Home » Blog » How to Declutter When You Want to Keep Everything

How to Declutter When You Want to Keep Everything

Inside: Judgement free advice for anyone who wants to declutter but also wants to keep everything!

As a shopaholic turned minimalist, I have a somewhat unique perspective when it comes to decluttering.

On the one hand, I LOVE stuff. I’m quite imaginative, which is a blessing and a curse because I see value in everything. A rusty dish rack on the side of the road! How perfect … that would make a great plant rack! 

I can’t hate that side of myself because creativity and outside-the-box thinking have taken me far in life. But after a decade of minimalist living, I now know balance is essential.

Too much stuff is suffocating. It requires time, money and energy to maintain—resources that are in short supply for most people (myself included!). 

So what should you do? How can you declutter when you love stuff and want to keep everything? Is it even possible? Keep reading if you want to find out.

"How to Declutter When You Want to Keep Everything" on a black translucent overlay on to of an image of a woman sitting on the floor decluttering books.

What is your reason for decluttering?

The first step of the decluttering process is getting clear on your motivation. Don’t concern yourself with the ‘how’ just yet. 

Instead, focus on your why

This is important because, at its heart, decluttering is a value proposition. We get rid of stuff if and only when the benefits of decluttering outweigh the benefits of hanging on—and if you’re struggling to let go, I bet you can guess which way the scales lean. 

But here’s the good news: change is possible, and it starts with a perspective shift. 

For example, one thing that surprises people is how much I adore the ‘maximalist’ aesthetic. Visually, I love homes overflowing with books, knick knacks and hidden treasures around every corner. 

But here’s what I told a client while having this exact same discussion recently:

”I love the idea of my home overflowing with beautiful trinkets. But you know what I love more? Taking an afternoon nap and not feeling guilty about everything I “should” be cleaning or doing instead.”

I have chronic health issues, a small business, and two young children, which means I need to be very selective when it comes to my time, energy, and money.

This means that when I declutter, I’m not giving up the things I love most. Instead, it’s a choice to put myself first. It’s not always easy, but I’ve come to accept that just because I admire something in a magazine doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for my lifestyle. 

If this strikes a chord, the best way to get started is by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Ask yourself, “What do I love more than my stuff?”
  2. The next time you’re struggling to declutter, say that tradeoff you’re making out loud. 

For example: “I really want to keep this handbag, but I’m letting go because I already have similar items. Decluttering will lead to more space in my closet, making it easier to get dressed. I dream of enjoying slower mornings, and this is the first step towards achieving that.”

Must Listen: Decluttering Tips for People Who Love Stuff [Episode 5] from The Simply + Fiercely Show podcast

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

Too much of a good thing

Have you ever heard of the law of diminishing returns

It’s an economic concept where after a certain point, investing more leads to lower returns. 

For example, let’s imagine you’re remodelling an old house. Spending money to update the kitchen would probably increase the overall value of your home. 

But not always. 

If you spend $100,000 updating the kitchen of a $300,000 home, installing solid gold fixtures, marble countertops and top of the line appliances … you might discover you’ve overinvested. 

The same applies when discussing the stuff we love and the joy it brings us. 

I love doughnuts, but there’s a tipping point where one too many makes me feel sick. 

I also love shoes (I once owned over a hundred pairs!), but there came a time when my closet was overflowing, my wallet was empty, and each new pair left me feeling … empty. 

Individually, I was in love, but collectively, having so many shoes was causing me more stress than joy. 

How to apply this to your decluttering:

Challenge yourself to define ‘how much is enough’. Don’t think about what you already have. Instead, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and imagine the home and life you wish you had. 

In that scenario, how many pairs of shoes do you have? How many handbags? You can apply this to bath towels, coffee mugs, photo albums—to anything. Set a boundary that feels good, and then work backwards until you achieve this in your home.

Pro tip: When we think about boundaries, we usually imagine a quantity (for example, ten pairs of shoes). But you can also define ’enough’ with physical boundaries like available storage space or even the time it takes to care for something. For example, I define enough toys as those that we can easily clean in 15 minutes.

