"How do you declutter when you have trouble letting go of things?" It can be a hard question, but these simple strategies will help you get rid of items you don't need and love so you can enjoy your clutter-free home!
Decluttering can be tough, y'all. Living in a house that's free of excess and clutter sounds so freeing, but the actual act of getting rid of stuff can be hard, particularly if you're a person that has trouble letting go of things. I know I often struggle, thinking, "But what if I need that someday...?"
Sentimental items can also be particularly difficult to part with. How do we know what to save and what we should be letting go of? After being asked these types of questions multiple times over the past several weeks, I thought I would write down some thoughts and ideas in hopes that they might be helpful to people who are having a hard time with the decluttering process.
How to Declutter When You Have Trouble Letting Go of Things
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1- Practice helps.
Getting started might be tough, but I've found that the longer that I've worked to declutter my home and create organized spaces, the easier it has become to let go. I've proven to myself over and over that the items I get rid of aren't missed at all, so knowing that, it's not as hard to say goodbye to things. If you're at that difficult place at the beginning of the process where you're overwhelmed with the clutter and are worried that you'll never be able to get rid of it, take heart. It will get easier!
2- Ask, "What do I want to keep?" rather than "What do I want to get rid of?"
I first came across this concept in Marie Kondo's book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and while it is a small mindset shift, I think it's incredibly important. If you go into the decluttering process with the mindset that you're getting rid of everything, and you're only choosing to keep the items that you truly use and love, it's a lot easier to say goodbye to those items you feel "meh" about because they already have one foot out the door!
When I went through the process of decluttering my books, for example, I stacked up all of them in our living room, assuming that I was sending them all off to be donated. I then went through and only pulled out the titles I knew I referenced frequently (or, let's be honest, used to decorate my home frequently 😉 ) and suddenly, I had a small-but-mighty collection of books that I absolutely loved to keep and could freely give away the rest.
3- Think of the people who could benefit from the items you're no longer using.
I am a very practical person, so sometimes it's hard for me to justify getting rid of something that still works perfectly and is in great shape. If it's something I'm not using, though, it's still clutter for me... but it could be very beneficial to someone else! Check with shelters or food pantries in your area to see if they are in need of any of the items you have that are still in good shape. Local churches or schools may know of specific families that are in need that could greatly benefit from the items you have to give. Knowing that the things you're getting rid of will be a blessing to someone else makes parting with them so much easier!
4- Picture your "after."
Think about the reasons why you want to declutter. Picture your house feeling serene, welcoming, and clutter free, and imagine what it would be like to come home to a place like that. You could even create an inspiration board or Pinterest board filled with images that remind you of the type of space you're trying to create. Many times when I take the time to think about what my goal is, that gives me the motivation to get rid of my stuff because I want to live in that calm, cozy, decluttered space more than I want to hang on to all of those items that I'm not even using!
I use idea with my boys every time we do a round of decluttering in their playroom. One time a few years ago we did a really thorough purge of their toys, and afterward they used their playroom so much more and kept it clean so much more easily, simply because everything had a designated spot and it was easy to put things back. That has resonated with them so much, that now when we go to do our twice-yearly declutter, I remind them of how great it felt to have only the toys they loved taking up room in their playroom, and they are much more motivated to let go of the items they are no longer using.
5- Do a test run.
If you're feeling nervous about letting go of some particular items, don't be afraid to do a test run. Put the items in a box or bag and stick them in the basement or other spot that's out of the way. Set a reminder on your phone for a month from now, and if you haven't missed them at all, send them on their way!
I did this inadvertently when we moved! There were a few boxes that ended up in the basement that should have gone to our main living spaces instead. It wasn't until about 6 months after we moved in that I discovered the mistake, and I hadn't even missed the items at all! It was definitely an indication to me that those items could be easily donated!
6- Remind yourself that the item served its purpose for a time, and it's okay to be thankful for that and then move on.
This is another idea from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and it was such an "aha" moment for me! There are some items that I own that were perfect purchases for me at one point. I used them all the time. They were really helpful for me... and then they weren't anymore. The nostalgic part of me may be tempted to hang on to these items because I am really grateful that I had them for a while, but it's also okay to recognize that they've done their "job" and now it's time to let go of them.
For some reason, this concept was particularly helpful for me with clothes. I was always trying to hang on to clothes that were in great shape, even if I never wore them, because I felt so guilty getting rid of them. But the truth was that nice items like the suits and dress clothes that I wore in my teaching days just weren't practical in my everyday life anymore as a work-at-home mom. I was thankful that I had those things when I needed them, but they had done their job, and so it was okay to part with them. (AND they could be a blessing for someone else who needed professional clothing for their job-- see #3!)
7- Have a designated area for mementos, and don't allow yourself to outgrow it.
Mementos or sentimental items are definitely one of the toughest categories to declutter! Some "decluttering purists" may say that these items don't serve a practical purpose and should go, but I tend not to take such a hard line.
If the items are very meaningful or important in some way, I think it's okay to keep them-- I have a bin or two of mementos in our basement that I'm not quite ready to part with! What I like to do with these types of items, though, is give myself a specific area to store them but not go beyond that area. So, for example, if I have designated two bins for mementos and those two bins are full, that is a signal to me that it's time to go through them and see if there's anything that I would be okay with getting rid of.
8- Give yourself grace. Your "clutter threshold" may be different than someone else's, and that's okay!
People have different levels of comfort when it comes to the amount of "stuff" they have in their homes. There's definitely not a "one size fits all" amount that is perfect for everyone to have. Some people might love to have a house that is fairly sparse with minimal decor and furniture. Others may like a "fuller" feeling space. And still others may fall somewhere in the middle.
But while everybody's end result may look a bit different, the goal with decluttering is the same: We want to create a home that feels cozy and welcoming to you, where you can easily find and use all of your items and aren't feeling bogged down or stressed by the amount of "stuff" around you. And that can be a really freeing feeling!
Looking for more helpful tips for getting organized? These posts can help:
What are some things you do to help you let go of your stuff and declutter your home? Let me know in the comments below!
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.