Busting Your Biggest Clutter Fears

Busting Your Biggest Clutter Fears

You might not actually be afraid of your good china or childhood teddy bear, but clutter can be scary. We discuss the emotional reasons for holding onto stuff in the Clutterfree Course, and the most common one is fear.

Letting go of stuff becomes so much easier once you let go of the fear of living without it. I can tell you from personal experience, that in the past few years of selling and donating more than 50% of my stuff, I’ve never once missed anything I let go of, or regretted my decision to give something away. In fact, each thing I let go of gave me momentum and confidence to let the next thing go.

Busting your biggest clutter fears

I’m afraid I’ll have to buy it again. Face this fear by looking at what you use on a daily basis. Most likely, you own much more than you actually use. If you do need to use a special gardening tool once in a blue moon, borrow it or buy it when you need it. Don’t save it “just in case”. You might also keep multiples of things because you are afraid you will lose the one you use. Trust yourself to take care of a few pens, or spoons, or lipsticks and replace when you need to. Even better, try to use just one.

I’m afraid that if I let go of something sentimental that I will forget the memory. Your memories and the people you love are not in your stuff. That said, if something brings back fond memories, take a picture of it, frame it and put it on your wall. This way you can share your memory instead of stuffing it in a box, because you don’t have a place for it.

I’m afraid my stuff won’t go to the right place. You can make sure that your stuff is appreciated when you let it go by donating it to people or organizations. Donate clothing to a homeless shelter. Donate books to a hospital, school or retirement home. Place larger items on craigslist or other classified sites. Recycle items when you can.

I’m afraid I won’t have anything left to give my children. All your children will want from you is your love. Give them peace of mind and loving support instead of the responsibility of taking care of your stuff. If they are older, ask them if they want anything. If they say no, don’t be hurt. They love you, not your stuff.

I’m afraid getting rid of my stuff will take alot of work. It will take work and effort, but what it will pay you back in time and energy will make you wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

I’m afraid people will think I am weird or ungrateful because I keep giving things way. Some people will think that. Some people thought you were weird before. It’s not your job to please everyone. It’s not your job to convince everyone that you are doing the right thing. Lead by example. Let your happiness and kindness demonstrate that you are living your life just as you should.

I’m afraid that I wasted money on things and giving stuff away is like money down the drain. That may be a harsh reality but holding onto those things, and continuing to spend money, time and energy on them is only perpetuating the fear and guilt. Let it go, and think more carefully about your purchases moving forward.

There are so many things to be afraid of when you are decluttering, but even more ways to overcome your fear and live a clutter-free life dedicated to people and experiences instead of stuff and debt. If you want help busting your clutter fears, The Clutterfree Course is now available for self study.

What is your biggest fear when it comes to decluttering? 




  1. Nin says

    I have to just chime in and say I so agree with giving things away to meaningful places. I myself lived in a crisis shelter for 7 months and when I was there I was so thankful to be not only housed but clothed. I now give away clothes et cetera to the local charities/shelters when I find something in my closet I no longer fit/use. It makes it so much easier to give away the clutter when you feel like not only are you making a difference to *you* but also to someone else. At least I think so :)

    My biggest fear is to hurt someone’s feelings – but at this point almost everyone around me knows that I’m not big on gifts at all. So my closest ask me for exactly what I want – be that an experience (last year I wanted to spend the day with my best friend, going to the cinema and talking all day) or a particular item (usually something I use, like a particular cream or makeup product). So I’m working on it. Also a lot of the people around me have learned that we give away items to be nice – when we have given them we no longer hold onto that item and the receiver is free to do as they please with it (be that give it away to someone else, donate or happily use).

    • Courtney Carver says

      Nin, this is such great feedback. I whole heartedly agree with everything you said, especially that the receiver is free to do as they please with whatever we give them. xoxo

  2. says

    I can truly say that after giving so much stuff away to move to an island, now that I am here I actually like giving things to people. It is a huge statement because honestly had I not moved across and ocean I could be still holding on to a lot of stuff out of fear. Fear I wouldn’t have enough, or I might need this certain thing some day and many more excuses I had come up with.

