You may be shocked to learn that you’re making a huge decluttering mistake that’s slowing down your progress, but don’t worry! Once you know, you can start doing things differently. There’s hope for our homes yet!
Anyone who’s battling clutter can tell you that getting rid of things is hard. If we didn’t struggle with letting things go, we wouldn’t have clutter in the first place, but what would you say if I told you that you’re doing something that’s making decluttering even harder than it has to be?
This may sound strange, but it’s as simple as this: STOP touching your stuff!
I know what you’re thinking. “Why can’t I touch my stuff, and how am I going to get rid of it without touching it?”
Here’s the why: The sense of touch is extremely powerful. I recently read this article about how Apple stores purposefully arrange their computer screens in such a way that customers have to adjust them, which, of course, requires customers to touch the products.
The study in the article noted that the more we handle an item, the more we’re willing to pay for it… sometimes up to 60% more!
Here are some other highlights from the article that jumped out at me:
- “When it comes to physical things, merely touching an item can cause you to become more emotionally attached to it.”
- “The longer you touch an object, the greater the value you assign to it.”
- “When you introduce new items into your life, you immedietely associate value with these items, making it harder for you to give them up in the future. This psychological connection to things is what leads to the accumulation of stuff.”
That’s pretty amazing. Honestly, my own experiences decluttering support these conclusions. More often than not, I’ll see an item that I immediately think I should get rid of, but the second I pick it up I start to lose my nerve. I start feeling guilty thinking about the money I wasted buying it or how the person who gave it to me would feel to know I never use it. I begin to list all the reasons that I need to keep that item because x, y, and z are bound to happen eventually so I should keep it just in case. In that moment, the fact that I haven’t used the item, and it’s been lost in the chaos of my basement is irrelevant. I sometimes even start to feel anxious and my heartrate increases so, inevitably, my “keep” pile ends up much larger than it should be, and my home remains cluttered.
The good news is that there are a few ways to get around this problem:
Find a decluttering buddy
Find someone who is willing to help you declutter and may even be able to use your help in return. Sometimes an outsider’s opinion can help us let go of things we may not be able to on our own. A friend will not have the same emotional connection to the items in our homes as we do so let’s let that friend act as our hands. Let’s let them hold the items for us so we don’t have to and aren’t as tempted to change our minds and throw our stuff in the “keep” pile when it really should be exiting our lives.
If you’re not able to find a decluttering buddy or are too embarrassed to have someone help, try these tactics:
Declutter in Terminator mode
If you’ve seen the Terminator, you know that when he walks into a new area he scans his surroundings. He does so without emotion because, well… he’s a robot, but he also has a job to do. We need to think of ourselves as Decluttering Terminators. We need to scan our surroundings and decide what needs to stay and go before we touch the items. Touching an item will only make it that much harder to get rid of because we end up not only having to mentally cope with letting go, but we have to physically let go of it as well.
Play Hot Potato
Worst case scenario, if you have to touch an item or accidentally grab something before deciding its fate, treat it like you’re playing a game of hot potato. Channel your inner child and pretend your items are made of lava or on fire! Let 2-3 seconds be the maximum amount of time any item can stay in your hands. The less we handle our belongings, the less we’ll be tempted to keep them.
Let’s give this a try this week. My husband is always eager to help me declutter so I know he’ll have no problem acting as my surrogate set of hands, but, to tell the truth, I’m sure I’ll use all of these strategies. Which technique do you think you’ll use?
Update! It’s been a little over a year since I wrote this post, and I think I’ve found a second (and possibly even bigger!) mistake people are making while decluttering. Click here to find out what it is.
For more decluttering tips, be sure to check out these posts:
thanks – that was very informative!
Thanks for these ideas on organizing my life. I live alone and l am on life support. I have a hard time myself with decluttering my place. I need a home. Not a storage unit. I appreciate all l learn from others. I will put your ideas into practice this week. Thank you.
I found myself in a position of losing a lot of my lower extremity functional abilities after being in a coma for 15 days and then my husband downsized us from 5000 square feet to 3000 square feet. I was forced to take a real hard look at what I could actually do or needed. It was real hard to do that and I started getting angry at the world and anyone who entered my space/world! To start, I went from room to room, telling and having my husband throw out all the big and obvious things. He actually did not throw them out but put them aside for a garage sale and leftover things we gave to two charities. What a relief because that cleared out a lot of things leaving a lot of room for organizing! Then I went back and started removing extras or not needed things from my most important rooms: bath, kitchen and bedroom. Now I am in the process of deep digging and fine tuning those rooms to get really organized, including buying sturdy storage units and shelves! This is the way I have to approach things or I would just stay in bed and ignore everything. Thank heavens, this is working out for me!
My husband is a hoarder. Won’t throw or let me throw anything. Old old garments vcrs cassette s disks negatives of pictures old files books anything.30 40 years old items. I keep dontating or trashing gradually one item at a time so it won’t be noticeable. It makes me frustrated and resentful.
Talking to him is of no use.
