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4 Ways to Declutter Without Feeling Guilty

Ready to declutter but plagued by guilt? You’re not alone, and you’re not destined to feel that way forever.

As a people-pleasing, former shopaholic, I know what it’s like to struggle with clutter. My decluttering journey was long and hard, and I felt guilty about wasted money, the environment, upsetting family members, and so much more. 

But time and experience have taught me there are practical things you can do to make letting go easier. Keep reading for four game-changing ways to declutter without guilt so you can reclaim space and peace of mind!

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How to Let Go of the Guilt and Your Clutter

If the feeling of guilt is holding you back from a clutter-free home, here are four things that will make the decluttering process easier:

  • ​Reframe your clutter as education
  • Research ways to dispose of your unwanted items
  • Remember the spirit of the gift
  • Practise self-kindness and compassion

#1 Reframe your clutter as education

When facing clutter, it’s easy to slip into self-criticism and guilt. I know I spent a lot of time beating myself up and breaking free from that shame spiral was probably the hardest thing about decluttering. 

But here’s a tip that changed everything. 

Instead of looking at clutter as a failure or a mistake, I reframed it as an opportunity for learning. 

I stopped dwelling on past mistakes and started looking for clues. Why were certain items not being used, or why did they no longer serve their purpose. 

What I learned provided valuable insights into my lifestyle, preferences and purchasing habits. For example, there was a particular style of dress that I loved but never wore. After a period of self-reflection, I realised it was because I admired the style on other people but didn’t actually like wearing it myself. 

This “ah-ha” moment changed how I shop and ultimately saved me thousands of dollars. 

So sure—I could let myself drown in guilty feelings because of all the money I wasted. Or I could look at it as an investment: I spent money to learn more about myself, and what could be better than that?

Self-discovery is just one of the many benefits of decluttering. Be sure to check out these reasons to declutter that you may not have considered.

Research ways to dispose of your unwanted items

One common source of decluttering guilt is uncertainty about what to do with your items after you get rid of them. 

This can be due to environmental concerns, or sometimes we just feel our stuff is “too good” to end up in thrift stores. We recognise the time and effort spent creating our things and dumping them somewhere feels wrong. 

So, how do you tackle it? 

My tip is to balance your expectations with the resources you have available. If you’re retired and have minimal responsibilities, then sure—you can spend years researching how to dispose of your items. 

But I didn’t have that kind of time and energy, and I know you probably don’t either. So here’s what I recommend instead. 

Set a time limit that feels reasonable for you (say two hours). Then, during that time, research as many options as possible. 

You might want to look into:

  • Recycling facilities: Consider your materials (textiles, electronics, etc.) and look for nearby centres. 
  • Donation centres: Different charities have different needs, and choosing ones that align with your values makes letting go easier. 
  • Consignment or resale shops: Research commissions and what they do with items that don’t sell. 

When your time is up, look at all the data you’ve amassed and create a policy for your decluttering. This will save you time and stress in the future (you make the decision once and then don’t need to keep revisiting it). 

Also, by taking proactive steps to donate your items responsibly, you can feel at ease, knowing you’ve done your best with the available resources.

Remember the spirit of the gift

Decluttering gifts is not easy and can evoke feelings of guilt and obligation. It just feels wrong to get rid of something someone gave you, right? 

Maybe not. 

Here’s what I remind myself when I’m struggling with unwanted gifts. Whether it’s true or not, I choose to believe that people give me gifts because they love me and want me to be happy. 

And if keeping something creates stress, anxiety, or even inconvenience in my life, then it directly conflicts with the spirit of the gift. 

If you struggle with this, try reversing the situation in your mind. Imagine someone you care about, and ask yourself what you want most for your loved one. My guess is it’s peace and happiness, and the last thing you want to do is cause feelings of stress or guilt.  

Feel confident that your loved ones want the same for you.

If you have a strong emotional attachment to your stuff, check out this post about decluttering items with sentimental value.

The Simply + Fiercely Show With Jennifer Burger

The Simply + Fiercely Show is a podcast for women who want to clear their clutter and create space for freedom and joy. If your life keeps getting bigger—but not better—then it’s time to declutter from the inside out. LISTEN NOW

Practice self-kindness and compassion

Finally, I think so many of us struggle with decluttering-related guilt because we struggle with self-kindness and compassion. 

As a people-pleaser, I often prioritise other people’s needs over my own—and I know this sounds odd, but I think I do it with “stuff” as well. 

Or at least I used to. Over the years, I’ve gotten better at recognising that I deserve to be comfortable and at ease in my home. Yes, I hate wasting money, creating environmental waste, and, of course, hurting anyone’s feelings. 

But sometimes, I have to put myself first, and that is OK. 

I can’t change the past, but I can learn from my mistakes and treat myself with respect and compassion. You can, too. 

Ultimately, decluttering without guilt is possible with a shift in mindset. You can reclaim your space and peace of mind by reframing clutter as a learning opportunity, researching disposal options, honouring the spirit of gifts, and practicing self-kindness.

More Decluttering Tips and Advice

If you found this post helpful, here are a few more decluttering articles you might enjoy! 

My top decluttering tip is to buy less in the first place! If you need help with this, check out 4 Reasons Why You Can’t Stop Shopping + What To Do About It.

5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Decluttering — Everything I wish someone had told me about decluttering and letting go. 

If your sense of guilt stems from how much money you spent, this post about How to Declutter When You Regret Spending Money is a must-read! 

And finally, 21 Minimalist Tips For Decluttering That Work — there’s something for everyone on this list! 

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