    Without all the stuff I feel so incredibly free. It is still a process. I still think about it, but it’s much easier to give things away and to simply choose not to accumulate in the first place.

  3. says

    “I’m afraid that I wasted money on things and giving stuff away is like money down the drain.” In doing Project 333, I came to see that, yes, I did waste money on clothing, and, yes, it did feel like money down the drain. (Lots and lots of extra.) But you know what? It was money that was already gone. Keeping the clothes I never wore would not get me the money back or justify the expenditures–and once the truth of their value (not much) was seen, I could not un-see it. Getting rid of them did remove the constant, visual reminder of the choices I regretted. It was much easier to move on and leave them in the past once I got rid of those clothes.

    • says

      I feel the same way you do, Rita. Once I realized that I wasted the money when I bought something I wouldn’t use or wear, it made it easier for me to get rid of the thing. It also made me more conscious about what I buy.

      I take pictures of “sentimental” items I give away. When I go back and look at the pictures, most of the time I’m shocked that I even had a hard time parting with the item. Of course, I have a few small irreplaceables that I don’t intend to ever part with, but it’s a lot easier to distinguish what’s irreplaceable and what’s junk.

  4. says

    I have no fears when it comes to decluttering. I’m addicted to it. It’s the best feeling in the world. But I can understand why some people are reluctant and you’ve done a great job trying to put their fears to rest.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Julie, I think a shift in mindset happens, or several of them along the way. My first big sweep a few years ago was very dramatic and it was challenging to part with things. Over the past year, I have shifted into complete detachment of stuff. I have some. I use some. I like some. But if it were to all disappear, I would be ok.

  5. says

    GREEN GUILT! Sometimes, I have held onto things because I didn’t want them to end up in a landfill. However, I’ve learned a HUGE amount about how to recycle/reuse items and avenues to get rid of those items to proper homes to avoid landfills. Seriously, even things like screws and rubber bands can find new, useful homes with others!

  6. Jennifer says

    I am having trouble with letting go of photos. I am afraid i will want to sit down and look at them some day or share them with my son and if I let them go i wont be able to…even though I hate them right now because of all the work they symbolize. (Scrapbooking or scanning into a site like flickr)

    • Amy says

      It took me many days to scan all of my photos. It took me a year to be willing to do the scanning! It was so worth it! My daughter and I go through the photos regularly and I only kept the ones that were key to our lives.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Jennifer, I am going to research scanning services for photos and docs. I’ll share my research on an upcoming post. I think it’s just the thing I need to cull my photos and send them away.

  7. Liz says

    I’m like Jennifer. I have boxes of sentimental items, such as photos, yearbooks, birthday cards, letters from my parents (who are both deceased now), memorabilia from my teaching career, programs from concerts I have attended, programs from concerts I have been in, even college notes from classes I loved. Where to begin? Any ideas? I am a senior citizen and it wouldn’t be nice to let my daughter have to go through all of this when I die.

    • Courtney Carver says

      Hi Liz,
      I just mentioned that I am going to research some scanning services. There are places where you can send the things you mentioned and have them scanned and returned to you on a disk or dropbox account. If I sort it out, I’ll post about it. Hopefully with some step by step instructions to make it easy.

      It would be nice if you could choose a few of these meaningful items and have them scanned and made into a digital book, or even traditional album. I am sure your daughter would love that.

  8. Paula says

    I agree with Julie! i have no fears when it comes to decluterring. When i’m not home, i think of ways to declutter even more, to get rid of/donate/sell stuff and to live with less and less. It is pretty addictive indeed :)
    Thanks for your post, Courtney!

  9. Ellen says

    I have been following your pages and course information and all of it really for the past 3 hours, and i started the clutter a week ago, its still sat in the living room, the fear i think is the wide clear space, i am youngest of 7, my Mum had OCDCLEAN, all my sisters have it also, i do not, i think i rebelled and carried on rebelling, my Mum died 12 years ago, and i still have not got any better, i bought a book 10 years ago, its blew me away with how to declutter, i still have that book also, i think what doesn’t help, i was from a poor family, and the stuff i have, i think it took me a long time to come across all of it, most is what people have given me, or what i saved very hard to buy, so i think its the clear space and the rebel, and also the idea of when i was growing up, waste was not an option. I really wish someone would come here and completely throw it all away for me, but i unfortunately cannot do it.

