Letting Go: Debunking the Top Excuses for Clinging to Clutter

Junk on the floor

‘There are only so many material things you can have before it becomes boring’ (Erika Jayne).

Introduction – Letting Go: Debunking the Top Excuses for Clinging to Clutter

As a professional organiser, I encourage my clients to part with some of their clutter to make their homes feel calmer and easier to maintain. However, this is no easy task as people hold onto their belongings and often struggle to let go.

Most of us have experienced the feeling of being overwhelmed by our clutter at some point in our lives. Whether it’s a filled to bursting closet, a crammed garage, or a cluttered storage unit, it can be difficult to get rid of things we no longer need. (Junkbusters)

Some of my clients are diagnosed with hoarding disorder or other forms of mental health problems, and that is another ballgame altogether. But many of my clients are just making excuses for not parting with stuff they haven’t used in years. Explanations they give me range from: ‘I’ve hardly worn’ it, ‘I’ll diet into it’, ‘It might come in handy one day’ and more.

In the article below, I want to discuss the three most common excuses people give for not wanting to part with unused belongings.

Letting Go: Debunking the Top Excuses for Clinging to Clutter – Top Three Excuses

On their website, Junk Hunters explains why it is so hard to let go of stuff and why people struggle.

So why is decluttering so hard? There are quite a few different reasons why we get decluttering paralysis when we really do want a clutter free home. Here are some of the common reasons people struggle:

  • Our belongings are tied up in our identity
  • They give us a sense of security and we feel guilty about throwing things away
  • They provide comfort
  • They often have sentimental value

It is indeed hard; I see this daily with my clients, but that doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t try. I will give you the three most common excuses for why people don’t want to part with stuff and why they should.

1. It Might come in handy one day.

Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window. Peter Drucker

We don’t know what the future holds for us or the world. Yes, we can make provisions for our retirement or plan the year ahead, but we can’t accommodate unforeseen circumstances or changes in our lives, both good and bad.

When I was seventeen, I planned out my entire life in minute detail. It was a rainy Sunday; I was lying in bed and planning what I would do once I turned 20, 30 and beyond. The next day, my carefully crafted plans had already disintegrated. Life happened.

So, when clients tell me that they can’t part with the sporting equipment or their old iPhone cable because it might come in handy one day, I tell them that they can’t predict the future and that it might or might not come in handy. I asked them when they last used it. Often, the answer is years ago or never.

Courtney Carver from bemorewithless suggests you create a just-in-case box where you put all items ‘that might come in handy one day’, seal the box when full, and after a set period, donate if you haven’t used anything in the box.

If this is your favorite excuse, I recommend creating a just in case box. As you are decluttering and come across things you want to save just in case, put it in the box. When the box is full, seal it and hide it. Get it out of sight. Set a reminder to donate the box in 90 days. Chances are you won’t miss it or remember what’s inside. (Courtney Carver)

2. I spend money buying it.

“Hanging onto a bad buy will not redeem the purchase.” (Terence Conran)

We have all made bad purchases. Sometimes, we notice immediately and return the item to the shop, but often, we don’t and keep it lying in a drawer catching dust.

We have all bought stuff we used for a little while and then stopped using it as our lives changed. But we often hold on to bad purchases because we feel guilty for having spent hard-earned cash on them. You won’t get your money back by holding on to something.

You used your hard-earned cash to buy this item and by golly, you don’t want to waste money so there it sits collecting dust.  Even though you spent money on it, you are not using it, you need to let it go.  This is not reason enough to keep it.

Is the only reason you are keeping it because you spent good money on it?  Then get rid of it.

Simple Purposeful Living

You won’t get your money back by keeping something you don’t use. The money is gone, so let go of it. Sadly, reselling isn’t an option, although you could try. In our throwaway society, where items lose their value the moment they are produced, reselling is often not viable. I tried giving a four-year-old tablet to a second-hand electronic shop, and they offered me £30. This wasn’t remotely close to the £600 I originally paid.

Bemorewithless, in an article entitled ‘5 Decluttering Excuses For Holding On To Stuff You Don’t Need’ explains why by holding on to something, you pay for it in other ways:

5. I paid so much for that.
One popular excuse for holding on to clothing and other stuff is “I paid so much for that” but holding on to something because you paid for it once will only ensure that you keep paying.

  • You will pay with your money. You already paid for it once, but you’ll continue to pay by insuring it, storing it, organising it and on and on and on.
  • You will pay with your time and attention. Cleaning, organising and thinking about your stuff takes time. It distracts you from things that matter more.
  • You will pay with your heart. This is the worst payment of all. You pay with emotion, by holding onto the past, by punishing yourself for old habits. You pay with guilt, anger, and indecision.

3. I don’t want to damage the environment.

“Try to leave the Earth a better place than when you arrived.” (Sidney Sheldon)

Many of my clients hold onto possessions because they feel that getting rid of them would damage the environment. When this happens, I always ask how holding on to something saves the environment. It doesn’t. The damage was done when making a purchase. According to the Evening Standard, 80% of shoppers buy clothes they never wear. The website The Street provides us with a list of stuff we buy but never use, including sports equipment and linen suits.

So rather than holding on to bad buys, in the future, think more carefully about what you buy or whether you need to go shopping in the first place.

This might work for the future, but what about the stuff you already bought? I hear you ask. Thankfully, there are loads of places you can take your unwanted items for someone else to enjoy. I have written about this in a previous article. Charity shops, freecycle or eBay, are just some of the many places you can donate or sell unwanted gifts without going to landfill.

Conclusion- Letting Go: Debunking the Top Excuses for Clinging to Clutter

I hope the above has given you some food for thinking about why it is sometimes better to let go of stuff than holding on to things you do not need in your life.

What are the things you struggle to let go? Let me know in the comments below.

Bettina Anna Trabant, Founder of Life Organised, your professional organising and decluttering service in East London. Eco-conscious minimalist and avid tea drinker,

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