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How To Stop Feeling Guilty When Getting Rid of Clutter

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After moving 10 times in 11 years, getting rid of clutter became a way of life for our family.

Feeling guilty about throwing things away wasn’t an option because we needed to move with less stuff.

So, we found ways to cope.

Here are some tips to make it easier to purge without feeling guilty.

Figure Out Why You Are Feeling Guilty

First, you need to figure out exactly why you are feeling guilty about getting rid of clutter.

Do you feel guilty because you spent money on these things?

If your guilt is a financial issue, figure out how much it cost you to use the item over time.

Think of it as your rental price. 

Let’s say you bought a purse for $100.

Consider how many times you used the purse.

If you answered every day for three months, it cost you about $1 per day.

If you used it even longer, the cost per day goes down.

Spending $0.27 a day for a year seems like a great rental price for something that brought you joy.

Realize though, that if you are no longer using the purse, you are NOT making money by simply keeping it.

However, you can MAKE money by de-cluttering.

Your options are to: (1) sell the item, or (2) donate it to charity and receive a tax deduction.

Check out the valuation guide from Salvation Army or Goodwill to see how much money you could save come tax time.

Just remember to keep an itemized list of everything you donate.

Do you feel guilty because it was a gift?

If you’re concerned about de-cluttering because an item was a gift, think about the reason that person gave it to you.

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Did you get it for your birthday or as a hostess gift?

Did your friend or family member expect you to hold onto it for all of eternity?

Probably not.

Recognize that your friend wanted you to get enjoyment out of the gift when you received it.

Once you’re finished using the gift, it’s okay to let it go.

If it’s too difficult for you to sell or donate the item, then focus on purging other things first.

You have plenty of other items in your home to get through.

Don’t worry about this one quite yet.

Do you feel guilty because it’s someone else’s stuff?

If you’re feeling guilty about throwing away someone else’s stuff, there’s a reason for that.

It’s not necessarily your stuff to give.

For example: even when my kids were toddlers, I felt guilty about donating their toys.

So I got them involved in the process from an early age.

Yes, it was hard at first, especially as we moved so often.

But they’ve come to appreciate the process of getting rid of clutter.

After doing it so many times, the kids know they’ll be happier with a cleaner space where it’s easier to find their favorite toys.

They also appreciate that they can make some money selling unwanted toys and that other kids will get to enjoy stuff that were gathering dust in a toy bin.

However, let’s say that your kids have moved out of the house and yet it seems like their stuff is there to stay.

That’s not fair to you, if you would like to reclaim the space.

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Give your kids a reasonable timeframe by which they need to pick up their things.

Remind them about the financial incentives to de-cluttering.

If the kids don’t take their stuff, offer to put their things in a storage facility where they can pay a monthly fee.

Do you feel guilty because it’s an irreplaceable item?

If you don’t want to throw something away because it evokes happy memories, or because it’s irreplaceable, determine whether a picture of the item would suffice.

If not, you may want to hold onto it.

For those items that are too difficult to deal with, focus on all of the easier ones first when you are going through the purging process.

How To Make Getting Rid of Clutter Easier for Everyone

1. Remind yourself why you’re de-cluttering.

You may be doing this because you would like a cleaner, more organized home.

Maybe you’re downsizing or moving, and you need to move with less stuff.

Perhaps you know that you have countless items that you haven’t used in years.

You might want to upgrade your home or furniture.

Why not sell some items so you can incorporate new things into your house?

Or possibly donate to make your items useful again for someone else?

Whatever your reason for getting rid of clutter, keep that goal in mind when you’re feeling guilty or overwhelmed.

Focus on your objective throughout the de-cluttering process.

It will be well worth your time to throw stuff away to achieve your goal.

2. Focus on one category at a time.

The process of getting rid of clutter can feel overwhelming, so make it easy.

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Focus on one category at a time.

I typically begin with books or clothes, depending on whether a move is imminent (if I’m moving, I go with books because they’re heavy and expensive to move).

Once you have chosen, gather everything from your house in that category.

For example, you may want to start with coats and jackets. Take every single one that you own from each corner of your house and lay them all out in your bedroom.

You want to be able to see each item.

Once you see just how many things you have in that group, you will realize that you do not actually need that many.

Keep your favorites and sell – or donate – the rest.

3. Decide what to keep, NOT what to throw away.

For years, I asked my kids if they wanted to throw away certain toys.

Well, no, of course they didn’t want to!

Then I rephrased it.

I asked them what they wanted to KEEP.

I displayed all of their toys like in a toy store, with sections for puzzles, dolls, and cars.

They went “shopping” with sticky notes where they could keep everything that they wanted.

Surprisingly, they did NOT pick every single item.

In fact, there were many things they didn’t choose.

The kids were happy to donate the toys they hadn’t chosen, because they had already decided what they wanted.

Getting rid of clutter doesn’t need to feel like a chore.

Keep these handy tips in mind and you can de-clutter with ease without the burden of guilt.

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  1. Danielle Winacott

    September 16, 2019 at 2:15 AM

    Surprisingly the sticky note trick works for adults too! If you’re like me and feel guilty when you throw anything away or even when you donate it, picking what you want over what to get rid of with notes helps! Thank you!

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