Inside: Use these five tips to declutter your fantasy self and work on embracing your life’s current realities.
How much of the clutter in your home is yours – and how much belongs to your fantasy self?
Wondering what I mean by your fantasy self? I’m glad you asked. Let me explain.
Most of us are holding onto some stuff that technically belongs to our fantasy self – not our actual self. It’s the stuff we keep for years that thought we were going to use because we’re going to become that person – and the stuff we simply can’t let go of.
In some cases, that stuff is from fleeting interests and temporary passions. You’ve got a pile of cookbooks from that summer when you convinced yourself you were going to pursue a career change and become a pastry chef, collecting dust on your shelves.
Or maybe you’ve got an impressive selection of workout gear in your closet – stuff that’s hardly been worn, that doesn’t even fit anymore, that you bought three years ago when you wanted to start training for that marathon you never ran.
In others, that stuff symbolizes hope for a life you’ll never live. Or at least, a life you won’t live right now. Maybe you bought a fancy gown years ago to wear to that award ceremony you didn’t attend or to that wedding you never went to.
Or maybe you’ve been stockpiling kids’ stuff that none of your children have fit in or used in many years. Meanwhile, it’s been taking up most of the storage space in your garage.
It can be hard to accept the fact that our fantasy self is simply that – a fantasy. Embracing your current reality takes intentionality and work.
But by decluttering the stuff that your fantasy self is holding onto, you can make meaningful steps toward change – and clear out some of that overwhelming clutter in the process.
How do I declutter my fantasy self and embrace my current reality?
Giving up all of the stuff our fantasy self is holding onto isn’t easy. After all, there’s a reason you’ve held onto it for so long. It’s hard to say goodbye, both to the physical stuff and that idea of who we were, or who we wish we could be.
But by having some hard conversations with ourselves, accepting our truth, and taking meaningful action to move forward, you can transform your life and get your fantasy self clutter out of your way so you can move forward.
1. Accept the fact that we aren’t the same person we were ten years ago.
The first thing you’ll need to do to declutter your fantasy self is to accept the fact that you aren’t your fantasy self.
For many of us, this is the hardest part.
We paint a picture in our minds of the type of person we want to be. We tell ourselves if we do this, or we do that, we will become this person.
This person is different for all of us. Some people aspire to be more creative, more athletic, more adept in the kitchen, a bookworm, a wine connoisseur, or a fashion designer. The list goes on.
But regardless of what those aspirations are – or were – accepting the fact that we simply aren’t can be a hard pill to swallow.
For some people, a conversation with a friend can be helpful. Others seek out a therapist to work through their feelings. Others pick up a journal and write it all out. And others simply force themselves to accept the hard truth.
See what works for you – and accept the fact that you are not your fantasy self so you can move forward. Stop holding onto things for someday and embrace the here and now instead.
2. Get rid of clothes that don’t fit – and haven’t fit in years.
Old clothes are something that almost all of us are holding onto – and in many cases, it represents a version of our fantasy self that will never exist again.
Some people keep closets filled with clothes that fit them ten years ago, back when they were a size that seems impossible to reach now. Even though the styles you’re holding onto are long out of fashion, you still convince yourself that you’re going to fit – and wear – these things one day.
Others have bought clothes for events they’ll never attend or activities they’ll never actually participate in. Maybe you bought a fancy dress for a gala on sale – and have spent the last decade waiting for the right occasion to wear it.
Or maybe you stocked up on a closet full of blazers, skirts, and business attire – only to find yourself working in an industry where jeans and t-shirts are the norm.
Some of that stuff might even have the tags still on them – which can make it even harder to part with. After all, it’s brand new. You spent money on it. You’ve got to wear it one day… right?
If you’re honest with yourself, the likelihood of that is incredibly low.
Instead of hanging onto that stuff and letting it take up space – physical space and mental space – get ruthless and declutter it. Donate it to a good cause. Give it to a friend or someone in need who will actually wear it. Sell it at a yard sale or through an online marketplace.
If you truly do tend to go up or down sizes regularly, then at least remove the things that don’t fit you now and store them. Give yourself a deadline to re-evaluate if they’re worth the space they’re taking up.
3. Say goodbye to stuff you’re holding onto for old hobbies – or hobbies your fantasy self never truly embraced in the first place.
Another big culprit for fantasy self clutter?
All of the stuff we bought thinking we were going to become someone we aren’t.
While clothes can be the most obvious example of this, many of us also cling to stuff purchased to participate in activities.
For some, this involves old hobbies that we’re convinced we’re going to return to. Maybe you were a soccer player back in school – and you’re still holding onto those cleats and shin guards for the day you join a rec league.
Maybe you went through a scrapbooking phase – and now have drawers filled with scrap paper and other supplies. But you’re never going to use them, because you realized you don’t actually love scrapbooking and are fine with keeping photos on your phone.
Or maybe you decided you were going to double down on your cooking skills and filled your kitchen with specialty appliances and ingredients that have done nothing but collect dust and take up valuable space for years. You came to find out that you really don’t like to cook – but you’ve continued holding onto those things.
After all – what if you need it?
Spoiler alert: if you haven’t used it in years, the odds are not in your favor. It’s highly unlikely you’d want or need those items again. But if you do, you can likely borrow them or purchase them second-hand at a big discount.
Get rid of that stuff and give yourself the space you need to discover what you truly love to do.
4. Let go of items that don’t fit your lifestyle without guilt or regret.
Aside from hobbies, another type of fantasy clutter comes into the home via the habits we wish we had. Often it is in the form of the typical New Year’s goals.
That treadmill that’s acted as a clothing rack rather than actually being used for its intended purpose. These are in the category of very common things that people buy but then rarely use.
