Is Guilt The Cause of Clutter In Your Life?

posted by Andrea | 09/27/2018

Throughout the winter, I save most of our store-bought pickle jars as a handy and convenient way to preserve our garden-fresh refrigerator dill pickles during the summer months.

And during the spring/summer months, I save many of our plastic strawberry and tomato containers as a fantastic way to package ALLLLLL the cherry tomatoes we pick daily from mid July through October.

I would normally just recycle these items, but since they are “disposable” they make it extra easy to gift pickles and tomatoes to friends and family without needing to remember to get my jars or containers back.

A few other “junk” item I regularly save are the plastic containers mushrooms come in (with the cellophane over top), 32 oz. yogurt tubs, and the plastic trays from my kid’s Luchables.

The mushroom containers are the perfect size for a dozen cookies, 2 cinnamon rolls, a small loaf of quick bread, etc. so they are excellent ways for me to gift food to others without creating extra waste or losing my own baking dishes!

I use yogurt tubs whenever I bring meals to others. I load them up with all sorts of side dishes — mashed potatoes, pasta salad, fruit salad, applesauce, corn off the cob, brocoslaw, rice, pudding, jello, etc. And they are the perfect size for a stack of large cookies! I simply include directions to reheat (in a separate bowl) if necessary and the recipient can toss the containers when the meal is over. No dishes to wash or return!

The Lunchable containers are great for so many snacks on-the-go (with Glad press ‘n seal over top). Things like veggies and dip/hummus, crackers and cheese, fruit and nuts, etc. etc. The kids think it’s fun to take these containers with us, they are easy for little hands to hold, they keep foods separated, and we can just toss them when we’re finished eating.

I wouldn’t be surprised if many of you are thinking how clever and resourceful I am right now… saving all this trash from landfills (at least temporarily) and creatively repurposing junk for something useful.

Maybe you’re even feeling a bit guilty about the pile of disposable containers you recently tossed.

Am I right? 

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That feeling of guilt – however small it might be – is often the root cause of SOOOOOOOO much of the clutter in our homes and lives!

  • You saw a cool craft using leftover k-cups or toilet paper rolls on Pinterest, so you feel like you should start saving yours.
  • You know the landfills are overflowing with junk, so you feel like you should reuse so many of your plastic and glass containers.
  • You read about a blogger who saves mushroom and Lunchable containers, so you feel like you should save them too.
  • You watched a video on how to transform old clothing into new pieces, and your pile of stained and ripped clothing continues to grow as you feel you should use that information to re-make these worn-out items into something useful again.
  • You know there are 101 uses for old t-shirts, so you feel like you should save yours for the next time you need an old rag.

I could go on and on and on… but I won’t.

All of those “should” feelings are guilt!

Needless guilt, in my opinion!

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Here are a few more examples you might relate to…

  • I should hang onto the gift my kids got from their friend/relative just in case they ever decide to use, wear, read, or play with the gift again.
  • should store the clothing that doesn’t fit me anymore, just in case I ever lose the weight.
  • I should keep the extra, semi-broken coffee maker (even though we have a new one), just in case we have company over and need 2.
  • I should keep the extra filing cabinet, just in case we come across more papers to file.
  • I should hang onto all my baby items, just in case we ever have another baby again.
  • I should store my old set of dishes/pots/pans/silverware/ etc. in case we ever get a cottage or to give to my grown children some day.
  • I should keep all my old towels in case we need extra rags for anything.

More “shoulds” and more  guilt.

 

Keeping things we will most likely never use, just because we feel guilty throwing them out, does NOT make us less wasteful.

It makes us frustrated with the clutter in our lives.

It makes us sad and depressed about the state of our home (or office, closet, pantry, basement).

It makes us unable to properly put useful things back in their places (which means more clutter sitting out).

It makes us hoarders.

It makes us feel guilty (yup, still feeling guilty) over the fact that we have so much excess.

So you see, keeping things because of guilt is a vicious cycle that will not eliminate the presence of guilt in your life — if anything, you might feel MORE guilt for hanging onto things you don’t use, things you don’t have space for, and for the amount of clutter and stuff piling up in your home.

