Decluttering | Learn How To Let Go Of Your Clutter

aqua blue ocean and sand in the background. A hand letting go of a handful of sand

Decluttering | Learn how to let go of your clutter is about learning to navigate one of the biggest obstacles we face when we start our decluttering process. The art of letting go of anything can be hard whether it is physical or mental stuff. The first step is to identify why you don’t want to let go of physical clutter and the tools to use to move beyond this.

There is a life-changing magic of tidying up that occurs when we begin to sort through a lifetime of excess possessions. We hold onto our things for many reasons.

At times we may have sentimental attachment to all the mementos and gifts we have received. This is why it can be so hard to let go of our prized possessions.

background is brilliant bright orangey sunrise. 2 hands together making a sentimental heart shape

The obstacle may be financial. Do you regret the purchase you spent too much money on? Are you afraid if you toss away a thing you may need it someday?

When it is time for me to let go of things I look at it as one door closing and another door and possibly a window or two opening.

Why do we fear letting go?

When I was a kid my Mom had and used regularly a set of primary color Pyrex mixing bowls. This is one of the few things I have of my mothers. I use these regularly and it brings a smile to my face. I have no intention of letting this teeny piece of my childhood go.

Do I have an emotional attachment to this special memento? Yes! Is my emotional attachment hurting me or anyone? No. My treasure brings me joy, takes up so little space, and doesn’t interfere with any dreams and opportunities I may have. 

This is what decluttering is about. Find a special place for your treasures and the things you have of little value let go of.

Decluttering physical objects with sentimental value can present challenges. There are ways to get through this though!

overflowing box with someone's sentimental jewelry in it.

When your sentimental items bring bring a warm smile to your face and you have enough room to enjoy your memento keep them. If you are rid with guilt because your Grandma left you her favorite family heirloom and you don’t want this get rid of it.

Grandma may have had emotional connections to her things, you may not. The most common reason people hold on to sentimental items is feelings of guilt.

I believe people leave people things to show a sign of love. Now if your benefactor leaves you piles of cash, this is usually well received.

If a relative had modest resources she may leave you things that happened to be dear to her and mean nothing to you, to show you her love. There is nothing wrong with parting from these things. 

Take a digital picture of the thing you want to discard. This will take up no storage space and you will free up your physical space and have the memory when you view the picture. I have to believe our loved one’s do not want us to feel burdened! 

a red memento box to let go of

By owning fewer things you will love the things you keep even more.

Be creative!

People take loved one’s clothing and make special quilts for family members. If a loved one leaves you something that is aesthetically pleasing to you and too big or too something that does not work for you- repurpose it. So many cool things have been made from big clumsy furniture pieces.

I have seen people convert old bureaus that they loved and did not need into bathroom vanities. Old sturdy well made furniture can be reupholstered in a fabric you love.

A dining room buffet or other old piece of furniture can be the foundation for a cool kitchen island.

These are a great ways to enjoy a trip down memory lane and make things functional. Both beautiful and functional is a win-win! You don’t have to keep piles of stuff you dislike and do not want. There are much better options.

an old piece of furniture repurposed to bathroom vanity. Great way to let go of things no longer useful to us

Storage space clutter

Do you have boxes of stuff filling up your storage space that you haven’t looked through in years? Are you wasting storage fees for storage units? Look at these mind numbing statistics of what our clutter costs us.

Physical items packed in a box collecting dust are of no use to anyone. Today with the high cost of inflation others will welcome your donations and put these things to good use.

To make donating easier I compiled a 17 page Resource Guide that lists all the places to donate all your different things from small to large, with free pick up in many instances.

You may be surprised to know how seeing things a little differently can start to motivate you to start decluttering.  I feel strangled when I am surrounded by too many material possessions. 

Maybe you will find it is time to let others in need make new memories with some of your unused objects.