Oh my gosh Emily! I’m so glad I read this article before I started my cleaning frenzy!! Thank youuuu!
You’re very welcome! Thanks for reading 🙂
I have to say I’m very thankful I came across your page. For the first time since 2011 when my daughter died I felt like somebody was reading my emotions. I’m humbled and embarrassed I might say. After Khrista died I lost it. The next year I went thru cancer. The next year my mom died 2 weeks ebefore CHRISTMAS. I never had a chance to recover. For years I have thought I never would. I have just last week started trying to go thru my house. I started one type of craft after another. Never realized how much stuff I had accumulated. Now I feel like I’m smothering. Sorry this is so long but I really wanted you to know just how right you are. I’m still having a rough time with health but by God’s grace, MERCY AND love I will WIN. Thanks again .God Bless you.
Hi Nelda, I am so sorry to hear about the passing of your daughter and mother and your experience with cancer. You have already been through so much! If you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed by stuff, I hope you’ll remember all you’ve already accomplished and overcome and gain strength from that. You can do this!! If you’re on Facebook and not already in our free decluttering group, we’d love to have you join us. It’s called the Declutterathon and is full of people who would love to support you on your decluttering journey. Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. <3
I read your comment and immediately felt your discouragement and some of your feelings of being overwhelmed.
I have had a lot of loss in my life . My Dad many years ago from cancer and my 3 sisters and a brother. For years I have collected small glass ware,pottery, trinkets,tea cups and then some of the things from my in laws estate.
I now realize I was trying to fill a void,although I enjoyed the hunt. Now I am overwhelmed with the amount of stuff I have collected and how to downsize. It is like I woke up one day and said Wow , what have I done.
I am so glad you have decided to not let the stuff win. My heart goes out to you for your loss and your health problems. Just know that you are not the only one who feels this way. God bless and prayers for you
Great post! I love anything that has to do with de-cluttering and organization. Thank you for sharing at the Thursday Favorite Things blog hop. xo
Thanks for hosting! 🙂
Very interesting. I’m gonna try this with hubby, he has a hard time getting rid of things. Maybe if I hold them up & ask if its keep or toss, we can get more things cleaned up around here! Its worth a shot!
Did you hold up the items, so your husband would choose what to get rid of? did it work?
My husband’s great about getting rid of stuff whereas I sometimes struggle so, if I’m having an “I want to keep everything!” moment, he’ll sometimes hold things up for me and ask what I want to do with it. It really has helped me let go of more than I would have on my own.
I love this! And it’s so true! I go through all of those emotions overtime I try to get rid of things. We are getting ready to move 700 miles, again. This will be my fourth move of this size or larger in the last 4.5 years (military). I have definitely shed a lot of extra poundage in unnecessary items with each move but I know there is still more to get rid of.
I think my biggest problem with getting rid of things is I believe each house has it’s own unique personality. So just because this picture looked great in the dinning room at my last house doesn’t mean it will look good in the next house.
Needless to say I wasn’t as ruthless about getting rid of things as I set out to be when we started packing. Either way I am so excited to start with another blank canvas, our new house!
Congrats on your move! You’re so right about each house having its own unique personality. We bought a lot of our stuff for our first home, and now (in our second) we’re struggling to make it fit. We have enough space, but it doesn’t fit as well as it did in our last home. Good luck with the move!
What a great decluttering tip! I am currently going through my home on a decluttering spring cleaning mission and this will be a valuable tip. I do find that the more I hold something the more I start wanting to hang on to it, I have never thought of this aspect of decluttering before. Great post! 🙂
Thanks, April. I didn’t really think about it much until I read the article about Apple and realized I’d been sabotaging myself the whole time!
Great little series! I have recently moved and I didn’t bring anything with me I didn’t love. I cleaned my house out three times and took about 6 truck loads to a donation center. We have SO much less now but I love my house way more than I ever did. I didn’t know that if you touched something you were more likely to keep it so I will use tongs next time I clean out 🙂
haha Tongs are a great idea! I should start using them 🙂
Stella Lee@ Purfylle
I had never given this thought before but you are so right. I automatically try to do the terminator approach so I won’t have to touch stuff and when I do touch stuff it’s harder to let go. I’m pinning this because it must be shared!
Angela, blue i style
Wow! I would have never thought of it that way – but it makes perfect sense! Thanks for sharing at The Creative Circle!
Kelly @ Mum-bo-Jumbo
This is so true! The fact we touch stuff then can’t part with it AND the fact we don’t realise we do it! No wonder I can never seem to declutter everything properly! Haha. Great tip. Stopping by from Treasure Box Tuesday
Makes sense to me! It’s not only the touching, but the memories that many things evoke that makes me hang onto them. Thanks for sharing with SYC.
I mean how do you get rid of it without touching it?
The goal is to make the decision about whether or not to keep something before you touch it. 🙂
Jenny @ Unremarkable Files
Stopping by from Wonderful Wednesday.Great post. I hadn’t heard that about the psychology of touch but it does make sense. Another reason to avoid touching things: it means that you’re just moving them around instead of either processing them and getting rid of them(like mail) or putting them away (like your shoes.) I hear that sometimes referred to as the “Touch things once” rule, I think.
