Clutter. It’s everywhere, isn’t it? In our homes, our workplaces, even in our minds. For some reason, getting rid of clutter is really hard. You want to declutter your home but every time you try, you end up not getting anywhere.
Sound familiar? If so, don’t worry – you’re not alone!
So why is decluttering so hard?
Many people find it impossible to declutter their homes, and the process often becomes a never-ending battle between what to keep and what to discard. There are some very good reasons for this.
Here are nine common reasons, with tips on how to overcome them, enjoy your clean space and stop the cycle of clutter once and for all.
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Table of Contents
- 1) You Get Stuck In A Cycle Of Clutter
- 2) You don’t have enough time
- 3) Some items have sentimental value
- 4) You feel inadequate
- 5) You feel guilty
- 6) What if you need it in the future
- 7) You’re overwhelmed by clutter
- 8) It can bring up painful emotions
- 9) There are family disagreements
- Why is decluttering so hard: final thoughts
1) You Get Stuck In A Cycle Of Clutter
It’s easy to fall into a cycle of clutter where you never quite get around to clearing the mess. The more stuff you get, the more stuff you have to store – so more boxes and space is bought to hold it all.
At some point, your storage options are exhausted and there’s no choice but to sort through everything again, throwing out what you don’t need while bringing in new things to replace the things you got rid of. You buy a bit more than usual, then pile it on top of what’s already there and before you know it, your home is overflowing with stuff again.
Even when people want to declutter, they can’t get started because their homes are too full. It’s hard to focus on one area of a room if other parts are filled with clutter, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed by a huge amount of stuff.
What to do:
In order to get out of the cycle of clutter, you need to commit to stop buying stuff for a bit and just focus on clearing out what you already own.
Once it’s done, make a pact to not bring anything new into your home for 6 months (other than essentials like food and toiletries). Preventing the cycle from starting again is your first step towards a clutter-free home.
2) You don’t have enough time
Everyone feels like they don’t have enough time, but when it comes to decluttering, this is more than just an excuse.
For many people – particularly those with families and demanding jobs – there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done that needs doing.
Decluttering can get pushed to the side, even when you know it’s an issue, because you have other things that are more important at the time.
Unfortunately, delaying decluttering doesn’t make it go away – if anything, the mess gets worse and things only get harder to deal with as time goes on. Because time is a limited resource, many people don’t feel they have enough of it for any task that’s not a priority right now.
What to do:
If you really can’t find the time to declutter, it might mean that you need to change your priorities.
You may need to cut down on non-essential tasks if there isn’t enough time in the day to do everything. That’s not to say you should have any rest or relaxing time. Make a schedule to include even 30 minutes of decluttering a day for a few weeks and you’ll begin to see a clear in the clutter.
What’s most interesting is that when you start to declutter, you’ll find that you have more spare time as you’ll spend less time having to organise and clean things.
3) Some items have sentimental value
Everyone has something they own that’s incredibly precious to them, whether it’s a bracelet given to you by your grandmother or an action figure from your childhood.
These are the items that are hardest to declutter, because no matter how much you might want to get rid of them, they have value beyond anything else. A sentimental item can override all other factors, even if it means the rest of your things are kept in disarray.
It’s not uncommon for people to keep items that are broken or useless but have sentimental value – instead of getting rid of them, they make do with what they have.
What to do:
When decluttering sentimental items, you first need to decipher what kind of sentimental item this is. If it was your great-grandmother’s plate that she got for her wedding, which you’ve never used and keep in a box in the attic, you’re not honouring the sentimentality of it.
That’s ok! Just because the person has passed on, doesn’t mean that you have a responsibility to keep their things. If it’s not adding value to you or your home, then it’s time to pass it on.
Donate the item, give it to a family member who would like it. It will be used and loved, as it was meant to be.
4) You feel inadequate
We have a strong cultural fixation with consumerism and ‘stuff’. We’re told from a young age that brands, goods and material possessions are what you need to be happy. This creates an association between objects and our sense of self-worth.
The trouble is that it’s easy to start feeling as though you’re somehow less if you don’t have certain things. We’re taught that what we own defines who we are, so the more you have the better – but if you get rid of possessions, it can leave your sense of self feeling lost or empty.
You might feel as though you don’t have enough, so even if something is broken or has no use it can be hard to get rid of.
What to do:
It’s important to remember that material possessions don’t define you.
No matter what clutter you own, it doesn’t say anything about your personality, hobbies or interests. It only exists as a physical thing and that alone should be enough to get rid of it.
You need to identify whether this is an emotional reason behind the amount of clutter you have. If it is, if might be time to talk to a therapist who can help you work through the reasons behind your feelings of inadequacy.
What may actually surprise you as well as those around you is that once someone starts decluttering and their home begins to look organised and pristine, often they start to feel good about themselves too. Many people say that they feel empowered after being able to throw things away.
5) You feel guilty
If we have received items as gifts, it can be difficult to get rid of them because we feel like we don’t want to hurt the people who gave us these presents.
We can feel like disposing of items we were given might disappoint the person who gave it to us.
