Guilty as charged – Guilt Clutter

Colleen at 365 Less Things has been doing a series on types of clutter that are hard to release.  She started by describing Guilt clutter:

Guilt clutter are items you regret having acquiring in the first place but now feel you should keep in order to justify their purchase and/or get your money’s worth out of them. Just about anything can fall into this category but they are usually items that you…

  • Spent a lot of money on and haven’t used much.
  • Spend money on you couldn’t afford to waste.
  • Really didn’t need in the first place.
  • Or a combination of the above.

I’ve done a lot of work on letting go of clutter since we moved into our current house six years ago.  Our former house, though 1000 square feet smaller than this one, had an incredible amount of hidden storage.  Big closets, a loft over the garage, two attics – we never had to think twice about keeping anything and everything.  When we moved into this house, suddenly all the “anything and everything” was right out there for anyone and everyone to see.  I spent the first two years “unpacking,” which translates loosely to “shuffling stuff around the house trying desperately to find somewhere to keep it.” As many clutterers do, I tried to organize myself by buying things to contain the clutter, which (of course) soon become clutter themselves.

At that point, this potentially-lovely home looked like something out of Hoarders.  Piles of stuff that I had or needed to buy, sell, or process were lined up against the walls, piled on and beside the furniture, and stacked in the basement and garage.  My compulsively-tidy husband was beside himself.  He knew, on some level, that we owned all this stuff, but suddenly the man who hates to see anything left out on a counter was faced with having to see everything we owned, all at once.

That was four years ago.  I’ve used many different methods to release clutter in that time: FlyLady, counseling, professional organizers, help from friends and family, and virtually every book on the market (that’ll be a whole post all by itself!).  I still have a lot of stuff that needs to go, but the public areas of our house have been cleared, and they are tidy most of the time now.

One of the first things I had to tackle was Guilt clutter.  We are frugal people, some of us (David) more than others.  When we spend money on something, we had darn well better be getting some serious use out of it, or some of us might want to know why others needed to buy it in the first place. Did I happen to mention that some of us don’t like to shop, while others have been known to shop compulsively?  Perhaps you might see the problem, if your psychic powers are sharp.  Yep… I thought so.

It was FlyLady who helped me release the guilt.  She pointed out some things I hadn’t considered.  First, the money has been spent already, whether you store that item forever without using it, or whether you get rid of it.  Second, by letting an unwanted thing go, you can bless someone else with it.  Keeping it as penance isn’t doing anyone any good.  Finally, you should not have anything in your home that makes you feel bad when you look at it.  You should only have things in your home that you use and/or love.

I realized this week as I gathered up items to release that I have a pretty good handle on Guilt clutter. I know now that regardless of the up-front cash cost of any item, there is a psychic cost to keeping it if you don’t use it or love it. Would I rather store something and feel guilty for not using it every time I see it, or take a deep breath, let it go, and be free of it once and for all?  I’ll take “B,” thank you very much.

  • {Clutter} released: 9 more books went into the box to be sold at Powell’s tomorrow!

3 thoughts on “Guilty as charged – Guilt Clutter

  1. Hi Lori,
    thank you for mentioning and linking to my blog. I am glad to hear you have a good handle on Guilt Clutter because it really is a pointless thing to have around.

    Nice blog layout by the way.


    1. Thank you, Colleen! You are a celebrity to me, so seeing you here is a treat.

      I’m glad you started with Guilt clutter, since I felt confident sharing about that one. Wait until I have to consider my Sentimental clutter and – worst of all – my Aspirational clutter! That’s the stuff that has really started me on this blog journey.


  2. Hi Lori in OR,
    As you know, one thing at a time is my motto. Start on the easiest thing and let momentum carry you on to the next and the next and before you know it you will be having to rein yourself in.


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