Today’s Decluttering Club Topic: How to get rid of the guilt caused by throwing things away. Do you feel guilty getting rid of stuff? Most people I talk to feel GREAT when they go through the process of decluttering their home – but I’ve also talked with many people who struggle with feeling BAD when they throw things away. They feel immense GUILT just thinking about throwing things away. It can be an overwhelming, sometimes emotionally paralyzing, cycle that keeps us from clearing out the clutter and living in a cluttered mess situation.
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Decluttering guilt is a very real thing – if you’re never felt it, then it will not make sense to YOU how someone can feel BAD throwing things away.
But for those that DO feel that guilt, it’s a pretty serious and sad situation to be in.
They DO have the desire to throw things away, but just can’t seem to get past the guilt and bad feelings to finally let all that STUFF go.
They simply don’t know how to part with stuff WITHOUT feeling badly about doing it.
They all have asked me HOW to declutter and dejunk their belongings when they really struggle with feeling BAD about trashing items that are “still usable” or “could be useful for someone who might fix it”.
Throwing those things away feels like a waste of money – which leads to guilt.
But there’s yet another, often untalked about reason for that guilt…
I’ve also met people who tend to give “feelings” towards things.
As in, they struggle getting rid of stuffed animals or even a broken table because they don’t like anyTHING to feel unwanted.
For example, Susan.
Susan was in her early 30’s when I first met her and entering into a new and exciting chapter in her life.
She and her boyfriend were moving in together.
Both were moving out of their current apartments into a brand new apartment of their own to start their new life together.
Susan had lived alone in her current apartment for about 10 years – and she had a LOT of stuff.
She knew she HAD to dejunk and declutter her belongings, but she had one huge roadblock.
Susan told me:
“Sometimes all I can think about when trying to declutter my space is how sad and guilty I’ll feel if I throw anything away… While *I* don’t really WANT all this stuff anymore, I don’t want the stuff to feel unwanted.”
She had this deep-rooted belief on some level that keeping that thing (or MULTIPLE things) will make the THING feel happy – but in reality, all those things were cluttering her home and making Susan, a real PERSON, feel guilty and miserable.
Plus, Susan was also trying to be more environmentally conscious so she felt GUILT just at the thought of HER stuff adding to her local dump or landfill.
It’s quite a dilemma –
Throwing things away made Susan feel sad, depressed and guilty,
Keeping things also made Susan feel sad, depressed and guilty…
And extremely OVERWHELMED.
So, now what?
How To Declutter Without Guilt
Susan’s situation was really weighing her down.
It was SO bad that she felt guilty ABOUT feeling guilty.
It was time for her to learn how to STOP that decluttering guilt – and I had some tips to help her move forward.
3 Tips To Let It Go
Here are 3 things I told Susan to help her get past her decluttering guilt:
1. Is your HOME a Dump?
I hear that you feel guilty adding to the trash situation in this world, and I respect that, but here’s the thing…
You’re treating your HOME as a dump.
You’re making your home a place full of piles of unwanted things.
2. THINGS don’t have feelings – PEOPLE do.
I strongly urged Susan to talk with someone about this.
It sounded to me as if Susan was projecting her own deep-rooted feelings onto inanimate items.
She didn’t want the thing to feel unwanted because perhaps she was made to feel unwanted at some point or during some event in her life.
Throwing things away wasn’t as much about how the thing “felt” when she threw it away, it seemed to be more about how Susan felt deep inside.
3. New Beginnings
Susan was VERY excited about moving in with her boyfriend, but the thought of cluttering their new home and their new life with all her STUFF gave Susan the biggest guilt complex of all – and yes, a good dose of embarrassment too.
I asked Susan to close her eyes and envision what their new home together would look like.
Would it START full of unwanted STUFF that cluttered their hearts and minds while blocking a healthy future together?
Could this new beginning of a new life WITH someone she loved deeply start with lots of room and space to build a life together?
Now, let me make something clear –
Decluttering her belongings was not something I encouraged Susan to do for HIM (ie, her boyfriend) – it was something I wanted her to give to HERSELF.
Yes, getting rid of stuff IS a gift you give to yourself.
