Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: Why We Hold Onto Clutter

A transitional white kitchen with navy blue island designed by Elegant Simplicity.

It’s been a long day. 

But at’ve fought the good fight + finally won the day all awhile bobbing your head in bumper-to-bumper traffic to your happy vibes playlist. 

At the end of that long + exhausting day, the very last thing you want to do is spend whatever free time you have culling through piles of clutter. 

Whether you’re walking through the front door from work or you just returned home after chauffeuring the little tykes from one activity after another…you’re greeted with open arms, by the mess! 

There’s a storage unit brimming with so many bulk items from Costco (no shame!) you could open your own store (no, seriously self-storage is a $38 billion dollar business in the U.S.). A pile of old picture frames + other home decor in the garage that no doubt, have about an inch of dust piled on them + overstuffed boxes in the basement that are filled with so many past memories you have absolutely no idea what to do with them all.

None-the-less, as you make your way into the heart of your home, you’re met by a pile of mail on the kitchen counter. Most of it junk mail or magazine subscriptions that won’t stop coming + make you feel like you need to buy something else to be happy. There are loads of laundry that will neither wash or fold themselves not to mention the endless dishes, toys + everything else that’s scattered haphazardly around the house.

Sherri Monte, an interior designer and home organizer reading an organizing ideas magazine.

All of a sudden, that relaxing breeze you felt blowing through your hair, those happy vibes you were grooving to in the car as you were sporting a pair of stylish ray bans for a mini-minute, that warm sunshine that actually forced you into smile, that happy-living-in-the-moment feeling… gone! 

All of it. Just like that.

Instead of basking in a much needed rush of dopamine that’s been long overdue, you feel sucker punched. Gasping for air as you look past the pile of dirty dishes from breakfast. Overwhelmed. Frustrated + upset. 

You begin to question how the mess got this out of control. You question your ability to conquer it on your own: Am I the only one who can’t seem to figure this whole getting organized thing out? Where do I even begin? How do I stop the mayhem? 

Ok chicka! Stop right there because there’s good news. You’re not alone + you c-a-n do this. 

In fact, did you know that often we tend to hold onto things from our past because in our mind it feels significant + vital to remembering, honoring or cherishing a particular moment in our lives. 

But the struggle is real because there is a scientific link between all the stuff you have + who you are.

After ten years of helping clients cull through their belongings as a professional home organizer, I’ve decided to share with you the most common reasons we hold onto clutter, our emotional triggers + the things we tell ourselves.


For instance, have you ever caught yourself saying:

1 | But, I inherited it.

Without question, stuff that holds sentimental meaning is difficult to get rid of. But truthfully, if something is near + dear to your heart, let’s make it a part of your home instead of hiding it in plastic containers. What better way to create a lasting memory of those you love than to showcase what’s important to you in your home. 

2 | But, it reminds me of… 

Similarly, if something you’ve been holding on to reminds you of someone or something. Are they happy memories? If so, why not incorporate it into your everyday life? Instead of allowing it to collect dust, think of the warm-tingly feel-good joy you’ll have every time you see or use it. Literally, you’ll be transported back to a moment in your life that’s worth cherishing. 

And if it’s a not so good feeling that’s conjured up...toss it. No one likes to get weepy or feel like crap over something that happened in our past. Let that bad ju-ju go sista!


Nothing’s worse than having a guilty conscious that comes from trying to get rid of something that truthfully… we really don’t want, we never asked for + honestly, never would’ve bought for ourselves. 

Still, for whatever god-forsaken-reason, someone near and dear to us felt oh-so obliged to share it with you in the form of a gift *cue the crickets!* Yep, we’ve all been there before. The polite, sideways smile + a forced surge of agonizing excitement. So why, if we don’t want or even have need for this special little something, do we have such a hard time letting it go? 

Instead (something that many of us have to overcome in order to move forward + actually declutter our home) we’re greeted with an overwhelmingly, gut wrenching level of guilt because we want nothing more than to get rid of it. 

Trust me, you’re not alone + is why I want to remind you that re-gifting or donating it to a charitable organization is a great way to ensure that your ‘oh so special something’ gets into the hands of someone who’ll truly love, adore + appreciate it.


4 | But, I paid good money for it.

Werk it girlfriend! You bought a pair of killer boots but fast forward 6-months later + they still have tags on them...been there done that! Just because you emptied your bank account in order to buy a pair of strappy Louis Vuitton pumps or must have Jimmy Choo’s  doesn’t mean you should continue paying the physical, emotional + mental price tag that having them (only to sit in your closet + look pretty) causes. 

Past mistakes shouldn’t clutter your present state of wellbeing. Instead consider reselling them + free yourself sista! I promise you’ll thank yourself later. 

Often times, knowing what’s worthwhile to donate or sell can be tricky. So, ask yourself: is it in good enough condition? Would I be embarrassed if I gave it to the person myself? If the answer is:

    • YES:  pack it up + take it there TODAY!

    • NO:  throw it in the trash or recycle it NOW!

As crazy as it sounds, we hold onto stuff in hopes of one day... because we believe it will be important, valuable or significant to us or someone close to us someday.

5 | But, I might be able to sell it.

Living in the world of OfferUp, Craigslist + eBay I get it. But the reality is, unless you’ve mastered patience, are willing to commit some serious time or are already an avid eBay-er, OfferUp-guru or a re-seller on some other platform then save yourself the hassle + donate it. 

Instead, bask in the warm + fuzzy, win-win feeling of knowing that someone else will get to use it the way you intended to. 

6 | But, someone might want it…

I have to tell you, because I’m a straight shooter, that the whole stalling strategy isn’t a good look on ya!

If you think a friend, your neighbor, a certain charity or someone else you know might want it... that’s great. Get them on the horn, as my father-in-law always says, and ask them! If they do, then make arrangements + give it to them asap! Otherwise heck, you might as well post an ad on Facebook promoting your new side hustle of being someone else’s storage unit… Free Rent!

Like I’ve mentioned before, when it comes to clutter I’ve seen + heard it all which is why I can assure you that your ‘someone-might-want-it’ pile accumulates fast + before you realize it, it gets out of control. 

7 | But, I’m saving it for my children.

I can’t remember a single time when I ever asked my parents for something they owned or for something that was from their childhood. (still love ya mom!) Which means your kids probably don’t want it either. Now, like anything, there are certainly some exceptions. So, if there’s something you feel they might want, by all means ask them (especially if they are adults). If they want it…give it to them.


There’s no way to get around it. Life’s going to happen.

The clutter will eventually resurface but the next time you try to bear hug your clutter at least now you’ll be able to identify your emotional trigger as to why you struggle letting go + then without hesitation know exactly what to do about it.

Breaking up is hard to do but it doesn’t have to be.

As you push forward, along the path of getting organized + creating a place for everything to live in your home...

If you reach a point where you could use an extra pair of helping hands or get hung-up + feel like you could benefit from teaming up with an accountability partner, I happen to know an excellent home organizer with oodles of advice, clutter strategies + who can help you identify what you use, love + need to keep. 

No matter where you live, we can help you organize anything in a highly-personalized + styled way.


Ready to break-up with your clutter

Because we love ya…

AND because we also know that letting go of clutter is one of the hardest parts of getting organized; we create a FREE cheatsheet that’ll teach you how-to think like a professional organizer. Take a peek below + download your How To Think Like An Organizer cheatsheet:

Bookshelf with home decor accessories, bath towels, baskets and plants.


what to keep vs what to let go of (because it's clutter!)