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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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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!


Monday 8th of November 2021

I've struggled with purging items in my house for years. At one point, I had over 100 totes filled with items. In a major motivated surge I was able to whittle away at them slowly by donating or selling items. I even sold the bins once they were empty and felt accomplished. I still have 40 bins left but the purge train broke down and came to a halt. Even though they fill two rooms in my basement and are embarrassing and stressful to look at, I'm frozen to clear them. Some are personal items like photos, etc. Others are items I bought to use as potential gifts, or items for my house that I've never used. They are in the sunk cost category. Others are just random items thrown carelessly in a bin to 'deal with later' instead of putting it away properly.

The physical clutter gets into my mental clutter and creates anxiety. But purging is very hard. I need help to get through the final stages of my purging so I can use the two rooms in my basement for something other than a storage facility.

Please help me Signed, Desperate and Drowning

Simple Lionheart Life

Monday 8th of November 2021

First of all, I'm sorry to hear you're feeling so discouraged right now. It can be tough for sure. But I would focus on the progress you have already made. Clearing out 60 bins already is huge and amazing!!! You should be really proud of yourself. You worked hard and have accomplished so much. My suggestion would be to bring up one bin at a time and tackle it. Don't worry about all the totes, just focus on the one you are working on. Even if you can work on it for 5-10 minutes a day, you'll know you're making progress. Try to focus on keeping what you will use or love, and let go of the rest. Keep your goal of having usable space you can feel proud of at the forefront of your mind to help keep you feeling motivated to let go. You could even try setting goals and rewarding yourself. For example, after you get through 5 bins, treat yourself to a meal from your favourite restaurant, plan a night to watch your favourite movie with a special snack or drink, get your nails done, etc. Whatever feels like a fun (non-thing) reward you can give yourself! I hope that helps. Feel free to reach out again any time if you need support! Take care!


Monday 1st of November 2021

Great article, very helpful. I’ve read many blogs about decluttering and this one is the best. Wish I read it first. Thanx

Simple Lionheart Life

Monday 1st of November 2021

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


Sunday 9th of May 2021

Hi Elizabeth, I had a similar item I struggled with, an old hope chest that's pretty big. I actually asked a friend to hold onto it for me for 6 months. During this time I was able to see my life without it and decide what I wanted to do with it. It has come back and has been in a guest room for years. I decided recently that I would use it as my daughters hope chest. But I dont want giving it up to be a burden on her. It's old and needs repairs, so, after reading this article I'm pretty sure I know it's time to let it go. Not saying you should let your parents click go!! Just saying. Maybe letting it go temporarily will help you decide long term. Hugs!

Simple Lionheart Life

Monday 10th of May 2021

That's a great suggestion! I'm glad you've found clarity about what to do with your hope chest. Thanks for sharing your insights!


Monday 22nd of March 2021

I truly loved these realistic, practical tips as well. I've been on this journey of decluttering for years now, and hit roadblocks from time to time. This helped me get back in the right mindset. Those "sunk costs" and eco-guilt are what get to me the most! I will remember that the damage is already done, and the decision now is whether or not it brings value to my life or not. I think this will help me to keep pushing forward.

Simple Lionheart Life

Thursday 25th of March 2021

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

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