Have you been holding onto things waiting for when life changes? While it’s true that life is constantly moving, it’s also true that often we hang onto things for too long. Now is the time to let go of what-if and someday clutter.

We’ll look at the common types of what-if and someday clutter that people keep, discuss why they should be let go, and what kinds of items do make sense to hold onto.

Types of What-if and Someday Clutter

What is what-if and someday clutter anyway? Here are common examples I have seen of what-if and someday clutter.

1. Clothes that do not fit

These clothes are for someday when you lose the weight. What if I start keto tomorrow and these clothes are the perfect size in 2 weeks?

While there are seasons in life when the body changes a lot like pregnancy and even perhaps quarantine, your clothes should be a reflection of your size and style now.

Hanging onto clothes that you wish you fit into, but don’t isn’t motivating. It’s defeating. Your clothes should make you feel confident now, not in an imagined future.

If you are in a time when your body is changing sizes, go ahead and pack up the too-small items in a box and write a date on it within the next year.

If you go to grab that box and the items fit in that time period, great. Should that not be the case, then gift or donate them.

what-if and someday clutter

2. Home decor for another life stage

When you have young children your home decor may suddenly be located higher up or get packed away for a period of time. If you truly love those items and plan to use them again, it’s fine to pack them up or put them aside for a period of time. Kids do grow up.

However, if you are saving home decor items for a home or a life that you don’t have, it’s time to examine that.

In working with one of my clients, I discovered she had been keeping large amounts of fabric and linens. She’d hoped to sew pillow covers and curtains and to use it all in her home after she got married.

But, she didn’t get married and she’d filled her apartment with things she didn’t have space for hoping for a life she didn’t have. It was sad and I’m sure painful for her to let those things go because of what it represented.

What-if and someday clutter shouldn’t keep you from the life you are living right now.

3. Things to use in the next house

I have been guilty of this one. We moved a few times early in our marriage and each time my kitchen got smaller. I stuffed my cabinets full and left the rest packed up in the garage.

The problem is we are still in that same rental house with the small kitchen over six years later. A couple of years ago, I realized if those items were still packed up in the garage, I didn’t need them in this house or in any future one either.

I decluttered the kitchen so that the cabinets weren’t so full. It gave the things I actually use more breathing room. I felt lighter as I let go and got it out of the way.

I stopped letting it take up precious space in my home and life that I’m living now.

This type of what-if and someday clutter can also be furniture that gets stored. The items you have in your garage or storage space waiting for the next house when it will fit.

I once heard about a woman who had paid for a storage unit for many years for her childhood bedroom furniture. She ended up spending thousands of dollars storing something she never used again.

what-if and someday clutter

4. Hobby items for when you have time

Hobbies and interests can change over time. I certainly know mine have. Some of my interests in the last eight years have been photography, sewing, crafting, DIY projects, and furniture rehab.

Each of those interests came with quite a bit of supplies, with some taking up more space than others. For many people, hobbies are temporary and not life long interests.

You could be holding onto those items for what-if I like that activity again later or someday when I have more time. Although there are seasons in life that are more demanding than others, we tend to make time for what’s most important to us.

Granted we’ve had an unusual amount of time at home lately, so perhaps you’ve been able to make time for some of your previous hobbies. If you haven’t though, if not now then when?

5. Items you think you may want later

This is a big reason why people keep clutter. What if you decide you want that item later?

Of course, there is a small chance that this item you haven’t used in years may be something you’d want later, but holding onto what-if and someday clutter isn’t worth what it costs you.

The odds of wanting something you haven’t used or needed in an extended period of time is pretty slim. You could fill your home with what-ifs this way.

When you know yourself and what clutter is to you, it gets easier to identify what you’d actually want later and what can go.

6. The broken thing you think you’ll fix

Do you have a habit of holding onto things that you think you’ll fix or repair later? I know someone in my house who is guilty of this.

Said person wanted to keep the instant water pot we received as a wedding gift a decade prior when it died on us. This individual thought that once we bought a soldering iron (which we haven’t) that this item could be taken apart and put back together.

