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13 Reasons You Struggle to Declutter & How to Overcome Them

13 Reasons You Struggle to Declutter & How to Overcome Them

There are many reasons you might struggle to declutter. In today’s post, you’ll learn 13 of the most common reasons people struggle to declutter. And what to do to overcome them so they don’t hold you back from creating a clutter-free home you love!

Taking the leap and decluttering your home can often be a little scary or overwhelming. But the benefits of decluttering are completely worth the time and effort required. Decluttering and simplifying your home will give you time, space and freedom to live life on your own terms.

If you are struggling to declutter, sometimes the best approach is to figure out why you are struggling. Oftentimes, once you know exactly why you are struggling, it becomes easier to move past it and clear the clutter.

Use this list to help get to the root of why you struggle to declutter. And learn how to overcome these obstacles so you can declutter with confidence, clarity and ease.

13 Reasons You Struggle to Declutter & How to Overcome Them
Photo by Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash

13 Reasons You Struggle to Declutter & How to Overcome Them

1. Keeping items “just in case”

This is a big reason many people struggle to declutter. You have things you don’t use or love but keep “just in case” you need it sometime in the future. Or worry if you get rid of the item, you’ll need it down the road and regret getting rid of it.

It can be easy to talk yourself into keeping almost anything “just in case”. Then, before you know it your house is full of things you don’t use or love, but keep “just in case”.

How to overcome this:

First, try to honestly think about a specific and realistic time or event you’d need the item. If you can’t think of one, let the item go! If you have thought of a time or event you could use the item, how realistic is it? If you aren’t currently using or loving the item, what makes you think you’ll use or love it in the future?

Often, simply being realistic and honest when thinking through a “just in case” scenario is enough to help you overcome just in case fears.

It’s also good to remember that often if a scenario does come up where you could use a “just in case” item, you either forget you have it, can’t find it or find a suitable alternative to use anyway.

If you’re worried about regretting decluttering an item, there will likely be very few things you’ll regret getting rid of. If you aren’t using or loving it now, you most likely won’t use or love it in the future either. Most of the stuff you declutter you won’t even remember after a week or two!

Even if there is the odd thing or two you wish you kept, it’s not worth keeping a house full of clutter “just in case” you may need one or two things one day. To me, the cost of maybe needing to re-buy the odd thing in the future is worth it to have a clutter-free home now.

2. Keeping items to use “someday”

Another reason many people struggle to declutter is keeping things you plan to use “someday”. You usually have good intentions of using the item, but often never get around to it.

How to overcome this:

Again, be realistic and honest with yourself about how likely you are to actually use the item.

If you are convinced you will use it, give yourself a deadline. Put a reminder in your calendar, and if you haven’t used the item by the deadline, get rid of it.

3. Feeling guilty for wasting money by getting rid of things you spent a lot of money on

Many people struggle to declutter things when you know you spent a lot of money on them and now feel guilty about wasting money.

How to overcome this:

Remind yourself that the money is already spent. Holding on to the item won’t get your money back. If the item isn’t adding value to your life, it shouldn’t stay in your home. Let it go and let go of the burden, guilt, clutter and stress it adds to your life.

Then the next time you are shopping, use your decluttering experience as a lesson to help you shop more thoughtfully and intentionally.

4. Feeling wasteful getting rid of perfectly good items

Another reason you might struggle to declutter is feeling wasteful getting rid of something still in perfectly good and usable condition.

How to overcome this:

If you aren’t using or loving an item, it is no longer useful to you. It isn’t adding value to your life, so it shouldn’t be in your home. Get rid of it, either donating it or selling it, so someone else can use or love it.

Only keep things that add value to your life, either because they are useful right now or they make you happy.

5. Feeling guilty or obligated to keep an item

Sometimes you struggle to declutter because you feel guilty getting rid of an item or feel obligated to keep it.

Maybe the item was a gift so you feel guilty getting rid of it. Or maybe it is a family heirloom you feel obligated to keep.

