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8 Obstacles to Decluttering and What You Can Do

by Kelvin Belfon

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Is there too much clutter in your home?

The simple solution is to declutter. That is, look through your belongings and get rid of the non-essential items you no longer need.

Minimize, minimize, minimize.

It’s a great suggestion. I’ve encouraged loved ones, friends and even online followers toward the minimalism path. But let’s face it, uncluttering is not easy.

I decided to downsize my belongings 3 years ago. I was tired of hauling things around every time our family relocated. The clutter was taking up too much space, and became a hassle to clean up and reorganize on the weekends.

I was highly motivated to reclaim my time. Yet like most, letting go was challenging and I wasn’t sure how to begin. I was frustrated, discouraged and emotional when going through my sentimental items.

There are legitimate reasons why people choose to hold onto things. But the inability to bring our feelings about the stuff we own into alignment with our goals is directly related to the power we have given these things to imprint on our sense of self.

If you resonate with any obstacles below, be encouraged. You are not alone. There are things you can do to beat the clutter.

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8 Obstacles to Decluttering and What You Can Do

1. “I’m too embarrassed” – “What will people think?” This fear of humiliation is tied to our worry that we might somehow fall into the category of pack rat or even worse, hoarder. But don’t be ashamed. There is always a reason why our possessions accumulate. They may have originally arrived from an emotional event, an inheritance, a hobby, or simply because we were blessed to afford extra. But all these things together can mushroom if not put in check. The support from a loving family member or friend to help.

2. What if I need it later?” We keep things around just in case. Over time they pile up, take up space, cost money in storage, become outdated and turn into junk. Our motivation is often driven by an over-realized need for security. Yet we rarely go back to reuse those possessions.

If you must keep certain valuables, for emergency purposes for instance, keep them updated, in good condition, and tidied up. For those just in case items you’re not sure about, put them in a box or in a hidden location. After 30-60 days, if you haven’t used them and you know you won’t in the next 6 months, consider donating. Another recommendation is the 20/20 rule. If you can replace an item for less than $20.00 in less than 20 minutes from your location, then get rid of it.

3. “I have no help” – “Where do I start and how do I go about tackling the clutter?” The job of decluttering a room or space can be hard work. For some folks, clutter has an overwhelming or paralyzing effect, especially if there is no prior experience of having to declutter. This may be true if you’re elderly, disabled or going through a transition in life. Solicit help from family, friends or hire a professional.

4. “I’ll do it later” – We all have good intentions. I’ve meet people who’ve keep their possessions because they were planning to sell or donate. But that intention never happened. Now years later, their space is cluttered. Barbara Hemphill is right, “Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions.”

Fight the procrastination tendency by going public. Share your desire with someone who can hold you accountable. Make a call; some local charity organizations will pick up your unwanted possessions. Last, seek a professional like my friend Christine Li of Procrastination Coach.

5.  “I can’t get rid of the sentimental items” – This is probably the toughest category to tackle. Mementoes such as pictures, love letters, childhood items, wedding china, and family heirlooms should be addressed last in the minimizing process.

If an item is no longer useful, adds beauty to your home or if it brings negative memories, get rid of it. Consider even utilizing your digital options. Take pictures of memorabilia that will most likely deteriorate over time or gift them to family, friends, museums, or donation store. However, if something sparks joy, keep it.

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6. “What will I do with all the unwanted clutter?” – “Some people won’t take the decluttering plunge unless they have a plan.

The good news is that in minimizing, we can help out other families with clothing, appliances, linens, and toys. Your local public libraries will accept book collections in good condition. As well, animal shelters welcome donations of sheets, towels and blankets.

7. “Hold it, I paid good money for my stuff!” True, no one likes to feel like they are throwing away their money. I’ve bought expensive electronics and household items. I keep them out of guilt though they were outdated, broken or no longer worked.

The logical action is to sell to recoup some of the money. But let go and move on. Give it away, donate or discard.

8. “The item was gifted to me” It’s common to collect items gifted from birthdays, holidays, special events and conferences. If you have kids, this category can easily create accumulation, which makes keeping things tidied up a challenge.

“Will people think I’m ungrateful?” Maybe, maybe not; but a gift is yours to do with as you please. Take small steps and when you are ready, let go of those things that have run their course in usefulness to you.

 Have you experienced any other obstacles to decluttering?

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