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How to Deal with Clutter Guilt

Decluttering is hard. Besides the difficulty of making decisions about what we want, need, or use, there is the emotional component of guilt about letting go.

Some people get so paralyzed by guilt that they end up drowning in mountains of stuff - they might as well be living in a storage unit rather than a home.

Why do we feel guilty?

EMOTIONAL SIGNIFICANCE - It was important to the original owner.

Throughout the course of a lifetime, we all accumulate special things that have meaning and importance to us. But that doesn’t mean things have the same significance to someone else who hasn’t lived your life.

It’s alright to let go of anything that doesn’t have personal meaning to you.


SENTIMENTAL - Someone important gifted this to us.

Some people are champion gift givers, always choosing the perfect gift that the recipient will love.  And then there’s everyone else.

You can appreciate the generous gesture of the person offering the present without liking, needing, or wanting the item. It’s OK if you don’t want to keep it because a gift given belongs to the receiver, and it’s up to you to decide whether you want it or not.

What you do does not impact how you feel about the person giving it to you. And if they constantly ask you if you’re using it then – they’re not your friend and just need to let go.


MONEY - This was expensive!

Have you heard of “sunk costs?” Once an item is purchased, its value can’t be recovered.

You can try and sell it, if you have the time and effort involved in this kind of project (read my blog on Clutter for Cash). And if it’s something with considerable value that might be worth it.  But – honestly, usually it’s not.

Just understand and accept that the money is gone. And the next time you go shopping, make sure you buy what you need, can use, or have an exceptionally good reason to acquire.


MEMORIES-It reminds me of ….

People are so much more than the things they have acquired over their life. They are beings who loved, laughed, cried, accomplished, made mistakes, and shared their gifts with the world.

At the end, things are just things – not a person, not a memory, not a message. Just stuff.  Try and separate the person from the object.


What to D0-

Find support.  Talk to a friend, therapist, or family member about how you’re feeling about letting go. Sometimes expressing your emotions and getting feedback from someone else helps you to feel better about your decision.

Pause and breathe. It’s normal and understandable to experience anxiety dealing with anything related to emotional relationships, either with people, places, or things.

Take a time out minute and breathe, get a cup of tea, and just step back for a moment. Give yourself a break, you're allowed.

Separate the giver from the gift.  Someone gave you a gift not to stress you out but as a gesture of love, thoughtfulness, and celebration.  You can appreciate and be thankful for the gesture whether you like the item or not. Holding on to something you don’t want diminishes the intention of the giver and doesn’t make anyone happy.

Choose a few favorites. You don’t need to keep someone’s whole collection, just pick out a few pieces that resonate with you and display them with pride. That’s better than keeping everything in a box in the back of your garage, and you’ll be honoring the original owner with care and joy.

Bless and release it to someone who wants and needs it. There are folks without a lot of money doing their shopping at the local Goodwill or thrift store, who would be over the moon to buy your object at a price they can afford.  Think about the happiness you produce by letting something go that will spark joy in another person’s life.

Document the memory.  Instead of holding on to a thing you don’t want, take a picture of it to preserve the memory, and let go of the physical item. Every time you look at the picture you’ll be flooded with memories of the occasion, the person who gave it to you, and the emotions you experienced when you got it.

However – if it produces negative associations or memories, then you’re better off blessing and releasing it to someone else. Life is difficult enough without inanimate objects guilting us every time we see them.



Your home is YOUR castle.  You are in control of your environment, and you deserve to live in a clutter-free space that only holds things that you love (not that someone else loved).

A space that is carefully curated with an eye to making you feel good, experience positivity, and a feeling of sanctuary is what your home should provide you.  Letting go of the guilt allows you room to fill your space with future joy and promise without being dragged down by the past.

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