

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Colleen

Saturday 17th of September 2022

Agree! Definitely one of the best decluttering articles I have read as well. Actual, practical advice! Thank you so much!!!

Simple Lionheart Life

Thursday 22nd of September 2022

Thank you so much! I'm so glad to hear you found it helpful! Thanks for reading :)

Lynn

Thursday 18th of August 2022

I have a double closet in my bedroom. I know there are things I haven't worn in years in both sides. To make it easier, I bought two inexpensive garment racks to use as keep and get rid of. I will do the immediate purge first. Once those clothes are gone, I intend to go back and really look at my keep rack for a second purge. The garment racks will help me teally be able to vuew what I own and not have clothing strewn all over my bed.

Simple Lionheart Life

Wednesday 31st of August 2022

That's great! I'm glad you've found a system to make it easier for you to declutter. Thanks for reading and happy decluttering :)

Sarah Taylor

Thursday 7th of July 2022

Thanks for your very helpful article. My mother died ten years ago and my father in October 2020. They lived in a 5 bedroomed house they bought before they married in 1962. Some years before my dad’s death we said that we couldn’t bear our family home to go out of the family and discussed buying my brothers out of the estate in the fullness of time. Dad loved the idea.

The downside is that we ended up with all their stuff and all ours. Gradually we have sorted everything out and the house looks stunning, except for one room, which is rammed of stuff. Reading the article is giving me the impetus for one last push. I have booked a decorator to come in August, so have an achievable timeframe. I actually feel quite positive now, so thank you for that.

P.S. my mantra going forward is, ‘one thing in, one thing out’.

Simple Lionheart Life

Sunday 10th of July 2022

I'm so glad you found this article helpful. That's great! And your plan sounds really good. Thanks for reading and good luck on your journey!

Laura Short

Thursday 2nd of June 2022

Enjoyed your article and found it helpful. I'm inspired to go purge a few things - right no! What is funny: the whole time I'm reading about decluttering there are POPUPS of Coffee cups, rugs, plates, shoes, sweaters, baskets, art work...... ALL MORE CUTTER TO BUY! Don't worry - I'm taking #9 to heart and NOT BUYING MORE STUFF! Thank you.

Simple Lionheart Life

Thursday 2nd of June 2022

Thanks Laura, I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the article. I agree that running ads on my site is not ideal. But at this time it's necessary in order to cover the costs of running the blog. Good for you for focusing on your goals and choosing not to buy more stuff! Thanks for reading :)

Lore

Saturday 25th of December 2021

Thank you for writing such a helpful article. Like others who have read many articles and books about decluttering, I found your article to be spot on and definitely one of the best written pieces about the mindset of decluttering. My challenge is that for many years I have purchased items that I intended to use "some day" (like arts and crafts supplies) - or - that I intended to sell for a profit. But the vast majority of these items take up space in my Craft Room (which long ago turned into a Crap Room). Here's my challenge: I get stuck on "sunk costs" because some of the items I'd like to get rid of do have a resale value. I have sold many items online through the years but haven't been motivated in a couple years to put the energy into selling these items. In my mind I think of these items as "partially sunk costs," knowing that if I sold them I could recoup some of my initial investment. But thinking this way has crippled my ability to get rid of them because I know I could recover some money by selling them . . . but the truth is that my "current self" doesn't want to get rid of the potential dollars I could make if I sell these items. My "current self" thinks that my "potential self" will one day be motivated enough to put in the energy to sell these items. However, years have passed without my "potential self" overtaking my "current self." (The saying "Sh*t or get off the pot" comes to mind.) What ideas can you suggest so that I can get rid of these items (either by donating them or selling them)? I've been stuck in decluttering purgatory for too many years!!! The bottom line is that I have competing needs: to have a decluttered home, and to recoup some money from these items by selling them. The problem is that I am just not motivated to put in the time and energy to sell them, but because they can be sold, I have chosen to not donate them.

Simple Lionheart Life

Thursday 6th of January 2022

First of all, thank you so much for your kind words. I really appreciate that!

To answer your questions, I think what you're writing about is a very common problem so you're not alone! My suggestion would be to spend some time really getting clear about your goals. Do you want to invest the time and energy required to sell the items? Or would you rather clear the clutter quickly and regain your space by donating them? There is no right or wrong answer, it really depends on what your goals are right now.

If you do decide to sell items, I would suggest giving yourself deadlines. Deadlines both to get the items listed for sale and deadlines for donating items that haven't sold after a certain amount of time. Whatever hasn't been listed or sold by the deadline can be donated. Often a deadline will help give you a burst of motivation to get the work done. And other times, it'll show you that selling the items isn't one of your top priorities right now, and that's ok.

I hope that helps! Thanks for reading!

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