Keep in mind that letting go of these items that weren’t a good fit for your lifestyle does not mean you failed. It doesn’t say anything about who you are as a person. It simply wasn’t the right thing for you. Removing the judgment from the situation will make it easier to let it go.
Perhaps taking walks outside is more your speed. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s ok to let things go when they don’t fit your current lifestyle or preferences.
Part of the challenge of working to declutter your fantasy self is when your identity is closed tied to the things you own. The more you can work to unravel that, the less needless stuff you hold onto and the freer you will feel.
Keeping things that make you feel bad isn’t a way to get positive results. Embrace the here and now and let go of the excess stuff without regret or guilt.
5. Be wary of marketing messaging.
Advertisers are masters at getting you to envision that this or that product will completely transform your home or your life.
It’s easy to buy into the fantasy that having that thing will make all the difference.
That article of clothing that will help to complete your wardrobe or that home decor item that will tie the room together.
That planner will take your life from overscheduled and scattered to being perfectly organized.
Or surely those organizing bins and baskets will turn the cluttered pantry into a showpiece.
Watch any commercial for a perfume and it’s clear they’re trying to communicate that having the right scent will give you a completely different life. Other times the messaging is more subtle, but rest assured marketers are always trying to sell you something.
If they can get you to envision how life-changing their product will be or how much you will enjoy having that thing then they’ve succeeded in selling you the fantasy.
Shopping also gives you a brief rush of dopamine with the anticipation and excitement of your new purchase which further encourages buying.
Understanding how these tactics work can help you to avoid buying fantasy clutter. You can take additional tactics to be more intentional with shopping going forward, such as waiting to buy any new items.
6. Accept yourself for who you are.
It can be hard to say goodbye and declutter your fantasy self and embrace reality. But it’s critical. After all, we only live one life – and you don’t want to spend it wishing you were someone you aren’t.
Journaling can be a great way to process these feelings and cultivate self-acceptance and deepen your confidence. Simply leaning into the things you do love to do can help, too.
Surrounding yourself with people who share your current passions and interests – not the ones you wish you had – can help you form a supportive community.
And by not comparing yourself with others you’ll feel less pressure to pursue these hobbies and interests that don’t actually interest you, or squeeze your body into too-small jeans to fit someone else’s standard of beauty.
Comparison is the thief of joy and you’re too special to spend your time and energy that way. Embrace who you were created to be with all of the things that make you uniquely you!
How have you worked to declutter your fantasy self? Leave a comment and let me know!
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What a great article! 😊 … I must admit I am not the same person I was several years ago! For instance, I thought I had to have every tool on the market for scrapbooking! How wrong I was because it turned out to be a fad or passing phase but a lot of money got spent on all that stuff! Same with collecting tons of cookbooks! 😒… Now I have a few, and gave a ton away! I do believe I have learned my lesson!
One of the best 2023
clothes bought to wear in the gym now gone – I quit the gym and it is very unlikely that I will return Tx
I feel like I spent a fortune of products to use for getting healthy; to making shakes, etc. I don’t use these or the blender I bought but I hate throwing them away. I wish I could pass them to people who actually use them but no one accepts open packages. I am just going to have to bite the bullet and throw them out because they take up too much space on my shelves and in my head and freezer. I am really trying to clean out the xtra stuff I don’t use.
Offer to friends.. give to Goodwill. I wish I was near you, I would recieve an air fyer ..lol
Use “Buy Nothing” on facebook…there is one in your town and it is wonderful for giving stuff away that is useful!
No need to throw them out. If you donate your unwanted items, “people who actually use them” will pay money to the charity. It’s a win – win – win! You get less clutter and the joy of helping others, someone who can’t afford to buy new gets the item they really want/need, and the charity earns money as the middle-man!
Terrific! You put into words exactly what is holding many of us back. You should re-publish this several times a year as we all could use these reminders. Thank you!
In the UK at least, community kitchens, and some charity shops which can PAT test items for safety and then sell them, may be grateful for these. Saves landfill and blesses others!
Great article. Love this and never heard this before. Have boxes of crafts I never finished, and supplies hardly used because for years I belonged to a craft group where we did a new craft every month, which I am still involved in but more selective now. Also have a large heavy treadmill my parents insisted on buying me that I use to dry clothes on and storing boxes of art supplies. Gave bags of craft items to neighbours kids for their school holidays, friends who wanted them and the 2nd hand shops. Lots to still get rid still. I also have to stop accepting donations and say No thank you. I gave 3 car loads of clothes that do not fit me anymore but it was really hard. Another car load to go. I kept a few items that I love and found too hard to part with and will ask a friend if it is possible to take them in.
I’m already thinking of stuff I can get rid of…. my nursing scrubs. I haven’t worked as an aide in 4 years. I will bring them to a local charity that gives clothing to people in need. Thank you. Great article !!!
Great reminder thankyou. I’m working on this now, being a keyworker in the pandemic I have ended up with long covid. Textiles are uncomfortable, things don’t smell the same and I can’t exercise the same. But with CBT help I’m working through it and decluttering actually helps my brain fog.
It was actually donating my favourite perfume which was the hardest because it was so linked to my memories but I have found new ones so life can go on and be more positive
The title says it all, doesn’t it!? I really liked this post and will keep it in mind as I continue to declutter…Thank you!!
Thanks for the article–you have opened my eyes to another mental block I never knew I have.
Most of these tips and articles are person-focused. Any tips for how to apply to everyone in the household? I can declutter all of my stuff for sure, but I still have to live with and around all of their fantasy life stuff too (like the weight bench that serves as a clothes hamper in real life). Any negotiation strategies?