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Alleviate The Shame of Clutter

Alleviate The Shame of Clutter

If you are struggling with clutter, than you are probably very familiar with the shame that shows up each time you try to deal with that clutter.

We’re very good at being cruel to ourselves, even when we would never dream of being cruel to someone else.

How many times have you encouraged a friend with motivating words:

You can do this.

You are strong and capable.

Life happens, but it’s ok, just get up and do what is in front of you.

I’m so proud of you for how far you have come.

Only to go home, look around and berate yourself about the state of your home?

It’s a difficult job to change the things that are going on in our minds, but when we do, powerful changes take place. What we tell ourselves generally comes to pass. Our thought life is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you want to declutter and live simply, you need to give yourself those motivational statements.

Having a cluttery or messy home is something that has happened, but it’s not because you are incapable of having a clean and organized home. We all have the ability to change, and you are no different.

A few things I have found to help are:

  • Understand that shame is not guilt. Guilt is when you legitimately did something wrong. Was it wrong to purchase a new blouse and never wear it? No- it wasn’t wrong. Like Marie Kondo suggests, thank the item for fulfilling it’s purpose in your life (even if the purpose was just the thrill of the purchase) and let it go.
  • Walk through your own feelings. It’s easy to get rid of things we don’t use when we give it to someone “who can use it.” But you learn more and grow into a stronger person if you can accept that you don’t need an item and that is “okay”. You can feel sad for not using something or regret for spending money on something, and then, you can let the item go. Acknowledge the feelings without giving yourself a guilt trip. This will allow you to make different choices next time you bring something into your home. When you are decluttering and a negative feeling comes up, ask yourself what you are feeling, then ask yourself if it is true. This allows us to be honest without ourselves, understand our motivation for keeping things, and finally moving past that and able to declutter to the extent we need to.
  • Don’t allow shame to follow your items. When we pass on item and tell the recipient why they should want it and keep it, we are not dealing with our emotions about that item- instead, we are simply transferring all those negative shame based thoughts to the recipient of the item. Give items freely, knowing that the recipient is free to do with the item whatever they see fit.

Alleviate The Shame of Clutter


Many times we even have negative statements from people in our past, as well as what we have been telling ourselves.

Allow yourself to feel all the emotions that arise with that thought or statement.

Ask yourself: “Is this truth?”

Tell yourself what the actual truth is.

That is emotional decluttering. It can be very emotionally exhausting work, but once it’s done, you will find that it is also very emotionally healing.

Next time you find your thoughts turning into shaming statements, turn them around and say something positive, just like you would when reassuring your best friend.


If you would like more guidance in your decluttering journey, check out the various helps on the resource page.



About the author, Rachel

Hi there! I’m the Joyful Space Specialist. it’s my desire to help others create a joyful space of their own and enjoy their time spent at home.


  1. Melissa on 09/10/2015 at 12:18 AM

    Wow! This was just what I needed today. I am so glad that I have discovered your blog. It was meant for me!


  2. Neal Powell on 09/10/2015 at 11:41 AM

    Thank you. I am sure I need to be involved with this.

  3. Ashlee on 09/10/2015 at 1:16 PM

    I am very happy living with less. I rarely shop and when I do it is to meet the needs and a few wants of our growing family (4 kids). Most of the clutter in my life comes from well meaning loved ones; who frequently pass on their own feelings attached to the items they give me or my children. I become stressed when I am later asked to give account of how we are using the given items. The givers become upset if I am not using/treasuring the items. Comments are made like, “well, if you are not going to use it them just give it back to me.” Any suggestions of how to let go of the worry of upsetting givers? I need a clear space to feel at peace. But for some reason I am always clearing out the clutter that others gift me. I am tired of have a basement full of useless things just so I don’t upset others. We want to use that space! Thanks for any advice.

