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The 4 Hardest Things To Declutter (And What To Do About Them!)

WRITTEN by CHRISSY, LAST UPDATED ON April 22, 2024

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Decluttering is hard at the best of times, but when it comes to some types of things, it can feel almost impossible. Let’s take a look at what you need to look out for (the very hardest things to declutter), and what you can do to make letting them go, a LOT easier.

The 4 Hardest Things To Declutter - And What To Do About Them!

#1 – Sentimental Items

Lady in green top with arms over her head. She's looking overwhelmed and exhausted

These items hold a special place in our hearts, and are the number one in this list for a reason.

We often attach memories and emotions to these things, making them really difficult to let go of.

Items that fall into this category are:

Why is it so hard to let go of sentimental items?

Removing any items that hold sentimental value can feel like erasing memories.

This emotional attachment can increase the difficulty of decluttering certain items, making it a much more daunting task.

You may have to confront feelings of guilt, loss, or regret during the process – and that’s hard to go through. As such, often we just don’t try…

HOW TO make decluttering SENTIMENTAL items easier

#1 – Don’t start with these items

Begin with things that hold less emotional significance and gradually work your way up to more sentimental ones.

Stretch your decision making muscle before you need to make really hard choices, and when you’re used to letting things go, you can move onto things that you may have found more tricky at first.

#2 – Take plenty of breaks.

It’s draining to go through all your things, especially things that hold lots of emotion and memories (good and bad). So it makes sense to take a step away from decluttering if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed.

As well as literally taking a break, you can also break up the amount of sentimental items you try and tackle in one go. Don’t force yourself to tackle them all at once – and you may find it easier to manage.

#3 – Focus on the present.

When you look through sentimental items you’re likely to get distracted by all those memories and start thinking about the past. This can take up much more time than the actually decluttering.

As such, instead of getting caught up in memories attached to the items, try to focus on the present and how keeping or getting rid of them will impact your current life.

#4 – Take photos.

If you’re struggling to part with an item but know you don’t have space for it, take a photo instead.

That way, you still have the memory without taking up physical space – and you can much more easily let the actual item go.

Related: 20 Brilliant Ways To Make Decluttering MUCH Easier…

#2 – Things You Might Need One Day

Lady in front of a rail of clothes with her head in her hands, as if she's confused or overwhelmed about what to do

We all have items in our homes that we keep on the off chance we might need them in the future at some point.

The thought of getting rid of them can induce a sense of anxiety as the ‘what if’ question can truly linger for a long time.

Items in this category might include:

  • Old clothes
  • Spare buttons
  • Old electronics and cords
  • Extra kitchen utensils
  • Unused furniture
  • Books you intend to read
  • Craft supplies for projects you plan to do

Why is it so hard to declutter these items?

The primary reason is fear – namely the fear of needing the item once it’s gone.

Just think about that time when you let something go only to find that you needed it the following day….

This fear often leads us to hold onto things indefinitely, resulting in cluttered closets, drawers, and garages.

How can you make decluttering items YOU MAY NEED ONE DAY, easier?

#1 – Set a timeframe.

If you haven’t used an item in a certain period, it’s highly likely you won’t need it in the future.

A common timeframe people use is one year, but you can adjust this to suit your lifestyle and how much you’ve got to store.

#2 – Employ the 20/20 rule.

If you can replace an item within 20 minutes for less than £20, it’s probably safe to get rid of it. You’re likely spending more time, energy and money by keeping it…

#3 – Trust yourself

Believe in your ability to evaluate whether you really will need the item in the future.

Trust that you can handle any situation, even without those ‘just in case’ items to hand.

Also – remember that the scenario of finding you need that item straight after you let it go is only because it’s front of mind right there and then. You’ll often find that your subconscious will be trying to prove you right in terms of needing something you’ve let go – just like if you’re in the market for a new car and you know what you want to buy and then keep seeing those cars everywhere. You’re not seeing anything new, it’s just that your conscious is picking them out right now because it’s in your head.

#3 – Other Peoples Stuff

Lady holding her hand to her forehead

There are often times where we want to declutter things for others in your household.

