Recognizing your home is filled with too much clutter is the first step towards simplifying your life. But in order to make lasting change decluttering and simplifying your home and your life, you need to figure out why you ended up with so much clutter in the first place. Simply so you can avoid ending up here again!
In today’s post, I’m sharing 12 common reasons you have too much clutter in your house. And what you can do to clear the clutter and keep it from coming back!
12 reasons you have clutter & what to do about it!
1. Keeping things “just in case”
One of the most common reasons people keep things they don’t use or love is because of fear. Usually, this fear is hidden behind thought patterns like “just in case” or “what if”.
If you try hard enough, you can probably find a way to talk yourself into keeping just about anything.
Maybe you tell yourself you should keep that stack of towels you never use “just in case” you have 13 house guests all stay with you at the same time. Or “what if” you decide to go skiing for the first time this decade and need your skis?
You want to be prepared. Maybe keeping the extra stuff makes you feel safe or like you’re stocked up. But in the meantime, this scarcity mindset ends up filling your home with clutter you don’t use or love.
What to do about “just in case” clutter
The best way to get rid of “just in case” clutter is logically thinking through each “just in case” or “what if” scenario that pops up.
Ask yourself how likely and realistic it is the scenario would happen? Has it ever happened before? What could you use instead, if you didn’t have your extra “just in case” items? Could you rent or borrow the things you’d need? What’s the worst thing that could happen if you got rid of those things?
Often, when you think through the “just in case” thoughts, you’re able to see the fear driving them. Then make more logical decisions about what you really use and need.
Using a “maybe box” great way to overcome “just in case” feelings. Put anything you’re worried about needing “just in case” in a box, seal the box, put it out of sight and add a reminder in your phone for a few months in the future. If you haven’t needed anything from the box when the reminder goes, get rid of it!
Guilt is another big reason for keeping clutter in your home. And guilt can come from a variety of different places.
Maybe you feel guilty about the money you spent on something you didn’t end up using or liking. You may keep an item you don’t use or love because it was a gift and you feel guilty getting rid of it. Or maybe you feel obligated to keep something because it was passed on to you from a family member.
What to do when you’re keeping stuff out of guilt
The best way to avoid keeping clutter out of guilt is by setting some boundaries for yourself. Remind yourself that it is your home and you get to decide what fills it. You are not obligated to keep things – that take up your time, space and energy – just because you feel guilty getting rid of them.
You’re not going to feel less guilty by keeping them longer. In fact, you’ll just continue to feel guilty every time you see the item you aren’t using or don’t love. Get rid of those items now, let go of the guilt and move on.
If you feel guilty about the money you spent on something you’re getting rid of, remind yourself that keeping the item won’t recoup the money you spent. Get rid of the things you don’t use or love and use it as a lesson to make more intentional purchases in the future.
If you feel guilty getting rid of a gift, remind yourself that the purpose of a gift is for someone to show you they care about you. Once the gift has been given and the love behind it acknowledged and appreciated, it’s up to you to decide what to do with it. If you decide to get rid of a gift, remind yourself that it has already served its purpose and you don’t need to feel guilty getting rid of it.
3. Sentimental clutter
It’s easy to attach feelings, memories and emotions to stuff you own. It’s ok to have things that hold sentimental value. The problem arises when you attach sentimental value to too many things and end up with too much sentimental clutter.
What to do about too much sentimental clutter
The first step in dealing with sentimental clutter is recognizing that your memories aren’t in the items themselves. Those items remind you of an important memory, but you will always have the memories, regardless of whether you keep the item or not.
Next, remind yourself that the more sentimental items you keep, the less special they all become. Their value becomes diluted because you have too many special things. When you keep fewer sentimental items, and only the most important, you are able to appreciate and value them more.
If you can find ways to use or display sentimental items in your home, it lets you see and appreciate them on a regular basis. For everything else, set space limits for your sentimental items. Decide how much space feels right to you and use that limit to keep your sentimental items under control.
4. You’ve become clutter blind
Sometimes you’re so used to seeing all the stuff in your home that you don’t even notice it anymore. You become clutter blind!
What to do when you’re clutter blind
Get a fresh perspective of your home by taking pictures of your rooms and studying them. Often seeing your home in pictures gives you more objectivity. It helps you take a step back and see your home from a different perspective.
Another great way to overcome clutter blindness is by pretending you’re listing your home for sale. Take pictures of each room or walk through each room and think about what you would do if you were listing your home for sale today. Look at it from a buyer’s perspective too to see what you would notice about the space if it wasn’t yours.