Very true! I’ve mastered the “I’ll just put this here for now” approach, which is probably why I now have so much clutter to clear.
Love your writing style (: Great tips… definitely need to use these soon in my house ha!
Thanks, Andie! I’m slowly but surely using them for my own. I can’t wait to be done!
This is a really awesome post! We are attempting to purge most of our house so these were some great tips. Thanks. Found you on Weekend Retreat Link Party!
Thanks, Erica! It is comforting to know something useful came out of my years of de and recluttering. haha
Hey! Stopped by from Foodie Friends Link Party….Thank you for your informations!
Jean | DelightfulRepast.com
Emily, my only real area of clutter is my desk (a huge desk!), and this rule could work there as well: STOP touching your papers! If I only allow myself to handle a paper once–deal with it, file it, shred it or …–maybe I can keep them from piling up on my desk, only to get shuffled around and sorted again and again!
Absolutely! That’s a great idea. I have a horrible collection of papers too. We’ll be tackling it soon when we do the office.
Great advice. My husband and I are pack rats, so we can’t be clutter buddies. LOL Thanks for coming to the Inspire Me Monday Linky party.
lol Yes that would make it hard to get rid of stuff.
Meaghan | Cook. Craft. Love.
Yes! I am not a person who collects clutter. I can toss things into the donate or trash pile like nobody’s business. My mom, on the other hand, is a different story. She has to touch EVERYthing and inevitably keeps way more than she should. Which does not help the excessive amounts of stuff decrease in our house. Great tips! I’ll totally be implementing the no touch rule the next time I cajole her into cleaning out a room
I can relate! Unfortunately, hoarding seems to run in my family. I think each generation is getting better about getting rid of stuff move farther away from the great depression… until I suggest getting rid of some of my kids’ toys, and they all freak out. lol Not touching the stuff definitely helps.
Ashley ~ 3 Little Greenwoods
Best. Advice. Ever. for decluttering!
Pinning and sharing everywhere! Thanks so much for sharing on Show Me Saturday!
Aww thanks, Ashley!
Wow that makes so much sense! I loved the little bit you mentioned about Apple stores. I never realized it before, but I always go in and adjust the tablets when I happen upon an Apple store. Thanks for the post! I will definitely keep this rule in mind when decluttering next time.
They’re so sneaky, aren’t they! I always end up playing with their stuff too.
Great advice! I never thought about this but I’ve seen this with kids when we are cleaning out toys! Even something they haven’t seen in a year they will keep the second they get it in their hands. If they don’t touch it, I can get it out of the house.
My kids too! They might be helped by being on an episode of Hoarders. 😉
Meredith @ The Palette Muse
Wow, I never would have thought of this, but it makes so much sense! This will change the way I help my kids declutter their rooms. Thanks!
Christina @ I Gotta Create!
Very interesting!! I’m keeping this in mind next time I clean things out. Featuring you at the party this week! Thanks for linking up. <3 Christina
Thanks for the feature and for hosting! 🙂
This is GOLDEN. I can’t even describe the number of times I have sat on the couch and thought about de cluttering and mentally purged a whole shelf…and then gotten up and held the items in my hands and CHICKENED OUT! Now I know why! I’m not sure exactly how I’ll implement this “no touching” plan, but just knowing about it is bound to help, right?
I hope so! I do the same thing. It’s so much easier for me to get rid of stuff before I touch it. Then suddenly everything becomes a must-keep treasure.
Wow, that certainly explains why the hardest things for me to part with are books and plush toys.
It also explains why children have such a hard time cleaning. They pick up the toy, re-bond to it, and immediately want to spend some time with it.
I’ve heard this before but had forgotten about it. It also explains why I can go to a friend’s house and see easily what they can get rid of but struggle in my own space – my emotions and perceived values of stuff get in the way! This will definitely help for future decluttering projects.
Very true! It’s always so much easier to clean and declutter someone else’s home.
I hadn’t thought of this, but I absolutely agree. Once I get my hands on the item I’m considering getting rid of, I spend more time hemming and hawing about it. Thanks for sharing!
Wonderful advice. I heard once that if you really want to go Terminator, you should pretend you are moving out of the country. That way you only keep what you really love. Not touching any of the other stuff would help immensely then.
Great idea! I can’t imagine how much we’d have to get rid of if we were moving out of the country.
Very interesting! Now I want to put this theory to the test in my own decluttering efforts. Thanks for the tip!
Gilly @ Colour Saturated Life
Great tip! I am all about decluttering, I do it regularly and I have to agree if you hold something and spend too long thinking about it you tend not to get rid of it. I always make my decisions by looking at something and I am kinda brutal. Great advice!
Brutal is needed sometimes, especially in my mess of a storage room! 🙂 Thanks for reading, Gilly!
Great ideas here! Thanks for sharing it at Think and Make Thursday.
Very interesting – it makes sense. I’m visiting from Weekend Retreat blog hop & now I’m following you on facebook.
