Minimalism

5 Reasons Why We Hold Onto ‘Stuff’

“Make room for what matters, let go of what doesn’t. It’s that simple.” – Robert Tew

Every single one of us, at one point in our lives, have held onto something for far longer than we should have.

We have kept “stuff” in storage units and closets, never to see the light of day, for years and years instead of letting go and getting rid of it.

I am 100% guilty of doing this. For so long, I said yes anytime someone wanted to pass something down or give me something and never got rid of anything. Even if I didn’t like it or want to have it in my home, I never said no.

I mean, never.

5 Reasons Why We Hold Onto 'Stuff'

I continuously cluttered my home with knick knacks, hand me downs and things I bought at TJ Maxx when I was bored. (Nothing against TJ Maxx, I can spend hours walking around that store, always coming out with things I don’t need!)

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There are so many reasons why we hold onto “stuff” and sometimes have a hard time parting with items. And everyone has a different reason and a different mindset about decluttering and letting go.

Let’s break down five common reasons why we hold onto things and find it difficult to say “sayonara” to some of our belongings!

1. Guilt.

One of the main reasons why people tend to hold onto stuff way longer than we should is out of guilt. Often times, we don’t get rid of something because we don’t want someone else to get their feelings hurt.

Maybe someone bought you that dresser a few years ago but it just doesn’t fit with your style anymore. Or maybe your family member passed something down from a deceased family member but it truly doesn’t really mean that much to you. When this happens, guilt is playing a huge role in your decision to keep the items.

Something to remember when you are feeling this way is that you are the one who lives in your home, not other people. Please, try not to feel guilty over wanting something different in your space. If something no longer serves you and your home, it is okay to move on from it.

2. Nostalgia.

Oh, this is the one that gets me all of the time. I am very nostalgic when it comes to things and what they represent. Whether that be a person or a moment in time that meant something to me, I tend to link the emotions with physical items.

However, during my decluttering journey, one thing I have learned is that those feelings and those memories don’t leave with the item(s). Sure, there are some items that you will hold onto for the rest of your life because of someone or something they represent. For me, I will forever cherish the letters my husband and I wrote to each other when he was in boot camp. I will never part with them.

But that outfit that my daughter wore one time when she was 6 months old? I have learned to let go of that. The memory of her in the outfit will stay with me long after the item is gone.

Try to limit the amount of ‘stuff’ in your home that are only there because of nostalgia. Pick items that are precious to you and say goodbye to the rest.

3. What if.

But, what if I need that purple sweater a year from now? What if I need that set of dishes that we haven’t used in three years? What if I want to use that face mask next month?

The what if game is a slippery slope and one that most of us have slid down a time or two in our lives. Even when we haven’t used or wanted an item in a long time, it is so easy to decide to keep it in case you might want it one day.

A good rule of thumb to follow is if you haven’t used it, needed it or wore it in a year or more, chances are you won’t be looking for it a year from now.

4. Money is tight.

For more years than I care to count, I have kept things for the simple reason that I couldn’t afford to replace them. Sweaters with holes in them, shoes I didn’t like and old purses are all examples of things I have kept way longer than I should have because I couldn’t get new ones.

Today, even if I can’t afford to buy a new pair of jeans right away, I get rid of them when they no longer serve me. This could mean they don’t fit, they are worn and ratty or I simply don’t like the style anymore. I have been down to only one pair of jeans, but ones that I love and make me feel good, and I was okay with it because I knew eventually I would get a second pair.

It’s okay to get rid of something you can’t immediately replace if it no longer brings you joy or is something you use. You aren’t wasting money by letting the stuff go. You are simply deciding to only leave in your home the things that you love and use. Try not to get trapped in this mindset! (Easier said than done, I know!)

5. Fear.

For so many people, there is a lot of fear that comes with decluttering. Fear of the unknown, fear of missing something once it’s gone and fear of change are just a few ways fear shows up in decluttering.

