Inside: There are certain types of items people are reluctant to declutter. Learn 8 things many people don’t want to declutter, but why they should consider it anyway.

When it comes to decluttering, most of us like the idea of clearing out the space in our homes and getting rid of the stuff we truly don’t need.

But when it’s time to take action? It’s often easier said than done.

Many of us are holding onto lots of things that we don’t want to declutter – even though it would be best if we did.

And despite the challenge, by finding ways to overcome those personal objections, we can achieve our decluttering goals and improve our living space in a meaningful, significant way.

Not sure what those sticking points might be when it comes to decluttering?

Let’s explore some of the things most people really don’t want to declutter and why it’s a good idea to do it anyway.

things people don't want to declutter

What are the Things People Don’t Want to Declutter?

We’re going to look at eight types of items that people are often reluctant to declutter. To be clear, suggesting that people consider decluttering these things does not mean that you need to get rid of all of these items.

What I am saying is it’s best not to categorize certain types of items as never having the potential to become clutter and to be open-minded when assessing these types of items.

Decluttering is not about trying to force people to part with their most loved possessions. It’s about letting go of items that have become burdensome and creating space for the things that matter most to you.

Ready to challenge yourself? Let’s get started on the things people often don’t want to declutter.

things people don't want to declutter

Things People Don’t Want to Declutter: Sentimental Items

People often don’t want to declutter sentimental items

The hardest things to part ways with, for many, are items that hold sentimental value. When you’ve developed an emotional attachment to something, it’s hard to say goodbye – even when that attachment is tied to a physical thing that rarely, if ever, gets stumbled upon in your daily life. 

While virtually anything can be a sentimental item, there are a few common types of items that people are reluctant to declutter.

1. Letters and cards. 

If you’ve got a shoebox or two filled with old letters and cards from friends and loved ones, you aren’t alone. Many hold onto these items and save them for years – even though they rarely, if ever, revisit them to relive those memories. 

Instead of letting these items take up physical space in your home, consider scanning them into digital files or taking photos of them so you can keep them forever.

And if you’d like to keep a few, that’s fine – but consolidate them into a smaller container and make sure they’re well organized so that they can be a source of joy instead of stress.

things people don't want to declutter

2. Photos.

Photos can be a difficult area to declutter. If you inherited boxes of other family member’s photos it can be an even greater challenge.

What do you do with images when you don’t even know who is in them or what their significance is? This is why it’s important to declutter photos in your home. It will allow you to get rid of the excess and organize what you have.

You can add notes on the back or put them into photo albums to make them easier to access.

If you have many photographs you’d like to preserve, digitizing old photos is a great option.

Taking the time to declutter your photos will make them easier to enjoy and less overwhelming.

child doing art

3. Kids artwork.

If you’re a parent, chances are you’ve got a collection of your child’s artwork somewhere in your house. It might be stacked on the counters in your kitchen, or filling boxes and bins in your bedroom.

And while it’s sweet to hold onto those pieces of art as a small snapshot of your little one’s growth, they take up a lot of room and are difficult to keep organized.

Similar to old letters and cards, you can keep digital copies of their artwork without taking up a ton of physical space.

You can also choose a few particularly special pieces to frame and hang somewhere in your house, like your little one’s bedroom. 

4. Old yearbooks.

Many of us celebrated the end of each school year by purchasing a yearbook filled with class photos and messages from our friends and teachers.

But when was the last time you actually opened up one of those yearbooks to relive those memories?

For many of us, it’s been years – if not decades. 

If that’s the case, it might be time to look them over and decide what you want to do. Some people may decide to get rid of all of their yearbooks, others might keep a couple, while others decide to keep all of them.

There isn’t a right or wrong answer here. It’s a personal choice based on what is meaningful and important to the individual.

person receiving a gift

Other Things People Don’t Want to Declutter

Sentimentality is only one of the reasons people hold onto things. Here are some other types of items people often find it difficult to declutter.

5. Gifts from friends and family.

It’s a lot harder to get rid of stuff that was given to us by our friends and family than stuff we bought for ourselves. Even if it was a gift we never wanted in the first place.

There’s an extra layer of guilt involved in getting rid of a gift – even if that gift is something we’ve never actually used. What if they found out?

The good news – they’re probably never going to know unless you explicitly bring it up. Think about all of the gifts you’ve given to friends and family, and how many of those you’ve followed up on to make sure they’re actively using it. None, right? 

Shake off the guilt, gather up those unwanted gifts, and consider donating them to someone who could actually use them. 