PS – I also wanted to invite you to link up to the CLIMB – it’s a month long networking blog hop: http://www.godsgrowinggarden.com/2015/03/april-2015-chain-linky-climb-blog-hop.html
Great tips, Emily! I hate clutter. I would have a HARD time NOT touching! I have to pick everything up and put it away 😉
Thank you for sharing this at Brag About It Link Party on VMG206.
~ Megin of VMG206
Curiousity roused our readers on this week’s party – including me! We all wanted to know what that decluttering mistake might be 🙂 Well, your post was so popular that it will be featured on the next Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop on Ducks ‘n a Row. Congrats
Very good tip! I do find myself sometimes keeping something after I’ve held it for a while. Thanks for linking up with Idea Box!
Jennie @ TheHousewifeModern
Dropping by from “Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop” on ‘Recipes for our Daily Bread.’
I never thought about that aspect of decluttering before. But you’re 100% right. When I’m trying to trim the closet, if I pull out the garment and hold it up, shift it, all of the sudden I’ve decided I SHOULD keep it.
This was also timely. Husband and I are decluttering next weekend. I’ll have to remember “don’t pick it up!”
Wow, that is SO interesting! I’m going to have to try this. Thanks!
Anne from Pintesting
Wow, I’m trying so hard to declutter – especially since my handsome hubby and I just moved and downsized to a smaller home – but now I’m confused. (It happens often enough, so don’t worry.) I recently pinned a post that, based on the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (which I haven’t read yet), you’re supposed to touch every object to see if it brings you joy. If not, out it goes. Can you see my confusion? To touch or not to touch… Have you heard of or read the book? What made you go the opposite direction? I’d love to get your thoughts.
Yes, I just read that book (we’re actually talking about it in the My Love for Words book club right now). I wrote this post before I read the book, but I have to say that I still stand by it. I think touching every object might be helpful for some people, but I personally think it would lead most people to keep too many things. From my experience, I’ll frequently think, “I should probably give this away,” but the second I pick the object up it’s like I get a rush that makes me feel like I have to keep it for whatever reason. I think the Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up has some great ideas, but overall I don’t think one method of decluttering will work for every person. We have to evaluate our own weaknesses and go from there.
I thought the exact same thing if I had to “touch” something just to move it. I changed my “touch” to “look.” and also explained this to my husband as the rationale for disposing of items too. If I look at something and it doesn’t make me happy, then I need to get rid of it. Now! When I make the decision, I will do something else for a little while then returning to that object and just disposing of it. No regrets, I can touch it because decision has been made and I don’t go back and try to mentally change my decision in order to keep the item! My reward for doing this is I now have more room and area looks a lot better!
Funny, I was just about to ask this. I think it depends on each person and if they are a visual person or a tactile person. God created us with 5 senses and each of have strength and weaknesses. I don’t think any one formula will work for everyone. Best thing to do is to find what works best for you, whether it’s someone else’s method or your own and then declutter, throw stuff away and really find a way to stop the behavior and maintain a clutter free home. I know keeping your home clean will help, no one wants to clutter up a clean room.
I totally agree. I wish there was a quick, one size fits all solution, but I don’t think one exists. It sounds so nice though!
Thanks for sharing this study. If you are purging, you could have a buddy touch the items and bag them to get rid of them. And all you have to do is point to the item.
Wow!!! This is exactly where I go wrong and never knew it! I’m going to start wearing mittens!!! Or oven mits! Lol.. And maybe peak at things from across the room for even more distance. Having just downsized from a 5 bedroom to a 1 bedroom home—> you are a lifesaver-thank you! I’m feeling MOTIVATED!! Yay!!! Blessings!!!
Yay!! I’m so glad you’re motivated! I like the idea of peeking at things from across the room. I should start doing that.
Selena Marie from KindredClosets.com
Wow! This is so interesting! The concept is completely the opposite of the Konmari (spelling?) method which requires you to touch EVERYTHING. Of course, that method also requires you to take everything out of your closet and put it in a pile on the floor and who wants to do that?
This is very interesting. Don’t touch method! Hmmm. I’ll have to try that!!
Thanks for sharing!
Haha! I know seriously, who wants to do that?! I read the Konmari method, and I think there were some great tips in there, but there was also so strange stuff I just couldn’t get on board with. Talking to my belongings… yeah, that’s probably not going to happen. 😉
Sharing this great article with my newsletter readers!
Wow – so super interesting… I love it. It is incredible how stores set up their merchandise knowing how we will act and react!
My method for getting things done is “touch it once”… I am not allowed to put things in a pile to be dealt with later… I have to complete the task right then and there.
Tove, I should set you loose in my house! I’m horrible about making piles to “deal with it later,” and then later never comes. I need to take up your method.