It’s not always easy to overcome clutter blindness, but the more objectively you can see your home, the easier the clutter is to identify!
5. You have no time to declutter
Another common reason for too much clutter in your home is feeling like you have no time to spend decluttering.
What to do when you have too much clutter & no time
If you feel like you have no time to declutter, clearing the clutter from your home is even more important! The less stuff you have in your home, the more time and energy you’ll give yourself. Simply because your home and the stuff in it will take less time and energy to manage.
If you feel like you have no time to declutter, start small. Try spending 10 minutes a day looking for things to declutter. Or always keep an eye out for things you can get rid of as you go about your day, like when you’re tidying up, dusting, doing laundry, making meals, etc.
These little efforts will add up to great decluttering progress when you make an effort to clear the clutter from your home consistently.
6. You don’t know where to start decluttering
If your home is filled with too much clutter, it’s very common to feel completely overwhelmed and not even know where to start decluttering.
Overwhelm and indecision can be big decluttering roadblocks.
What to do when you’re overwhelmed or don’t know where to start decluttering
Just like when you feel like you have no time to declutter, the best way to start decluttering when you feel overwhelmed is by starting small.
Often, the hardest part of decluttering is getting started. When you start small, it makes it easier to get started and can inspire you to keep going!
Try to spend 10 minutes a day decluttering. Or find 10 things each day to get rid of. Or tackle one drawer at a time.
If you don’t know where to start decluttering, I recommend starting somewhere easy. Pick a space that’s smaller, not sentimental and easier to declutter.
The bathroom, the pantry, your coat closet, etc. are all great places to start. Not only are the decluttering decisions easier in these spaces. But you’ll make progress quickly and give yourself a quick decluttering “win”, which helps motivate and encourage you to keep going!
And remember, if you’re feeling overwhelmed with too much clutter, the more you declutter, the easier your home and the stuff that fills it will be to manage. Reminding yourself of this when you feel overwhelmed is a great way to stay motivated to keep going.
7. You don’t know what to do with the clutter
Another common reason people keep clutter they don’t use or love is simply because you don’t know what to do with it!
Maybe you’re not sure where to take the clothes you never wear. Or what to do with outgrown toys, unused kitchen stuff or the books you’ll never read again. It seems easier to just keep the clutter instead of figuring out what to do with it.
What to do when you have too much clutter & no idea what to do with it
It’s easy to put off figuring out what to do with the stuff you’re decluttering because it seems like a lot of work. But in reality, a few quick google searches will give you a good list of options of local places that take the clutter you’re getting rid of.
And when you spend a few minutes figuring out what to do with the stuff you’re decluttering, it can make the whole decluttering process quicker and easier. You’ll get rid of a huge decluttering roadblock when you know exactly what to do with the stuff you’re getting rid of.
Check out this post for a great list of what to do with stuff you’re getting rid of.
8. Keeping aspirational clutter for your fantasy self
Sometimes people keep stuff in their homes because it represents a version of the fantasy self they aspire to be.
Maybe you love the idea of a certain hobby or activity, so you collect equipment and supplies for it, but rarely or never actually use the stuff.
Or maybe you wish you were someone who needed a certain kind of wardrobe and keep buying clothes for that kind of lifestyle. But in reality, rarely or never wear those items in your daily life.
It’s even easy to link the stuff you own to your identity. Maybe you feel like if you own certain things you’ll be perceived in a certain way, regardless of if you actually use them.
What to do about aspirational clutter
Getting rid of aspirational clutter requires some self-reflection. If you are serious about clearing the clutter from your home, it’s important to honestly assess what you actually need and use versus what you wish you needed and used.
Being very honest with yourself is an important part of decluttering and simplifying. Aim to keep the things you use and love, and get rid of the things you rarely or never use, even if you love the idea of them!
And remind yourself that you are defined by what you do in life, not what you own. Don’t fall into the trap of linking your identity to the stuff you own. Show the world who you are through your actions, not your stuff!
9. Keeping clutter from your past self
Just like aspirational clutter, you can also keep clutter from your past self and who you used to be.
Life is constantly shifting and changing. Your needs and interests change, the season of life you’re in changes, your lifestyle changes, your family changes, etc. What you used, loved or needed in the past isn’t always what you use, need and love today.
What to do about clutter from your past self
Just like with aspirational clutter, it’s important to identify what you use, need and love in your life right now.
