Inside: Here are the things I wish I’d known before I started decluttering and some of the realizations I had along the way.

Ten years ago my family was getting ready to relocate from Southern California to the Pacific Northwest. At the time my daughters were one and three years old.

I spent those days packing up every single thing we owned and tried to pack them carefully so that they wouldn’t get damaged in transit.

Somewhere between the packing and the moving companies giving me estimates of what it would cost to get our things to our new home, I began asking myself why we owned so much stuff. And why I was taking the time to pack up things we rarely (or sometimes never) used.

There really is nothing like packing up every thing you own to make you question every thing you own.

While I’d love to say that realization immediately helped me to start decluttering, it didn’t. In the chaos of mothering toddlers and packing, I couldn’t think clearly. But the insights I gained in that process did spark the thought that we didn’t have to continue living like that.

Around two years later after reading about decluttering and simple living and getting more fed up with our stuff, I started my decluttering journey.

Looking back, here are seven things I wish I’d known before I started decluttering.

known before I started decluttering

7 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Decluttering

Here are the things I wish I’d known before I started decluttering as I would have been better prepared for the journey ahead.

1. Emotional ties to stuff can be complicated.

Understanding the reasons you’ve been holding onto clutter is not always an easy process.

Decluttering forced me to face past purchase regrets. I came across items I’d convinced myself to buy thinking that I needed it at the time, but I’d find it in the original packing or with the tag still on it.

That didn’t feel great, but it did make me more intentional with shopping and much more careful about the items that I brought into our home going forward.

I also felt a bit guilty about why I’d hung onto certain things for so long when I really didn’t have a good reason for it.

Dealing with the various emotions that came up while decluttering was a bit surprising for me, but at the end of it, I was grateful for the things I had and everything I learned about myself in the process.

woman looking through a photo album

2. People are not their things.

Sentimental items were a challenge to deal with in the decluttering process.

Letting go of guilt and reminding myself that people are not their things helped me to let go of items I didn’t truly love or have the space for.

It is possible to declutter sentimental items while preserving your precious memories. Finding better ways to store memorabilia and letting go of the excess stuff was a freeing experience.

I also learned that dealing with sentimental items last is helpful.

Practicing making decisions in easier areas first helped to build my confidence and brought clarity to what I wanted to keep and what I was ready to leave behind.

man and woman looking at dream home

3. Your stuff should support your life now.

I am frugal to my core. I don’t want to waste things, but keeping things for someday when…or what if…was creating clutter in our home.

Through the decluttering process, I realized that the things in my home are meant to support and enhance the life I am living now.

Holding onto excess items for imagined scenarios in which I would want to have those items on hand wasn’t helpful. And most of those situations were also highly unlikely.

By letting go of the items that we didn’t need and weren’t using I was able to more fully embrace our life now.

This helped our home to look, feel, and function better and was something I wish I’d realized sooner.

known before I started decluttering

4. You can’t change anyone else.

While some people may declutter their home and have their partner jump on board, that won’t be the same experience for everyone.

In my case, my spouse didn’t want to declutter. While I’d hoped he would see the changes to the areas I’d worked on and want to do that with his own things, that didn’t really happen.

I learned to accept that we have different perspectives on the stuff we own. We’ve continued to have conversations about it and work to find compromises, but it was helpful to realize that I can’t change anyone else.

When it comes to your kids’ stuff, there are ways to get your kids to declutter and teach them how to manage their stuff.

But in both cases, I don’t recommend decluttering anyone else’s things without their permission. Having conversations and including other family members in the process is the best way to go.

known before I started decluttering

5. It’s not just about the stuff.

One of the biggest things that I wish I’d known before I started decluttering is that it goes beyond just the stuff in your home.

There are various types of invisible clutter that impact our lives even if they aren’t as obvious.

Decluttering went beyond just sorting and donating items I no longer wanted in my home. I also took a look at how other forms of clutter were taking up my time.

Digital clutter meant that I spent more time trying to find documents and excessive apps were a source of distraction.

Our schedule was also an area that needed some decluttering. By more carefully considering what we said yes to we were able to create more flexibility and free time in our lives.

When I started decluttering I didn’t realize how truly life-changing the process of letting go could be. It positively impacted up in more ways than I could have predicted.

habits that will keep your home neat and tidy

6. Habit change is crucial for maintenance.

Before I started decluttering I imagined it would be a one-and-done process. I figured I’d spend months going through every area in our home and then we’d be good to go.

Looking back I can see how naive that was. I realized that to maintain the progress I made, I needed to change my habits.

Over time I learned decluttering habits that helped me to be more careful with the items I brought into my home. Reviewing the stuff in our home seasonally and decluttering items as necessary have helped keep the clutter at bay.

Adopting daily habits that keep our home neat and tidy also helps me to put items back where they should go quickly.

Being more intentional with shopping and carefully considering what items I purchase has greatly reduced the clutter in our home and saved us a lot of money in the process.

