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Emotional attachment to clutter and how to solve it

Emotional attachment to clutter

Getting rid of excess and unneeded items in the house can be a slow and time consuming process but more often than not it’s fairly simple once we begin. It’s the beginning that is the difficult part. There are times however when it takes more than time and determination to get the job done. Difficulty arises when we have an emotional response to the stuff we are trying to throw away.

Sentimental Items

When we have developed a significant emotional attachment to an item, perhaps the first thing we need to ask ourselves is ‘Why do I need to get rid of it?’ If you have the space for it, you like it and you have an attachment to it, do you actually need to get rid of it at all? It is your decision to dispose of it or not and if you decide you don’t want to, then by all means keep it. However, if you really do need to move some things on for whatever reason, then we need to look a little more closely.

Sentimental attachment to clutter

Have a look at one of these troublesome items and consider the following question…

Does it really mean as much to me as I think?

That might sound like a strange thing to ask but sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking that everything has sentimental value. A truely sentimental item deserves to be displayed or at the very least accessed regularly. If something simply sits in the back of a cupboard and only comes out when we are deciding whether or not to throw it away, then perhaps its time has well and truly come. Don’t wait any longer. Take a couple of seconds to scoop it up and get it out of the house straight away.

If you have something that you truely consider to have sentimental value then you need to consider where you will keep it. It needs to be somewhere it can fulfil its function which is to remind you of the person or place it represents. Get it out of hiding and on display as soon as possible. By considering objects in this way, we often have less sentimental items than we thought and it is actually much easier to declutter.

Check out the 7 day decluttering challenge to get started on your decluttering journey.


Another circumstance in which we may develop an emotional reaction to an object may be when we consider an item we have been given as a gift. In this situation it is easy to fall into the trap of feeling concerned about throwing something away because we understand that someone has chosen it specially for us and we don’t want to hurt their feeling.

Emotional attachment to clutter

A couple of questions to consider here are…

  • Does it suit my style? If it just doesn’t go with anything you already own then it clearly does not belong in your home.
  • Do I have the space for it? If it is too big, the wrong shape or taking up room you would prefer to use for something else then it also does not belong.
  • Would I buy it if I didn’t already have it? Ok, it might be lovely but if you would never have chosen it for yourself then perhaps you never needed it in the first place and you don’t need it now.
  • Can I get another one if I discover I actually need it? In this day and age it’s so easy to replace things that we can easily go out and buy something if we decide we really do want to own one. If this is the case with an item, why not let it go until you actually need one.

Sometimes our biggest worry is about upsetting the person who gave it to us rather than any other concern. I understand that but we need to be able to fill our homes with things that have meaning to us and let other people do the same. We can’t fill our lives and our homes with things we don’t like and don’t need out of fear of upsetting someone else. There comes a time when it is necessary to put our own feelings and desires first. This is one of those times. If we can’t determine what we put into our own homes, what control do we have over any of our lives at all?


At other times we can struggle to throw an item away because of guilt. One of the biggest causes of guilt is often over the price we paid to buy it in the first place. We feel guilty about having spent so much money and then not wanting it anymore. Yes, you may have spent a significant amount of money on it but if it no longer suits its purpose, all it is doing is acting as a reminder of the bad decision to buy it. You are not doing yourself any favours by keeping it. Perhaps see if you can sell it, recoup some of your initial outlay and give it a second life in a home in which it is appreciated.

Emotional attachment to clutter

So, if you are struggling to declutter because of the feelings attached to that particular item ask yourself:

  • Do I really need to get rid of it? Perhaps you actually don’t.
  • Does it mean as much to me as I first thought? Maybe not.
  • Am I only keeping it to make another person happy? Consider what will make you happy.
  • Do I feel guilt over the price I paid? Use it as a lesson and move on.

Now I challenge you to spend 15 minutes today on that cluttered drawer or corner of the room and see how much lighter you feel at the end of it.


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