The next time you catch yourself saying (or thinking) “I should keep/store/hang onto/save _________, just in case.” take a step back, think through why you want to keep, store, hang onto, or save that item, and honestly evaluate if guilt is a main factor.

If you actually have a use for the item in the near future AND you have a convenient place to store the item until you use it, then feel free to keep it.

If not, do yourself a favor and trash, recycle, or donate the items (and the extra guilt) today!

What items in your home have you been storing because of guilt?

How much space do you think you can free up by removing this guilt-induced clutter from your home?

 

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22 comments

  1. Rhonda

    09/28/2018

    That’s helpful to point out. Although some of my friends or neighbors might enjoy hand-me-downs, it often means I hold onto something longer (and who knows if they do actually want or need the item(s). Usually I ask first, but I have to remind myself to put my own convenience first sometimes.

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  2. Amy | More Time Than Money

    09/28/2018

    Oh yes, it’s all guilt. Well maybe guilt and delayed decisions. There’s definitely a lot of guilt. I’m in a place now where I am using as ammunition to be more intentional about what comes into my home. “Do I really want to feel guilty about that thing for years?”, then say no to it now. One off mild discomfort is better than years of guilt.

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    Andrea Reply:

    I like the idea of using it as “ammunition” as you say! Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Bonnie'sMama

    09/27/2018

    I tell myself, “Easy come, easy go” as I declutter. So many things, like gifts or hand-me-downs or sour cream containers, come free or cheap. It’s all right to let them go.

    I noticed the Rock-‘n-Play in Clara’s room. Did she actually use it? Does she still? My cousins sent me one two days ago for my new baby. It was one of those miracle things for their baby, but I’m wondering if it’s not just another repackaging of bouncy seat/swing/vibrating Pack-n-Play. My little man slept pretty well in the Pack-n-Play while swaddled, so I’m not sure how much it will actually improve his sleep.

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    Andrea Reply:

    We borrowed the rock ‘n play from a friend (none of my other kids had one) but Clara never used it. We tried it the first few nights, but she hated it. So i gave it back.
    Everyone I know swears by the rock ‘n play, but it really never worked for us. I know lots of moms who have a hard time transitioning their babies OUT of the rock ‘n plays, so if your little man is sleeping OK with out it, I wouldn’t get one!
    Congrats by the way!!!

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  4. Olivia

    09/27/2018

    I was having a conversation along these lines with my mom just yesterday! She feels like she *should* give things she no longer needs to someone who needs it or will actually use it – so she’s holding onto those things until she finds a worthy recipient (because the employees at Goodwill/Salvation Army/etc just go through and get what they want instead of giving donated items to needy people, of course…::eye roll::). You’re so good with putting this concisely – any advice for what to tell her here???

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    Brenda Reply:

    Donate to a homeless shelter or something that directly serves the needy, not some place that sells the stuff to serve “someone.” My town has a gospel mission downtown that serves hot meals, provides shelter, runs a daycare for the needy to find jobs, AND has a thrift store to help fund their mission. They sort and determine how items can be used best: sold for money or given/used directly by recipients. You could call around to local churches, food pantries or shelters in your area and ask them. Even old towels, sheets, and t-shirts (maybe) can be used by animal shelters…

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    Andrea Reply:

    good ideas Brenda. Thanks!

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    Andrea Reply:

    ah yes — she is not alone. SO many people prefer to give items directly to a specific person or for a specific need — which takes SOOOOO much more time and energy to distribute everything.

    I’ve dealt with this situation many times and I always try to explain that it really doesn’t matter WHO gets their cast-offs as long as it’s out of their home.
    Also, I try to frame it from the perspective of the potential buyer — think how happy someone might be to find exactly the time they were looking for, and now they will get so much use from the item. That seems to help — even if it’s not a real person in their lives!

