Why I Keep Clutter

Do you ever find yourself afraid to get rid of items? I know I do. I have identified a few things that make me keep clutter around, when it really should be gone.

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“I spent money on this.”

Buyers remorse is something I am sure we have all had at one point or another. I know I have bought things before that I later realized I didn’t really need, or maybe even didn’t like all that much. It is tempting to keep things because we feel guilty for having spent money on it. Now we need to try to find a use for it. From my experience, I have found that when I simply acknowledge that it was a bad purchase and get rid of it, I am more apt to learn from my mistake than when I keep it around the house. Money spent on a bad purchase is no reason to keep something. Acknowledge the mistake, learn from it, and move on. The memory of the pain of taking something to donate that you spent precious money on will probably keep you from making another bad purchase.

“It is sentimental to me.”

Sentimental things are good to keep, but not everything is truly sentimental. It is easy to think we need an object to remember the event. A seashell from vacation is nice, but you probably will not forget your vacation simply because you got rid of the seashell. These items rarely have intrinsic value. Their value is in the memory that you have attached to them. A few of these can be really meaningful. When you have too many in your home they start to lose even their attached value.

Other things have sentimental value and are definitely worth keeping. What I try to remember is that less is more when it comes to keepsakes. My kids will appreciate, and are more likely to treasure, one or two boxes of mementos from their childhood more than boxes and boxes of items. One or two items of my grandmother’s are far more meaningful than a house full of miscellaneous objects. The very fact that there are fewer makes it more special.

“I may need it someday.”

Oh, have I heard (and said!) this one a thousand times! If I have not used something in several months, it is a pretty good indication that I don’t really need it. Typically, if I do find a need for an item I have already donated, I simply become more creative and find ways to get by. I have a personal rule that unless I have needed an item several times in a short period of time, it is probably not necessary for me to purchase it. “Necessity is the mother of invention.” You might not realize how easy it is to be creative until you get rid of a few things.

“Someone gave it to me.”

The act of giving is what gives people joy. When someone loves you enough to give you a gift, they are motivated by the simple act of giving. As a recipient, you are thankful for the act of giving as well. It is not necessary to keep something for years that you no longer need or enjoy out of guilt because someone you love gave it to you. I love getting gifts. But I have learned that while I always love receiving gifts, I can’t keep everything. When something is no longer being used, it is time to get rid of it. It does not mean that I didn’t like it, or that I didn’t appreciate the gift. The feeling of joy that I had when I received the gift does not leave just because the object is gone.

One key thing in getting rid of clutter is identifying why it is you are keeping it. If something is not useful to you, and you no longer love looking at it, then you can get rid of it. Guilt is never a good reason to have stuff renting for free.

What are some of the reasons you keep things around your house?


  1. I’m guilty of the “I may need it someday” one. This was particularly true when we lived in an apartment because I knew someday we’d probably move to a house and then I’d “need” it.

    And it was somewhat true. We did hold onto some things that I’m glad we did now that we’re in a house. But now that we’ve been in our house for about a year there are things we still haven’t used and I definitely need to get rid of.

    • Johanna says:

      This is such a hard balance for me because of living in an apartment. I know that there are some things that I would use more if we were in a house in the future. To keep or not to keep? So hard to figure that out! :)

  2. Thanks for boiling it down to these 4 basic reasons–they’re so true! I have personally experienced and completely agree with your comment, “The memory of the pain of taking something to donate that you spent precious money on will probably keep you from making another bad purchase.” And I want to employ this thinking much more often: “If I have not used something in several months, it is a pretty good indication that I don’t really need it.” And, to touch on another one of your points :-), this helped me alot: “The very fact that there are fewer makes it more special.” I’m going to apply that as I go through the artwork/schoolwork that V brought home at the end of the year–there’s ALOT of it, so I need to pick out just a few special things to hold onto. Weeding out, here I come :-)

    • Johanna says:

      OH artwork. Yes…that’s a tough one. But goodness, if I kept everything Stefan made we be run out of the house with paper, lol!

  3. So hard to declutter at times, but I find it easier now than when my first two children were younger! Live amd learn, I guess – that and I love knowing everything I have, where it is, and less to clean up. 😉

    • Johanna says:

      Less to clean up is my big thing! Knowing that my life is so much easier now with less stuff makes it easier to weed things out!

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  4. Oh boy! Yes, I can totally relate to these. I think my worst reason is “I may need it someday.” But small apartment living is demanding some serious declutter-izing…if I can just get over the procrastination hump. :) BTW, my husband is clinging to some ties with the reason that your husband gave them to him! I’ll have to have him read this post.

  5. I’m bad with the “I may need it someday” excuse. Then one day, I just come in and get rid of everything that isn’t nailed down. I’ve been that way since childhood. My mother use to say that I didn’t have a sentimental bone in my body.

    • That is what my mom says about me, too! :) It is not completely true, but compared to a lot of people, I guess, I am not that sentimental!

  6. We’re systematically doing a whole-house purge right now, and I’ve been using these guidelines as I go! It feels so great to get rid of so much clutter!

  7. So many of my reasons are the same as yours…definitely sentimental connection is big for me…and it used to be especially the one of…”I might need this or use this someday”. But over time–I’ve been able to release that when I can find someone who will use or need whatever the item is (then the fun of giving them whatever it is overrides the might-need-it-someday). Because then it clearly seems silly for me to keep something for possible-need, when there is an actual-need. If that makes any sense? But I honestly still have to reason through that still because I’m such a pack rat :)

    If God ever asks us to move…ugh. Let’s not talk about that… :)

    • That is probably why I hate clutter so much. We have lived in 5 homes in 5 1/2 years. It is easier to move when there is less stuff. :)


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