I’ve been decluttering my home for about 5 years. Each time I finish a round, I take a break, then start over again. I am down to some really tough decisions now because what is left has made it through so far. The question I am asking myself as I go through the items in my home are 1) Do I want to dust this twice a month for the rest of my life? 2) If I had 15 minutes to evacuate my home, is this something I would think about grabbing to take? 3) If this were lost/broken/stolen/or otherwise destroyed, would I morn the loss of it? I think you can tell, I am serious about cleaning out. I have recently had to clean out my parents’ home of 45 years. I don’t want to leave that kind of a job for someone else to do when I am gone
Those are EXCELLENT questions to ask, Jacky! Do you mind if I use those in a future post? I think they’d really help a lot of people.
My husband and I went through that same process of having to clean out and give things to relatives or dispose of articles in his brother’s house, my parents house twice (once after my dad died and terminal cleaning when my mom died) and again twice in his parents house. Now start prepping, painting and cleaning houses for a sale while right in the midst of my husband and I cleaning and prepping our house for sale as we had just purchased land to start building our new house! We couldn’t even get our siblings to help either! We felt that all we did was deal with doctors, funeral homes, household repair people, real estate companies and lawyers for 2 1/2 years
How do you get rid of things that have sentimental value like things that were your mother’s & your daughter’s, who have passed away? Also toys, books, clothes, etc. that were your children’s? Things that I have collected over the years will be easier to get rid of, as will clothes I no longer wear. We have been married 52 years & lived in the same house for 37 years so we have accumulated a lot of stuff & gotten rid of a lot of stuff, but there is still a lot of stuff.????
Hi Patsy, Sentimental items are definitely the hardest to part with. I think choosing a few favorite items and passing the rest on to people who can really use and benefit from them is the best solution. The items can be hard to part with, but you will hopefully find some comfort in the fact that they’re being put to good use and appreciated by others. You could also take pictures of items and store them on your computer or make a special photo album. You could also take pieces of items and turn them into something new (like turning pieces of old t-shirts into a quilt or donating a wedding dress to be used by someone else or turned into baptismal gowns). I think the real key is remembering that parting with those items won’t make memories or the love we have for our departed loved ones lessen in any way. Our loved ones wouldn’t want us to live in clutter because of their belongings. Good luck! It’s not easy, but it’ll be worth it.
That touch thing is powerful and something I did not know about! I play the “I’m gonna use it some day” game with myself and sometimes I do but I have a lot of stuff I won’t ever use. I will try not to touch! My husband will be very happy to be my toucher!
My husband’s the same way. If it means junk’s leaving the house he’s totally on board! lol
Ha ha! I love this rule! I tried to help a friend declutter and every time she picked up an ancient baby sweater or ragged board game she declared she absolutely couldn’t part with it. I think you’re right on with this post 🙂
Thanks, Sarah! I can relate to your friend’s experience, unfortunately. Touching our stuff can make it so hard to get rid of!
This is such great advice! It explains why I have such a hard time getting rid of things even though I hate clutter. I think that I’ll have my husband be my decluttering buddy and I’ll also try out the terminator mode. Maybe he’ll even do that with me, it could be fun!
It could definitely be fun! After each item you could say (in Arnold’s voice, of course), “This won’t be back.”
Angela @ Setting My Intention
Interesting ideas. I actually think this worked with my husband during our major decluttering push in the basement. I held items up for him and he said trash/recycle/keep. We worked very quickly to make some headway. Always looking for new tips to help us declutter! Visiting from Home Matters
Vickie @Vickie's Kitchen and Garden
What great advice. The more you turn something over and look at it the more you want to keep it. I have to watch about throwing/giving away here – I have been known to have to go and buy something again because I need it! Thanks for sharing at the #HomeMattersParty
Thanks, Vickie! It really does make it harder to get rid of, I think.
I need a decluttering buddy ASAP. Especially for my craft closet. Thanks for sharing on the #HomeMattersParty . I hope you will join us again next week.
Love the “no touch” tip! I tried the hot potato tip when clearing out my sewing/craft room, but I succumbed to the keep-it bug. So I took the things I knew I needed to get rid of, but just couldn’t part with and put them out in the garage. It’s been bout 4 months and ya know what I did today? I took the boxes, loaded them into the truck without even opening them and took them to a thrift store that supports battered women and children. So although I wasn’t as ruthless as I could have been back in May, I still got rid of the excess clutter and hopefully it will help someone else as well. :~)
Excellent job, Laura!! I think sometimes we just have to prove to ourselves that we don’t need our clutter before we can actually get rid of it, and that’s okay. I’m so excited for you! I’d love to hear if it gets easier for you to get rid of things from here on out.
I had not thought of the importance of touch. I usually wear gloves when I am decluttering and I do get rid of more things. I was able donate 12 bags of stuff in 3 days.
Gloves are a great idea! I’ve never tried that, but I might have to if I can get rid of 12 bags of stuff in 3 days! Great work! 🙂
I have found wearing hospital gloves to be the most successful thing in my own decluttering process. If I touch something it wont be going away. The gloves block the kinesthetic processing and I dont even yhink of keeping it. Yay!
That’s a great solution, Sue!
Would you mind sharing the source for the study you reference on how touch leads to conversion?