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    Rhonda Kay Mullin Reply:

    That’s helpful to point out. Although some of my friends or neighbors might enjoy hand-me-downs, it often means I hold onto something longer (and who knows if they do actually want or need the item(s). Usually I ask first, but I have to remind myself to put my own convenience first sometimes.

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    Andrea Reply:

    YES! EXACTLY! I know it might sound selfish to actually type/say those words, but sometimes we just need to put our own convenience first. Not all the time… but sometimes, for our own sanity’s sake! Good for you for realizing this and accepting it!

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  5. Carol

    09/27/2018

    “I should store my old set of dishes/pots/pans/silverware/ etc. in case we ever get a cottage or to give to my grown children some day.”

    This made me LOL because I thought this with some of my older dishes, pots and pans, etc. I live in Colorado, but no, we still don’t have a condo in the mountains! My kids are grown up and, no, they wanted none of it!

    When the youngest son graduated from college, I participated in a multifamily garage sale, took the old silverware to the break room at work and donated whatever was left! Felt so good to be rid of it all!

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    Andrea Reply:

    good for you for finally getting rid of all that old stuff!! I’m sure it felt great!

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  6. Maria

    09/27/2018

    Andrea, you’re absolutely right about the guilt aspect of getting rid of stuff. I feel guilty in getting rid of gifts given by close relatives because I don’t want to offend them. I have trouble getting rid of these items ( i.e. silver plated tea set) I absolutely have never used and don’t like (not my style).

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    Lea Reply:

    Do you have a family member that would actually use the item? For example with your tea set – someone who entertains regularly or collects tea cups or collects antique silver or antiques in general?

    I hung on to my Grandmothers painting set (she was a professional landscape painter) for years and then asked my cousin (who actually paints!) if she would like it. She was thrilled and uses it at least weekly. And it stayed in the family for those who cared about that. I just asked “I rarely use this. Would you be able to use it with all your painting?” She gifted me a beautiful landscape of the lake with fished at as children as a thank you. It looks perfect on my wall and I had an open cupboard in my sewing room for more fabric. *wink*

    With your tea set you could say something like “You host such a lovely brunch. Would you like to have Auntie Muriel’s tea set to help with serving? I rarely use it and I would love to see it be used more.” or “You have a lovely tea cup collection! Auntie Muriel’s tea set would be a great addition and I rarely use it. I’d be happy to pass it along if you’d like.”

    You may end up hanging on to it anyway but someone else might be really excited about it!

    Lea

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    Andrea Reply:

    Great ideas! thanks Lea!

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    Deb Reply:

    I have a silver plated tea set as well. My parents didn’t “want” it or have room for it, so I got it as a “gift.” I have simply resigned myself to the fact that it is mine until they are gone at which time I will have the freedom to do with it as I please. It is in a tote in the garage. It was my Grandmother’s and she displayed it and polished it, but that is so not me. It isn’t a big deal, just one of those things. I don’t feel guilty per se, but why “rock the boat” and make them mad, they have enough problems….

    And we have a super small family and I know none of them want it, my brother would die laughing if I asked him. It is our ongoing joke about all the crap we are going to “inherit.”

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    Andrea Reply:

    good perspective Deb — and yes, I agree. It’s probably not worth making too big of a fuss about while specific relatives are still living.

    That said, if the situation gets out of control, it’s probably worth confronting the gift giver and explaining your desire for less stuff in your home!

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    Maria Reply:

    Hi Deb,

    Thanks for the advice. You’re right; there’s no point in “rocking the boat”. I’ll just tuck it away for now.

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    Andrea Reply:

    I know — those types of gifts are the trickiest (and yes, they do make you feel SO guilty!) If you feel it will cause quite a bit of strain on your relationships by purging an item, I’d probably just hold onto it — but if you’re really tight on space, you could also explain your reasoning for purging the item and ask if they want it back

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  7. Anonymous

    09/27/2018

    So true, Andrea! I was purging yesterday & this prompts me to do more! I think I’ll scan the {•You’re the Best Mother~I Love You•}paper from my youngest child & then toss it!

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — yes, just scan and toss!! happy purging!

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