We’ve all been there…we want to have a cleaner and less cluttered home, but that requires letting go of things. And with decluttering comes a pile of guilt. This sense of guilt holds us up and keeps us from making any real progress on our homes. If this is you, I’m here to show you how you can easily declutter without the guilt, as well as some easy items to let go of starting today.
Why You Feel Guilt and How to Get Past It
People tend to feel guilty about decluttering for two main reasons: (1) they find it wasteful, and/or (2) they are sentimentally attached to their things. So first, I’m going to briefly talk about both of these reasons, as well as give you some tips for how to get past these hangups.
You Think Decluttering is Wasteful
The first reason people tend to feel guilty about decluttering is that they think decluttering is wasteful. They think that throwing out their things will do more harm than good.
I’ve felt guilty about decluttering certain items because it felt wasteful. But the truth is, once I purchased more items than I needed, the damage was already done. Purchasing excess items already contributed to increased pollution and waste. So, the problem wasn’t decluttering; the problem was buying too much in the first place.
I firmly believe that it’s okay to declutter items that we don’t need any longer. Eventually, these items will be decluttered, if not by you, then by your loved ones. That may sound morbid, but it’s a reality that we all must face. So, it truly is better for us to deal with them now, and ourselves, so that we have control over what happens to these items.
While it is true that decluttered items could find themselves in the landfill, there are things you can do to prevent that from happening. Make sure that you know what happens to items after you donate them to an organization. Some organizations throw away unwanted items, but some organizations recycle these items. Do your homework!
Tips for Mindful Decluttering:
- Give items personally to people you know will love and use them.
- Donate items to organizations that are eco-conscious.
- Recycle anything you can instead of throwing items in the trash.
- Properly dispose of items like chemicals and medication.
You are Sentimentally Attached to Your Things
The other reason people tend to feel guilty about decluttering is that they are sentimentally attached to their things. They find it extremely difficult to let go, because so much of what they own has a special meaning for them.
I’m not a very sentimental person, but I have definitely held onto many things for sentimental reasons. When I really thought about it though, I held onto things because I thought that I was supposed to. That’s what people do. Or that’s what my mom did. But really, deciding what you want to keep and what deserves a place in your life is personal.
I had to learn to really understand why I was keeping sentimental items so that I could learn what to let go of for my own peace of mind. There were things I was holding onto because I was afraid I would forget about certain people without them. But, in reality I knew that would never happen. The memories I had of this person were enough.
And then were things that I held onto because it felt like the represented me in some way. In many ways, though, these things represented a previous version of myself. So I had to decide…is this what I want to be know for still today? If so, what should I change so that this can still be true of me? And if not, it was time to let go so that I could focus on my future instead of my past.
Tips for Decluttering Sentimental Items:
- Don’t declutter sentimental items until you’ve dealt with everything else.
- Discover the real reason you’re keeping items.
- Keep only items that deserve a place in your future life.
- Show gratitude for the items you let go of like Marie Kondo would suggest.
- Find ways to remember positive memories that don’t involve keeping physical things.
90+ Things to Easily Declutter Without the Guilt
Hopefully you are beginning to see ways to move past the guilt that often comes with decluttering. But, even if you are unsure about how you feel about dramatically decluttering your life, there are still some easy things to declutter to get you started. With a little practice, you can begin to easily declutter without the guilt.
Here are 90+ things to easily declutter without the guilt, broken down by each area of your home:
- Trash or items to be recycled
- Anything that you don’t know what it is
- Duplicates that don’t get used (keep your favorite and ditch the rest!)
- Outerwear that no longer fits
- Outerwear that’s in rough shape
- Old home project or craft supplies
- Holiday decor/dishes
- Broken sports equipment
- Duplicate or broken tools
- Broken or worn gardening and yard tools/supplies
- Unused decorations
- Plastic bags or excess reusable bags
- Worn out backpacks, duffel bags, and luggage
- Unused or well-worn pet supplies
- Equipment from old hobbies you won’t pick up again
- Scraps of gift wrap, ripped gift boxes, ugly gift bags
- Past party supplies
- Old products and their boxes
- New product boxes (unless you store them in there or plan to resell)
- Old air fresheners and candles
- Cleaning supplies that don’t work the way you hoped
- Clothing that no longer fits you (I bet you’ll want new clothing if you are that size again!)
- Clothes you don’t actually like so you never wear it
- Clothing that’s well worn or stained
- Shoes with the same criteria as above
- Broken glasses
- Jewelry and accessories you no longer wear or use
- Extra hangers
- Alarm clocks (if you now use your phone)
- Decorative pillows and blankets you don’t like or use
- Excess bed linens and towels
- Stained or worn bed linens and towels
- Travel toiletries from hotels
- Old beauty tools
- Worn out or outdated hair accessories
- Old makeup
- Old toothbrushes
- Hair and skin products you don’t like
- Dried up or clumpy nail polish
- Extra/duplicate tools like nail files
- Expired first aid supplies (replace!)
- Expired medication
- Excess throw blankets and pillows
- Entertainment electronics or accessories that don’t get used
- DVD’s that don’t get re-watched
- Video games that don’t get played
- Games or puzzles you never play with (or are missing pieces!)
- Books you didn’t like or read
- Magazines you never look at anymore
- Kids’ clothing that no longer fits
- Clothing they don’t like to wear
- Kids’ clothing with holes or stains
- Broken toys
- Games with missing pieces
- Outgrown toys
- Obnoxious toys
- Cheap toys like McDonald’s toys or party favors
- Toys no one plays with
- Duplicate toys
- Arts supplies that are old/broken or never used
- Mail you don’t need
- Old school/activity information papers
- Writing utensils that don’t work
- Old Bank statements and bills
- Tax Records (if older than 7 years)
- Broken electronics
- Extra cords and chargers
- Unused folders/binders
- Used notebooks and papers you never look at
- Office tools you no longer need or use
- Reference books that you now use Google for
- Manuals for items you no longer own
Kitchen & Dining Room
- Expired food
- Broken dishes
- Dishes without the set
- Excess travel mugs and water bottles
- Damaged or duplicate cooking utensils
- Broken or ineffective small appliances
- Cookbooks you never look at or use
- Plastic containers with missing lids
- Plastic storage containers in rough shape
- Dish towels and rags that are stained or falling apart
- Pots and pans in rough shaper or duplicates
- Lids without a pot or pan
- Duplicate measuring cups and spoons
- Extra mixing bowls
- Unused serving plates and bowls
- Stained or ripped table linens
- To-go boxes and utensils
- Junk drawer items you never use
- Items under the sink you never use or need to be replaced
You Can Easily Declutter Without the Guilt
Great list, right?! Use this list to help you get started with decluttering so that you can easily declutter without the guilt. Then, move onto the items that you are more sentimental about later on when you are ready. Find a decluttering method that works for you and move forward.
You can easily declutter without the guilt with a little practice. So, when you feel guilty about decluttering, it’s best to start with the things you can let go of most easily. By the time you get to those things that are more difficult for you to declutter, you will be in a better mindset, prepared to determine what deserves a place in your future!
Theresa Bedford is a syndicated freelance home and travel writer with regular contributions to the Associated Press wire and MSN. She helps everyday people love the life they have through simplicity, organization, and prioritization.