Psychology of Clutter

Ready to make some resolutions? Become a minimalist! 

One of the crucial aspects of minimizing in your home is understanding exactly why or how you have accumulated so much stuff. Often times, it is beyond our control. We buy things with good intentions of using it or thinking we need it to only use it once or twice and into storage it goes. Most often, we receive gifts that we feel obligated to take because, well it was a gift; this person thought of you and gave you something special. Not wanting to be rude we take it and off to storage it goes. Other times, things are offered to you for free...and well who doesn't like FREE stuff? I know, because this is precisely what happens to me. I have a hard time refusing or saying no to things when it is given with good intentions. So today, I'd like to get into the different reasons we have so much stuff and why it is so hard for some to get rid of the stuff cluttering their homes. 

What exactly is clutter?

Clutter is different for everyone, but we all know what it means to us. For me, clutter is stuff in my home that serves no purpose, has no designated spot, and holds no emotional attachment. But this might not be exactly what clutter means to you. Whatever clutter may mean to you, here are some common characteristics:

Unused - Things that we have that we no longer use. For some, it can be old VHS (oh yeah, VHS) movies that well, we cannot watch anymore because...who has a VHS player? For me, it's dvds. When I think about it, it's funny because I do not own a DVD player, but I have MANY MANY DVD'S. Time to let go of those...

Unwanted - This goes with what I stated above, things that were given to us as gifts but we really don't want or need it. For example, someone once gave me a mold to make bacon bowls... in theory this is awesome, but in reality, I will never use it. It's out! 

Unloved - Again, things that are unwanted and unused are more than likely unloved as well. If you loved it, then you'd be using it. Do you really need 5 soup ladles? How about that shirt missing a button? Or the three hairbrushes that serve the same purpose?

Where does it come from? 

Bargain - It was on sale, and it is so hard to pass it up a great deal! Many stores advertise big sales or buy two get one free, or spend $50 and get a gift card. Those seem like great deals, but you likely do not need it and end up leaving with more than you anticipated and spending more money as well. 

Gifts - This is the issue I have most. I receive things from people with great intentions which makes it hard for me to refuse or let go of later. I've recently had to overcome this by telling myself, I've enjoyed it long enough, its okay to let it go. And I'm here to tell you the same, it's okay to let go of items once you have enjoyed it already. Give someone else the opportunity to experience it by donating it. 

Free - Everyone has been to a place/event where freebies are given. This is really tempting because people LOVE free stuff. It doesn't matter what it is, it's FREE! I personally experienced this when I went to Bookcon. I love to read, and I couldn't resist the free tote bags and book giveaways. I walked out with so much stuff. Stuff I thought I would love, but I ended up donating most of it (I do use the tote bags though!) 

Why is it so hard to let it go?

Regret - Thinking that someday we will need it and regret giving it away. 

Guilt - You spent your hard earned money on those things, its hard to give it away only after a couple of uses. A loved one gave it to you, you don't want to hurt their feelings. 

Hope - You are hoping to use that one item again, or to fit into those old clothes again. Or that you will pass down that loved item to your kids and so on. Unless it is a unique piece with significant value/history, chances are there are hundreds, if not thousands, of variations of that same item that is easily obtainable. 

How do I let go?

The first step is telling yourself that it is okay to let go. No one is going to be hurt that you want to improve your living space and/or lifestyle. Your loved ones love and care for you more than the stuff they gave you. Second, learn to refuse. If you do not need it, love it, or want it, learn to refuse it. Try to resist the temptations of store sales and bargains. 

I learned many of the tips stated from the book I am currently reading, which is linked below. As always follow and subscribe to my blog for new posts every Sunday and Wednesday! Do you have any suggestions on letting go? Please share your comments or experiences below! 

Designed by Libby on Canva
Photo by Sophia Baboolal on Unsplash
Book: Decluttering Your Home: Tips, Techniques & Trade Secrets


  1. Also, there is the case of collectors of whatever! People can collect anything. Many even own several collections that they started and maintain for several reasons. Many collectors refuse to get rid of or sell their precious possessions. I have seen it in TV shows like American Pickers but have also seen it at estate sales. It seems that for many such collectors only death separate them from their collections!

    1. Excellent point! There are many people that collect all sorts of things and like you said, even though they don't really use them, they keep it until death. In my library, kids are able to display their personal collections for a month to share with other patrons. Most of the time, we see many many toys.


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