We often get stuck on what other people might think, rather than focusing on what we need and want ourselves. If something is no longer useful or relevant, getting rid of it shouldn’t be a problem.
What to do:
Feeling guilty about getting rid of things that are no longer useful or relevant to your life is completely understandable. However, the person who gave you the gift had good intentions and it’s important to not let guilt stop you from doing what’s best for your own lifestyle or situation.
When someone gives you a gift, it’s yours to do what you like with it and if you no longer want it, that’s perfectly okay.
The person who gave you the gift might feel bad that you don’t like it or want to get rid of it, but ultimately they wanted to give you something that would make your life better – and hopefully they’ll understand that you’re doing exactly that.
If you think they might get upset, talk to them and explain your reasonings for wanting to let the items go.
6) What if you need it in the future
We often get caught up in the ‘what ifs’ when it comes to decluttering.
We might hold on to items that we don’t actually need, just in case there’s a time when they come in useful. We’re afraid of not being prepared for every possibility, so we keep things that aren’t essential in order to cover every eventuality.
Another reason we keep things for ‘what ifs’ is because of the fear of regret. If you get rid of something, you might find yourself wishing you still had it one day, which can make us hold onto things long past their usefulness.
What to do:
Of course we never know when we’re going to need something, but if we were to keep and own everything we might ever need in our lives… we’ll we’d probably need a very large house!
There’s no point in holding onto something for a ‘what if’ situation because you’ll never know whether it will come up and the more clutter you have, the harder it becomes to find anything.
We need to accept that we might feel regret at somepoint, but it’s better to get rid of things so we can let go of our feelings of regret and not have them hanging around us.
If you ever find that there’s something you got rid of that you now need, see if a neighbour of friend has one that you could borrow. That way you’re keeping your clutter clear but not doing without.
7) You’re overwhelmed by clutter
Often, we can’t even see that we have a problem with clutter, because the mess overwhelms us and it feels like too much to tackle.
It’s easy to feel that decluttering is an enormous task, which might never be finished. You can start feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things you own and it makes you feel too exhausted to do anything about it.
When there’s so much disorganised stuff strewn around the place, it’s difficult to know where to start when you want to get rid of things. It feels easier not to bother at all than to even attempt tackling the problem.
What to do:
When you find yourself overwhelmed by clutter, it helps to enlist the help of people you know, such as friends or family members.
It might be a daunting task, but tackling decluttering in small steps is an easier way to get it done. Tackle one small area of the house at a time, like your bedroom or kitchen.
Once you’ve got one small bit sorted out, use that as motivation to keep going and you’ll find it much easier than if you try get everything done in one go.
8) It can bring up painful emotions
For many people, sorting through clutter brings up a lot of anxiety and pain.
It can be difficult to feel as though you want to keep things that remind you of bad memories, but the opposite is also true. You might struggle with getting rid of items because they bring back good memories and nostalgia, which makes you reluctant to part with them.
If you’re decluttering after a loved one has passed away, it can be especially challenging because you want to keep things that remind you of them, but if the item doesn’t serve a purpose, should you still hold onto it?
Read also: Why I’m Swedish Death Cleaning In My 30s
What to do:
Oftentimes it’s difficult to part with anything that reminds us of our loved ones, but it helps to remember that they would want you to be happy.
They wouldn’t want you to hold onto items out of guilt or nostalgia, because these feelings are yours and not theirs.
When decluttering after the death of a loved one, take it slow first of all. It’s a difficult time and you must not jump into it.
Consider having a keepsake box of things that feel particularly special to you. It might be hard to let go, but if the keepsake box means that you have some items that are truly special, it’s worth finding a way to make peace with parting ways with everything else.
9) There are family disagreements
Whether it’s a disagreement between siblings or parents and children, it can be difficult to declutter when everyone has different ideas.
When you have a large family, you might struggle with disagreements about what items should be kept, especially if one person wants to keep something that the others don’t care about at all.
Sometimes there are personal items that each person feels is theirs alone, which can make it even harder to sort through things. For example, some people might say an item is ‘too childish’ to be kept by the parent, but if the child still wants it, it can feel as though they are being forced to get rid of something dear to them.
What to do:
The best way to tackle this problem is to find a compromise that suits everyone. If you can’t agree, maybe just store the item until it’s needed by someone or until you’re ready to part with it yourself.
There are no right or wrong ways of dealing with your stuff, as long as you feel happy with your decisions.
If you’re having disagreements about keeping certain things, then it might help to look for items that you can all agree on – like family photos or sentimental things – that everyone values equally.
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Why is decluttering so hard: final thoughts
Clutter is more than just an eyesore; it can have a negative impact on our mental and emotional well-being. If you’re struggling to clear clutter, these nine reasons might help explain why it’s so hard for you.
This list of reasons why individuals experience difficulty when trying to clear their clutter should help put things in perspective for you so that your next attempt at getting organised will go more smoothly than ever before.
Read also: 9 Ways to Find The Motivation to Declutter
Do you find decluttering a hard task? Are any of the pints above the reason why?