One of the biggest hurdles people face when it comes to decluttering is dealing with emotional attachment. It’s normal to become so attached to our stuff that getting rid of it can send us into emotional turmoil.

You get what is called object attachment. And because you become so emotionally attached to it, even the thought of letting it go kickstarts a sense of loss in you.

The truth is, we all become too attached to our stuff. But the harsher truth is once that stuff no longer serves a purpose in your life, you have to learn to let it go.

Why do we become so emotionally attached to our stuff?

We are naturally emotional creatures. It’s in our DNA as humans. We’re also always on the hunt for things that will make us happy. You seek out that dopamine hit by buying new items you don’t need. Chasing a constant high is not going to improve your relationship with stuff.

There’s also the Sunk Cost Fallacy. This is when you feel guilty about getting rid of something because you spent money on it.

Let’s say you’re finally going to declutter the treadmill you bought three years ago. During that time you may have used it a total of seven times. Every year you swear you’re going to use it more. But you’ve discovered that you prefer going to the gym with your best friend.

Equipment like that isn’t cheap and so you feel like you wasted money on it. That’s why you choose to keep it. Even though it’s never used, you don’t want to feel like you invested in something that doesn’t serve a purpose.

But the truth is — we’re full of truths today, my friend — that once you spend money on something, that money is gone. You can never recoup the full cost you spent unless you return it within the timeframe the company sets out.

Our things also hold memories. Things that happened that we don’t want to forget.

There are many other reasons why we become so attached to our stuff. But if you want to transform your home into a place of relaxation and peace, you need to let go of things you’re emotionally attached to.

How do you declutter when you’re so emotionally attached to things?

Sit with your emotions

When you embark on decluttering items you’re emotionally attached to, the first thing you should do is allow time to sit with your emotions. Yes, it may seem silly that you’re refusing to let go of a tattered dress, but it was the dress you wore on the first date with your now spouse. How can you possibly get rid of it?

If you ever watched Marie Kondo’s Netflix series, or even read her books, you know she’s big on gratitude. When she teaches people to declutter, she urges them to thank the pieces they’re going to get rid of.

Literally. She tells you to hug the piece — whatever it is — close and verbally thank it for all it has done for you. What looks ridiculous in theory is actually quite remarkable in practice.

What this moment of gratitude does is allow you to sit with your emotions. You take a moment to remember all the memories that item holds before letting it go. And while you may think those memories will vanish with the item, it’s the opposite. By offering gratitude, you’re promising to remember those memories even without the item in your life.

So take time to sit with your emotions and give thanks to the items you’re decluttering. No one needs to know you’re doing this. It can be an entirely private practice.

Start small

If you’ve never decluttered before or have never done a major reorganization of your home, it’s important to start small. This is something I tell my clients all the time.

Rushing through the process because you think it’s best to rip off the bandage is not the way to go about it. This is especially true if you have deep emotional attachments to some things. Those will be harder for you to just let go of.

How do you start small? You begin by doing one room, one drawer, one corner at a time. This sounds like it’ll take a long time and it might, but slow progress is better than no progress. You can also opt to declutter by category and start with one you know you don’t have a lot of attachment to.

Paper is a great category to start with. We all have more paper in our homes than we know what to do with.

Starting small and starting with categories you know won’t make much of a difference will sharpen your decision-making skills. By the time you get to a category like sentimental items, you’ll be in a better position to declutter those. You can also check out my blog post about letting go of sentimental items here for more tips.

Repurpose old or worn items

Sometimes items we know should be decluttered because they’re worn out can actually be repurposed. Old shirts can be used as cleaning rags. Single socks can become mug warmers. And rusted curtain rungs can be cleaned and used to organize hangers, scarves, or jewelry.

When you think of clever and creative ways to repurpose old or worn items, you’re giving them a second life. This means you can continue your emotional connection to them and build new memories.

For clothes you simply cannot part with, take them to a local tailor and brainstorm some ideas. Maybe the tailor can turn an old dress into a pillow cover. Or perhaps they can sew together a few different shirts and create a funky quilt.

Old or broken jewelry can also be repurposed into decorative touches around the house. Use them to add some flare to your hangers or bedazzle planting pots with them. You can also take old calendars and turn them into gift wrapping paper or fun wall art for friends and family.

There are countless ways you can repurpose just about anything. All it takes is a little research, some creativity, and the means to see it through.

Get an accountability buddy

One of the best methods for us to remain accountable for our actions is to get an accountability buddy. This is a person or even a group of people who will be there to support, encourage, and, if need be, give us tough love.

Accountability buddies are used in a variety of industries. You can use one for just about anything. Writers join writing communities to get the accountability to write. People who want to really get in shape hire professional trainers. And people who want to get their homes organized for good hire professional organizers.

When you bring in an accountability buddy, you’re already giving yourself a leg up. Tell that person exactly what you need them to do for you. Whether that’s asking for a weekly check-in or showing them progress you’ve made.

Lean on someone you trust but also someone you know will take the role seriously. You don’t want them to give you the benefit of the doubt too much. That will ruin the point of you trying to get rid of things you’re emotionally attached to.

It’s perfectly normal to grow a certain attachment to your things. But there will come a time when you’ll need to accept that the item no longer serves a purpose and say goodbye.

Luckily, you don’t have to struggle through this alone. Let us be your accountability buddy. Our goal is to help you reset and transform your home through proven methods that work and are tailored to you.

Take Emily T. for example. She said, “Beyond her talent, Patricia’s empathy and compassion are what really differentiates her from others in her field. She is truly that one-of-a-kind organizer that goes above and beyond to understand who you are and create a home life reflective of yourself.”

If you want to feel like Emily, contact us today, and let’s chat.


Image: Joanna Kosinkska

How It’s Possible to Declutter Stuff You’re Emotionally Attached To

August 9, 2022

  1. […] tips about decluttering items, especially sentimental items, check out some of our other blog posts here and […]

  2. […] great way to preserve the memory but remove the clutter. Need a bit more help with this stage? Check out this blog post about how to declutter sentimental […]

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