Whether this be your partner who trusts your decision making (make sure you have their permission and know what they are happy for you to go through, of course), or your kids who are too young to make their own decisions.

Items in this category might include:

  • Your partner’s old hobby items
  • Outgrown children’s toys
  • Joint items around the house including decor and kitchen equipment
  • Items left behind by a friend / family member – inherited for a non emotional reason.

Why is it so hard to declutter OTHER PEOPLES STUFF?

The primary challenge here is the feeling of overstepping boundaries.

Since these items ultimately aren’t yours, you might feel like you don’t have the right to decide what should be kept and what should be thrown away.

This can lead to stress and tension, especially if there may be repercussions to you because you are worried that the other person is not really ready to part with their things and is either trying to get you to help them or is likely to feel full regret and remorse for letting you do it for them.

How can you make decluttering OTHER PEOPLES THINGS easier?

#1 – Communicate.

Have a discussion with the person these items belong to.

Try to understand their attachment to the items and explain your reasons for wanting to declutter.

Understand exactly what they want as a result of you decluttering for them, and ideally get some rules that they would want you to stick to, so that you’re working off the same expectations.

#2 – Set boundaries.

Agree upon a specific space allocation for each person’s stuff.

Once that space is full, no new items can be added unless something else is removed.

This is great when working with a partner or child that struggles with collecting and keeping everything.

#3 – Involve them in the process.

Make decluttering a shared responsibility – after all, it’s their stuff and doing it together will help them manage it going forward while still helping you to get it done there and then.

They can simply sit with you while you do the physical work (great if they struggle physically, or if they are worried about the process in any way), or you can get them involved in specific parts of the process (like sorting out specific piles of items that you’ve sorted for them initially).

#4 – Anything In Overwhelming Amounts

pile of clothes with legs sticking out on a yellow background

Items in our lives that tend to pile up in overwhelming amounts can vary, but the fact that they’ve built up is in itself a huge clue (and red flag) that you find them hard to go through and declutter.

Items that tend to fit into this category are:

  • Paperwork
  • Books
  • Clothes
  • DVDs / CDs
  • Craft Items
  • Kids Toys

Why is it so hard to declutter OVERWHELMING AMOUNTS OF items?

The difficulty often arises from the sheer volume of these items. It can feel daunting and overwhelming to tackle a mountain of clothes or a sea of paperwork.

Furthermore, each item might hold some value, making the decision to keep or discard even more challenging.

The thought of going through such a vast amount can be off-putting, leading to procrastination and further accumulation.

How can you make decluttering LOTS OF items easier?

#1 – Break it down.

Don’t attempt to declutter everything at once.

Instead, set a timer for a manageable amount of time (like 15 minutes), and only work on decluttering until the timer goes off.

#2 – Categorise everything.

Separate items into categories to make the task more manageable.

For example, sort clothes by season or type, or sort paperwork by date or importance.

#3 – Start with the easy stuff.

Begin with items that are obviously no longer needed, such as outdated paperwork or clothes that no longer fit.

This can build momentum and make it easier to tackle trickier items.

#4 – Consider digitising.

If you’re decluttering to gain more space, then digitising is a great step to try – especially for things like paperwork, photos, or CDs.

Technology can help reduce physical clutter while keeping your materials accessible and organised.

The 4 Hardest Things To Declutter - And What To Do About Them!

And there you have it – the 4 types of things that you will probably find the hardest to declutter.

Anything surprise you?

I hope understanding what to look out for, why it could be a stumbling block for you, and what to do to help make it easier, helps you to tackle it in the future.

Happy decluttering!

P.S. When you’re ready to start decluttering, this handy list is the perfect (non overwhelming!) way to do it…

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This article was written by Chrissy

Hi - I'm Chrissy... Having run my own business for 12 years as a Professional Organiser and Interior Designer, I know what works (and what doesn't!) when it comes to setting up a home that works both functionally and aesthetically. Now you can mostly find me in a coffee shop or at home, working full time on OrganiseMyHouse.com (which I setup back in 2011) sharing all my tips and ideas. My mission is to help you create a home that you love to live in every day...

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