Ask 5 people about their clutter problems and you will get 5 different answers. 5 different sets of circumstances, 5 different reasons it’s too difficult to begin.
The common theme you would find is that the clutter is there and they want it not to be.
Despite this, it’s not as simple as defining all clutter as junk and telling people to toss it. There are many, many reasons we hold on to things well beyond their usefulness, and understanding some of those reasons might just be the beginning of your journey towards a simpler life.
5 Reasons We Have Clutter
Reason: We are Still Keeping Up With the Joneses
We buy stuff to fit in. To be comparable. To appear worthy.
We still care what the neighbours think, what the next trend is, what must-have item we need for the wardrobe. We want our kids to lack for nothing, to appear like we have it all together. We still need to compete – even though there is actually no competition. This is not a race you can win because there is no finish-line. There will always be more, better, bigger, faster, flashier, and there will always be the Joneses.
Anti-Reason: Take yourself out of the competition. The fact is, the Joneses don’t care about your TV. They’re probably too stressed about their own mounting debt to notice. And if they do pay attention – who cares? We need to be able to say ‘enough’. To find contentment with what we have and step off the merry-go-round of mindlessly and endlessly acquiring ‘better’ stuff.
Reason: Just In Case
We keep the jeans that no longer fit – just in case they fit again one day and are still fashionable.
We keep the toilet roll tubes/used wrapping paper/ribbons – just in case the kids need it for a craft project.
We keep the kitchen appliances we’ve never used – just in case we need to cook rice and don’t have any saucepans.
We keep the paperwork from 10 years ago – just in case we’re audited and the internet is broken.
Anti-Reason: We hold on to things ‘just in case’ a need arises. But honestly, how often does that happen? We are far better off ridding ourselves of the things we don’t need now, and very occasionally have to go and buy the thing we do need.
Reason: We Feel Obligated to Keep Things
Gifts, heirlooms and hand-me-downs are hard to let go of – we feel obligated to keep them simply because someone cared enough to give them to us. We feel this way even if we don’t like the item, it’s impractical or a duplicate.
We feel a duty to care for this item until there is a time where we can use it or pass it on to another.
Anti-Reason: This is one of the most difficult clutter issues to work through. And while it’s true that sometimes we are made to feel obligated by family or friends, you do need to work out if that is a real obligation, or if you’re simply imagining it. Often we are given items by well-meaning family because they no longer want them but can’t bear to completely get rid of them – and passing them to you softens the blow. Understanding their motives can make it much easier to let go.
Reason: The Items Evoke Strong Memories
Souvenirs, photos, old school uniforms, baby clothes, toys – we often feel these items contain our memories. That if we no longer have the item, the memory disappears too.
Anti-Reason: The memory is held in our hearts and minds – not a dust-covered tchotchke or baby clothes in the garage. Decide what really is valuable and display it. If you won’t display it, then ask yourself why you’re really keeping it – maybe it’s time to let it go.
Reason: We Feel We’re Wasting Money
We spend money on clothes that don’t get worn, movies that are never watched, kitchenware that stays in its box – and even though these things languish, unused, stressing us out by simply being there and cluttering up our space, we feel that to give them away is a waste of money.
Anti-Reason: Unfortunately, that money is already wasted. It was wasted when you bought the thing you never used. If it’s sellable, sell it and recoup some of the losses, otherwise let it go.
It’s true, creating a simple life is complex. Working out the reasons behind your clutter and complications isn’t easy. But once you can identify the reasons for holding on, for being weighed down, for feeling stuck, you can start to move ahead.
Do you have any reasons behind your clutter that I haven’t listed here? Let us know in the comments below. And don’t forget – creating a simpler life is not a race or a competition. Just go at your own pace and you will start reaping the benefits.