Why Decluttering Fails? 5 Challenges

10 Aug 2015

It is probably easier to declutter things rather than relationships, and tasks and responsibilities. Or so I think. A quick Google search reveals tons of resources (e.g., online articles, books) on this topic. No matter how informative and seemingly useful the decluttering tips may be, the real test comes when you try to apply them in your specific contexts.

Personally, I had tried decluttering a few times over the years, only with limited successes. What are 5 key challenges for me?

Challenge 1: “What if, I need this in future.”

Personal Thoughts: What if, I need to refer to the old university textbooks? What if, I decide to design some greeting cards with the colouring materials? What if, I need these plastic containers to keep cookies as gifts for friends?

Personal Solutions: Can the items be obtained conveniently with minimal cost should “What If” become a reality? The answer should be obvious for most common items. E.g., information from old textbooks can probably be found in library books and online resources (not forgetting to highlight that the information from old textbooks will likely become obsolete over time); colouring materials and plastic containers are not costly and can easily be bought if you ever need them.

Challenge 2: “How can I throw away gifts from family and friends?”

Personal Thoughts: I feel guilty throwing away the greeting cards (i.e., well wishes) from others. What if they know that I do not keep their gifts (e.g., photo frames, ornaments)? These gifts are memories of life experiences.

Personal Solutions: Will the gifts be more useful to others? If you have thoughts of decluttering the item, it is probably not of much use to you. Will it therefore be more meaningful to donate the items to others who may want it more? Also, do the gifts really constitute memories of your life experiences? Memorable moments in life probably do not depend on actual physical triggers. Anyway, if you insist, can the physical objects be replaced with images? (Note: I chose to store photo images of tons of cards before I disposed them and kept just a few which are personally more meaningful.)

Challenge 3: “It’s such a waste to give it away.”

Personal Thoughts: I spent $$ on these framed puzzles, how can I give them away? This shirt is still in good condition, how can I throw it away?

Personal Solutions: Despite the amount of $$ spent and the good condition of the items, if you are not going to use them, they are worthless. Agree? Again, it is probably more useful to others. You can either donate them or try to sell them on relevant websites (e.g., eBay, Carousell). For your information, I had not been successful in decluttering through these platforms. Hence, my framed puzzles are still lying around at home.

Challenge 4: “How do I convince <insert name of person> to declutter?”

Personal Thoughts: It’s difficult to get <insert name of person> to give away her/his items.

Personal Solutions: This is probably the most difficult challenge. If it is difficult to declutter your own items, what more getting another person to declutter. You may want to start with neutral items (Important Note: neutral from the perspective of the other person). E.g., I started decluttering of plastic containers, glass jars and tins that my mum kept, “just-in-case” she needs them (see Challenge 1). For personal items, such as clothes, I can only encourage her to consider donating clothes that are still in good condition (see Challenge 3), but she is not going to wear anymore. I do not have an ideal strategy, just a reminder that it is going to take lots of patience, conversations and give-and-take. Ultimately, s/he will have to decide what is meaningful and what can go. NOT You.

Challenge 5: “How come the clutter doesn’t seem to go away even though I have been decluttering?”

Personal Thoughts: I had dropped all the glass jars, old newspapers… into the recycling bins just a few months back, how come there are still so many lying around at home?

Personal Solutions: We sometimes forget that decluttering is NOT a one-off task. It is an ongoing process. Clutter will continue to build up over time, the old newspapers and magazines, the used food containers, etc. will need to be recycled, donated… Hence, to minimize the need to declutter, it is critical that we reduce the build-up of clutter. E.g., minimize unnecessary purchase; get recyclable packs (e.g., shower gel, milk powder) to minimize use of plastic containers and tins; set aside decluttering bins at home…

You may be wondering how I have progressed so far. I had gone a long way indeed in terms of clearing old textbooks, greeting cards, clothes, etc. Nevertheless, I have not made as much progress when it comes to CDs, DVDs and books. I can probably give away some of the CDs and DVDs, perhaps someone can share possible platforms for doing so. As for the books, I am inclined to keep most for now and will donate some after I confirm suitable recipients.

Hope you find some of the sharing relevant and do share with me how you manage your clutter.

Cheers, SLC

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