Old photos

photo album open to a page with an old fashioned picture of Grandma type person

While you are at it you may as well make some order of all the old photos you have. One thing I hear over and over again is your children do not want all your old photos and possessions. 

You may have emotional attachments to these things. This is not necessarily true of your kids. Many young people cannot relate to things that are not in a digital format. 

A lot of people tell me when they are sorting through boxes of loved one’s old unmarked photos it can be a burden to discard and a burden to keep. A burden to discard due to feelings of guilt and a burden to keep because you do not want these pictures. I do not wish to put others in this position.


a jar of coins and stacks of coins growing

Some people do not like to get rid of things because they spent a fair amount of money on these things especially if they are experiencing a hard time now. Others may ‘need it someday’ so it is worth keeping. Most homes are not large enough to keep everything you ever owned in addition to all the new things you continually bring in.

The money is already spent. The only way to possibly recoup some money is to resell. At times used goods sell for as much if not more than your initial layout of cash.

Facebook MarketplaceeBay, or any number of online platforms are easy ways to sell your things when you decide to let go of stuff.

Another way clutter can affect finances is late fees. When we have too much stuff and are disorganized it is very easy to miss a bill’s due date. The amount of money financial institutions collect from us is staggering. Consumers were charged $14.5 billion in late fees in 2022.

The 80/20 rule

The 80/20 rule developed in 1941 by Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian polymath is a rule that states we use 20% of our possessions 80% of the time. By the way if you are like me and wondering what a polymath is, it is a person of wide-ranging knowledge or learning.

In my home, I can close the utensil drawer without the potato masher and other stuff jamming it. I have unused shelves in my closet. I don’t need a bunch of stuff I never use taking up valuable space.

the 80/20 decluttering rule suggest we only use 20% of our stuff 89% of the time

Someone I know boxed up all her kitchen stuff and put the cardboard boxes filled with all the kitchen things in another room. For 6 months whens he needed an item in the kitchen she went to the boxes and found the item. She used the thing and found a designated place for the particular item to stay in the kitchen.

At the end of her 6 month experiment without opening the boxes she donated them all. This is a great way to declutter, especially if you have a small kitchen and lots of kitchen utensils!

One of the first decluttering tricks is start sorting through all your belongings. Like goes with like. When you do this you will see all of your duplicates of things you don’t regularly use. Getting rid of duplicates and old broken things is a great place to start your decluttering process.


blue sky background. 2 figures with question marks in the place of heads

Our self-identities can be wrapped up with the things we possess, the labels our jobs put on us, etc. We may fear we will lose a part of ourselves if we let go of something. Volumes have been written about self-identities

I am working through a version of this in my life now. Circumstances changed and I am trying to decide if I should shut down the art studio that supported me for 30 years. It took some time for me to work through I have stop selling the art I make I will still be an artist.

Scarcity mindset

A scarcity mindset is another obstacle we may face. Maybe we grew up with what we remember as having had very little. We may feel we could never replace an object if we part with it. Maybe a family member had a scarcity mindset and passed those feelings on to you.

 outline of face on black background with a white mind shown reflecting new mindset equals new results

The 20/20 rule

The 20/20 rule is a simple rule to follow and some, including me, resist. Can the item be replaced for under $20 or can you replace the item in less than 20 minutes? If the answer is yes, get rid of it.

Saving every nut and bolt, elastic and, such things we may need in the future sure can cause clutter. I get it. What if I need it someday?

I hate clutter and don’t you know it seems like the day after I discard a piece of something seemingly insignificant I find it would have worked perfectly for the task at hand. Oh well. I smile, grudgingly, and go buy a replacement.

Start letting go!

Baby steps! Lot’s of people are getting rid of lots of clutter by getting rid of one item a day. This adds up to 365 items a year!  Small does not equal insignificant. Pick up one item, the item nearest to you. Decide if you want to keep it or toss or donate the item. If you decide to keep you must find a place for it to live. 