Assessing the habits that have contributed to the clutter that accumulated in our home and making adjustments as needed helped us to maintain our space.

woman walking down a road with a backpack on

7. It’s a process & a journey.

Decluttering our home and then later helping other people to declutter theirs, made me see that everyone has their own unique journey with simplifying.

For some people, it’s a quick process, but for others, the slow declutter approach is a better one to take.

I didn’t get rid of a huge percentage of our stuff and it was important for me to realize that it wasn’t a race or a competition. It was about figuring out what worked best in my home. I realized that not all decluttering advice works for everyone and that’s perfectly ok.

If you want to sell your unwanted items, there is nothing wrong with that. If you prefer to forego selling and responsibly donate that is fine too.

Decluttering is really about evaluating your own unique needs and doing what makes the most sense for you. It’s also an ongoing journey of refining and re-evaluating that is more of a lifestyle than a singular action.

known before I started decluttering

What I wish I’d known before I started decluttering

Did I make mistakes along the way? Yes.

Do I ever wish I started sooner? Sure.

But this has been my journey to take and I can look back and see that I did the best I could with the resources I had at the time and once I knew better I did better.

Would knowing these things ahead of time have changed anything? Maybe not, but I would have been better prepared for the journey ahead of me. I never would have guessed how much it would impact my life. 100% worth the effort. No regrets.

Is there anything you wish you’d known before decluttering? Share it in the comments section below.

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90 Comments

  1. Ten years ago, at the age of 62, I married a wonderful man and moved into his home of clutter. There is too much to our story to share but after tackling it through the years there is still a mountain before me. What I liked most about your article is that you cannot change anyone else. I have days that depress me when I look around and know what life could be, but I also have had the most wonderful life with this man and would not change him for the world. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1Cor 13:7

    1. Yeah, I am looking at moving in with boyfriend of 2 1/2 years, who in my opinion has some clutter. It makes me anxious and depressed. I have and have tried to organize some areas. He’s been in this home 17 years so that doesn’t help. But how do I handle his behavior of holding onto things? His children are grown and out of the house…tell me why he needs 40 bowls, and 5 full sets of silverware and etc etc etc?! He just states he “likes them” and/or “wants them”. Ugh…frustrating. I am a big believer in sharing and giving to others so it’s hard for me to stare at these 40 plates and probably just as many if not more drinking glasses. Not to mention DVDs and clothes in baskets instead of a dresser! I think he appreciates me cleaning out and cleaning up some things; and his landlord absolutely appreciates it and has told me. Should this cluttered house and excess attitude of his keep me from moving in or marrying? I don’t know. I am 58 and he is 56. I don’t know if I can “endure” it…not sure. Maybe…if I’m allowed to keep organizing and throwing a few things out here and there.

      1. If this man’s clutter causes you to wonder if you should marry, then you don’t really love him and it’s time for you to move on.

        1. I do not agree! However, you’ve known he is a hoarder & dont understand why you’d consider marrying or moving in?? This issue will be a source of stress & contention & not u won’t be able to overlook. my opinion, it’s a deal breaker.

        2. that IS SO UNTRUE!! First you can only evaluate and judge your own love. this person is being realistic. if she moves in and feels overwhelmed, resentful, and suffocated by “his stuff”, that will kill the relationship. She at least realizes up front that she might have to stay in her own place.

      2. You probably shouldn’t move in; you will become more & more frustrated as time goes by & your relationship will deteriorate. Keep the best parts of your relationship & live separately.

      3. You can love someone & be “bonded” but not live together. My dad & his girlfriend (both in their 80s, dating 30 years) now live next door to each other.
        There is no space but for paths to move around. I told him before he bought the house, the space was too small for all he had. But he loves her, she wasn’t moving, they wanted to be together, but they had an irreconcilable clutter-differential. This house came up for sale next door. Voilà! They spend together time at her house or traveling; then private time at home (their separate homes). But he loves his books and old movie collections & he shouldn’t have to get rid of them.
        It CAN work. My dad is a rare human – an academic, he is an intelligent, multifaceted thinker, compassionate, with a wide variety of interests (that all require “stuff”) & has an incredible number of skills; he is passionate about life and unafraid to take on projects or the world. He also knows how to be social and looks great in a tux. All this makes him a great support in her endeavors – so for her, the positives outweigh the negatives. It helps that he is cluttered & dusty – not filthy.
        If your man fits the biggest parts of your life but you get hung up on his overflowing bookshelves or utter lack of visual aesthetics in laying out his space; if all you can think of is the need to clean & declutter his stuff? Then that’s a YOU problem.
        On the otherhand: If you are dealing with a person (like my other family member) who actually has Hoarding Disorder – not just a collector or disorganized person – as in if he’s keeping broken, unuseable items that he will never repair, plus garbage & recycling that should be thrown out? And everything is in heaps mixed up together? Then this is someone who needs more help than you doing all the work to clean & tidy, and it may not be possible. If you are in this situation? Be his friend, encourage him to get therapy, even line up an expert for him, eventually try to get him to hire cleaners, but don’t push. Enjoy his company at the museum, the literary guild, the movies, hikes & trips. Never move in with him. Never let him store his stuff at your house. Accept him as he is, but know that you by yourself cannot save him, and he may not be able to ask for help or participate in getting the help he needs.
        Good luck!

