Most would agree that we have too many things. But how does this happen? And why does it feel difficult to declutter excess items? Let’s explore 3 common reasons…or what I call “clutter triggers”…as to why we accumulate too much. Knowing how we got here will make the decluttering easier to tackle. And equally important: we’ll gain clarity on how to keep our homes streamlined.
Clutter Trigger #1: Family Legacy
Sentimental value is one of the hardest clutter trigger to face! I’ve seen folks hang on to all sorts of things because they were handed down from a beloved family member. Think Grandma’s crocheted afghans or Aunt Millie’s costume jewelry collection. Others were raised to maintain a certain type of household, which includes a good set of silver, damask tablecloths or Waterford crystal. Don’t misunderstand: I believe in honoring our loved ones! But when things are collecting dust…when their taste is not our taste…when our lifestyle does not embrace those items…shouldn’t it be time to let them go?
Releasing family keepsakes does not mean we are rejecting our heritage! There are ways we can be true to our roots yet avoid filling our homes with things we don’t need, use or love. By all means, pick a couple of items that speak to you and display them, whether in a photo montage or on an end table.
However, if the item truly doesn’t suit your style…if you’d rather set it back in the closet or drawer…you’re likely keeping it out of guilt. Recognize that your beloved relative and the item are not one and the same! Instead, release the item to someone who will appreciate and use it.
Clutter Trigger #2: Room for One More
Let’s face it: when we have room to stow something away, we do it! Americans revel in way more housing square footage than almost any other nation. We have more rooms with dedicated purposes. Think dining rooms or guest bedrooms.
Fortunately, home builders are moving towards including “flex rooms” and now “great rooms” and “eat-in kitchens” are in vogue. Yet when the day comes that we are ready or need to downsize, it’s eye-opening how much we thought we “needed” to buy, isn’t it?
And speaking of buying, we may tell ourselves that the new item will replace an old one…but does the old one really make it out the door? Sometimes, we buy another thing to “stock up” or “just in case”. But how hard would it be to wait and buy it only at the time we need it? It seems we have a fear of being unprepared. Or are we too busy to clear things out, even though we can find time to buy new things?
Here’s a thought: consider reflecting on the purchases you plan to make. Is it to replace or to add to what you already have? Do you need it right now? Do you enjoy the thrill of having something new? This leads right into clutter trigger #3!
Clutter Trigger #3: Consumerism, Baby!
Today’s consumer hardly stands a chance in the face of pervasive marketing at every turn. Whether TV commercials, infomercials, billboard or magazine ads…it’s everywhere! And now, nothing is as powerful as social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok barrage us with recommendations to buy something which will make us more attractive, thinner, hipper, happier, you name it. Every season, there is a new fashion rule on what we should wear. We have pre-holiday sales, holiday sales, post-holiday sales, clearance sales, and even “oops, our mistake, here’s a discount from us” sales! It’s non-stop and it’s exhausting. It’s also expensive!
But what if we turned off the noise? What if we unsubscribe from retail newsletters and email lists? What if we didn’t buy the latest version of X if the older version we own is perfectly fine?
Know that I am not advocating that you never buy something different. Instead, I am suggesting you purchase mindfully. My 3-part trademark mantra is this: “Do I need it? Will I use it? Do I love it?” Now add to that, “Do I need it right now?” and “What else could I do with these funds?” In other words, thoughtful questions lead to thoughtful purchases!
Ready to declutter now?
Here’s a simple analogy: Just like with losing weight, it can seem obvious that we need to make a change. But understanding the triggers which lead to overeating is critical. Not only will it make the weight loss journey easier. It will also help maintain our healthier shape when those outside forces start calling our name again!
In the same way, figuring out how we came to have too much stuff in our homes will allow us to declutter in an easier and more mindful manner. Additionally, we can maintain a newly streamlined space when we recognize which situations, or triggers, can be landmines in our own homes! What do you think?