Mental Blocks of Clutter

Do you struggle with getting rid of your clutter? Do you keep trying to get organized only to get stopped in your tracks unable to let go of anything?  If so, you’re not alone, and it’s not your fault!  You have a mental block standing in your way.

Ideally, the items you have in your home are things you NEED, USE and LOVE.  These are the things that are non-negotiable and must find a place to live in your home.  But what about the other stuff?  The things that are tucked away in attics, closets and other storage spaces, that you have kept for years and years even though you obviously don’t need, use or love them.  We hang on to these things because of a block in our thinking that is telling us we HAVE to keep something, when actually we don’t.  Below I will walk you through the most common mental blocks I see, and help you change your thinking about those items.

Sentimental Guilt 

This is by far the hardest mental block to overcome.  These are items that are handed down to you that you don’t really like or need, but you feel the need to keep because they belonged to a loved one.  First of all, your home is for the things that serve and honor you and your family.  Just because Grandma loved an item in her home, doesn’t obligate you to have it in yours.  We mistakenly feel that it is disrespectful  to Grandma, or we will lose the memories of her by getting rid of her things.  On the contrary, it is showing respect to you and your family by giving you the home you need without cluttering it with unnecessary items.  You won’t lose any memories of your loved one by letting go of the item, but if you’re still not convinced, here are some questions to ask yourself to help you decide if you are ready to let it go.

  • Would your loved one want you to keep an item knowing you don’t like it or use it?
  • Would your loved one want you to be stressed out about where to store it?
  • Would a picture of the item serve as an acceptable substitution?
  • Would you be heartbroken if the item were lost or broken?
  • Are there any other family members that might appreciate it more than you? (*this does not mean you should pass on all of your clutter to your family and friends though!)

Things That Belong to a Different You

Do you have a section of your closet full of clothes that will fit when you lose 5-10 pounds? Do you have boxes of old trophies from your glory days of high school?  These are all things that belong to a future and past you.  If you have plenty of space, then it’s no big deal to hang on to these items.  However, if space is at a premium for you, then you need to remember just who your house is for… the PRESENT YOU!  The you that is in the here and now is far more important than a version that isn’t here yet, or one  that’s long gone.  It’s fine to hang on to a few favorite items, but don’t let too many things get in the way of what your present you needs right now.  Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help you decide what to let go of…

  • If you do lose weight, will you wear this item of clothing? Will it still be in style?
  • Are you more likely to reward yourself with some new clothes?
  • How often do you pull out the mementos from your school and childhood?
  • Could you make a photo book of the items instead?

Things You Are Still Paying For

Do you have things in a closet that don’t fit, or you don’t like, but you are keeping them because you spent a lot of money on them?  This is also a very common mental block.  Whenever we splurge on something or spend more money than we typically would, the thinking then becomes that we have to keep it to get our money’s worth out of it.  By keeping an item simply because you spent a lot on it, you are now still paying for that item in closet real estate.  You don’t use it/wear it/love it, etc, but it’s continuing to eat up precious storage space in your home.  As frustrating as it is, what’s done is done. You can’t go back and unspend the money, so it’s best to chalk it up to a lesson learned and move on with life.  Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you past this block.

  • When was the last time you used it/wore it?
  • If you’re being brutally honest, will you ever use it/wear it again?
  • Are you any richer or poorer whether that item is in your closet or not?
  • Can you sell it to get a little of your money back?

Things You Are Saving For “Good”

It is so tempting to keep items for special occasions and formal gatherings.  However, in this day and age, most of us are more casual, even on special occasions. Here is where I’m going to repeat myself and say that your home is for the things you need, use and love.  Which means you need to actually need, use and love your things.  If you have special china, towels, tablecloths, etc that are reserved for guests, that’s a lot of real estate set aside for things that will hardly get used.  And consider this…  the people you live with are most likely your favorite people in the world.  Aren’t they worth the “good” stuff?  If you can’t fathom setting out the china on a random Sunday evening for your family, then it’s time to ask yourself how badly you really need it or want it.  Wear the fancy clothes.  Use the fancy china and towels.   You and your family are worth the good.

  • How often do you host dinner parties where you use your china, etc?
  • How often do you have overnight guests?
  • If you were a guest in someone’s house, would you expect china and fancy towels?
  • Why keep a special outfit that makes you feel beautiful tucked away in your closet to wear only 1 or 2 times?

Projects You Hoped to Finish

Thanks to Pinterest it’s really easy to get caught up in projects at home.  Whether it’s scrapbooking those boxes of photos, or making special homemade gifts and cards, all of those projects come with a lot of paraphernalia.  Then life gets in the way, and all that stuff gets shoved wherever to hopefully be finished later.  Now is the time to get brutally honest with yourself again about whether you will actually finish the projects or not.  As moms especially, we tend to feel guilty if we haven’t preserved our children’s memories perfectly, or weren’t able to hand sew the Halloween costumes, etc.  It’s time to give yourself grace.  Store bought gifts and costumes are just fine.  Photo books from Shutterfly, etc are just as nice as the scrapbooked ones.  Here are some thoughts to help you with this block.

  • Will your children even appreciate or want the scrapbooks, etc?  I know mine don’t…
  • Does it bother you to receive a store bought gift instead of a homemade one? Do you think it would bother someone who receives your gift?
  • Is there something you would rather do with your time instead of that project?
  • How does it make you feel to think of scrapping the project? Sad? Relieved?
  • Can you pay someone else to make the scrapbook or quilt made out of little league jerseys?


I often hear people say that they wish they could be organized but simply don’t have the time.  Organized spaces are not just about aesthetics.  They are about function.  It’s about making your home and the things in it work FOR you instead of AGAINST you.  A properly organized space eliminates the need to search for things, and makes it very clear where things go when you are done with them.  Organized spaces are easy for the whole family to maintain, not just mom and dad. In this day and age where we are all searching for more time to eke out of our busy schedules, I say, you don’t have time NOT to get organized!

  • How much time do you spend searching for lost items?
  • How much money do you spend replacing lost items?
  • Does everyone come to you to ask where something is?
  • Are you constantly asking for things to be put away?


Hopefully this has helped you a bit in the thinking about the things in your home.  However, if you’re still struggling with a mental block, I’m here to help!  I can walk you through this process item by item.  Contact me for help!

Remember, your home should honor the people that live in it.  It should be a functional and peaceful space that works for you.  Spend your time with your family instead of your things.

Happy Organizing!


SOS by Lisa | Professional Organizer, Home Organizer
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