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The 13 Negative Emotions of Decluttering [& How To Overcome]

WRITTEN by CHRISSY, LAST UPDATED ON March 21, 2022

& FILED IN Home Decluttering, Self Care 


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For a LOT of us, getting rid of all of our excess stuff can be fraught with stumbling blocks to overcome and hard decisions to make. In fact, the emotions of decluttering can really play havoc with your mental health when you’re in the midst of dealing with everything.

Lady with white jumper putting her hair behind her ears - with article title overlaid

Good news though.

It CAN be easier though, so let’s look at the different emotions of decluttering and the ways to conquer them. You’ll have a clutter free home before you know it!

Decluttering is an emotional thing to do – after all – you’re going through all your stuff and making decisions on each and every item.

I feel emotions even when I just think of decluttering some of my things sometimes… It’s hard work!

So – how can you declutter even WITH these emotions that you’re feeling? How can you stop them getting in the way?

Here are the 13 stumbling blocks you may well face when you start decluttering, and a few ideas of how to deal with them.

I hope it helps when you next sort your home, so you can tackle everything more easily and make real decluttering progress…

The Negative Emotions Of Decluttering – And How To Turn Make Them Positive

#1 – Overwhelm

When you look at your possessions, and think of how much work it will be to get rid of them all, it can feel very overwhelming. You may feel like you can’t do it, or that it’s just too much for you.

How To lessen the overwhelm:

Break the process down into smaller goals – maybe decluttering one room at a time, or tackling one type of item at a time (clothes, books, paperwork).

You could also try focusing on one area of your house at a time. This can help to make it feel more manageable and less overwhelming.

#2 – Guilt

When you start getting rid of things, you may feel guilty about a number of things:

  • You may think you’re getting rid of them for the wrong reasons, or
  • Feel like you don’t really need to get rid of them.
  • Maybe someone got it as a gift for you so they have sentimental value for that reason even if you know it’s now clutter for you.

How To feel less guilty:

Remind yourself that it’s OK to get rid of things. You don’t need to keep everything, and you can always get rid of things if you change your mind later on.

Try to focus on the positive aspects of decluttering – how it will make your life easier, or how it will free up space in your home.

#3 – Sentimentality (Emptiness And Loss)

You may have emotional attachment to some of your belongings , and feel like you can’t let them go.

Memories are important to keep – right?… well, no – not always. Some is simply emotional clutter / emotional baggage.

How To KEEP THE SENTIMENT BUT NOT THE ITEM…

It’s OK to keep some sentimental items – but try to be selective, and only keep the things that are truly special to you.

QUOTE - If everything is precious, then nothing is

For other items, you could try taking a photo of them, or writing down your memories of them, so you can still keep them close to your heart.

#4 – Procrastination

When it comes to decluttering, many of us find ourselves putting it off for another day.

How To STOP PROCRASTINATING:

Set a deadline for yourself, and make sure you stick to it.

If you find that you’re still procrastinating, try getting someone else to help you – a friend or family member who will keep you accountable.

#5 – Fear

Fear can be one of the worst negative emotions of decluttering that you may not have realised can occur.

It happens because it’s all too easy to be afraid of making the wrong decision. What if we get rid of something that we think is clutter right now, but that we find we actually DO need later on.

Or, we may be afraid of the change that decluttering will bring – and are worried that we may not actually like it. (Familiar surroundings can feel good emotionally even when we know they’re not logically helping us).

And lastly – what if we get rid of something that we didn’t realise was important to someone else (it’s yours, but maybe your children actually wanted to have it when you were done with it…)

HOW TO BE LESS FEARFUL OF DECLUTTERING:

Remind yourself that it’s OK to make mistakes – you can always borrow something if you need it later, buy it again if you think you need it more often, or possibly you can do without (often we have things that can replace what we let go of, even if it doesn’t seem like that initially).

And if you want to check wit your family about whether they want it – that’s totally valid (beware though – if they’re like my daughter they’ll find that they want everything!).

#6 – Perfectionism

Many of us are perfectionists, and although on the outside it can seem to be a positive thing – it really IS very debilitating and can cause real stress, often getting in the way of successful decluttering.

How To STOP AIMING FOR 100%:

Try to be realistic about what you can achieve, and don’t strive for perfection.

Remember that decluttering is about making your life easier, not about having a perfect home.