And if you inherited a lot of items? Remember that people are not their things. You don’t have to hold onto everything they owned to preserve your memories with them. Keep the most meaningful and useful items and let go of the rest.

things people don't want to declutter

6. Books.

Some of you may stop reading this post just because I dared to mention that books could possibly become clutter.

But if it’s a book you didn’t love, won’t read again, or you simply have too many and they’re overcrowding your space then they may be creating clutter in your home.

Some solve the problem of too many books by opting to stop buying them. They rely on their local library or digital downloads to their e-reader without adding to their shelves – and that works for them.

Other people continue to buy books (often used) and then donate them when they’re done so they don’t continue taking up space in their homes.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with your book collection, critically examine them to see how you could cut the number down. You can still keep the ones you love and reference and loan out to others, but it’s also ok to pare things down a bit and donate the excess to others who can enjoy them.

woman looking at pile of clothes

7. Clothes.

Decluttering clothes can be a challenge for a variety of reasons.

Some people have an emotional attachment to their clothes based on memories of when they wore them. Others have a tough time letting go of expensive pieces even though they aren’t wearing them.

Sometimes people hold onto clothes because they haven’t yet let go of their fantasy self and it can be a challenge to accept where you are in your life right now.

And then there are these nagging questions that arise:

What if something comes up and you need to wear it? Or what if someday you fit into those jeans again? What if you finally brush up on your sewing skills to repair that shirt you love with a hole in it?

It’s easy to tell ourselves there’s a reason to keep it all… and difficult to actually bag it all up and get it out of our house. But there are types of items that are helpful to remove from your wardrobe.

Getting rid of these items will help you to feel better about the clothes that you own. You won’t have so many conflicting emotions as you go to find an outfit for the day.

After you ruthlessly declutter your closet, you’ll be rewarded with extra space in your wardrobe making it easier to get ready, and you may find a few items you forgot you owned in the process!

things people don't want to declutter

8. Expensive items.

The last one of the things people really don’t want to declutter is expensive items. When you splurged on something you were convinced you’d love but then didn’t (or you did love for a time and now you don’t), it’s harder to let go.

No one wants to experience decluttering regret. It doesn’t feel good to have spent a lot of money on an item that you can only sell for a fraction of the cost.

Getting rid of the item may mean acknowledging that the item is no longer serving you.

It could also mean admitting to yourself that it wasn’t a great purchase in the first place. If that item is serving as a reminder of a past purchasing mistake, then it isn’t benefitting your life in any way. It’s only making you feel bad.

Holding onto something simply because it was expensive isn’t a good reason for it to continue to take up space in your home.

“Remember that the money you spent on your item is gone. You are not any richer because you store this item in your home, and you won’t be poorer if you let it go.” ~Cass Aarssen

Final thoughts on things people don’t want to declutter

Were any of the things listed ones you’ve been reluctant to declutter? Consider why you’ve been avoiding it.

It’s best not to create off-limits categories as any type of item can become clutter. And it’s important to keep this decluttering reminder in mind: if you don’t declutter it, someone else will have to.

Does that mean you have to get rid of all of these things? Absolutely not. It’s about keeping what you love in a way that is manageable and organized so that you can truly appreciate it.

What is one thing you don’t want to declutter but know you should? Leave a comment and let me know!

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19 Comments

  1. Oh, it’s the kid artwork for me. She is almost grown now, but I still have my drawers full of her paintings. 😌

    1. If you ask her if she would like, it and she says no…it’s time to let it go! Mothers save everything their children have ever made, when they are married and have children of their own it’s time to get real! When you yourself are at the age to downsize and make it easier on the kids with your own passing, these things will only mean something to them, no one else! I have never seen “kids” want the things their mothers were keeping! Let is go!

    2. I had the same – then I scanned all the artworks and drawings and had them bound in a photobook. Now I have one “coffee table”‘ book per child.

    3. What I did with my daughter’s art work was download my favorites and had a grouping put on a canvas and gave in to her and threw everything else out. I also made a scrap book of her years in school and made a couple of pages per year also including photos. Because everything was organized I think it was appreciated as she went thru her childhood school memories. It takes time but I think appreciated. Hope this helps. Mary Nelson.

  2. Sorry, but more than half of your “items” will never leave my house. Card, letters, items from family no longer with me will stay forever. Clothes, they can go. But the sentimental things from family……NEVER.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Sherry. I’m not trying to say you need to get rid of everything in these categories. The goal is to have a manageable amount that you can keep organized and easily accessible so that you can fully enjoy them. Ultimately it’s of course up to you to decide what you want :).