​If you find this exercise challenging, the easiest way to begin is by practising ”one less”. 

You don’t have to get rid of all your shoes! Just one less pair, and then give yourself some time to adjust. Then another pair, and another — repeating the process over and over until you get to a point that feels right for you.

It takes more time, but it’s much easier than decluttering your entire home or room overnight! 

Do you really want to keep everything? 

I’ve witnessed this with many of my clients, and I say this with compassion because I’ve been there too.

Sometimes, we say that we want to keep everything (or we “love everything”) because it’s easier than facing a hard truth.

Let me share a personal example. Many years ago, I spent over $700 on a pair of secondhand designer shoes. 

At first, I was so excited. I had seen them in magazines and on popular fashion blogs, and I couldn’t believe I found a pair! 

But then

I quickly realised the shoes were uncomfortable, I had nowhere to wear them, and I‘d spent a lot of money that I didn’t have. 

For a moment, I was flooded with shame and regret (emotions I didn’t want to face), so I quickly changed the narrative. “I love my shoes. I just never have anywhere to wear them!“ became the story I told myself for the next seven years. 

I finally got tired of carting them around and decided to face the truth. The shoes were a mistake, and I should have decluttered them years ago. 

Now, this exact story might not apply to you. But keeping clutter to avoid difficult decisions or challenging emotions is more common than you might expect. 

Maybe you feel ashamed of your purchase, or there’s something from your past you’re not ready to deal with. Either way, you keep your item as a placeholder for something you’d rather avoid. 

If this resonates, check out my article on decluttering sentimental items. You’ll find practical tips that will help you work through your emotional attachment. 

​I also recommend downloading my free Mindful Decluttering guide. It will help you create a decluttering plan, and there is practical advice for your biggest decluttering challenges.

More tips for creating a decluttered home

If this article resonates, here are some decluttering tips that will help you overcome your biggest challenges. 

5 Decluttering Methods You Haven’t Tried (That Really Work!) 

You’ve probably heard of Marie Kondo and the Konami method, or perhaps you’ve tried the popular four-box method. But if they aren’t working for you, here are five creative methods to set you on the path towards a clutter-free home.

7 Reasons Why You Struggle to Declutter Clothes + What to Do About It 

Clothes were the most challenging thing for me to declutter because everything was in such good condition and “worth keeping”. Or at least, that’s what I told myself. It took me a long time to discover the hidden reasons for my decluttering struggles. 

How to Declutter When You Regret Spending Money

Shame and guilt about wasted money is a common problem when it comes to decluttering. Here are some small changes that will help you tackle it. 

10 Ways to Get Rid of Clutter Quickly + Easily 

Here are some simple tactics that will help you declutter a lot of stuff in less time (one of my most popular articles!).

​Do you find yourself wanting to keep everything while decluttering? What tips have helped you the most? Let us know in the comments!

Sharing is caring!

2 thoughts on “How to Declutter When You Want to Keep Everything”

  1. As someone who spends a lot of time delving into the world of decluttering and organizing these days, I can honestly say this is my favourite article I’ve read in a while! I’m a “dress collector” and I own about 40 dresses – and I love them all, but of course, can’t wear them all. This is the advice I needed!

    I also really appreciate you being honest about how much you spent on the secondhand shoes. Often people will say “I wasted $60 on random junk at Target” and I have these dresses that I’ve spent $100-$200 on that have never made it out into the world yet. Most of these dresses I wanted for years before I finally had the money to purchase them secondhand on Ebay, ThredUp, etc. so they felt like justifiable purchases! And I knew I was “saving” money waiting and buying them secondhand.

    Thank you for making me feel seen! I’m glad I found you today 🙂

    • Hi Nicole, thanks so much for your kind words! And this is exactly why I started this blog in the first place — decluttering and simplifying were NOT natural or easy for me, so I share my experience. (Oh goodness … I used to have soooo many vintage dresses! 🤣) But choosing ‘less’ has truly been a game changer for me. Wishing you all the best with your decluttering, and thanks again for taking the time to comment. Take care! Jen


Leave a Comment