10 Reasons You’re Afraid of Clearing Out Clutter

Even though you really want a clean house, there might be reasons you’re afraid to start clearing out clutter. Here are some common objections to decluttering and how to fight them!

Fear is a funny thing.

Sometimes fear is healthy and keeps you from making bad decisions or doing something that’s truly dangerous. Like when you follow the speed limit because you’re afraid of getting a ticket, or you take the medication your doctor prescribed because you’re afraid of getting sick.

a woman peeking through her fingers that are covering her eyes with the words "10 reasons you're afraid of clearing out clutter"

Those are good things to do and examples of ways fear can actually help you.

But much of the time, fear is not your friend.  Fear is often a liar that keeps you from moving forward or trying something that could turn out to be good for you. Like when you don’t accept an invitation from a friend because you’re afraid you won’t fit in, or you don’t schedule your mammogram because you’re afraid of what you might find out.

Fear tells you to run away from the possibility of something good, even when the reward far outweighs the risk. It tells you you’ll regret your decisions. You’ll screw everything up. You’ll certainly face the worst case scenario.

Because fear is a liar.

And if you have clutter in your house, I’d bet my bottom dollar that an unhealthy amount fear is behind it, too.

In reality, more often than not, our fears are based on a distortion of the truth. This is especially the case when it comes to our feelings about all the stuff we own. We find ways to justify our decisions and come up with excuses for why we have so many things and aren’t making progress with clearing out clutter. 

We end up running to buy more stuff and stock up on more things…and we run away from dealing with all the piles and overflowing boxes and cabinets and closets.  Most of the time we’re just afraid to get rid of stuff.   

Once you recognize clutter for what it is, you have to start dealing with it.  And once you start dealing with it, you just might face overwhelming anxiety and distorted truths that keep you from ever making any progress. 

You need to ask yourself some tough questions and figure out if you’re hanging onto your clutter for all the wrong reasons. It’s time to face these lying fears and hit them with some truthful tough love.  

an organized closet with clothes and pillows on the shelves

Are These Fears Keeping You From Clearing Out Clutter?

1. I’m afraid I’ll want to use this again (although I haven’t used it in years).

Let’s be honest.  We all have things we keep “just in case” we want it in the future, even though we haven’t really wanted it for the past few months or years.  

Before you automatically keep something, ask yourself questions like, “If everything else in my closet was dirty, would I pick something out of the laundry pile or would I wear THIS?” And, “If all my dishes were piled in the sink, would I pull out THIS bowl to use, or would I wash something else instead?” If you aren’t sure you’d use it, then don’t keep it.

2. I’m afraid I’ll fit into it one day and won’t have it anymore.

If you’re holding onto clothes because you think you might gain or lose weight, consider if you’ll actually want to wear the clothes you own today when you reach that weight sometime in the future.  

If you hit that weight next year…two years from now…ten years from now, will you even remember the clothes you got rid of today? And would you truly feel good wearing them, especially if they’re a few years old and possibly out of style?

3. I’m afraid I’ll find the missing parts and won’t have the appliance or gadget they’re for.

If you finally find the lost cord, the missing screw, or the knob that fell off, are you sure you’ll even remember what gadget or appliance it was needed to fix? 

Instead of keeping broken gadgets and small appliances, it’s usually easier to either buy the missing part, replace the broken item altogether, or learn to live without it (which is probably what you’ve been doing since you lost whatever was needed to make it work). If you haven’t already found the missing piece, you probably won’t magically find it in the future, right?

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4. I’m afraid I’ll waste money by not using this product, even though nobody really likes it.

If you’re holding onto body wash that your family is allergic to, lotion that smells funky, or detergent that doesn’t work the way you’d like, then you’re holding onto clutter. Same goes for the shampoo bottle that’s been upside down in the shower for two months or the tube of toothpaste that’s had one last squeeze in it…since last spring.  

If it hasn’t gotten used up in the past few months, then why will it get used now? There’s probably a reason it’s not been used, so just let it go, throw it away, and feel the freedom!

5. I’m afraid of getting rid of these things because one day I might sell them on eBay or in a garage sale.

It’s time for some truth.  Unless you regularly list items on eBay or you have a date set for your garage sale, you won’t likely get those items sold and out of your house anytime soon. That’s just the facts. If they’ve been in a “To Sell” pile for more than a couple of weeks, you need to either sell them today or go ahead and donate them.

Similarly, if you’ve been holding onto your castoffs so you can give them to a particular friend or family member, either make the effort to get them into the right hands or put them in a box for charity and get them out of your house ASAP.