      4. I would Ask, “Where is thete room for you?” Perhaps start with the idea of making space for a new person in his life. Alternately, if it’s affordable, find a new place for two of you to live & get a fresh start by organizing the move & clearing out some clutter that doesn’t need to be packed. Be ready with shelving etc in your new home.

      5. while there’s a difference between junky and nasty, I wouldn’t try changing him as long as he treats you with respect, the place is clean, it’s his stuff. try maybe moving everything too another room? as maybe his storage unit 🤔 some people are set in their own ways if he’s happy and resecptful I wouldn’t worry about things I have no control of..

      6. I’m thinking you know the answer to your questions already. what is bothering you now will continue to bother you once you move in.
        Talk to him and let him know how you feel. while he loves his stuff it could become a wedge between you. If he can be led to understand that he might be more inclined to let at least some if it go to make room for you and any treasures you both love and choose together in the future.

      7. if u think there may be a problem u can’t deal with that will cause future problems– u had better rethink ur situation !! 😉

        1. Never, ever get rid of stuff that is not your stuff. if he wants to do away with his 40 bowl he will do it, if you do you are trespassing, not a good idea at all.

      8. Him cleaning out his stuff should be a requirement before you move in. Obviously something has triggered him to keep all these things and it’s more than just sentimentality. Did he lose his house at one point in his life or have his things taken away or burned, or did he grow up poor and holding on to everything? There is a reason for everything people do. and if you already are bothered by his tendency to
        hoard his bowls and other things, how will you feel when you have to see it day and night and know that there is no reason for him to have to keep all these things. If it already makes you anxious and depressed before moving in, that is not a good sign and could lead to you begin
        to resent him because you’re always needing to clean up. At his age he needs to be more mature living together is a compromise. You’re not his maid, you’re his partner and is such you need to make allowances but he really needs to clean his crap out.

    2. I don’t think you should listen to the comment about whether you have true love for your husband. We can truly and deeply love someone but certain lifestyles can impact greatly on that. I have loved before but unfortunately if certain ways rubbed against my values etc it caused mass friction and ultimately the relationship ended, even though I had done my best in the relationship. I hope you can find peace. Good luck x

    3. so true! giving away things and being manipulative to get things away is detrimental. 1st Corinthians 13 is the way to go. God bless you.

    4. I’ve never put this scripture with this situation, but it’s beautiful. Love really does bear all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures ALL THINGS.
      This really hit me hard! Thank you for reminding me of this. ❤️

    5. it’s difficult to go through and remember from an early age…all these things were steps to adulthood creating bad habits ..

  2. Thank you for sharing a great article. Need a laugh? We have moved many times. My hubby’s company paid for our moves. Then he ‘moved on’ (pun intended) to another job. We had to pay for our own move to the new location. We were so clueless. We put cinder blocks in the truck. Did we think Home Depot would not have any? Hahaha. We recently moved again and took nothing but our dog and her things. No joke. We sold our house in one day and the buyers wanted a two-week escrow. Hmm. You can do it if you have a plan. We sold most of our stuff and the buyers bought the rest. I gave away 50 plus years of Christmas. I do not miss one thing. I am relieved not to have it anymore. It’s a do-over. New everything. Yay!! As an aside, what about all the storage facilities that have popped up everywhere. People would rather pay to have their stuff in storage instead of letting it go. Fear of loss is real. They do serve a need but for ‘how long’? When they make a reality show about selling stuff from unpaid storage lockers you have to wonder.

  3. My son has me hooked on Declutering. After 2 divorces and 4 moves I feel do much better the less stuff is around. I like clean surfaces and organized spaces.. its a process. I work every day on it. I love my children for being honest and saying Mom is anything happens to you we will trash it anyway. Humbling and Honest.
    You start to see what really matters.
    Nothing is worth fighting over, everything is worth fighting for.

    1. IF ‘something happens’ to you ? You mean WHEN you die? Don’t put the burden on your kids. Go through your own things and lighten your load.

  4. It gets WORSE before it gets better. I have been on a journey of decluttering for a while. I pull out a closet of STUFF . It looks like my closet exploded all over my living room or bedroom.. I may or may not run out of steam before I am done. It is tough to make emotional decisions one right after another. NOW WHAT?? I keep going or give it a rest and pick it up later. I do this several times with the garage, cabinets and any where there is clutter. I am trying to declutter…but it ends up all over the place.

