When you declutter, avoid these four common excuses:

Okay, so you're starting to declutter. Congratulations!

You are now entering a “guilt free zone.” Seriously—leave that emotion at the door because it is not appropriate for this issue. “Guilt” is for wrongdoing. You aren't hurting anyone by trying to declutter.

Note: I do realize that there are people in the world, perhaps a friend or relative of yours, that would actually be audacious or rude enough to expect to see a gift in use. I'm lucky enough to not have a high maintenance relationship like that in my life. Still, I'm the kind of person that strives toward taking care of myself and my family first, and not worry about taking care of someone else's insecurities. It's a tough one, though, so I'll let you navigate that difficult emotional minefield.

Back to the declutter excuses, though: Let's break each of the four main excuses down one by one:

My relative/friend gave it to me
(and I would feel guilty giving it away)

My mom once gave me a nice silk robe. It was beautiful! I kept it on my hook in my bedroom. Now set aside the fact that I am not really a robe-person (well, maybe a warm fluffy robe!). This robe would be good for someone who had time to lounge and be sexy in the morning while leisurely drinking coffee or something. I get up, throw on some sweats and have a million things to do right off the bat. So I know already that I will probably not wear the robe for a looong time.

Every time I saw that robe I felt a little depressed that I wouldn't be that person for a long time. I also felt bad that my mom gave it to me, that she probably hoped that I had more leisure time than I actually do. Every time I saw it, it bummed me out, so I got rid of it. I hadn't thought of it until now, so it really was “out of sight; out of mind.” Woo hoo! Okay, next one:

I've had it since I was a kid and
It reminds me about a special time

These aren't automatic reasons to keep something. In her book, Don't be a Slave to Housework, Pam McClellan emphasizes that as you declutter you don't have to keep the thing in order to keep the memory. And that's sort of true, but some sentimental items do have their place.

I handle memory objects in one of two ways. If I'm sure I want to keep it, I keep in a memento box that I have that I've designated for things like this. Certain baby clothes, Mother's Day cards, that sort of thing. Every now and then, I walk down memory lane by pulling out the box. At that time, I might even be ready to let some things go.

The other way I handle memory items is by taking a picture of them. This is a great way to transition away from the need for keeping an item.

When I got married, I had a bunch of t-shirts from various athletic events I had done in college. I wanted to be the kind of person that would make a quilt out of those t-shirts. I finally gave up on that idea and came to peace with it (there's the guilt again!). I just took pictures of them and tossed them. Just having the shots on my computer somewhere (I didn't even put them in a scrapbook!) was somehow freeing and gave me the freedom to let them go. They're just t-shirts! I don't need them to remember all those great regattas, and so I was able to declutter. On to number three:

I might need it someday

This one can refer to:
  • clothes that don't fit
  • broken things (I'll fix it!)
  • extra copies of something useful
  • even some out of season clothes for my kids
  • other packrat-ty things

I have learned that for me, I would rather spend money buying something than have it take up space that we need. Our house is pretty small and we have almost zero storage space. If you have a lot of storage space, this might be different for you. Be careful, though! Space is like money—you'll use all that you have. Alright, here's the last one:

It was such a bargain

This one used to be hard for me because I'm a bargain hunter. It's hard for me to pass up a great deal. Going back to our definition of “clutter,” if I don't use something or need it right away, then I don't keep it. I've started to think, “this is a great bargain for someone else...”

Okay! So those are the biggies. Which reason is standing in your way? When you start to declutter, remember that it is a gradual process, but more importantly, it's a mind shift. I'm here for you! You can do it!

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