10 Excuses We Make to Keep Our Clutter

posted by Andrea | 03/11/2013


When it comes to the clutter in our homes and lives, it’s often much easier to make excuse after excuse, listing all the reasons it might actually be best to KEEP our clutter than to actually make work of getting rid of those things we no longer need, use, want, or love.

We KNOW we don’t need, use, want, or love many of the items we’re holding onto; we KNOW we would be happier with less clutter and more space for the items we actually do use; and we KNOW we should set aside an afternoon (or even just 15 minutes) to get started.

However, the catch is that even though we KNOW all of this, it’s often difficult to ever DO anything about it.

Sound familiar?

If you’ve been making excuses to keep your clutter, I hope that today’s post might be the “wake-up call” that motivates and encourages you to clear some of the clutter from your home and life!

And if you don’t make excuses to keep your clutter, let me enlighten you on 10 of the most commen excuses I hear time after time!

1. I might need it again some day.

There is always the chance that you might need your purged clutter again some day. However, speaking from an experienced purger, there’s probably a much better chance you WON’T need it again… ever.

In fact, there’s a pretty good chance you don’t even know half of what you actually have in the first place!

I understand the idea behind this — it’s wasteful to get rid of something only to have to purchase it again in the future. However, if you’re honest with yourself, chances are you don’t even remember the last time you used this item… and if you do ever need something like this in the future, you’d probably be able to borrow it from a friend or make do with something else you already have around the house.

2. I paid good money for it!

Yes, you paid good money for it (probably too much money) but that still doesn’t change the fact that you don’t use it, you don’t need it, and you don’t love it. The money has already been spent and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it anymore except continue to feel badly that you paid a lot of money for something you’re not using.

You could try to sell it, but in my experience, this often slows you down on your organizing journey, and (depending on what the item is) you often won’t even get a fraction of the purchase price by selling it. Plus, you will most likely spend many, many weeks and months holding on to the item and re-listing it while you wait for potential buyers that might never come.

On the flip side, by donating these items now, you instantly have more space, have less clutter, and you never have to think about these items (or bemoan the fact that you paid too much for them in the first place) ever again!

3. It’s still in perfect condition.

Good, then someone else will be thrilled to find it at a local thrift shop!

If you’re not using it,  don’t need it, and don’t love it, then donate it and let someone else enjoy all the life still left in your cast-offs.

4. It might be worth something.

Well, it MIGHT be — and it also might not be.

If you simply keep it in your home because you think it MIGHT be worth something — you’re just wasting space. Unless you’re willing to do the work of listing it on Craigslist or selling it to a collector or auction house, you won’t make money anyway.

If you don’t want it in your home and you’re not willing to make the time to try and sell it, then it’s time to donate — even if the item MIGHT be worth something.

5. I want to give it to ________.

I’ve worked with so many people who don’t get rid of things because they have a super specific organization or person they want to give the items to.

It might be an out-of-town relative, a friend from the past, an old co-worker, or a charitable organization way across town — whatever this specific person/place is, it’s not convenient to just stop by and drop off your unneeded items.

So there the items sit… in their car, in their basement, in their closet, in their garage. These items continue to take up space in their homes, they continue to walk past them every day and think, “oh shoot, I still need to give that stuff to ______”.

While I realize the intentions here are in the right place, my theory is that you need to set a reasonable time frame (like 1 month) and if you don’t deliver the items to the specific person/place by then, it’s time to donate to the closest thrift store and get the items OUT OF YOUR HOME!

6. It was a gift from _______.

While you should always be thankful for gifts, please remember that a gift is a gift.

It’s yours.

You are an adult, and once something is yours, you are free to do with it what you please. If it pleases you to remove it from your home to make room for something else you might like more, then by all means, remove it!

I realize this is an overly-simplified, black and white explanation – but it IS true.

Yes, you may offend friends or relatives if you donate their gift — and I completely understand if you’re not willing to compromise family relations for a little clutter. However, if it’s a lot of clutter and the gifts just keep on coming, it might be time to share your honest feelings with those dear people who continue to gift you.

This type of conversation might be easier to handle in writing (email) if possible. And if it’s your in-laws, I’d definitely make sure your spouse is 100% on your side before you start the conversation. It’s tricky business, but if all these gifts are ruining your relationships, it’s time to have a talk.

