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Why Decluttering Is Hard

The struggle of letting go isn’t really about our stuff

Why Decluttering Is Hard
Photography by Daici Ano

When we consider it, decluttering isn’t that complicated. We examine our stuff, we keep what we value, and we let go of the rest.

It sounds simple, yet we struggle with it.

My struggle minimizing my home has shown me why it challenges us.

To us, our stuff isn’t just stuff.

When we look at what we own, we don’t see just those items. Instead, we see memories—good (and bad) times we had using them, the circumstances when those things entered our lives, common bonds with people we love because of them. We feel emotions—guilt over what we haven’t used frequently or fully, satisfaction over their value, hurt over painful events they remind us of, and more. We dream—that thing is for the trip we want to take, the hobby we want to start, or that goal that will make us better versions of ourselves.

We think our stuff makes us who we are. What we use and the brands we support are evidence of how we view ourselves. Pre-ordering that limited-edition item says you’re a serious collector. My locally made art piece says I care about small businesses and makers.

All these connections with our stuff makes it hard to let go. Giving things up feels like giving up parts of us, whether they are memories of what made us who we are or evidence of who we want to become.

So when you struggle with letting something go when it no longer serves you? Remember your stuff doesn’t hold your memories, your dreams, or your identity. When you let go, those precious parts of yourself stay with you.

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