Another example is a lamp that broke and we could not find the part for and yet in the garage it stayed because we spent money on that and surely we will some day find that part.

Maybe it could be a piece of furniture that just needs to be glued or stapled. Some of these could be easily completed, but people tend to procrastinate. If that’s your situation, go ahead and get it done or schedule a time soon to take care of it.

If your repair item takes additional supplies you’d never use for anything else or the job feels far beyond your skillset, it’s time to let go of this what-if and someday clutter.

7. Family heirlooms or other trinkets for your kids

What one may consider a ‘family heirloom’ may not be considered a family heirloom to others. The trinkets that you’ve decided your kids will want when you’re gone may not actually be things that they want.

A person in my extended family is a saver. This person is convinced that my sister and I will want items that were my grandmother’s. However, neither of us want it.

We’ve gently communicated that and yet they hold onto these items and continue to store them. It can be really challenging to let go of sentimental items.

If you want to keep select items because they are meaningful to you, that’s fine. However, keeping an attic full of ‘treasures’ for someday or what-if your kids change their mind doesn’t help anyone.

what-if and someday clutter

8. That thing you’re afraid you’ll regret letting go of

Decluttering is an emotional process. There are a variety of feelings that play into why we keep things and that can hamper decluttering.

Fear plays a big role in why people keep clutter. The what-ifs can take hold and become paralyzing.

Making decisions becomes more challenging when you continue to second guess yourself or create worst case scenarios. This type of thinking gives your stuff too much power in your life.

In the end, it is just stuff and it’s meant to better your life, not to cause stress and overwhelm.

Let go of the fear as you realistically evaluate your item’s place in your life. Own your decisions and feel the freedom that comes from letting go.

Why let go of what-if and someday clutter?

What-if and someday clutter keeps you focused on imagined scenarios and doesn’t embrace the life that you are living now.

Life is meant to be lived. You’re not fully living in the present when your home is full of things that don’t fit or belong as you wait for the future.

We don’t always know where life will take us. That’s not a reason to hold tightly onto everything we own. It’s a reason to open our hands and let life come as it may and embrace the seasons we are in.

People often rush through life stages waiting for the next one. I know I’ve been guilty of this. When I had a newborn I wished for the toddler phase when I could sleep again. When I was single I wished to be married.

The problem with constantly focusing forward is that it takes away from the joys to be experienced now. This fantasizing about that ‘ideal’ time in life when everything will feel perfect is also completely inaccurate.

Every season has its challenges and also its benefits. There is no perfect so don’t set up that expectation.

I love setting goals for the future and I’ve created a few dream boards, but it’s important to not let that take away from the present. Being too forward-thinking makes me forget how far I’ve come and all the good things about the here and now.

Intentional living is about being present in your life now. That means owning things that support your life now.

Kinds of what-if and someday items that make sense

As I write this, we are still quarantining. If a global pandemic doesn’t show you what’s truly important and what isn’t then I don’t know what does!

Even as you simplify and let go of the what-if and someday clutter, there are practical things that it makes sense to keep stocked in your home. How many people wish that back in March they’d had a bit more toilet paper stored in their home?

Keeping emergency supplies on hand is always a good idea. That’s a smart what-if scenario to be prepared for. Keep extra shelf-stable food, water, and first aid supplies stored in your home.

You’ll have greater peace of mind by being well prepared for emergencies. You also don’t need to get rid of back up supplies you have such as soap, toiletries, and paper products. If those are still products you like and use, then someday will come soon enough.

Letting go of what-if and someday clutter is about enjoying your life now, but also being practical. Don’t hold onto things for the wrong reasons, but also don’t feel bad keeping what you know you will use or enjoy.

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  1. Thanks for your article. It is the best I have read on subject of decluttering. Didn’t make me feel guilty or negative. Very sensitive and calming!