If your heart, mind and SOUL are cluttered and suffocated by all your things, HOW can you have room in your heart, mind and soul for any joy in your life, let alone sharing life with someone else?
It was quite a moment for Susan when I told her that she was treating her home like a dump.
She told me that it was like her eyes were finally opened and she SAW that she was, in fact, doing just that.
That one moment of realization gave Susan that first major spark of motivation to change how SHE felt about her clutter and piles of stuff that she didn’t even use… or want.
Yes, Susan put HER feelings first (and that was pivotal – in fact, it was life-changing).
Letting Go Of STUFF
Now that Susan’s mindset was better suited to getting rid of her stuff, it was time to talk about where to START.
The first thing I recommended Susan do, was to start decluttering in one corner, cabinet, drawer or closet and take everything out – only put back the things she actually used daily, weekly, monthly or seasonally.
If you can’t remember using it, odds are good that YOU don’t need it.
If it’s obvious trash, throw it away – as in, throw it in a garbage bag and, once the bag is full, get the bag OUT of your home and into a trashcan.
You want to start with a small space and work quickly.
Why start small?
Starting small really improves your odds that you will FINISH that space and NOT get overwhelmed by the whole project (ie, the whole apartment).
If you struggle with an item, put it down in a separate pile – don’t stress over it, just move on (I’ll tell you what to do with the items in the pile next).
Go through every item in that space you’re working on and ONLY that space you’re working on.
Only put back the items you honestly remember using recently. Not, “Well, I kinda used it 3 years ago” or “I MIGHT use it someday” – only what you actually USE.
Now, here’s how to go through that pile of STUFF you don’t know if you should keep or get rid of.
Should I Keep It Or Trash It?
I strongly recommended this video with excellent decluttering tips for helping you know when it’s time to get rid of an item.
Pay close attention to all the “excuses” we humans use as reasons to keep things we do NOT need.
If, after watching the video above, you still can’t decide whether you can let an item go or still feel extreme guilt, put those items in a box and put the box away to the side and let it sit for awhile – then move on to the next space.
Amazing things started happening for Susan.
With her new mindset about decluttering, Susan was able to get started AND finish decluttering small spaces in her apartment.
She found that she felt MUCH better being in those new UNcluttered spaces than she did when she was in her other, still cluttered spaces.
Her relationship with STUFF was changed.
She told me:
“I told my stuff – ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ and broke up with it. Ending that relationship with things cleared my mind to where I felt ready to truly enjoy my relationship with myself and with my boyfriend and genuinely felt excited about the new, clutter-free, life I was moving towards.”
She also told me that as she completed small spaces in her home, it got easier and easier to get rid of things and throw them away.
And those boxes of items she didn’t know what to do with?
“Those boxes are all gone. I started to feel so good having less stuff and felt MUCH less guilt about throwing things away. I realized I truly did not need, or WANT, those boxes items so… I threw them all away… and it felt GREAT!”
The “old” Susan had stuffed her home with things, never able to throw things away because she felt guilty – and this situation cluttered everything about her life and stopped her from being able to enjoy her life and her exciting future.
The “new” Susan did the work – she did decide to talk with someone about those “unwanted” feelings and get to the root of it which made her will and ability to get rid of stuff AND keep it clutter-free so much stronger.
I’m very proud of her – what an accomplishment!
She told me that when it came time to move into the new place with her boyfriend, she took MAYBE one-third of things that at one time filled her old apartment to the brink of over-flowing with STUFF.
My House Was a MESS!
And my anxiety was through the roof!
I needed a plan to get it together - it was all pushing me over the edge.
Thing is - we LIVE here... I never had the fantasy that my home would ever look "Pinterest perfect".
I simply wanted more control, less clutter and much less anxiety.
I finally found something that worked for ME.
- My house is now easier to clean - I can now clean it in minutes, instead of hours.
- I can now actually FIND the things I'm looking for.
- I learned some simple decluttering systems that make me much more efficient every day - and I'm more relaxed and less overwhelmed all the time (finally)
- My house now looks pretty darn good almost all the time.
- Best of all - I no longer stress about guests unexpectedly showing up.
This is how I did it.
“I needed to make the change and I am grateful that I did. It is a relief to live without all the clutter. Thank you SO much!”
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