Tell me whether or not this has happened to you before: You decide it's time to declutter certain spaces in your home, but get stuck in the process--sometimes from the very first item you touch--because of an overwhelming feeling of guilt. Although you realize that certain items are literally collecting dust, taking up valuable space in your home, and/or not aligning with your personal taste or design aesthetic, you simply cannot get yourself to let them go because of the fear of 1) hurting someone's feelings, 2) disrespecting someone posthumously, or 3) wondering if you may need one or more of the items someday.
If you have experienced this feeling one or more times in the past, then this post is dedicated to you, my friend.
First Things First: Shift That Perspective
As you read the following statements, please know that they are coming from a place of love, value, and support.
If you don't use it, you don't need it.
If you don't like it, you don't have to keep it.
If you really want to ditch it, ditch it.
Before you think I'm insensitive, hear me out.
As I previously shared, most people struggle with the decluttering part of the organizing process because of feeling guilty; however, in this case, guilt is completely preemptive. By hanging onto items that we know we do not want or enjoy because of the fear of feeling guilty in the future, we are punishing ourselves for having opinions and, in turn, limiting our abilities to find the peace we are seeking to create in our homes. That is no way to live, guys!
Here are some ways to shift your perspective when it comes to feeling guilty about decluttering:
If you're worried about hurting someone's feelings:
Remind yourself that the gifter's intent in giving the item to you was not to bring your stress.
Understand that he or she will most likely never know whether or not you've kept the item. When we visit our friends and family members, it is not to search for and ask about things we've gifted them; it's to enjoy their company!
If you feel the need to communicate with the individual who shared the item with you, reach out and thank him or her. Share how much you've enjoyed having the item, and let him or her know that you're now interested in gifting it to someone else.
If you're worried about disrespecting someone posthumously:
Donating a material possession of someone who has passed does not take away the memories you created with him or her. Remind yourself of how happy he or she would be for you as you are finding a way to bring peace and happiness into your home.
Display a photo or an object you treasure in place of the item you are interested in purging. Having something you love looking at on display will remind you of the individual in a much happier way.
If you're wondering if you may need one or more of the items someday:
Think about the present and which items you are using now that are clearly of more value than the ones collecting dust. Releasing the what-ifs releases the clutter.
Offer the item to a family member or friend who could use it in the present moment. If no one needs it, remind yourself that donating it will give someone else--who may not have been able to afford it at full-price--the opportunity to enjoy it.
What Experience Has Taught Me
Here's the thing I've learned while working one-on-one with clients who are struggling to let go of certain possessions: learning to reason out loud is key in making thoughtful decluttering decisions. The problem is that most of the time, when we start decluttering and organizing our homes, we are doing it alone. We pick times when the kids are at school or busy playing, or when the spouse is caught up doing his or her own tasks around the house, so that we can power through without interruption... Am I right?
Even though it can be very peaceful to dive into this process on your own, when it comes to having to go through items that are in any way sentimental or new-but-never-been-used, having someone present to talk out your thoughts with truly makes a difference.
When you're living in your head and attempting to make big decluttering decisions with just "me, myself, and I", all of the what-ifs your brain will naturally run through are bound to create resistance; to chase you away from your goal of creating more space and peace in your home. So I would encourage you to talk it out. FaceTime a sibling, invite your bestie over, record yourself and build accountability by sending the video to a loved one... whatever works for you! Just trust me when I say that the magic happens when you allow your thoughts to be brought into existence. Try it and see for yourself!
The next time you decide to declutter a space in your home, remember that this life is for you. Guilt serves no one, so when you choose to let it go, the possibility of creating the clean, clear, and controlled home of your dreams becomes completely attainable.
And if you're interested in setting yourself up for success in the future, here are some habits to start building to catch clutter before it even starts.