    1. Yes! I made that mistake once…trying to tackle a large amount of stuff (everything in my closet) at one time. It didn’t work well and I learned to work in much smaller areas or categories at a time to make it less stressful and chaotic. I may need to add a #8 ;).

      1. I did that with my closet… was always going to do it when I had time. But, I never had time, so I started in the corner, counted out 15 items and like the elephant in the room… one bite at a time. Some days, I did 3 or 4 bites… it took a week but looks amazing and is very organized and cuts my getting ready time in half.

    2. You sound like the way I feel. I know where you’re coming from 🫣😊🥴 well….back to the mess I started 4 days ago. Hubby waiting patiently. I now know I’m not the only one struggling being this decision to declutter. I’m 78 and can’t believe I’m barely realizing your kids don’t want your mess when you’re gone from this earth.🤪 Good luck everyone.😁

  5. I came across a few things that had memories attached to them. I realized they were memories I did not need or want…out they went. Why did I save those for decades???

  6. I just donate stuff that I don’t need, and it’s important to stop buying too much stuff and limit to one item for Xmas or another holiday that you celebrate. if we keep buying too much stuff then the clutter won’t end.buy gift cards for family for holiday gift instead of stuff that take up too much room.

    1. My stuff is hard to donate…even homeless shelters won’t take perfectly good blankets, linens, etc….perfectly fine appliances (working TV, older Kitchen aid mixer, which works fine but I got a newer model for Christmas). Everything about decluttering says “donate”…but TO WHERE???

  7. I got rid of many items when a family was raising money to go to Africa. If i used something one day a year I figured I could find something else to substitute. I’ve always been a person with not much stuff and now I still have everything I need but nothing stored or in a cupboard

  8. Towards the end of October 2023, my house burned up while I was at work. I lost basically everything, by fire, by liquid they sprayed everywhere, or soot and smoke damage.
    I had a quick decluttering, and it was such a shock, I still catch my breath each time I remember something else, I loved, and realize it’s GONE too. I still can’t believe how much of it was brand new stuff, still in the packages. I’d buy some things on sale with a time & place for it to be used in my future, or a project I wanted to do. Other ordered packages would come and I’d be thrilled to have it, but not need it right away, so it burned, still in the box. everything burns up and then it’s all gone. I wonder if I would have ever decluttered. The worst part was not clutter but my sweet elderly fur baby. She couldn’t get out and I hate that the most, and hope & pray she just inhaled smoke and didn’t suffer or cry for me.😭. I learned too late that all those deals you love to take home, need to have a lot of thought before. I am forever changed. Trying to salvage what I can and ppl giving me clothes and things to just survive now is a real wake up call. WOW this may not belong here, but I had responded to a decluttering ad a couple times in the last few years and knew I needed it, but man! This wasn’t the way I’d have done it! too fast! too gone! too bad… so sad …

    1. I’m so sorry about your beloved fur child. it’s something I’ve always feared. Thank you for making wonderful observations about ‘things’ cluttering up our lives. Blessings as you start over.

    2. I’m so sorry that happened to you. I honestly can’t imagine leaving my house, going to work, and coming back to almost nothing. I can empathize with you about your pet. Honestly, that would have been the worst part of it all for me too. Here’s hoping that 2024 is a much better year.

    3. My thoughts and prayers are with you. I am sorry you have had to go through this tragedy, I can’t imagine how incredibly difficult this has been for you. As stated in the article I believe decluttering is a process for some (I’ve been decluttering for almost five years now) some days it doesn’t look or feel like I’ve made any progress 😕
      Having all of your belongings ripped away from you in such a horrible way is unfair. Especially losing your fur baby, that breaks my heart and hurts my soul 😭
      I hope you can find peace soon to continue living not only to survive but to thrive ❣️
      Always Melissa T

      1. MR
        I’m so sorry to hear of your loss, especially the loss of your fur baby. My heart goes out to you. May 2024 bring you many blessings. ❤️

    4. I am soooo sorry for your loss :(. And you having to face your decluttering in such a quick and shocking way. I pray your 2024 is whatever you need it to be!

      1. I heard this saying and it stuck with me. “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” A lot of times we take on more than we can chew and we get overwhelmed and then comes discouragement. I do better with decluttering by taking on smaller tasks at a time, playing some upbeat music and timing myself on how long i think the task should take me to complete. Yes. I literally set a timer. I find that keeps me motivated.

    5. the same thing happened to my daughter just last month. people have donated clothes and the are only keeping what they like and passing the rest on

    6. I’m so sorry for the loss of your home & fur baby. I wiped away more than a few tears reading that; I know what a blow that would have been for me. Sending hugs and hopes for peace in this new year!

