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Why is decluttering difficult? 

feet pointing from packing box

We live in an ever-spreading consumerist culture where material abundance is considered normal. We strive for more, better, and bigger things. But end up stressed, confused and unhappy regardless of how much stuff we manage to accumulate. On the other hand, we get a lot of advice on why we should declutter and how to do it. Unfortunately, most of us still find decluttering extremely difficult. Let’s explore why that is. 

Reasons making decluttering difficult

  • It is emotional.
  • Uncertainty.
  • Guilt and perceived value.
  • Decision fatigue and overwhelm.
  • Lack of time and motivation.
  • External pressure.

Emotional attachment.

We have a relationship with the stuff we own. This is one of the reasons why sometimes it’s nearly impossible to say goodbye. Emotional items could be the ones holding sentimental value or dear memories. That could be a wedding dress, a gift, or plane tickets from your first trip, etc. 

Emotional clutter is the most difficult to deal with as it is often perceived as an integral part of our identities. I would start with less difficult decluttering projects. And deal with emotional items last. Some of us will need more time and consideration to let go of certain items.

difficult decisions decluttering - keep, toss, donate boxes


This is quite a common decluttering obstacle. We hold on to items just in case we will need them in the future. And we might. But we should not hold on to those items anyway. If you keep something for years without needing it, it is time to let it go. Keeping “just in case” items can lead to excessive accumulation. 

We also keep some stuff because we don’t know what to do with it. We might think we need or should have some items, but we never use them. That slows down and makes decluttering more difficult. The sooner you deal with items you do not objectively need, the better off you will be.

Guilt and perceived value.

We might feel guilty getting rid of certain items if they are expensive or rare. If you’re only keeping an item because it was expensive, consider selling it.

We keep rare items because they may be extremely hard to replace if necessary. However, our homes are not museums. Everything we own should reflect our values and lifestyle. And make our lives better and less complicated, right? Stuff that brings no real value to us might bring value to someone else. Why not sell or gift it?

clutter free shabby decorated living space

Decision fatigue and overwhelm.

Decluttering by itself is a difficult process. It is even more true if we have a lot of possessions to go through, sort out and decide what to do with them. It might look too titanious to start. And when we do begin, we might find ourselves exhausted and stressed quickly. Start small. Choose an area of the house or a category of items to declutter. 

Look at decluttering as a continuous process. You might be better off decluttering a small amount every day. Consistency is the key here.

Lack of time and motivation.

We live in a fast-paced and chaotic world. Our time is precious, and we prioritise other activities. However, decluttering and simplifying your living space will free up some of your precious time and mental energy in the long run. It is worth it. 

We might also procrastinate. Lack of time is a common excuse for avoiding decluttering. In this case, including an anti-procrastination day (or hour) into your weekly (or monthly) schedule might help. 

minimalist clutter free kitchen

External pressure.

This might be cultural or social. We are supposed to own stuff to show off our status and worth. We accumulate stuff to feel adequate and uphold a certain standard of living to avoid judgment and criticism. 

It might be hard to break free from this type of obstacle. We should strive to understand ourselves better and retain only items that we genuinely value and use. 

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