When your physical possessions are in their designated spaces your home will feel tidier and more spacious.

a toddler's feet on a grey carpet taking a baby step.

What is your intention or goal? Maybe you want a more organized space or a simpler lifestyle? Do you need to declutter your living room, craft supplies, or your entire home?

Do you plan to have a garage sale or donate your items to a charitable cause. There are no wrong answers. The answer is simply your preference or your goal. 

When you are wavering in your decision to keep or get rid of an item look at your intentions. This is why I suggest people write their goal and plan and keep this posted in a place where it will be regularly seen. It is easier to stay on track with a written document of your intention.

If your goal is to reduce clutter to create more space letting go is the next step. I do not like being surrounded by stuff so my goal is to live minimally and free of clutter. I live very comfortably, I simply choose not to keep a bunch of unused stuff around.


Practicing gratitude for the things that bring joy to you and letting go of the rest has a huge payoff. I learned a long time ago it feels much better to love my things, instead of whining and pining for more.

Wanting for nothing is a great attitude to have. This signals you are content with all that you have. Our thoughts become our reality.

Nothing comes in my front door that is not functional or beautiful. I vividly remember my first home where I was responsible for all the maintenance. It took me a nanosecond to realize the less stuff I have the less stuff I will have to take care of. That was the day my decluttering attitude kicked in!

A heart shaped hanging on a piece of hemp engraved with 'I am grateful'

I choose to spend my limited spare time doing the things I love, not cleaning. Creating art and walking my puppies is far preferable to house cleaning.

Letting go

As I mentioned some people find photographing objects a good solution to letting go of clutter. Another idea is to create a digital photo album or scrapbook.

You could dedicate one photo album to the pictures of the sentimental items you let go of. You can have fun with this and make the album a journal where you jot down other fun musings about these loved ones. This will be a big space saver! And your kids just may enjoy this one day!

Many people find it pleasurable to digitalize all their old photos, file them in an organized manner, and discard the hard copy. This can free up a lot of space. None of your survivors will be burdened by having to go through multiple cartons of all the pictures you collected.


It feels good to donate gently used physical objects when you are ready to let go of your stuff. It is a good feeling that someone in need can enjoy what no longer serves me. 

a blue keyboard key with the word donate on it instaed of enter or return

Many wonderful organizations make it easy for us to donate our goods. I compiled a list of valuable resources if you choose to donate stuff, large or small, in a free 17-page Resource Guide.  

This is a free download for you to take advantage of. This free guide lists several charitable organizations that will pick up for free old treadmills, furniture, clothing, and pretty much any of your physical clutter in good condition. Donating  is a great way to declutter!

Understanding why we fear letting go of things is the first step to a more organized and simple lifestyle. Lot’s has been written on the psychology of clutter. I have added this link to other articles I have written about clutter because Dn. Joseph Ferrari, PhD, of DePaul University lays out a clear, easy to understand explanation of clutter.

Letting go

By letting go of the past and not worrying about the future you will find yourself present in this day.

This is the day you can review your goals, take steps, and get yourself on the path to the life you dream of. Even one small step gets you one step closer to a fresh start and the life you have been dreaming of enjoying.

One last thing! There are lots of things we can do to maintain our spaces and prevent clutter build up.

One simple act is make getting rid of junk mail when you first enter your home from the mail box part of your routine. You have a choice, either allow or don’t allow unnecessary items into your home. Live an intentional life.

author pic

Marj Bates is a life long ridiculously organized declutter-er and artist. Less is more are words Marj lives by in everything she does except collecting dogs. “Dogs are like potato chips! Can’t have just one.” says Marj. Marj wonders if growing up with a fanatically clean Jewish mom means her decluttering and organizational skills are in her blood.

For more Declutter Buzz & Freebies check out our safe and private Decluttering community on our Facebook page. We are a safe and private space of like minded folks tackling this all encompassing clutter thing once and for all. No shame allowed and always a few laughs!

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