  9. Julianna, thank you so much for writing this article! Each point makes so much sense and I imagine you saying the words in a calm manner, easy to listen to, not judging, encouraging. I am starting my declutter process and I have a pretty big hurdle to overcome, my husband. He won’t discuss the subject and gets snippy if I ask him to look through his magazines or a stack of his papers/notes. Oh well, I’ll take your advice and work on my stuff and areas I have control over. 😊

    1. Thank you for your kind comment, Jessica. I read your words and said out loud ‘she is me’ when reading your decluttering challenge. It’s not easy but at least I have seen some progress and have tried to make peace with it (although I will admit certain things still annoy me). Not everyone has spouses who jump on board, so I get it!

  10. 14 yrs. ago, my husband died suddenly. our 2 daughters were grown and living on their own. Our 3,000 sq. ft. house (3 baths, 5 bedrooms) was more room than we needed. When he died, I knew couldn’t afford the upkeep and mortgage on our home. I needed to find a smaller place to live. Thus began my weeding out of our possessions. I had lost the most precious thing to me, so the “material” things that WE had enjoyed together for 35 years meant nothing to me.
    Later on, while still downsizing, I met a man who had also been widowed. Long story short, we married and HE had a houseful of stuff to downsize. We moved 3 times in the next 3 yrs., each time to a smaller house. We have lived in the 3rd one we moved to now for the past 14 yrs. I told my husband, “small cottages can be cute if you don’t overstuff them.” So THAT was my goal in downsizing/decluttering. We don’t have tgat many surfaces to set things on, so that eliminates a lot of knick-knacks. I chose instead to go with mostly floor lamps. I paired down vases and pitchers (for flowers) and candlesticks (you can keep one or two pairs and just change the color of the candles). At Christmas I choose natural greenery (cuttings from a tree lot), and line a wooden bowl with them and lay a few special colored glass balls in amongst the greenery. I have special decor for the fireplace mantle and one other small occasional table. I have a couple centerpieces I can choose from for the centerpiece on our dining room table. Other than that, I change the decor for the 4 seasons. I too, have given away more decorative items that I found I hadn’t used, even tho we’d downsized majority. I love dishes, so that can become “clutter” if you let it. The most people we can sit for dinner is 6, so I figured out the largest meal I would be fixing, and that helped me declutter the extra serving bowls, baking pans, etc. So much of what I tended to keep had fallen into the “I might use this someday” category. I love what you said about living for how you live now, not someday.
    Housecleaning takes less time (dusting, vacuuming around things, etc.) and honestly….I’ve never missed any of the “stuff” we’ve passed on and we feel good about giving useful or pretty items to others who appreciate it. The Bible says “do not store up treasures on earth where moths and rust can destroy, but to store up our treasures in Heaven.” Its really a freeing feeling!

  11. Kris – Amen, sister! we can always find the truth for any situation in our Creator’s Own Words ☝🏻
    He is our strength to get us through any and every situation, including the challenges of keeping our homes and our lives and our minds decluttered.

    I thank you and also Julianna for blessing us with encouragement and wisdom in the face of the ‘giant’ of clutter – God bless each of you and your loved ones!

  12. I am in the process because my husband of 55 years passed. I’m moving out of 3 bedroom home to a one bedroom adult living facility. I have been saying goodbye to some of my things because I just couldn’t take them. Since my subdivision doesn’t allow garages sales I am donating to local thrift stores.. My family doesn’t want or need some items which really hurt but I have to move on. Only the best memories come with me. Several treasures from family still need homes as they tell about the past.

  13. I have come to really love reading and RE-READING your articles! Sometimes it takes a moment or two to let it all sink in and realize that it CAN BE ACCOMPLISHED! I do a little bit at a time when the mood strikes trying to make the best use of my whirlwind mood! I have found this works well for me. I just make sure I load it all up in the car and drop off at our second hand store quickly. it can be difficult to make the change from keeping things just in case when having grown up that way (my mom grew up in the depression so everything was reviewed as to whether it could be used again). I love the free felling I get when I have cleaned out an area or two. Now, if I could just tackle the attic – I know, one pile at a time! Thanks for your constant inspiration.

  14. I recently decluttered… I could not get started!!! I didn’t want Anyone to see how crazy my too small for clutter home was!
    plus I avoided letting people stop by or come over for coffee, etc. I was blabbing about it to my sons…. because when they were living at home…. everything had a Place! and now? those places were just overflowing with God know what.
    so my son suggested the whole family come over for a day and help… wives, grandkids & all… I was mortified. turns out it was a Great day spent together, I felt very anxious before they arrived but then we all just started in! I am weak and limited. but they brought me boxes & stacks and I thumbed thru… mostly throwing Away, donated bag for goodwill and found some things I had been searching for. the guys vacuumed & polished as we got through an area! please ask for help!!
    Its is DEFINITELY Important to keep your things tidy and in place… in fact you’ll be Happy to!! Ready, Set, GOOOOO

  15. After life changes few years ago we downsized house 1000 square feet & 2/3 size of garage.
    I got rid of almost everything outside & purchased new later when started new place. Keeping simple & if/when day comes to move I will sell everything outside again (each yard is different in size & design).
    I realized that keeping stuff (for others not living with you) for extended time doesn’t help clutter. And learned not to for more than x (only if feel can).
    We usually declutter few times year & donate/sell, but my biggest problem was prebuying/sale for future. Since life change I have gotten better handle (mostly) on prebuying (except for stocking pantry/freezer/household supplies use regularly), especially with such higher prices . It is sometimes difficult to maintain (& not buy) when things change in your life. It’s a journey, as you said.

