• Annie Webb

Why is it so hard to declutter and part with stuff!

Updated: Oct 14



Typing "declutter" into your search bar will get you about 28,500,000 results. So no shortage of advice, articles and tips. Its not a question of not knowing what to do - get your stuff, make a decision - keep, throw-away or recycle.


A 2011 Study by the Journal of Consumer Psychology identified the objects that are most difficult to part with have no real function or monetary value. According to the research the items you hang on to are about our self-worth and your view of who you are.




One answer to this was provided by a fascinating lecture I attended a couple of years ago by Architect and academic Elena Marco who explored how our growing appetite for ‘stuff’ influences housing design. Modern houses are becoming smaller but personal "stuff" is growing. So much so, that storage units are increasing everywhere. We cannot accommodate all our possessions in our teeny tiny houses, so we rent out storage units. How mad is this?


The psychology behind this is how we define ourselves , mountain biking, kayaking, fencing etc. But busy lives with families mean little time to devote to personal hobbies, so we store stuff because some day you'll go back to it. Parting with it feels like discarding a piece of your identity, i.e. "I am an adventurous person with an active lifestyle". This may have been you back in the day, but what's the likelihood?


Recently trying to help a family who had outgrown their 3 bed semi, desperately needing more space. I identified the integral garage as an obvious space to convert, but the man of the house used it as a store for his bike and music collection from the days when he toured as a roadie in a band. His current life was completely different, but he still defined his whole identity on this past life and refused to give up the much needed space. It was too much of a wrench.

If you value your relationships above everything else it can feel like a betrayal parting from an object given to you. It serves to make you feel loved and appreciated and its proof that you mean something to that person. So it all comes down to it being a toss up between the grief you associate with discarding the item or the frustration you experience looking at the clutter. For my part its gotta be the latter!



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