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5 Common Excuses for Clutter and How to Cure Them


To know how to get rid of clutter fast, you should first ask, “Why do we hold on to stuff we know we should part with?” For five very compelling sneaky reasons, according to Randy O. Frost, PhD, author of Buried in Treasures: Help For Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, And Hoarding ($20.85, Amazon). Discover why you hold on so you can let go — happily! 

old family photos

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Clutter excuse #1: “It has sentimental value!”

The cure: A memory shelf. “A thing only has sentimental value if you can look at it and enjoy it,” says organizer Nancy Haworth. Consider creating a “memory shelf ” for precious items. Take photos of what doesn’t fit and add them to a digital frame for your shelf, then let the items go.

unhappy girl doesn't like her present

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Clutter excuse #2: “I feel guilt because it was a present!”

The cure: Make a “gift list.” Just because you accepted a gift doesn’t mean you signed a contract to keep it forever, promises psychologist Ruth Klein. “Simply donate it so you can pass on the goodwill! And consider keeping a journal of the gifts you’re giving away along with who originally gave them to you. Then every time you want to feel gratitude, you can just look at the list instead of the clutter.” 

woman packing clothes in a box

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Clutter excuse #3: “I may need it!”

The cure: Give it a “use by” date. “I call this a case of the ‘some-dayers’ — it’s a common concern,” says organizer Mary Cornetta. Her fix? “Place the item in a box and label it along with the date six months from today. Then set the box out of the way, such as in a closet. Once you’ve hit the date on the box — the ‘sell-by’ date — and haven’t reached for it once, you can give yourself permission to part with it!”

counting money

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Clutter excuse #4:“It might be worth something someday!”

The cure: Get it appraised. “Do a search for the items on or eBay,” says Jamie Novak, author of Keep This Toss That: Unclutter Your Life to Save Time, Money, Space, and Sanity ($12.74, Amazon). “If you get dozens of results, it’s not a rare item and will likely never be valuable — and you can give it away with a clear conscience.”

Child using calculator

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Clutter excuse #5: “It cost a lot!”

The cure: Calculate its daily price. “As long as you’ve kept the item long enough that it costs less than $1 a day, you’ve gotten your money’s worth,” reassures organizer Robyn Reynolds. In other words, if you bought a $200 purse and had it for two years, it cost you less than 30 cents a day. “And if you sell it on eBay, you’ll earn cash that’ll benefit you a lot more than a purse you no longer use!”

This article originally appeared in our print magazine. 

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