How to overcome this:

Remember this is your home and you get to decide what you allow to stay in it. Only keep things that add value to your life or are important to you. Don’t let feelings of guilt or obligation force you to keep your home cluttered.

Remind yourself that gifts are given to show love. When given a gift, you appreciate the gift and the intention behind it and express your gratitude to the giver.

After that, what you decide to do with the gift is up to you. If it turns out to be something you aren’t using or loving, get rid of it. Remember the gift already served its purpose as an expression of love for you from the giver.

If it’s a family heirloom you feel obligated to keep, think about who is making you feel that way. Explain to the person you are decluttering and no longer want to keep the item. Offer the item to them if they think it’s important to keep.

But remember, if they don’t want it in their home, they can’t expect you to keep it in yours. If it is not important, useful or valuable to you, let it go!

6. Struggling to let go of sentimental items

Decluttering sentimental items is one of the most common reasons people struggle to declutter. It’s easy to attach emotions and memories to sentimental items, making it hard to let them go.

How to overcome this:

First, remind yourself that your memories are not in the physical item itself. Your memories are in your mind and your heart. They will always be there, whether you keep the item or not.

There are many ways to help you declutter sentimental items.

Sometimes taking a picture of the item is enough to help you be able to let go of the item itself. You might find ways to use or repurpose sentimental items so you can use and appreciate them every day.

And for sentimental items you’re keeping, give yourself a clearly defined space limit to store them. This is an excellent way to help you be more ruthless when deciding which items are most important to keep.

7. It’s something you used in the past and letting go is hard

Sometimes letting go of things you used to use or love in the past, but no longer use or love, can be difficult.

These items could be things like old baby gear, items left over from a past career or hobby, etc. Whatever it is, sometimes you struggle to declutter things from your past because it’s hard to let go of that part of your life.

How to overcome this:

The best way to overcome this struggle to declutter is to face it. Take a moment to sit with the way you are feeling. Oftentimes, taking a moment to acknowledge and sit with whatever you’re feeling helps you process those feelings, move past them and let the item go.

Letting go of the past can be hard. But allowing your home to be full of clutter from the past makes it difficult to live in the present. Let go of the past and make time and space to enjoy new moments and create new memories.

8. Having lots of stuff makes you feel safe and secure

Sometimes you struggle to declutter because having a lot of stuff makes you feel safe and secure. Decluttering and getting rid of stuff makes you worry you won’t have enough when you need it.

This scarcity mindset keeps you hanging on to things, even if you don’t use or love them. Because they give you a sense of security.

How to overcome this:

Decluttering doesn’t mean you have to get rid of everything. It simply means getting rid of anything you don’t use or love. Creating more time, space and freedom to enjoy the things, people and activities that add value to your life.

Too much stuff actually burdens you and adds more stress to your life. Once you begin decluttering, you start to realize you don’t need as much as you think to live a full, happy and complete life.

9. Thinking a clutter-free home will be boring

There’s a common misconception that a clutter-free home will be stark, uninviting, or even boring. And this extreme version of minimalism can make you feel hesitant to ruthlessly declutter.

How to overcome this:

Remember, decluttering and simplifying doesn’t mean getting rid of everything you own. And it doesn’t mean you need to live in an all white house with no personality. Your version of minimalism can look however you want it to. It can be as unique and as personal as you are!

Having a home filled with clutter doesn’t bring you more happiness or add more personality to your space. A cluttered home can actually end up causing you more stress.

When decluttering, you can still keep the things you use, love, and make you happy. You simply get rid of the excess so you can highlight and enjoy the things you do use, love and enjoy more.

10. Thinking you need to organize when really you need to declutter

It’s easy to think you just need to organize more or better, and that will solve your clutter issues. You think if you have the right baskets, containers and system to get organized, then your home won’t feel cluttered.