  10. says

    Thank you Courtney,
    I am currently experience the “just in case” declutter fear and this post has been most helpful in that I see now how my fear is also an excuse to hold on to something. Will be tackling 3 drawers today with your tips in mind :)
    Happy decluttering,

  11. Alison says

    I just used http://www.scandigital.com based out of California (I am in Ontario). I found them quite reasonable and professional. I also used some wag jag coupons for a discount to get a number of slides and photos scanned.

  12. says

    I am so glad to have read this, Courtney, as I greatly identified with every example you set forth. It’s so true that through the process of letting go of fear, I found that the “things that were attached to that fear” cleared out of my life and made so much room for “things that are now demonstrative of courage”!

  13. says

    The decluttering has been going on in our house for a while and I don’t miss anything.:) I do have some items that were given to me from family members(guilt items) along with the words don’t ever get rid of this or sell it. In the future if someone gives me something with conditions attached I’ll just say No Thank You!
    I like the nice peaceful vibe your site has! Lisa

  14. says

    Have been decluttering my basement! It’s been in boxes for years while we moved and renovated. Now that we’re in the house for 2 years, the boxes were unpacked but a lot was moved to the basement. Gave myself a deadline of Jan 31 to purge, declutter and organize. I’m not a hoarder but I do love collecting and it’s amazing what you accumulate over 16 years of marriage. Tastes change … Anyway, feeling lighter already and can’t wait until I don’t have one box in my basement – going through everything!

  15. mr.b says

    how do i start decluttering my art and craft supplies. when i always use them for work but they take up so much space, at the same time it’s terribly hard to let go :(

  16. Kerry says

    I need help with this one. I just need to clean sweep my house.. but when I see the items I am considering letting go, I just sit and ponder can I let it go, or not, then I put away.. Okay then its away for days, months, years even before I see it again. In the mean time you don’t even think about that particular item till you see it again, then I go through the pass or save thing. But when it’s out of sight out of mind, I think I why couldn’t I have let that go, it isn’t even important in my daily life (and that is what is important NOW not later. But I always shuffle the same stuff and can’t get rid….any advice.

    • Marion says

      Hi Kerry
      What I found helped was to box or bag the stuff I thought I would get rid of then let them sit for a while. Label them recycle/donate or whatever. After a week or so when I hadn’t retrieved anything I could then let things go – it’s best not to peek otherwise it all starts again. Hope this helps

  17. says

    I love the “some people thought you were weird before”! It sometimes seems like even though I have been VERY clear with friends and family about our decluttering they still bring things into our home. Whether it’s family memorabila like family silver ware or my husbands outfit he wore home from the hospital, or un-needed toys or clothes for the kids they are always trying to trip us up. I’d love to sell the silver…and give away the toys. I just want to be intentional. Why do they have such a problem with it!

  18. Soumya says

    Hi Courtney,

    I’ve been following your blog for quite some time now. Your blog has reached me in a timely manner, when I am at that point in my life where I’m looking for reasons and answers to things I do.
    I so agree with this point – “I’m afraid I won’t have anything left to give my children.” I’ve observed many parents toiling themselves to make money and buy ‘stuff’ to give it to their children and eventually, ending up unhappier than ever. Then, they start blaming children for all their hardships justifying whatever they did was for their children and thereby, fishing for their children’s compliments, praise, and attention.
    What they forgot to do was to ASK their children if this is what they WANT. I guess ultimately, things boil down to the importance of having a healthy conversation. If only people gave importance to having healthy discussions, it would have solved most of the world’s problems.



  1. […]  Letting go of stuff becomes so much easier once you let go of the fear of living without it. I can tell you from personal experience, that in the past few years of selling and donating more than 50% of my stuff, I’ve never once missed anything I let go of, or regretted my decision to give something away. In fact, each thing I let go of gave me momentum and confidence to let the next thing go. Courtney Carver, of Be More With Less. […]