  16. here’s the irony of clutter, as a Single parent I Had a lot of crap that accumulated from myself, and my daughters toys and Old clothing and tons of other belongings that I loved, cherished, and at one point sadly we lost everythg in a 🔥 fire. it was devastating. but at the time I was ready to move out of the apt that we were in, it was a terrible nightmare all of it. but I started fresh nothing but the clothes on our backs, it made me realize other than a few necessities we didn’t really need a whole lot, after time passed,band we got a new place clutter now building up again. ofc you need things lots of things for home living. but definitely stop and look at those things before you subconsciously start hoarding, or cluttering up your space again, if you can get along with minor things, few towels, blankets, personal items cookware, not everythg in a store is everything you need. Try to imagine what it would be like to start bare bones. it’s Liberating and free. Donate and get rid of anything that just doesn’t suit your needs. not your wants. Your needs.

    1. So true and very helpful advice. I’ve moved a few times. Each time I declutterred because cost of moving is very expensive. After a year and a half my place is starting to feel cluttered. I know I need to sell and donate some stuff. Most importantly I’m kind to myself for making mistakes. Things I felt I needed in the moment. Forgive myself. I’m not defined by clutter but clutter comes due to my feelings of lack as a child. I had very little and what I had was lent or passed down. Then, my mother would just give all my stuff away without asking me. My sister was the same. I left some paintings as safe keeping’s since I moved a lot and had no space. They wound up being given away or put out for garbage. Now, I have no trouble giving away things. Things passed down I’m going to sell. I don’t want to hold onto things from my family anymore. As time goes by decluttering helps me to get rid of the pain I want to move on from now. My family didn’t care for me. After years of trying to be included I’ve decided it’s time to let go my family and various belongings while I’m able to do it. I have no children. My sister’s children aren’t interested in me or my belongings

  17. I recently cleaned out my Mom’s house upon her death. There were things saved from my grandmother’s home there as well. What I regretted was that I had not talked to my Mom about the many pictures of ancestors and family. There were also lots of antiques with a family connection and I didn’t know the details on them. If you have such “treasures” share the details with your kids.

    1. Yes. My sister did the same thing. She donated 3 paintings to Goodwill that were a gift to my grandmother from the Queen. Also, when she sold her house she had my grandmother’s china never used. Another gift from the Queen. We left it to the buyer who ended up donating it to museum. My sister had little time to go through everything.

  18. I just started decluttering my current house. I try to do at least one decluttering task a day, regardless of how I feel. Some days I do quite a bit. Other days I might only get rid of one thing. I lost a house in Hurricane Katrina. It was completely washed away. We never found anything. It was a big shock at the time. But, 20 years later, there’s nothing from that house that I miss. We think we’re more attached to things than we really are! I don’t know how I went from nothing to being totally cluttered. I’m not letting this happen again! Great article.

    1. I had the same challenge. Clutter comes when you are in a place of lack. It helps to fill the void. Then you realize wait a second I don’t need this or that

  19. I’ve been a collector all my life, I’m 63. got on the Goodwill binge for a few years, I think it was a coping mechanism.
    But what started out as fun and a release, soon became a stress, where to put it all, beating myself up, hiding it. eventually it just starts to take on a new life. We put in a new floor in September and my husband and his son decided I had too much stuff. they put what they thought should go back in & told me basically to get rid of everything else. WOW!! very rude awakening. I totally shut down mentally. Then I tried to look at it as a chance to start over, didn’t appreciate the way they did it but decided to turn it into a process. I have to say the longer I go without the clutter I’m surprised how I don’t really want to bring anything else in. I really grieved for a while, it felt like the loss of myself and my personality. I could have fought but just didn’t have it in me. I’m thinking that sometimes a person can be so attached to things and have such a habit to acquire and hunt and search that it becomes a sickness. I think I’m ready now to put a few things back in just to warm it up, I do not like it being so cold looking. Long story, but the struggle is real.

  20. I have to work a box method. when a box of donations is full I put it in my car. If I don’t remove it, I rethink it.
    Sometimes my children come help and they take it away immediately. I’ve gotten rid of 50% of my clothes that way.

  21. I’m in the process of decluttering. I’ve gone in stages. As I make tough choices, esp, a 72 year lifetime saving some memorabilia, I come across items I haven’t seen in 20 years. So, I took some pictures of those objects and tossed or donated. Other small things, if the memory has lost its shine- out it went! I found this cutting the cords of the past and I am looking more to the future FREER!! Now, I must get one more drawer done….