Hi Laura, I’ve actually linked to the study in the post. Just click that teal text, and it’ll take you to the story I referenced. 🙂
Thanks for posting this! Every little piece of wisdom helps when it comes to decluttering!;)
I’m wondering how you declutter without touching your items? You have to handle it to put it in a bag to donate or toss. Then you have touched it and looked at it and have to decide.
I try to either borrow a buddy’s arms (my husband is more than willing to help me get rid of stuff) or I make up my mind about items before handling them. Deciding to keep or get rid of something before touching it tends to increase my get rid of/donate rate. If I wait until the item is in my hands I tend to want to keep it more. I hope that helps!
You could act like things are covered in germs and wear thick gloves and use barbecue tongs.
That’s an option!
I’ll take of the basement don’t worry relax. I’m a pleaser I love organizing things and then standing back and watch the pleasure on your face.
This makes sense. I know I get more done if I’m cross with the clutter and ‘on a mission’ so it’s out of the drawer and in the bag without a glance, but then if I leave the bag in the room I’ll spot something and take it back out or even start thinking about what I put in there and start asking myself “was I rash throwing it away?” It worked much better for me when I filled the bag and chucked it in the car and took it to the charity shop straight away! I filled a huge old holdall and told them to keep that too because I knew I’d feel a pang of regret if I saw the stuff 🙂 So one bag down and OMG a whole room to go – and the comment about pictures etc. I have some from 30 yrs ago (in the attic) from my first marriage, which I wont hang because of that reason – so why keep them hmmmm….. Oh and I’ve moved 17 times with them and not military!
Great article and well-written! This perfectly supports my decluttering techinique in an upcoming post I am working on for my blog, spacetosmile.com and I’d love to link to it if that’s ok.
Sure! Thanks, Kaley. I’ll have to read that post when it goes live. 🙂
Oh my gosh! This is so true!! I find if my husband is helping me and picks something up, I tell him to get rid of it. If I haven’t used it, get rid of it now before I change my mind! Great post. Puts it more into perspective for me.
Thanks, Melissa! 🙂
I didn’t realize it, but this is so true! Even when I’m decluttering, if I take a moment with an old card, letter, momento, I add it to the keep box. I think I need a de-clutter buddy. 😉
I hope you find one, Rebecca! They can be so helpful.
Thank you so much for this article, every time I try and tackle a clean up project I get over whelmed and it is so hard. I had a goal to clean up my “spare room” which became a walk in storage area closet. With hand me down clothes for my daughter up to 6x (she’s 4 now) And then having a baby ( we know how quick they go from size to size) it was a disaster! I had never gone through the hand me downs to get rid of the ugly, tacky and or stained clothes, I had my own clothes that I had since 1990, I couldn’t get rid of them because of memories! So it finally started, a weekend in October, we got rid of 18 bags! Everyone thought I should feel so good, and I did to a point, but the room still wasn’t done and I believe that was my biggest issue. If my daughter wasn’t there to do the “touching” I know I wouldn’t have gotten rid of 1/3 of the stuff I did! I still have the rest of the house to go. But I’ll get there!
Thanks again for the post!
Thank you for reading, Mary! 18 bags is great progress! I do hope you’re proud of yourself and the progress you’ve made, but I can totally relate to doing a lot of work and still have more to do. Seems to be the story of my life, unfortunately. Just keep plugging away and doing what you can. You’ll get there! Also, if you’re on facebook and want to be with some like-minded decluttering people you’re more than welcome to join my group the Declutterathon: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Declutterathon/
I’m going to stick with Marie Kondo’s approach and TOUCH EVERYTHING to determine if it sparks joy for me.
That’s great, Robin! I’m a big believer that there’s rarely ever a one-size-fits-all approach so if that’s working for you defintiely stick with it. 🙂
I’m in Terminator Mode already! I quickly scan the shelf I’m decluttering and decide ahead of time to keep no more than 20% of what’s on it. It makes it easy to just grab and toss. My shelves are mostly books that are gathering dust and since I mostly read on my Kobo nowadays I don’t even reach for them anymore. I have 3 thrift stores within a 5 minute drive and I commit to getting them out of my house immediately it makes it easy to do them off.
Great job!! I love it 🙂 Sounds like you’re making great progress!
As a declutterer and organizer, I handle my client’s items and show it to them, instead of letting them touch it, most of the time.
Thank you! I appreciate that. It really can be helpful to have someone else’s hands handling everything. I’m sure your clients appreciate your help.
Problem is compounded by feeling weak dizzy
Hrm, that’s interesting – I just finished reading “The Life-Changing magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo – and one of her rules was to touch every single item and ask yourself if it brings you joy or is necessary? If not, out it goes…………it’s been working great for me, especially with clothes – had so much, I am getting it all done and each space is NOW bringing me joy.
Maybe it is easier for me b/c I don’t get too emotionally attached to things, I am not very sentimental. (Which is you knew me, you’d find surprising, I think because I am a sap, haha.)
I guess it boils down to just “less is more” In so many ways. something comes in, something must go out – spending less, making do, all good stuff regardless of the method.