  3. I suggest do this yearly decide to minimize memorabilia set a limit and as you keep a memory let one go take a picture or limit them by the year 1 item per year per person or one item per milestone not every event take pictures as you let one go and you replace it with the current event . Getting help to declutter can get harder as you age and before you know it you’ve become a hoarder .

  4. I was widowed for the first time over 50 years ago, in my 20’s. My husband had given me a beautiful anniversary card and had added a couple of lines of his own to the verse on the card. I kept cards for a couple of weeks then threw them out. Less than a month later he was killed and I haven’t been able to throw away a card since. You can imagine the many boxes and bags of cards taking up space in the garage. I’m telling myself that I should take the time to go through them and only keep cards from immediate family, and the last card received from others who have died in those intervening years.

    1. I’m so sorry for your loss, Viv. Experiences like that can definitely make it more challenging to let go of things. It may be beneficial to see if you can find a friend to help.

    2. I have a lot of cards too. From my husband, daughters, sisters, etc. One thing I did to whittle down the pile was recycle the cards from people that my daughters won’t know. Cards from friends they never met or would not remember, cards from co-workers, etc. Doing this did help get rid of a bunch of them. I thought why save cards when my adult kids won’t even know who the senders are.

  5. SO TRUE for me, also. I have the ugliest “decor” item given to me by my sister-in-law sitting on my piano. I kept it there “just in case she came”, with the full intention of getting rid of it when she passed. She has been gone 10 years now and it still sits there. It makes me laugh now, because when I see it, it just looks exactly like something she would buy and is a precious reminder of her and her wacky taste.

  6. As I age and more people, I love pass on I seem to inherit a lot of their things. Of course, I want special things that was theirs but I can see I’m quickly running out of room and yet I don’t think I can ever part with these items. Most of them are not only sentimental but very valuable. Antiques and jewelry, then certain items that really remind me of them or even smell like them etc. So hard to let go of. I really don’t think I can. But I figure in years to come I will pass these on down to my children and they too are sentimental people like me, so they’ll probably never get rid of them either. I guess for me it’s the sentimental things… I can’t let go of but probably should or at least downsize on. But probably never will till I pass it on to my kids.

  7. My nephew came to a backyard lunch and brought a tablet with him. He bragged that it had photos and we should see them. He had 3000 photos in the cloud, and we were forced to look at them. Many were poor photos, blurred, out of focus, he saved all of them.Yes he was not burdened with paper photos but the image collection was just as bad. Too many people are junk collectors and the horrible part is that they push their collections on other people.

  8. How do I rid myself of stuff that neither “Got JunK” firms nor the NYC Sanitation Department will take (and fine me if I put it out with the “approved” trash) with no car or anyone who will take me and the stuff somewhere it will be accepted?

    1. Where I live if someone doesn’t want something any longer, they put it out on their lawn. Then anyone driving or walking by can see it and take it for nothing. That way you don’t have to pay to have someone haul it away. Is that an option for you where you live? Or have a garage sale or home sale and let people take what they want from what you want to give away. I also give items I don’t want to friends. That way I can get it out of my house.

  9. A large Victorian dollhouse that my mom built for me when i was a child. Its in terrible shape and takes up space in my basement but the thought of parting with it, breaks my heart.

  10. Took me years to start decluttering my old journals. Some of them were half filled; I was carting around giant tubs of half-used notebooks for years! 🙁

    What I realized was that the current me (before finding faith) didn’t need to hold on to any part of the old me… I have my memories. And, what happened is in the past. Still, it’s kind of a decision once made I have to keep firm, because once I start flipping through what I’ve written, it’s so tempting to think oh, maybe I should keep this particular journal, maybe I’d still want to revisit that memory or what I felt at that time…

    So, I really have to continue purging (I have about 200) and embrace the freedom of truly leaving behind the past, or at least my “ramblings” of those days!

  11. Kids clothes are so hard for me to part with ..I held onto them all with the hope and intent of using them one more for the final 6th child. I finally got pregnant after almost 4 years of trying and had a miscarriage a year ago. We have 5 healthy amazing kids…but the missing one haunts me. Parting with their clothes is symbolic of saying goodbye to my half dozen dream. I’m still struggling.

  12. I moved from a 3 story home to a 2 bedroom apartment. What a chore trying to let things go. I gave to my family and then neighbors and trashed a lot. It was hard and I’m still working on it. For me it’s my vintage clothing( hats furs etc) from my grandmother I have a hard time with. A lot of it is like Art.

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