5 Top Excuses for Clutter and How to Eliminate Them

By Sherrie Le Masurier from simplyhelpful.ca

Stuff, we are surrounded by it in our daily lives but sometimes it gets the better of us. It is far too easy to accumulate stuff than to get rid of it. We all have excuses for why we hold onto the things we do.

Today, I want explore the top five excuses, I hear as a professional organizer.  Do you have the same excuses? If so, you may want to read my response (written in italic) to each excuse and heed the advice that follows.


I might need it one day

Decide when someday is.

Ask yourself, “Realistically, when will I need this?”

If you can’t come up with a definite answer then assign an arbitrary date up to six months in the future. Put the item in a box, write the date on the outside of the box, and move on. If the “someday” (the date on the box) comes and goes and you haven’t needed the item, you are now free to send it off to a better place. Maybe you will butchances are good you won’t, especially if you haven’t used it in the past year.

What’s the worst thing that could happen if you did let it go?

You have to weigh the cost of the prime real estate that that bread maker, or deep fryer, or crafting gadget is taking up and make a decision.

One way to keep the clutter down is by borrowing items that you don’t use very often.  You don’t have to own everything – things like camping gear, party items, and tools, can be shared and borrowed.

It was a gift and I don’t want to hurt their feelings. Or, it has too many memories.

Take the fact that the item was a gift out of the equation.

Often our homes are overflowing with stuff simply because we’ve kept everything that was every given to us. It’s okay to let it go.

When you come across a gift, ask yourself “Do I need, use or love the item?” If the answer is no, you aren’t obligated to keep the item. It’s ok to make a decision, do what’s right for you, and free up some valuable living space in your home.

A gift doesn’t come with strings attached. I know this one can be hard to swallow… but it’s true.

The same holds true for items that have been passed down to you. There are creative ways you can honor the memory of the gift, without actually holding onto the actual item.

For example, if you love scrapbooking you could take a photo of the gift and create a mini scrapbook entitled “gifts of love” or “memories”. Record in the scrapbook who gave you the gift and what the occasion was. Then jot a note about why that person is special to you. Or, make notes of remembrance about special items. What you want to keep alive is the memory, not necessarily, the item itself.

This will allow you to focus on the person who gave you the gift, and their meaning to you, instead of feeling tied to the gift itself.

Or in the case of cherished memories, taking a photo and jotting down a related note will help you retain the positive feelings without having to continue to cope with the weight of the physical clutter.

It was free!

Just because something is free doesn’t mean you have to take it.

Was it really? Are your cupboards overflowing with free coffee mugs and you can’t find the one you really like to use?

You may want to consider taking the item and then donating it to someone who could actually use it. If it’s causing stress and taking up valuable space, it wasn’t free.

I paid good money for this.

Accept that the money is spent.

No amount of hanging-onto an item can bring your money back. Whether you keep it or not, the money is gone. Forever.

Cut your losses and move on. If you look at something and feel guilty about what you paid for it, yet you’re not using it, the guilt won’t entice you to use the item. You’ll continue to not use the item and continue to feel guilty about it. Why let those negative feelings linger? Let them go. 

It might be worth something and/or I could make good money for this.

Find a good home for your previously-enjoyed items.

You will rarely get back what you paid for something and this can be hard to swallow.

The “garage sale syndrome” sets in when you have decided to let go of some things and yet they continue to linger in your presence, waiting for the big garage sale.

It’s true, garage sales can be a way to turn some of your no longer needed items into cash. But not without a cost. If letting go of things is difficult for you, a garage sale simply extends the process.

Ideally you can find a charity you’ll feel good about donating your items to. Schedule a pick-up for the day after your letting-go session. Or check out www.freecycle.org. In no time, you’ll have treasure hunters lining up to relieve you of your things!

Or, if you really want to get some money back on your items, set a garage sale date within a week or two, gather your big ticket items and implement a two week ‘sale’ plan.

Gather all your big ticket items, photograph them and post the items for sale on Kijji or a local buy and sell site for one week and what doesn’t sell in that time, put in your garage sale the next week.

Whatever is left after your garage sale – donate ASAP.  Ideally, put it in your vehicle immediately after the sale and drop it off to a local charity like St. Vincent de Paul, the same day.

The key is to be realistic about how much you can get. If the idea of organizing your items for sale sounds too overwhelming, make a donation to a local thrift shop.