It’s almost spring, and if that signals decluttering for you, it’s time to come face-to-face with what’s holding you back from making room for what matters most: creating peaceful environments, relaxing spaces and meaningful memories. The serenity you’re craving is possible but requires letting go of items you may be attached to. To make your decluttering journey easier, get to know these common clutter types and embrace the truths about them.
Let’s start with memory clutter, which includes some of the hardest items to make decisions about as they remind you of a particular person, event or experience. There’s a good chance you come across these emotional items on a daily basis. The underlying fear that you’re a terrible mom or wife by throwing out a stick figure sketch from eight years ago or donating a shirt from Christmas when you were two sizes smaller is real! If you feel bad or guilty about getting rid of these items, it’s important to embrace these truths:
Truth #1: If you eliminate items that remind you of a particular experience or person, you are NOT getting rid of that memory. The memory stays with you forever, long after the item is gone.
Truth #2: You are also not getting rid of any part of that person, and you are not belittling the experience by making physical and mental room for future, positive experiences.
Truth #3: Keeping things tucked away on top of your closet or stuffed in a box in your attic or basement is no more “disrespectful” than eliminating them from your life. Either way, they are out of sight and not adding value to your life. Let them go.
Truth #4: People who care about you do not give you or leave you items that burden you.
Isn’t it the worst when you spent good money on something but you barely (if ever) used it? This is why it’s easy to build up cost- or value-based clutter. It’s stuff you don’t need or use, but you spent money on it. Although it doesn’t add value to your life, you made an investment in it — so you’d rather hold onto it than let it go. Whether this is your once-touched Vitamix or decade-old knee-high boots, remember these truths:
Truth #1: When something is a bad investment, holding onto it longer doesn’t make it a good investment.
Truth #2: Everyone makes bad decisions. In the excitement of a sale, peer pressure, great advertising or perceived necessity, everyone spends money on stuff they don’t use or need. The key is to let go of those items, learn from the experience and make room for better decisions (investments) in the future.
The next type of clutter is another tough one. It’s dream-smashing clutter. This clutter comes from hobbies or activities you wanted to have or identities you wanted to be. You hold onto it because you aspired to do something at one time and don’t want your “dream” to die. Whether this is your unused snowboarding gear or your unopened boxes of scrapbooking materials, both of which you were sure you were going to master, take into account these truths:
Truth #1: It’s okay to have had an aspiration at one time. But it doesn’t mean you need to dwell on it or torture yourself with the guilt of things not working out the way you planned. Give yourself permission to have had a wonderful intention at one time, but relieve yourself of the guilt of not doing it now — or in the future.
Truth #2: Keeping an interest tucked away longer doesn’t make it more likely to come back.
Truth #3: It’s hard to make room for new dreams when holding onto old ones. Give yourself the gift of embracing your new desires, hobbies and wants. Or simply make room for new ones to develop.
“I MIGHT NEED IT SOMEDAY” CLUTTER
This next type of clutter might be the hardest to separate from: “I might need it someday” clutter. This is stuff you don’t need or use but keep just in case you might need it one day. Keep these truths in mind:
Truth #1: The truth is you might really need it one day. However, by the time you might use the item, you may find its condition is no longer good enough, your tastes have changed or it’s outdated.
Truth #2: Redirect your guilt: Who am I keeping this item from now? If it were donated, could someone in need have access to it?
Truth #3: Valuable space and energy is being wasted because you think you might use that item. You could be using it for items you really do need space for.
Have you ever gone to Target for a hand towel and come home with a trunk full of stuff? Then you’re very familiar with shopping clutter. This type of clutter comes from shopping without intention or purpose. In other words, bringing home things you don’t really need. If you can relate, then the next time you go shopping, remember these truths:
Truth #1: It’s okay to “want” something and not have it. The more your brain and body get used to this, the less the “need” will feel.
Truth #2: You’re not necessarily saving money when an item is on sale. Rather, you are spending money on it.
Truth #3: There are other ways to entertain yourself outside of shopping (that don’t add to your clutter), like reading, watching TV and talking with friends.
Truth #4: Wait it out for five days. If you’re still thinking about the item, give yourself permission to buy it. But don’t be surprised if you forget all about that gadget or accessory as soon as you leave the store.
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If you were to go through all of your cabinets, how many koozies would you find? Probably enough to support a football team, am I right? Welcome to abundance clutter. This type of clutter comes from simply having too much of the same item — like 18 pairs of black pants (you know exactly what I’m talking about), nine spatulas and 372 pens around the house. These are the truths you need to remember for this type of clutter:
Truth #1: Just because you have it doesn’t mean you have to keep it all. Keep what you need and live comfortably within the space you have.
Truth #2: The more similar items you have, the longer decisions take. (More pairs of jeans means more time deciding what to wear).
Truth #3: Clutter attracts clutter. The more stuff you have, the more clutter creeps around your home.
This last type of clutter should be the easiest to part with (but we still hold onto it), and it’s definitely where I recommend you start building up your decluttering muscles. This is trash clutter — things that are no longer useful, have broken parts, missing pieces, are cracked, skanky, expired, nasty, and not worth your time to clean, renew or revive. If you’re still holding onto this type of clutter, embrace these truths now:
Truth #1: If you haven’t repaired an item in the last six months, there’s a good chance it’s not going to happen. Relieve yourself of the guilt, get rid of the item, and move on.
Truth #2: Your mood is a reflection of your environment. Don’t surround yourself with junky, broken, or yucky items.
Truth #3: Again, clutter attracts clutter! The more stuff you have, the more clutter creeps around your home.
I hope by identifying these clutter types in your life and recognizing their truths, you’re able to more successfully declutter, sans the guilt.
Here’s the last truth I’d like to leave you with. Once any of these items are out of sight, they are out of mind. When your tattered towels, like-new stilettos and half-working hand mixer are out of your home, I promise you won’t be thinking about the money you spent on it, where it came from, or how much you did or didn’t use it. There’s a beautiful world of freedom, space and peace to discover when you rid yourself of clutter. Are you ready to seek it out?
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