I think it’s definitely about finding the method that works for each person. For some, the Konmari method works great. For others, not so much, but I do think a lot of it boils down to how emotionally attached people tend to get to things. Not being too attached definitely makes it at least a little easier to get rid of things even if they’re touched. Good luck with the rest of your decluttering!! If you want to join a great, supportive decluttering group you’re more than welcome to join the Declutterathon fb page.
You cannot be serious…I just downsized by 1000 sq feet and it was not that difficult. Psycho-babble is what I call this. If you don’t use it or don’t have room it, bless someone else with your excess and move on! People make things so hard for themselves.
Totally serious, Pat! 🙂 I’m happy to hear you don’t struggle with these issues. That’s great!
Thank you, Pat. You are the older sister I never had. I’ve finally found you! I am writing down your words verbatim. I might even put them on a bulletin board if I get one. Definitely will keep where I can look and read every time decluttering gets too hard. Thanks again!
When decluttering you could just ask yourself this: if my house was on fire would I be in a rush to save this thing? An honest answer usually lets you whether it’s important to keep it or not!
That’s a good question to ask!
I have become a total hoarder of stuff. My husband is a complete sentimental hoarder. He remembers everything, therefore is attached to it all. I try to blame my tendencies on my mom because she threw out most of my childhood when we moved into a new house when I was 12. But I think some of it comes from loving to rummage. There is always something you always wanted but couldn’t afford. Now I have it but can’t find it. Being low income is bad too. And don’t get me started on what having a child does to clutter and sentimental hoarding.
My best trick so far is laying all my son’s semicute clothes on the bed and taking a picture. Then I can move them to the rummage sale or give away. Of course the super cute is still in the attic. My mother-in-law is 90, and my fatherinlaw has been gone 30 years but my husband has hardly started on emptying the garage or basement yet. Right now he is at least working in our basement half an hour a day. Baby steps. Thanks for listening. I’ll try the no touch technique. Maybe that will help.
I hope it does help, Paulette. Taking pictures of the clothes is a great idea! That way you can keep the memory but clear the clutter. Please keep us posted on how it goes.
I hope it does help, Paulette. Taking pictures of the clothes is a great idea! That way you can keep the memory but clear the clutter. Please keep us posted on how it goes.
Emily, you’ve hit on a key point here and I will take it to heart as I am determined to declutter my home. I burst out laughing at Pat’s comment and wrote it down exactly as she wrote it. I especially liked the “people make things so hard for themselves” comment, as I do start to obsess when I get emotional over items. Thanks so much for this post and I loved reading all the comments.
Thanks for your idea, but I had to have my own reasons of let go of my “stuff” because of my recent move from my home state CT to be near my daughter and her family in NC. I had to have the nerve to give things to friends I loved and knew they would take good care and appreciate them,i.e.: personal items, plants,etc. Just knowing they had a good home with my friends or with the woman’s shelters and helping the homeless, I was okay. The last thing in the world I would ever want was for my daughter to deal with my years of stuff when I was no longer there.
A personal reason does usually help. Congrats on your recent move and being closer to your daughter.
We recently had a considerable downsize in property after 36 years in the same property. Items which were released from our grip, personal things, furniture etc. and ‘stuff’ in cupboards not seen for years had their photographs taken. Charity shops and those starting out were beneficiaries so life goes on for our possessions.
Unfortunately some of our ‘old friends’ could not be parted with. We put them into store 8 months ago. We are now sorted in our apartment – the store is to be tackled in the next few weeks – and you are correct in saying DO NOT touch. I am convinced parting with the stored items will be easier as we have not missed them!
Thank you for your interesting and realistic articles.
Denny B, UK
Thanks, Denny, and congratulations on your move! That’s a big job. I hope sorting through your stored items goes quickly and easily.
This is the first article I have read on decluttering like this wow thank you!
Thanks so much for reading and for your lovely comment, Suzie! 🙂
Great article. One strict rule I created for myself is– if I want to buy something I first have to decide what I will get rid of (donate to charity).– If I can’t decide what to get rid of, then I don’t make a purchase. The only exception is fabric. I make quilts, pillow covers etc. I am a fabric hoarder. I probably need therapy for this. But I’m getting better.???? Sort of…
Such a good rule, Pam! Thanks for sharing, friend 🙂
Hi Emily! Found this post at the Idea Box link party. So timely for me – we’re in the process of packing up and moving to another state. It’s so interesting to read about the connection between touch and emotional attachment to objects. It is powerful! I will keep this in mind as I’m sorting and packing. Of course, I have to touch things in order to pack them up, so I’ll have to be strong and make the decision before I pick them up! I also love the advice at your other article to change my mindset from “What do I want to get rid of?” to “What do I want to keep?” That’s brilliant! Thanks for the inspiration. I’ll be sharing this post.
Congratulations on your upcoming move! I’m so glad to hear these posts were helpful. There is such a strong link between touch and our attachment to objects, but it sounds like you have a great plan in place for packing. Good luck! I hope your move goes smoothly.