    1. Sounds great! Good advice! I gave all my dad’s items to my niece and nephew as they ultimately would go thru it if something happens to me!

  22. God knew I really needed this, and I’m so glad it popped up in my news feed! I’ve known I to declutter & organize, but it’s so easy to get overwhelmed (and interrupted) that I can barely find the mental energy to start. I really resonate with your attitude of “one and done,” as I’ve just realized (at 53) that that’s been part of my impaired adulting. Learning to accept that I will need to continue to work, and the learning & re-learning, is my next “atomic habit.” Looking forward to gleaning — and applying — more of your insights & motivation.

  23. This certainly is a problem for many people. And inheriting a home us another issue. I was decluttering when I had a near fatal car accident! Although the initial physical problems subsided, I suffered a depression. Some say it’s like PSTD. Physically I jad a set back with knee problems and frustration of not getting things done! Fast forward, I have a house full of STUFF that needs to go! I had 2 water pipes break in my house which cause a flood in my house. Just tey to take care of that with junk everywhere! I like watching that show HOARDERS because it gave some tips too! Now they don’t show it! I am.by myself trying to declutter a 3 bedroom ranch plus a garage full of stuff. It’s tough. I am in my 70s and fell so frustrated at times! Sometimes I just don’t feel like doing a thing! I also got into flea marketing with a friend and when COVID hit that bombed for a while. But I admit I am a hoarder! And UT us an illness! I am taking one room at a time getting the stuff put! I sometimes how in the world it got like this! A couple things I realized is that nothing was put in the attic and I refused to get a storage licker like so many people! And that is a waste of time and money because one will in most cases never get rid of the STUFF! The few friends who do come to my house are in the same boat! They have clutter too! I have often thought of starting a support group because it us needed! They do have services to help you but the cost is high! So again your in the trick bag! Where do you get the money for that? I made up my mind that I will keep removing STUFF from my house whether it’s to donations or garbage! Our land fills are full of junk and I don’t want to contribute! Thanks for allowing me to vent! But seriously, someone should start a support group for this. It could even incorporate helping each other too!

  24. Tis is the best and most practical article on decluttering I have ever read and I have read many. Thank you! can’t wait to delve into your suggestions. I have a serious decluttering issue having merged households and aging has reduced my capabilities physically. Basic decluttering articles all read the same but your honest in depth insight is just what I needed. Bless you for sharing your experience.

  25. After 15 brain surgeries and a 2yr coma, we lost our home. We refinanced to pay my long term care expense but then covid and the economy caused us to lose it and everything in it. We couldn’t even afford to move our belongings.
    Moving from a 3 bedroom house to a small 2 bedroom condo was awful, but we got to start 9vef from scratch. NO CLUTTER.

  26. I feel I’m pretty good at decluttering,but my mom moved into an independent living home and she emptied her house. She was really good and got rid of lots of things,but I took some furniture and other family things and kept them in a storage unit for 7 years. I’ve cleaned it out enough to store it at my house,but I’m stressed about it. So many old items that i don’t know if they’re valuable, and family pictures, glassware, sterling silverware, old music, old papers, old porcelain dolls. I can’t decide what I should do with it all. donate, throw away, sell it, but how and who and where to sell it. I’d appreciate any suggestions for what to do with these old items. How do I let go of all of this?

    1. liz, I’m in same boat, paralysed at how or where to get items valued, sold. such a huge task, whilst dealing with the enormity of sorting clutter, grieving and wanting to deal with items correctly if could be worth something.

      Google lens supposed to help, I’m going to try all avenues.

      Good luck

  27. I opened your article by accident and once I started to read it I KNEW I had to take notes! So I did (literally) I have felt overwhelmed by the task and I distract myself with other things that I categorize as “more important” Thank you for breaking it down into what may feel emotional on so many levels. It helps me understand my process in completing the task (each day) I also read each and every response too and learned even MORE from others and their experiences!
    The intention is now activated by action.
    It doesn’t have to be completed in a day AND making it a habit each day by continuing to attack small spaces makes it TOTALLY doable. Even if I throw away ONE thing or donate, I’ll have moved forward in the direction of a clutter free lifestyle. You de cluttered my mind so I can see/think clearly on ways to declutter my life. Thank you!! 🙏🏼

  28. Thank you for your article. I read it to my husband who is not quite ready for “all of that…” 🙂 I continue working on my part. I feel frustrated when I declutter and organize an area, ( pantry for example) and I come home from work to find any open shelf spaces filled with random stuff he just shoves in. I know I can only work on myself, but it’s hard to stay positive when this happens. He’s a wonderful husband in other ways, but ugh.

  29. I tend to keep things inside. And this declutterring of items meant letting go of a lifetime that broke and left me broken. It is helpful reading the tips and what other people experience.