  2. Thanks for your posts – I am in the ” overwhelm” stage – as I have been many times in the past – but now I am retired I can’t escape into work to avoid facing the disaster area that is my home and storage shed. Thank for understanding that some of us , while not hoarders may have some of those tendencies and reading your posts and other articles have really helped my understand that and what those tendencies mean and how they impact. They certainly explain why I find this so hard – something my sister simply doesn’t understand – try though she might. You are so right about the guilt factor – especially items bought, not used and now either too small or possibly damaged and no use to anyone. I have decided to ” forgive” myself when the guilt tape starts to play – it isn’t a crime – I am the only one hurt and the few items I haven’t salvaged to donate won’t cause hurt or harm to anyone as there is so much ” stuff” floating around in our wealthy world . A few items less isn’t a problem – as long as they are disposed of responsibly.
    I love that you understand that lots of stuff takes a long time to acquire and so will take a long time to sort and see where and if items ” fit” into as you say ” the life you are currently living” not the one you might have thought you would . Especially as at my age I won’t be upsizing anytime. Sorry for the long post – you clearer struck a chord. I will be reading and re-reading your advice and putting it into practice. I even looked up professional organisers in my area – they are very expensive but I might try someone just to get me started.

    1. I feel the same way. My husband died and I’m trying to organize and declutter the home we lived in 43 years. I really have really struggled with it but this article has really helped me take a deep breath and think about my “stuff” in a new light.

      Good luck on your journey to your new life!

    2. I have hired professional organizers. Think of it as an investment in yourself. Yes, they are expensive, but what price can you put on a tidy and orderly home? They keep you on track if you get distracted, and are sensitive to when you feel overwhelmed and know what to say in order to help you process what you need to. I could never have accomplished all I have with my home without their help.

  3. I am in the process of decluttering my craft room. What I have realized is that I haven’t been doing crafts as I used to because I felt guilty about starting something new when I had scrap pieces or things I felt I should use up first. I took all my scrap paper pieces, ribbon pieces and boxed them up for a kids art class who are thrilled to get them. I try to be thrifty but that thriftiness was inhibiting my creativity.

    1. “Thriftiness was inhibiting my creativity.” Wow! That says a lot about my clutter problem. Being raised by parents who went through the Great Depression has had lingering effects on me. I am not able to be creative when surrounded by clutter. And much of my clutter has to do with being thrifty. Thanks for this insightful statement.

  4. My husband is hopeless. For example, he will not part with the golf clubs he last used when he played with his grandfather in 1974.

  5. I’ve been following for about a month and reading the articles. Yesterday i filled 3 big bags of stuff for the the op shop. One was a bag of shoes that I’ll never wear again. They were still good, but i dont want to wear uncomfortable shoes any more. I let them go. The other bags were beatiful clothes, some id never worn. I rememered you had said stop worrying about the money. It’s already been spent. Regret won’t change it. Let it go. So i did. I dont need business dresses any more or to wear colours that dont make me feel great. Some i just held up in the mirror and just thought yuck, and felt yuck. It was easy to put them in the bag. I found it easier because your method feels more gentle than other ones. Some things i wasn’t sure about i just kept them for when i felt ready. I stopped when I’d had enough and was glad to have made a start again with clearing out. Thank you for your work.

  6. I’ve noticed some of your posts in my FB feed and a few have intrigued me enough to read them. I’ve always blamed my clutter on being too busy or too tired to clean things up as a single mother of teenage twins.
    The article of what if and someday was the article I just got done reading and I realized something that I have done for years not completely even realizing it. I save boxes.. the original boxes that items came in. My basement is full of boxes, some are empty just waiting and other are full of things that I’m trying to go through from our move to this house 8 years ago. I saw something elsewhere of clutter and trauma are connected and it all became clear. My unusual habit of hanging on to all these boxes stem from a few years of being in an abusive relationship that on a few occasions I had to pack up and leave and having the original boxes made it easier and more comforting, not to mention simpler to identify for unpacking purposes. I always thought it was a smart thing on my part, but now I see how trauma induced it really was, as we had moved 14 times from 1997-2014 all because “things didn’t work out”.
    It unfortunately had become such a “normal” thing to hang on to these boxes for if/when we needed them again, that my daughters do it also. My oldest daughter’s situation is not the same, but she grew up with me modeling that behavior and she does it now too. It wasn’t until I was helping her pack recently and her husband was just dumbfounded why she kept all the boxes, but just a few joking comments about being box hoarders was all that was said.
    Ironically I am planning to move after my twins graduate high school in May and have begun the decluttering process. I set a goal for myself that if our trash container isn’t completely full with our weekly trash on Thursdays, I will sort through boxes in the basement or on the porch until the dumpster is full, so I’ve made a noticeable difference in the amount of stuff that’s here. I’ve also donated a carload of boxes of clothing to a local agency that helps survivors of domestic violence. But after my next move I will definitely be disposing of all the accumulated boxes I have and after my daughter moves into their newly built home next week… I’ll encourage her to do the same and try to put an end to the “what if” fear-based pattern of thinking those boxes represent. Until now I never put that connection together, but will certainly be more aware of that going forward.