When you are making any kind of change in your life, especially when it comes to your home and the ‘stuff’ in it, it can be incredibly scary. One thing to try and remember is that decluttering looks different for everyone. You don’t need to get rid of anything you don’t feel comfortable removing from your life.

Go slow, take your time and be intentional with your decluttering. Take as long as you need and keep as much as you want! 

Can you relate to any of these reasons? Have you ever found yourself keeping something longer than you should? I would love to hear from you!

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12 thoughts on “5 Reasons Why We Hold Onto ‘Stuff’

  1. Keeping the piano from the house I grew up in, in my garage. When my dad sold the old house, I took it and now it’s in my garage. It’s just an old upright and not even that pretty. My brother pulled all the ivories off when he was a kid. It can’t be fully tuned. But my mom bought it those many years ago so we kids could take piano lessons. I plan to move it along, aka get rid of it, after my dad passes. The garage is large and pretty uncluttered, so the piano is not taking up that much space.

  2. Point 4 “Money is tight”. Spot on. In my own practice, giving away an item rarely results in the financial hardship of having to replace it. In fact, I would even argue that hoarding things COSTS more money overall, because the underlying behavior of hoarding encourages individuals to spend money on things that they probably value enough and wouldn’t otherwise purchase if it weren’t for the “fear” of needing it one day. I’ve been there, but nowadays, I actively practice reducing what I own to a few quality basics. For most people, there are relatively few situations in this world that requires actually owning many things. Ownership through the lens of minimalism boils down to keeping items that speak the loudest to one’s personal values.

    1. Yes! 100%! For me, before I began my decluttering journey, I held onto so many things because I thought I needed to replace everything. Today, I know that isn’t true. I have gotten rid of a ton of things and not replaced a single thing! It truly does come down to what each person needs, wants and makes them happy!

  3. I have been on a decluttering mission since the start of the year and I still feel like I have a house full of unnecessary stuff. But the “what if” factor definitely plays a big part in my reluctance to just get rid of items once and for all. And it’s not just holding onto stuff that is the problem but my tendency to go out and buy more after I’ve done a good clear out. Argh. I keep telling myself it’s a journey and hopefully I’m heading in the right direction!

  4. I had saved all my old love letters from when my boyfriend was in the Navy. We were engaged to be married for 4yrs our plan was together forever! After the Navy, something changed and he was not the same guy anymore. I was still deeply in love and kept every letter he sent me in a big shoebox. I am now 67yrs old and about 5yrs ago I threw them away one day when I was cleaning my bedroom. I married a different man and we had 3 wonderful children together but he fell in love with alcohol and I had to leave him. I am now wishing that I would have kept my old shoebox of love letters that I got rid of! I thought it was time to declutter from the past but I regret it now. I’m not sure why but I feel this big empty space inside of my heart. I guess somethings you should keep just in case it makes your heart still keep beating even when the fire has gone out and only the ambers are left in your heart. Somethings should be kept forever……

    1. This is such a hard one and I am so deeply sorry you are going through this! Sometimes, you feel like you are ready to move on from the past but then wish you could go back. Hopefully you are able to hold onto the memories, if not the physical letters, and that will stay with you forever!

  5. Hi, I have been decluttering all year, some things my mom or dad gave me, I no longer want or need, but I feel quilty, even though they have been gone 6 & 7 years.
    But the worst is going through my late husband’s things, his brothers have been helping me. they were all woodworkers, so they have been taking what they want. I try to clean out the workshop by myself, but could not do it. But when they come over I can go downstairs and go through some stuff. I feel like I’m throwing him away, although I know that I’m not.
    We are having a hugh estate/garage sale next week, so the attic is cleaned out, today I’m working on all the Christmas decorations, including the outdoor things. It’s quite a job. But I’m still not able to get rid of his clothes. It’s been 1 yr and 4 months.

    1. Hi Linda! Decluttering sentimental items can be so hard and very emotional. One thing I try to tell people and remind myself that although the physical item may not be there anymore, the memories and the times together will stay with you forever. Also, there is no timeline for giving away or removing sentimental items! Do it all in your own time, even if that is 10 years from now! Sending love 🙂

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