6. I’m afraid of hurting someone’s feelings if I get rid of this.

It’s tough when you have items in your home that were gifts you don’t really want to keep but are afraid to get rid of.  Think honestly about the likelihood of the gift-giver ever noticing that you no longer own the gift they gave you.  

If you feel like you really must keep something you don’t truly love (for example, to avoid a war with the in-laws), allow yourself one box where you can hide away those unwanted gifts until you display them when it’s absolutely necessary.

7. I’m afraid I won’t have enough if I get rid of these.

Sometimes we hold onto things because we’re afraid we won’t have enough of life’s necessities. Maybe you have more towels shoved into the bathroom cabinet than you’ll ever possibly need, or perhaps you have three dozen dinner plates for your family of four.

Think long and hard about what you actually use on a daily basis, and give away your extras (or at least box them up to test if you actually need them).  

8. I’m afraid of paying too much money if I don’t stock up now.

There are legitimate reasons to carefully stock up on staple items that you regularly use if – and only if – you have an organized space for storing them. But there is no good reason to have a year’s worth of tissues or a lifetime supply of toilet cleaner stacked throughout the hall or covering your bedroom floor.

Honestly ask yourself if you’re stocking up for a realistic time frame or if you’re loading up for a zombie apocalypse. (You know what I’m talking about, right?!?) Plus, by clearing out clutter, you’ll end up saving money because you’ll be able to find the things you already own when you truly need them.

9. I’m afraid of losing a treasured memory or something of sentimental value.

There is nothing wrong with hanging onto some of your children’s art projects, or the movie tickets from your first date with your hubby, or a little trinket your mom gave you when you graduated from college. And I’m certainly not going to suggest that you toss sentimental items you inherited from a loved one who passed away.  

However, if you hold onto everything that ever meant something to you, none of it will mean much at all anymore. Have a limited number of boxes or folders for things you want to hang onto and let go of anything that won’t fit.

10. I’m afraid I’ll need it later.

There are some items, like tax receipts, that should have their own special home. But remember that now days most things can be replaced or found online, such as restaurant menus, instructional manuals, and driving directions.  

It’s also gotten much easier to find things like power cords and replacement parts, so don’t be afraid to get rid of those odd cords and random screws that are littering your kitchen counters and drawers.

Let me help you!

Hey, I get it. It can be kind of scary to get rid of things. Suddenly, all that stuff you’ve had shoved in drawers, piled on the floor, or hidden away in the basement seems to hold great value.  And you can’t see the future to know if you’ll regret getting rid of it.

I’m here to help! This is something I help my Declutter & Clean Coaching clients through all the time! I’ll help you know exactly what you should focus on in your home, and I’ll hold your hand and cheer you on as you do the tough job of sorting through the clutter so you can finally find freedom from the mess and overwhelm! Learn more about personalized coaching HERE!

Get My Top 50+ Super-Simple Cleaning & Decluttering Tips

Subscribe to SMALL DOSE DECLUTTERING and get simple tips every week to turn your house into the uncluttered home you didn’t know was possible…and it’s 100% FREEEEE!

Your email is safe with us. We wouldn’t dream of sharing it with anyone else!

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5 Comments

  1. You know Amy your so right. I keep buying things to make my home cozy and to look comfortable and homely, when really what I need to do is get rid of all stuff on the floors cupboards etc. that I don’t use, forgotten I have or can’t get to it anyway. And I’m never going to realistically at 62 size 16 manage to get into a size 10/12. dieting is just no fun for me. I’m 5’9” so size 16 doesn’t look too bad for me. It’s not that I don’t care how I look I put my makeup on do my hair and always dress well, so a couple of sizes bigger than I was in my 30’s n 40’s is no big deal.

    1. Carol Leslie says:

      Oh thank you that’s just what I needed to hear. I’ve been hoarding clothes I’m the same size as you and also used to be a lot smaller. I’m hanging on thinking I will diet tomorrow, ok maybe next week I’ll start. Then it never happens and I won’t ever fit into those clothes again sooo I’m getting shot. No more hoard of clothes.
      Thanks
      Carol L

  2. Today, I pinpointed another fear I have: “what if the house feels empty after I get rid of things?” I suppose there’s a sweet spot, and if I go too far, I’d can always add a faux fur rug or something. 🙂 We shall see.

    1. First of all, it’s great that you recognized a fear you have because now you can tell yourself some truth about it. You’re right that you can always add some things back in if you feel like you’ve simplified a bit too much. And when you add things back, you can make sure you’re only adding things you truly enjoy. It’s also okay to declutter in “layers.” So, you can declutter a space to the point that feels comfortable right now, and then go back again in a few weeks and see if there’s anything else you want to remove. It doesn’t have to be “one and done.” It’s a process, and that’s okay!

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