Also, keep this in mind the next time YOU give a gift, and consider giving a clutter-free gift instead!

7. It’s always been “in the family”.

Family heirlooms are another tough call when it comes to purging — and honestly, this is the ONE category I would encourage you to think about before you just purge everything.

My favorite way to clear the clutter of family heirlooms is to try and use them in my own home and life. I actually use my grandma’s old table cloths, and her baby pictures are in Nora’s nursery. I have old pictures of my grandpa from WWII hanging in our home and I use my grandma’s sewing stuff on a regular basis.

By using these items, I can actually enjoy them and I’m not wasting valuable space storing things we never use.

If you can’t think of a way to use family heirlooms or you just want to get rid of stuff (I can totally relate!), I’d suggest setting a time-frame of 3-6 months and informing all your family members that they may come take whatever they want before that specific date. After that date passes, you can sell or donate anything that’s left — guilt-free!

8. I’m saving it for my kids/grandkids.

I don’t want to sound overly harsh here — but unless you personally ask your children and grandchildren if they want specific items (and they said ‘yes’), there’s probably a good chance they don’t want them.

They have enough stuff – probably too much stuff — and they don’t need more from you.

Also, remember that if you continue to give your children and grandchildren things they don’t need or want, you could potentially be inflicting unnecessary strain on your relationship (if they want to get rid of the items but feel pressured to keep them). I have seen too many relationships compromised because of these types of situations.

My best advice would be not to save things for your children or grandchildren unless they specifically ask you to save them. And if you DO save things for them, make it clear that you will not be offended if they decide not to keep the items.

9. It’s too sentimental.

Emotional and sentimental clutter is one of the most difficult types of clutter to purge — even for people like myself who aren’t super emotionally attached to things.

Items in this category are most likely baby clothing/blankets, drawings and projects from your kids, photos, artwork, memorabilia, family heirlooms (see #7 above), letters, cards, etc. etc.

Since I’m not a total scrooge, I would encourage you to keep SOME of these sentimental items. However, if you’re drowning in a sea of sentimental stuff, or if your home is too small to store everything, it’s probably time to take control.

Here are a few ideas of what you could do with your sentimental clutter:

  • ask other family members if they have a use for these sentimental items
  • designate a Memory Box for each person in your family and only keep items that can easily fit in that space (see our memory boxes here)

It’s extremely helpful if you can separate your emotions from your stuff — because your memories are not in the actual items, they are in your heart.

You will still remember how happy  you were to bring your newborn babies home, even if you don’t keep the outfit you brought them home in. You will still remember how special your grandparents were to you, even if you don’t keep every single item they left behind. You will still remember how you felt when you won those championship trophies, even if you purge your entire trophy collection.

You don’t NEED the items to remember those special moments. 

Here’s a link to a bunch of other posts I’ve written about mental, emotional, and sentimental clutter.

10. I have enough space so it doesn’t matter.

Well, I suppose it doesn’t matter right now, but what happens when you have to move, or your basement floods, or if something unexpected happens and your children are left to weed through all your stuff?

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post about being organized for the unexpected and I received many comments and emails from people who had to weed through friend’s and family’s unorganized homes and lives — trying to pick up the pieces and put two and two together. These people shared how much easier and less stressful it would have been if things had been more organized.

Even if you have plenty of storage space, I’d still encourage you to spend a little time trying to weed out those items you don’t need, use, want, or love.

If you ask me, the state of our homes comes down to whether or not we’re going to keep making these excuses for our clutter or get to work clearing our clutter.

Yes, there are many variables of time, space, money, the number of people living in our homes, etc. but ultimately, if we’re not willing to take control of our homes, we will continue to be held hostage by our possessions.

If you don’t want to be a hostage, it’s time to stop making excuses, shove your emotions aside, and get to work.

It might not be easy.

But you can do it! 

What area of your home are you going to tackle first?

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  1. Tianna


    Super points! The only thing I’d add/alter is that you can easily earn cash for your items. As an owner of a consignment shop, I rely on gently loved things from others. In turn, they receive payment. When items don’t sell, we donate them on behalf of our client. It’s a win-win-win situation for everyone.


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