Have you ever watched an episode of “Hoarders” and thought, “At least I’m not that bad?” And yet, you probably glanced around your home and vowed to tidy up.
In the end, we’re not that different. We all have psychological challenges, and we all find meaning in objects. But if we can identify some of the common reasons people hold on to clutter, we can also learn how to let go.
It’s a Sentimental Reminder
Your mother’s crystal. Dried flowers from Valentine’s Day. Your collection of magnets from airport gift shops. If it’s something you look at or touch every day—or even every week—keep it, because it’s truly part of your life. If it’s just gathering dust from months of inattention, it’s not really that important to you.
Decluttering Strategy: If you’re holding on to something because you think a family member might want it one day, talk about it with them. They’re probably not as sentimental as you, or they would have let you know already.
It Was a Gift From Someone Special
We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, and it could be awkward if the giver asks to see it again. But is it something you want? Or need? Or have room for? Too many possessions can become a burden. The gift is just a thing, whereas your relationship with the person is what’s valuable.
Decluttering Strategy: If you want to remember a kind gesture, you can take a photo of the gift and add it to a labeled storage folder on your phone.
We Worry We Might Need It
This was a common reason people held on to clutter if they lived through the Great Depression. But if you haven’t used it in a couple of years, it’s OK to let it go. Any anxiety might be a fear you have about being able to provide for yourself or dreading an unidentified disaster in the future. Trust yourself that you can replace it if you need to. You also have a support system that can help you out.
Decluttering Strategy: It can be comforting to donate something to a charity if you think about how someone needs it more than you.
Not everything counts as clutter, and not everything has to go. But what stays should be essential. A messy home makes it hard to keep a clear head. If you’ve ever stepped on a Lego, you know clutter can cause some pretty vicious injuries, too. Make sure that you have enough storage to keep items out of sight when they’re not in use. With some basic organization, you’ll find what you need when you need it.