How to overcome this:

Organizing is not the answer. Organizing stuff you don’t use, need or love wastes your time, space, energy and money! And it doesn’t solve the root of your clutter problem. Eventually, the stuff you carefully organize will make its way out of your baskets, containers and systems and clutter your home again.

The only solution is to get to the root of the problem – that you simply have too much stuff. Get rid of the stuff you don’t use, need or love, and you’ll never have to deal with it again.

And the bonus is, setting up and maintaining an organizational system is so much easier when you have less stuff. In fact, after decluttering, you won’t even need to spend much time organizing. You’ll likely easily have space for everything, and organizing becomes significantly easier.

11. Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work to declutter or not even knowing where to start

Decluttering your whole house is a lot of work – physically, emotionally and mentally. It can feel overwhelming at times.

Or maybe you don’t even know where to start and are feeling defeated.

How to overcome this:

Usually, when facing a big job, like decluttering your whole house, the more you procrastinate doing it, the more overwhelming and stressful it becomes in your mind. One of the best ways to beat the overwhelm is to just dive in and get started. Pick a small, easy area to declutter and just start!

The more you declutter and get rid of, the more motivation, momentum and confidence you’ll gain to keep going.

Take baby steps, and declutter one small area, like one drawer or cupboard, at a time. And remember, progress is progress. Start small and work at decluttering a little bit every day. Over time, those small steps will add up to big decluttering results!

It can be helpful to make a decluttering plan to help keep you on track and motivated, especially if you start to feel overwhelmed.

Or check out my complete decluttering guide, Your Clutter-Free Home. It gives you a full decluttering plan, including room-by-room decluttering checklists to make the process as easy as possible!

Your Clutter-Free Home: decluttering guide & checklists

There are even ways to make decluttering more fun. Helping it go from something you dread to something you begin to enjoy!

12. Feeling like you don’t have time to declutter

Life can be busy. Sometimes you want to declutter and start living with less, but are struggling to find the time.

How to overcome this:

The good news is you can easily declutter even if you are busy and short on time.

You don’t have to declutter everything all at once or spend hours at a time decluttering. Be diligent about using small pockets of time to declutter, even five or ten minutes a day. Over time you will begin to see big results from these small decluttering sessions.

Spend a few minutes a day quickly and efficiently decluttering and over time, your efforts will add up.

Another great way to declutter when you’re busy is to keep an eye out for things to get rid of as you go about your day. When you come across something you don’t use, need or love, add it to your decluttering box rather than putting it away or letting it stay in your home. If you do this every day, you’ll soon start to see results.

13. Not knowing what to do with the stuff you’re decluttering

One of the biggest reasons many people struggle to declutter is not knowing what to do with the stuff you’re getting rid of.

How to overcome this:

Before you begin decluttering, plan what you’ll do with the stuff you’re getting rid of. There are three general options for what to do with the stuff you are decluttering – garbage, donate or sell.

The first option is to throw away or recycle anything broken, damaged beyond repair or simply garbage.

The second option is to donate items still in good, usable condition. Many places accept donations of clothes and gently used household items. Find a donation center in your area that you feel good about donating to. Find out their donation policies (what they accept, when they accept donations, etc.). Then you’ll know exactly what to do with items you’re decluttering when the time comes.

The third option is to sell items. You can sell used items on online auction sites, on buy/sell websites and groups, or even host a garage sale. Find out what’s available in your area so you know your options when you find something you’d like to sell.

A quick note about selling items:

I recommend being strategic about what you try and sell. Selling items takes a lot of time. You need to take pictures, post items, correspond with buyers, arrange pick-ups, account for people who don’t show up, set up and run a yard sale, etc. This can significantly slow down your decluttering progress.

Rather than trying to sell everything you’re decluttering, maybe only try to sell the larger or higher value items. And remember, just because you paid a lot of money for something, doesn’t mean it’s still worth a lot of money.

Everyone’s situation is different, but sometimes it’s better to make faster decluttering progress than worry about trying to sell items.