It’s a process – and it really doesn’t ever end. This is a GOOD thing though, because if we remember that we have to keep agile as we have constant life challenges which means life changes regularly and we have to change with it – and so we can never reach ‘perfect’ because the goal posts will move.

Lady with white jumper putting her hair behind her ears

#7 – Attachment To Things

Some of us have an attachment to our belongings, and find it hard to let go of things.

How To REMOVE THE ATTACHMENT TO YOUR STUFF:

Remind yourself that it’s OK to let go of things. You don’t need to keep everything, and you can always get rid of things if you change your mind later on.

#8 – Sadness (And Possibly Resentment)

If you’re decluttering items you’ve inherited over the years this can bring up so many negative emotions. It can be really tough to deal with.

You may feel sadness at the loss of a loved one, or resentment that you have to deal with their belongings (maybe the rest of the family haven’t had to).

How To FEEL HAPPIER WHEN DECLUTTERING:

It’s really important to allow yourself to feel these emotions, and to give yourself time to grieve.

Don’t try to push the feelings away – let them wash over you.

Then, work out whether you can offer items to other family members so that they can keep them if they like. The burden doesn’t have to all be on you…

#9 – Regret

Decluttering things that you spent money on can seem a real waste – and often leads to feelings of regret.

How To STOP FEELING REGRETFUL:

Think about whether you can sell the item, and get some cash back for it.

This will help to soften the blow of losing the money you spent on it.

#10 – Failure

Going through your items you may well come across things you bought that you didn’t actually end up using. Maybe you didn’t achieve a goal you wanted, a hobby was sidelined, etc…

This can lead to feelings of failure.

How To Feel More Success:

Remember that it’s OK to make mistakes. We all do it.

Declutter these items with the confidence to know that once they’re gone, you won’t have to feel those things again each time you see them. It can be really free-ing!

#11 – Jealousy

Jealousy can really come into play when we see other people’s homes that are already decluttered and wonder how on earth they managed it!

When we’re in the midst of the chaos that can come from a good decluttering session (it has to get messy to get better) then it’s easy to be deflated and feel that the grass is greener for everyone else.

How To remove that jealous feeling:

First of all, remember that everyone’s homes are different, and what works for one person may not work for another.

Secondly, don’t compare your decluttering journey to anyone else’s. You’re on YOUR path, and decluttering in YOUR own way and at YOUR own pace.

Focus on making progress, however small it may feel, and be proud of what you have achieved.

#12 – Helplessness

When we look around at the mess, it can be easy to feel completely overwhelmed and helpless. Especially if it belongs to someone else, because it’s hard to look at other peoples clutter and not be able to tackle it by ourselves.

NEVER EVER DECLUTTER SOMEONE ELSES STUFF WITHOUT THEM BEING INVOLVED.

How To feel empowered:

Get them involved! And if they really don’t want to be – start with the things you DO own and CAN declutter. They will start to see the benefits and want that for themselves. Sometimes it has to be the long game that you play to get the results you’re after.

#13 – Anxiety

When we get rid of too many things at once (or even when we’re just thinking about it) we can start to feel really anxious. What if we need that thing? What if we regret getting rid of it?

How To Deal With ANXIETY FROM DECLUTTERING:

Start by decluttering one small area at a time. This will help to ease the anxiety and stop you feeling overwhelmed.

And remember, you can always get rid of things if you change your mind later on.

How To Overcome These Decluttering Emotions:

Ironically when we declutter, if we let these negative emotions in – then they clutter up our mental space, cause us stress, and make the whole process much harder.

The best way to overcome all of these (and expend the minimal emotional energy possible when we declutter) is to just take action. The more you declutter, the easier it will become.

It’s a muscle, or a habit – and you need to work it and do it to make it stick.

Start with one small area, and work through each item slowly.

And remember, you can always put things back if you change your mind!

Don’t let these negative thoughts and mental clutter keep you from letting things go – it’s time to take back your home and your life.

Lady with white jumper putting her hair behind her ears - with article title overlaid

Who knew how emotional decluttering could be?!

Yes, decluttering is emotional for most people, but there are ways that you can lessen the negative emotions if you listen to yourself and trust yourself more.

First you need to allow yourself to feel them. They are real. Then acknowledge them and understand where they came from.

If you can, deal with those emotions using some of the tips above (what to do is dependant on each one as they all have such different causes) – and then move through it.

Pssst – don’t forget that decluttering can be very positive as well. Click HERE to read all about the benefits you can get from decluttering. These should definitely be kept in mind to try and balance all the hard emotions.

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