    • Susan on 01/11/2017 at 7:05 PM

      it is hard when dealing with the generosity of others (or they’re just unloading their crap onto you!). Probably the easiest way is to not accept things in the first place, “thanks but I really don’t think I’ll use it, maybe give it to someone who can?”. The same principle with things that have already been given, “I don’t think i’m going to end up using it – do you want to give it to someone else?”. If they don’t then you can dispose of it guilt free. as for your feelings of worry, worry about what’s best for your family, you’re paying good money for your home and it will benefit your family to have full use of it, if they’re truly well meaning they won’t mind and (don’t take this as harsh as it sounds) if you’re honest with them from the beginning about not needing/wanting it you won’t have to worry about offending them after the fact.

      A friend of mine went through this where she was given so many things for her kids (for which she was grateful) that it actually became a burden and instead of freeing her up it created more work for her.
      Keep up the good work … its a process!

  4. Amy on 09/16/2015 at 4:07 PM

    My problem is being nailed with guilt and shame BECAUSE I de-cluttered. My family finds it foolish to part with so much stuff that COULD have a USE someday. I am then completely deflated and convinced that minimalism won’t work for my family. But I want it! Please encourage this frustrated mama!

    • Rachel on 09/16/2015 at 6:25 PM

      Oh Amy! I’m so sorry. That has to be frustrating. Remember though, that YOU are the one that is living there. You are doing the right thing for your family- don’t let someone who doesn’t live in your home determine what should and shouldn’t be there. Here is an article I wrote a few years ago, that will hopefully encourage you. Keep going. <3

      • Amy on 09/16/2015 at 8:28 PM

        Thanks Rachel! My hubby and kids are just not on board with minimalism. But, after having recently watched The War Room, I will have God fight my battles for me! ? Thanks again! I always come to your blog for inspiration!

  5. Laura on 01/02/2016 at 1:55 AM

    One of the reasons I love your website is you don’t shy away from drilling down on the psychological/emotional aspects of minimalism/clutter/uncluttering. My clutter was a prison, and minimalism has been my escape and liberation. It’s one of the most life changing actions I’ve ever taken.

    There’s a reason Hoarding Disorder is finally recognized as a DSM diagnosis. You can’t disconnect the external behavior from the internal thought and emotional patterns. Clutter and accumulation aren’t necessarily hoarding, but there’s a spectrum there, and for me personally the worse my clutter, the worse my depression and paralysis became.

    I’ve read of people on weight loss programs say, “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.” I feel the same about clutter/material accumulation. “Nothing feels as good as empty rooms.” Or something like that. 🙂 Happy uncluttered 2016.

    • Rachel on 01/02/2016 at 1:07 PM

      Thank you Laura. I’m so glad you’ve found that freedom!

  6. Jessica on 04/24/2017 at 8:25 PM

    I’m a newly post partum mom with 4 kids and the mess and clutter all around me that I don’t have time or energy to deal with is very hard emotionally for me to handle. I am so exhausted from being up at night with multiple children and baby has to be worn and held a lot of the day so I am truly still in survival mode. I have been struggling with shame over having so much stuff and clutter esp. in this season and everything being so messy (Which I hate and usually I stay on top of it but with a new baby and homeschooling I can’t) anyways this post encouraged me a lot. To take a deep breath, do what I can each day and then realize there will be a season I can work more on minimizing things. One baby step at a time.

    • Julie on 06/04/2017 at 6:21 PM

      its time to give yourself a little grace Jessica, as a mom of 5 (soon 6) and homeschooling too i have had to learn to just “let go” for some seasons in life. i find decluttering and simplifying easier if i do a little, one day at a time. for example when i decluttered my kitchen a few weeks ago i did one unit or drawer per day (took me avout 10 minutes per day only) and spent about a week. no major decluttering jobs ( dont have the energy myself!) but a little everyday really does add up over a month or two. aim at a room per month for example, or a room every 2 months. take it easy and it will get done! and dont expect too much of yourself with littles and babies around. it will get easier!

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