Let’s face it – decluttering is hard work.
Sorting through closets stuffed full, figuring out which papers you need to keep and for how long, and parting with gifted items you never really wanted but felt compelled to hold onto – decluttering simply isn’t an easy task.
That said, some types of decluttering are more difficult than others. Personally, I find decluttering clothes to be relatively easy. If I put on a shirt and don’t like how it fits me, I often toss it straight into my decluttering bin. (Which, by the way, is your pro tip for the day: keep a decluttering bin in your closet so it’s easy to set things aside that you’re ready to part with!)
Today, I want to talk about the hardest items to declutter. A lot of you would probably guess that I’m going to talk about sentimental items, but actually, I think there is a type of clutter that is even more challenging to part with. It’s called aspirational clutter. You can click below to watch my video on it or just keep on reading.
Aspirational clutter is made up of things you are holding onto because those items represent the person that you were, or the person that you hope to be someday. Aspirational clutter is so hard to part with, because when you pass those items along you are also admitting to yourself that you aren’t the person you hoped you would be.
Sheesh. That’s kind of a downer. But hear me out, because it doesn’t have to be as bad as it sounds.
Here’s a concrete example. Take a woman who is pregnant with her first child and while scrolling through Pinterest sees all sorts of beautiful birthday cakes. One day that woman decides that she is going to be the mom who makes the best birthday cakes on the block.
So she researches, and watches YouTube videos, and buys all the supplies. And you know what? She probably does try her hand at making a cake or two. But I don’t think you need me to remind you that expectation and reality do not always align when it comes to Pinterest projects.
As the years go on, perhaps this woman finds herself ordering a cake from a bakery at the last minute instead of going through the trouble of decorating one herself. And after several years, all those cake decorating supplies have found a seemingly permanent home in the dark corner of the kitchen cabinet.
Here’s the hard truth. That mom is not a mom who makes beautiful cakes for her kid’s birthdays. And it doesn’t matter if she keeps the decorating supplies or passes them along. Having the supplies in the kitchen doesn’t make her the cake decorator she dreams of being.
But wow – it is so hard to accept that truth. It feels like you are letting yourself down.
So what do you do?
First of all, I would invite you to realize that those items you’re holding onto are also tying you down to your feelings of guilt. Do you feel good about yourself whenever you stumble across things you aren’t using but think that you should be using? Probably not…
As much as you can, try and distance yourself from the emotion and judgment when it comes to those items. Making cakes, or buying cakes, or asking a friend to make a cake, or not having birthday cakes at all honestly isn’t an issue of right or wrong. And so, if the objective truth is that you aren’t a cake decorator (or, insert whatever your aspirational clutter is representing) then give yourself permission to part with those items without feeling guilty.
And here’s the thing, even if you do feel those twinges of regret and guilt, this is the last time you have to deal with those items. By decluttering them, you won’t remind yourself every time you see those items that you aren’t who you thought you’d become. By letting those items go you are accepting what is already true, and giving yourself the space to move forward.
Aspirational clutter can also disguise itself as items you used to use regularly. For me, that was my card making supplies. I had bought, and truly used, so many stamps and various card making supplies, and my roommate in college and I used to spend Saturday mornings making greeting cards to send out. And I loved it!
But as time went on, and I got married, and became a mom, and started my own business, the cardmaking fell by the wayside. I honestly got to the point where I was spending more time organizing my stamping supplies and moving them from house to house than I spent actually using the supplies.
And so, a few years ago I let the supplies go. And it was hard, I’m not gonna lie! I had to admit to myself that I was no longer a person who made greeting cards. But admitting that to myself, and choosing to still be okay with myself, and letting those items go was one of the best decluttering decisions I’ve ever made.
And here’s one last super duper important truth I want to leave you with: you can always take up the hobby again later.
In fact, that’s exactly what has happened with my stamping supplies. After ten years of not making greeting cards, I decided I wanted to make some with my kids. I’ve bought just a handful of supplies, and we’ve made some cards. And I truly don’t regret getting rid of my old stamps, because if I’d held onto them for the past ten years, the ink pads would’ve dried out, the styles would’ve become dated, and I couldn’t have even enjoyed my supplies.
Just because you’re admitting that your current season doesn’t lend itself toward a certain aspiration doesn’t mean you’re closing that door forever.
I know it’s hard to part with these kinds of clutter – in fact, I think it’s the hardest type of clutter to part with! But one thing that can help is decluttering alongside a friend, and I want to invite you to become decluttering buddies with me in the Get Organized HQ Insiders membership.
In just a few days (January 10, 2022 to be exact) I’ll be hosting the third annual decluttering challenge for the Get Organized HQ Insiders. You’ll get motivation, accountability, and awesome prizes for participating – but you’ll need to sign up soon! Doors close in just a few more days, and we won’t be accepting new members once the doors close. Click here to learn more about becoming a Get Organized HQ Insider and joining in on the Decluttering Challenge.
Organization that actually sticks for busy, happy lives.