  7. What if they are items such as vintage toys still in the boxes that double or tripled in price?
    I try to sell my doubles
    But I can’t part with the rest yet

  8. Help, I’ve inherited my parents home that they inherited from their parents, with all their furniture from the 50s, 60s, etc. How do I start to recycle, donate these items?

  9. After reading this article, I realize why I love our trailer at the campground. We had a major leak and had it professionally repaired and changed the flooring. I thought why not keep going, we went from dark wood to bright white walls and light gray cupboards. I also eliminated the heavy built in table and couch. It has a minimalistic feel and I love it. Even after eliminating storage space, we still have empty cupboards. Simplicity is best! Now to use this info and tackle our home, after 42 years, 3 sons, and 5 grandsons. 😆 Thank you for an informative, helpful article.

  10. Something I have done that has truly helped my decluttering process is to donate items to charities that help refuges and human trafficking survivors. When I think in terms of helping to meet the needs of others, it obliterates the notion of how “I spent money on this.” Instead, I reframe to say, “I’m so glad I was able to pre-purchase this for someone who really needs it.” This mindset of “pay it forward” gratitude instills an eagerness in me to get busy so I can bless someone else in need of what I don’t need.

    1. Hi Patricia,
      I do the same thing. It makes it so much easier to declutter when you know it will help someone who needs the item.

  11. Thanks! Just went thru an emotional spin as in the last two days in my “decluttering mode” took my journal books I started in the late 80’s and put the pages thru my shredder. Going thru them I spot read and found highs and lows, loss, sorrows, immense joys and more. Came to terms that my feelings and thoughts were all in the past. Cannot live in the past! Must appreciate the future and all that awaits me with the gift of our fantastic family, adventures that still like ahead, and joys yet to be realized. What I pass on is that I slept so beautifully last night and felt a very strong sense of freedom at the fact I was able to let go of something that had been with me for a very long time but no longer fit in my life!

  12. I have saved all the school reports, certificates favourite books etc belonging my two sons. I can’t seem to part with them and my sons don’t want them. This isn’t surprising as they are in their late thirties.
    Any suggestions on how to overcome this, would be very welcome.

  13. Hello! I have 2 bins,1 for each of my kids.Ive decided to take my favorite things and make a scrapbook of their school memories.Maybe,theyll want it someday idk but it will be something i can enjoy instead of a giant box of “stuff”…procrastination is my downfall!

  14. This is great! Makes me really think about the things we have hiding in our attic. That’s the problem with an attic, things can be stashed away and hide out of sight for years. This Christmas wasn’t the greatest physically for me. I’m in pain from a herniated disc in my neck, so our Christmas decor was minimal this year. Not even our Christmas tree. We just had a little ceramic tree, some quilted wall hangings and a couple of Santas on the mantel. The house looked festive without lugging down our 7 bins of Christmas decor. As soon as I feel better and it’s warmer in the attic we will be going through our decorations and really weeding them out. I know my kids don’t need any of it and will never use it. None of it is sentimental except for the ceramic tree and my wall hangings. I will donate it to an organization so that people who need it can have it to make their homes more cheerful.

    The one thing I have a problem with is the boxes of photographs that I have. I just don’t know what to do with them, haven’t looked at them in about 15 years. They are just sitting in my attic in a box! Any suggestions?

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