Acknowledging why you struggle to declutter is important

These are some most common reasons people struggle to declutter. Often, once you acknowledge what is holding you back from letting go of stuff you neither use nor love, it’s a lot easier to overcome these decluttering obstacles.

What is your biggest struggle to declutter? Leave a comment below and let me know!

13 Reasons You Struggle to Declutter & How to Overcome Them
Photo by Breather on Unsplash

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Deborah Jackman

Saturday 18th of September 2021

After reading these and learning how to declutter. The why and how to are so impt. So hand in hand. I do think the loss of memories is the hardest but after reading I see solutions. I can take a photo. I can appreciate the memory and love from that item. It is not in the item it is in the memory!!! Key for me!!!

Simple Lionheart Life

Monday 20th of September 2021

I'm so glad this post was helpful for you, Deborah! Thanks for reading!

Saumya

Monday 5th of July 2021

Where has this gem been hidden all my life as a mother?! Today, as I was reading this article, I just happened to have a visitor whose extended family have been blessed with a new baby. Out went almost all of my daughter's baby clothes that have been kept stacked up in her cupboards for 10 years now. But, when I heard of this new baby girl, I just knew that she was the one who will be using all my daughter's baby clothes. Now as I'm reading the rest of the article, I see hope of going through quite a large number of items and slowly letting go of them all. So, here's a heart-felt thankyou !

Simple Lionheart Life

Tuesday 6th of July 2021

This is so wonderful to hear! Good for you for letting go of the baby clothes. I'm sure they will be used, loved and appreciated in their new home. Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your kind words!

Denise

Sunday 14th of March 2021

I'm in the process of moving to a much smaller place from a four bedroom 3 bath room home to one bedroom studio. I'm having problems with having 4 of alot of one item around the whole house. I want to keep only one of them, but still need to get to the others to pick and keep only the best one. How do I do this with getting skattered as I go room by room. This is by far the best site I've found on this subject. Also I have allot of small items to sort. What is the best way to sort them? Thank you so much for your help.

Simple Lionheart Life

Sunday 14th of March 2021

Thank you so much, Denise. I'm glad you're finding my site helpful! My advice for the items located in multiple areas of your house would be to give yourself a holding zone somewhere in your house. As you come across items you know you have more of that you want to choose your favourite and let go of the rest, collect them in the holding area. Then when you've found all the items, go through them all and decide what to keep and what to get rid of.

As far as the small items, I would do the same. Gather them all up in one spot, then go through them keeping your favourites or the appropriate amount for your new space and let go of the rest. I hope this helps. Thanks for reading!

Sherry

Tuesday 24th of March 2020

I'm having trouble decluttering and getting rid of things that mean a lot to me is that I once sold my beloved saddle and bridle. It still makes me tear up when I think about them. I don't want to create more situations of sadness for myself. I don't know how to overcome that.

Simple Lionheart Life

Tuesday 24th of March 2020

I'm sorry to hear that, Sherry. I can totally understand why that would make decluttering challenging for you. My suggestion would be try using a "maybe box" for things you're unsure about decluttering. Put them in a box, seal it and put it somewhere out of sight for 1 to 3 months. Set a reminder in your phone for that time. Then when the reminder goes, if you haven't needed, wanted or even thought about the items in your maybe box, you will feel more confident getting rid of them. I like to think of the maybe box as a decluttering safety net. It lets you be more ruthless with your decluttering decisions without the fear that you'll regret getting rid of something later. I hope that helps. Thanks for reading!

Deb

Saturday 7th of December 2019

Wow. This is the best decluttering piece I have ever read. I love how you dissected all the why's and how's, so the the the clutter beast actually seems tameable. Thank you very much :)

Simple Lionheart Life

Sunday 8th of December 2019

Thank you Deb! I'm so happy to hear this post was helpful for you and helped make decluttering seem more doable! That makes my day! Thanks for reading and for your kind comment :)

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