Even if it is something you used or loved in the past, it doesn’t mean it is still something you use or love. Be honest about how your needs and lifestyle have shifted and changed, so you don’t end up keeping clutter from a version of your past self.
10. Keeping “someday” clutter
Another common source of too much clutter is “someday” clutter. These are the things you might use, need or do “someday”.
It might be the workout equipment you might need “someday”. Or the scrapbook of your child’s first year that you’ll finish “someday”.
What to do about too much “someday” clutter
“Someday” clutter also requires being brutally honest with yourself. How likely is “someday” to happen?
It can help to give yourself deadlines to start using your “someday” clutter. If the deadline comes and you still haven’t used or needed the items, get rid of them and recognize that you’ll likely never use or need them.
Another common source of too much clutter comes from overbuying or buying things you didn’t use or need.
Sometimes overbuying happens when you see a good deal and want to stock up. But the problem arises when you overbuy often and end up with more than you will realistically use or need.
What to do about clutter from overbuying
Reducing clutter from overbuying can require a change in your current habits and shopping behaviour.
It can be helpful to remind yourself that even if something is a good deal, it doesn’t always make sense to stock up. You will have to give up space in your home to store the items and time in your day to manage those extra items.
Even if it’s not as good of a deal, it might make more sense to buy in smaller amounts to save time and space. Let the store worry about storing the extras and only buy more when you need it.
And even if you have space to store the extra items, it doesn’t mean you need or will use them. Try only buying what you need, then buying more when you run out.
12. The clutter belongs to someone else
Maybe you’re working on decluttering, but a lot of the clutter in your home belongs to other members of your family.
What to do when the clutter belongs to someone else
When you’re decluttering, it can be tempting to get rid of stuff that belongs to other people in your family. But this isn’t usually a good idea. Getting rid of someone else’s stuff can be really upsetting for them, and even make them hold onto clutter more.
Instead, work on clearing your own clutter first. Lead by example. Share what you’re doing, why and how it makes your life easier. But don’t nag or force anyone to declutter.
Hopefully, you will inspire them to start decluttering too. But if not, you’ll still be simplifying your own life and clearing the clutter you have control over.
Start clearing the clutter by overcoming these common decluttering hurdles
These are 12 of the most common reasons people have too much clutter filling their homes. Use this list to identify why you are holding onto clutter you don’t use, need or love. Then start clearing the clutter and enjoy the benefits of a clutter-free home and life!
What is your biggest decluttering hurdle that keeps you holding onto too much clutter? Leave a comment and let me know!
Saturday 2nd of July 2022
Great article. Like small time frames. My challenge is when I go to decanter. I find my self having excuses to keep stuff .I learned to manage my money and buying stuff now I feel I need to tackle clutter.
Simple Lionheart Life
Tuesday 5th of July 2022
Thanks! I'm glad you found it helpful. Thanks for reading :)
Sunday 6th of March 2022
Very good article, well explained.
THREE additional categories of clutter is 1. Paperwork: bills, statements, old important docs
2. Photographs (especially for us Boomers) and frames
3. Tools, nails/screws, yard maintenance stuff, pots, wood, PAINT,computer cables and components
Simple Lionheart Life
Monday 7th of March 2022
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Yes, those are definitely categories of clutter many people deal with. You're not alone! Thanks for reading!
Sunday 8th of December 2019
There is JUST. SO. MUCH. I’m overwhelmed just thinking about it. I open a box, can’t figure out what to do with 2-3 things so I close it back up and walk away.
Simple Lionheart Life
Sunday 8th of December 2019
It can definitely be overwhelming when you are starting to declutter and are faced with so much stuff. My advice would be to start small. If tackling a whole box at once feels overwhelming, spend 5 minutes on it and then move on. Or try to find 5 things to get rid of each day from anywhere in your house. These small steps will not only add up over time, but they will also fuel your momentum, motivation and confidence to keep going and tackle some of the bigger projects. I hope that helps. Thanks for reading :)
Sunday 8th of December 2019
Thank you! I've been on a decluttering journey for the past 3 years and just realized I'm holding on to some clothing from a 'past self' that I haven't worn in years - lovely jackets and skirts I used to wear to work and now that I'm retired I don't wear them. Time to pass them on to someone else who needs them!
Simple Lionheart Life
Sunday 8th of December 2019
That's awesome! Good for you! Sometimes we don't even realize we're hanging on to clutter from our past selves, so good for you for recognizing it and making plans to pass those things on. Thanks for reading!