  30. Often, deep seated trauma causes hoarding. As a child, I had many things taken away from me, including my beloved dog Pepper.💔 he was sold to a stranger when I was 4 years old. After that, I lost many things that meant the world to me when I was young. In therapy I discovered that the fear of being abandoned and owning nothing caused me to accumulate massive amounts of clutter. I’m still in therapy and working on decluttering.One book I have found helpful is “how to keep house well drowning”
    by kc davis lpc. it’s the only book that has made sense to me as the author has ADD/ ADHD ergo she has the same thought process I have. Thank you all for your comments and sharing your stories. It can be a lonely world out here thinking I’m the only one that doesn’t get it.

  31. I am 67 years old and have begun the massive task of decluttering my house. I’m struggling more than most I think, because I recently and unexpectedly lost my husband of 40 years, just a year ago. I know I need to do something with his things, and I’m really not sure how to tackle that emotionally. I’m doing it slowly and in a piecemeal way. However, with all of the years we’ve been together, we have amassed quite a bit. Part of me feels guilty for getting rid of things that we should have gotten rid of years ago because I don’t know how he would feel about it. On the other hand, I’m going to have to move to a smaller place, so this issue has become more pressing. So I guess my question is, should I hold off on trying to organize and declutter until I have been able to come to terms with this loss more, or should I continue on slowly and methodically with my own things?

  32. After cleaning out my mother’s house in a week with my siblings, I saw how much stuff went in the trash. We hauled Five trailers worth to the dump. Four trailers worth to goodwill and we took the rest. I had a problem with my husband wanting to keep everything but now he actually wants to get rid of stuff since he knows when we die our kids will just toss it out anyway. Good experience for both of us even though I am more of a declutterer than he is.

  33. My hairdresser mentioned over a decade ago that that if she ever gets married, she wants a duplex. I still think about that often, and the older I get, the more I like that idea!

  34. I’m 80. I’ve been living in a rent-stabilized apt. 47 yrs. There are 3 flights of stairs no elevator bit I can climb. However, I had hip replacement & recently had lumpectomy so being treated. I have very bad arthritis & need 2 shoulder replacements but using lidocaine patches as using a sling while living alone would be difficult. I’ve been very independent. I pretty much have no family at this point. I am renting 2 storage units ($$$) as I inherited many antiques, good things. I really want to move-I hired help previously & some was a disaster!!-be CAREFUL who you let in your home. I sold things w/help from friends, etc. butvI REALLY need a team. After I hire the help I need I doubt I’ll be able to afford the condo in over 55 community I’d like where friends live. I’m frightened now. I’m trying to keep track of bills (from cancer op, follow ups) & everything else. I saw a good friend, PhD professor in same situation die a yr ago-no will, no legal doc, nothing signed. Apt a mess-her mother’s things stored somewhere. Everything landed on a cousin’s shoulders to handle. I know he went to court-don’t even know what happened to my friend’s body! I have not made a formal will as I really have no beneficiary, have many things to go thru-find I am in a panic. Most of my friends (thank goodness for them) have own problems. People I hired awhile ago charged $5,000 for 3 days, wanted $10, 000 more for 6 more days. All these services very expensive-have no family to help. Anyway-I have MANY good things I could sell but I’d have to learn how & doing each thing would take forever. I did get help W/donating awhile ago but NOT giving away valuable things as I NEED the money myself! I am almost paralyzed as to what to do. Afraid something will happen to me before I attend to things. I have bought a burial site next to my brother (died at 36) but need to contact funeral home, choose own tombstone & I only have ONE key to everything-no one knows where deed to my burial site us either. I have friends who have everything planned out fir their funeral. I will have no funeral-just the burial & want certain things buried w/me. No one to make SURE of that. I can’t ignore any of this any longer. I need help. 😥

    1. hi Judy

      your message made me sad and worried for you

      firstly get a will drawn up, with a trusted solicitor and your power of attorney papers, mainly so the solicitors office can hold your funeral wishes, any keys and placement info you need. advise your doctor who solicitor is, so upon death, doctor automatically gets notified, then solicitors do, or inform friends who solicitors are.

      so get that done first, with a letter of wishes.

      however sorting and de cluttering, emptying out storage unit, us much harder and I feel your distress

      I’m only 58 but have inherited my parents clutter, items and they had kept my grandparents stuff too, so I’ve theirs, parents and mine

      3 generations of clutter/hoard

      I’ve a storage unit too.

      I’m unsure where to sell things

      but I’m going to try harder this year, as I can’t go on like this. my mum passed in her nineties and she said how sad she was that she hadn’t sorted it all out, now it was too late.

      don’t let it be too late for you

      praying for you

      get trusted help. maybe through a local church ?

  35. liz, I’m in same boat, paralysed at how or where to get items valued, sold. such a huge task, whilst dealing with the enormity of sorting clutter, grieving and wanting to deal with items correctly if could be worth something.

    Google lens supposed to help, I’m going to try all avenues.

    Good luck

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