Great tips!! That will for sure save me some money! 🙂 Thank you for sharing with us at the #HomeMattersParty
Thanks so much for hosting and visiting, Jamie!
I’m really fascinated at what I think is a really useful and very informative post about the emotions behind how when we touch something we have to have it and I’m a complete stationary hoarder and completley agree with everything you have described and it’s given me some really great insight into why we hold on to things,I’m really pleased I’ve joined your very inspirational posts and your very good at what you do even as far as to say your very gifted,talented young lady,maybe in a few months you would be kind enough to guest blog for me and in return I get to share your many talents and not only that receive a special gift for your time and effort,if your to busy I totally understand but I would also like to pick your brain about how you came to make such amazing content as my blog only has 3 posts on and only about 6 people liked and two following,I recently stopped working after four years as a Avon sales rep due to being disabled physically and wanted my blog not only to reflect beauty but some hidden self esteem issues and much more deeper stuff,I would really value your opinion if you have time please could you email me at : email@example.com or perhaps visit http://www.beautyyoumore.wordpress.blog thanks again I’m going to tell everyone about your amazing content xxxxx
Thanks, Sarah, and congratulations on your new blog!
Hi, I am new to your blog and have found some very interesting articles, however, this I disagree with. I am the biggest clutter hound in history…NOT hoarder, just clutter everywhere. I picked up this book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and she states the opposite. 1st you work on categories, like clothes, books etc., then pick up each item and ask yourself if this sparks joy within you. If so keep it if not bye bye item and thank it for its use while it was in your possession. For the first time in my life I have truly tidied my home and life using her methods. I have just started this the 1st of the year, slowly I might add as I work full time and have a busy house, but I have started with clothes and I have 4 large bags ready for the schools rummage sale, 3 bags wee given to my sister-in-law and I have stiff on garage sale sites. Not to mention the 3 bags I gave to Goodwill. I think you will be amazed if you pick up that book and start her process. I was and I hate getting rid of stuff I spend lots of money on or what people have given me. But if it doesn’t bring me joy I won’t use it and now it’s taking space and getting dusty. If I have joy with it, well…..
I’m so glad to hear her book was helpful for you! I actually have read it, and while I agreed with some of what she wrote, I also disagreed with a lot. I think the hardest thing about blogging about decluttering is that people have clutter for different reasons and react to the process in different ways. Unfortunately, I find it harder to get rid of something after I’ve touched it, but the important thing is that I’ve realized this so I can now work in the way that be suits me. It sounds like the “spark joy” way works best for you so I hope you keep it up! Sounds like you’re making great progress! 🙂
Hey there! Awesome decluttering tip! Never thought it that way, thanks for sharing!
Love it! Thanks! Makes so much sense- about the touching! That’s why I STILL have way to many throw blankets!
Thanks, Tamara! Throw blankets are one of my weaknesses too. 🙂
Wow! I didn’t read all that I just scrolled through. What do you do with grown children’s stuff ( I’m slowly mailing it) ? What about elderly parents stuff that they will know is gone at thanksgiving when they wander to the bathroom.
For stuff that’s in my home but belongs to other people, I ask them if they still want it and either arrange a way for them to get it or give them a deadline to pick it up. I haven’t been in the position of sending stuff to adult children yet, but as an adult child I know my mom tends to keep me for me than I want. Being able to keep a few important things and discard everything else has worked well for me. I much prefer that than receiving lots of packages or boxes to sort though. Talking to them about their things would probably be a good place to start. Good luck!
Thanks for sharing, Vanessa! I love the Terminator mode idea! It does need to be functional!
Really all these are important to keep in mind. Thanks, Emily for sharing these mistakes with us. Will be of great help for me! 🙂
Thank you, Malisha!
OMG!!!!! Love this post. It is so very eye opening. I will use this info in a lot more ways than just de-cluttering. And I like the other comment about using tongs, also hilarious.
This was a good read! It can be overwhelming but a good strategy makes it so much easier!
Thanks, Suzanne! A good strategy really does make a big difference!
Thanks for sharing! It’s so funny how we’re perfectly fine moving our piles around instead of just moving it to its real home!
It is! I call it the clutter shuffle lol
This is so interesting! As an interior designer, I’m always thinking about the senses and how they make us feel in our homes – what experiences I can add to my home or a client’s home to better our mood or well-being. But I never thought about how its used in reverse – trapping us into keeping things because we’ve touched an object and rekindled our emotional attachment. Thanks for sharing! This will be great to keep in mind for myself and future clients.
It’s amazing how powerful our sense are! Thanks for reading, Jenny 🙂
Best Christmas present ever! My daughter and I exchange “Clutter Buddy Days”. Three times a year she comes to my house and three times a year I go to her home. On my turn up there, I load my car to take donations to the appropriate location, the recycle to the city’s or school’s bins, and the shred to my office.
I like it because it’s a gift I don’t have to dust, to find a place to put it or to worry about gaining weight.
What a wonderful gift!! That’s such a great idea!