Why is it so hard to let go of stuff?

 

The statistics say it all. Perhaps we have a problem with keeping too much stuff?

  •  In the U.S., 65% of self-storage renters have a garage in their home, 47% have an attic, and 33 percent have a basement. This suggests that Americans have more things than their homes allow them.
  • Over the past 40 years, the self-storage industry has proven to be the one of the sectors with the most rapid growth in the U.S commercial real estate industry.
  • While 92 % of homeowners surveyed described their home as somewhat or very organized, one fourth of them admitted embarrassment with the garage and nearly one third said they keep their garage door shut so others won’t see the mess.
  • The average size of the American home has nearly tripled in size over the past 50 years.

General reasons

There’s a problem with letting go of our stuff.  In working with my clients, I find that there are typically 6 reasons why it’s hard to let go of stuff.

  • Financial reasons hold people back.  I could be that we purchased an item and we have not used it. Maybe it’s the clothes with tags on them in your closet or the beany babies that could be sold.  If we think it’s valuable, we postpone the decision of decluttering since we are not sure to sell it or give it away.
  • Attachments and sentimental reasons make decisions difficult.  The item represents something special about a person, like your grandmother’s silver tea set.  Will you be a “bad” parent if you throw away some of your child’s artwork?  Are you the “caretaker” of your family legacy by holding onto your mom’s paperweight collection and can’t let it go?  There’s feelings of guilt, shame, and vulnerability that are a part of the sentimental reasons that hold you back.  In addition there’s grief bound up in our attachments. Loss can look like unemployment, divorce, broken relationships.  Grief holds us back in paralyzing our decisions.
  • With brain based conditions, such as ADHD, clutter can be paralyzing.  In the ADHD brain, it’s hard to limit the amount of stuff and all things have possibility. There’s perfectionism and the thought there is the perfect system which eludes you.  Because of working memory challenges, ADHD causes you to keep stuff just to remember about it.  There’s impulsive purchases and difficulty prioritizing. Not only is accumulating clutter a challenge, but also the decisions to let stuff go is hard.
  • We are busy! There’s seldom a time we have free time or will get around to organizing.  It’s a low priority because we want to spend time doing what we love and with people we love. It’s easy to procrastinate about letting go and decluttering because we have so much to do each day.
  • There are skills that we might not know to organize. Perhaps your family was not organized and you lived in much clutter.  Do you wonder what papers to keep and what to let go of? Does everything have a “home”? Are items grouped together that are used together? There are key concepts to being organized.
  • We attach our dreams to our stuff. We think we might have a special tea with our daughter and need those tea cups.  Our family will be eating a special dinner together on each of those sets of dishes.

There’s a shift going on, however.  Essentialism, minimalism, relationships, and experiences are becoming the norm.  Americans are re-prioritizing.  The book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up is a best seller.

  • There’s many ways to recoup some of the money you spent. While you can’t recoup it all,  there are many ways to sell your items. There’s Facebook sales and NextDoor to sell items to your neighbors. There are consignment shops of all types.  In terms of donations, you can make a list and use this for a tax deduction.
  • Is it time to process and find new perspectives about your emotional attachments and how let go of stuff?  Without processing or new awareness about an attachment, we can get stuck.  We can process with a professional organizer, coach, therapist or non-judgemental friend.  How we process can make a difference. We can talk through the challenges, tell the story of the item, and acknowledge. As Brene Brown talks about in Daring Greatly, we can have a small ceremony or share a story about your stuff.
  • Learn more about ADHD and other brain conditions to know what organizing is difficult.  On ADDitudemag.com there are webinars, blogs and articles on decluttering. The book ADD Friendly Ways to Organize offers many ways to learn about ADHD and clutter.  Podcasts such as Taking Control with Niki Kinzer offers support, tools and community for ADHD.
  • We have to set a time to organize and set a time to organize routinely. Organizing moves up in priority this way.  Write in on your calendar or set a digital date to declutter.
  • What’s the best way for you to learn skills? Is it working alongside a professional organizer? Is it reading a book?  Choose what’s best for you to learn and practice.
  • Start a new awareness of why you have what you have.  You might notice how many of an item you have which might lead you to think about what you are purchasing.  Spend time assessing.

 

Think about your home, your energy and your vision of your life. Is it time to assess your stuff?

 

Click here to view the CBS Sunday Morning show, Clean Sweep.

 

More tips and tricks on decluttering here!

5 replies
  1. Seana Turner
    Seana Turner says:

    It is interesting to watch the growing interest in minimalism and simplifying. There is definitely a pushback emerging against materialism and ownership. Much of this appears to be in the young adult set, and I will be interested to see if they can maintain this mindset and these priorities as they move into home ownership and family life. I hope it will. I am enjoying exploring minimalism with a group up here in CT!

  2. Ellen
    Ellen says:

    It’s been exciting to follow your group in CT. What learning and sharing is going on! What a great support to each other in their search for meaningful lives.

  3. Linda Samuels
    Linda Samuels says:

    Letting go seems to be the number one challenge for my clients. Never underestimate the power of working with a professional, family member or friend to help get past stuck. It helps to have support, especially the right kind of support, as you mentioned…”non-judgmental.” Having recently gone through the clear out and sale of my parents’ home, I’ve also gotten the bug to simplify and let go of things in our own home. There are so many things we’ve collected. And while many of them still have a purpose, meaning, or value, there are layers of things that could go. I’ve been working on this slowly. A few weekends ago we had a tag sale an moved out a lot of stuff. I was happy to see it go to others that had a need for those things.

  4. Ellen
    Ellen says:

    I saw your tag sale online! I loved that you did this! I am excited that you are moving forward on your own decluttering journey.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Letting go of stuff is hard work.  Besides your every present thought that “I might need this,” there is a pull at your heartstrings of an emotional attachment and a pull at your purse strings for what you paid for that stuff.  As I meet with clients, we are sorting through their items and asking questions to help them make decisions to edit. Asking yourself questions to help you declutter makes this task easier. […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.