Digging in the Archives ~ Disassociation Part 1 ~ Guilt Clutter

This post from the archives was the first in a series of five about disassociating from you clutter. I have added links at the botton for the other four post in case you would like to read them all.

Disassociation Part 1 ~ Guilt Clutter

I was intending to write a post today about disassociating with your clutter emotionally but once I started to think about this issue I decided it deserved a whole series of posts. So I have divided this subject into catergories such as Sentimental, Guilt, Obligational, Aspirational and Security clutter as each one affects people in different ways.

Decluttering isn’t just a physical activity, in fact the metal strain of letting go of certain items is where the real challenge comes in for many people. For others letting go can be quite easy, in fact too easy in some cases, learning not to reclutter is their biggest challenge but that is a whole other post topic. For now we will concentrate of finding the will to let go.

Today we will start with guilt Clutter and I will do my best to describe this kind of clutter, explain our attachment to it and to help you find a way to disassociate from not only the items but whatever it is that binds you to it.

Guilt clutter are items you regret having acquiring in the first place but now feel you should keep in order to justify their purchase and/or get your money’s worth out of them. Just about anything can fall into this category but they are usually items that you…

  • Spent a lot of money on and haven’t used much.
  • Spend money on you couldn’t afford to waste.
  • Really didn’t need in the first place.
  • Or a combination of the above.

Some of these purchases are aspirational in character such as that fishing boat that sits in the back yard out in the weather unused week in week out, decreasing in resale value everyday. You had good intensions when you bought it but really didn’t put enough thought into it. Your wife doesn’t like fishing that much and the kids aren’t as keen as you thought they would be because they have their own intests. You soon discovered that fishing isn’t that much fun alone and launching the boat can be a challenge on your own also. Fishing really was more fun that odd weekend that your mate Bill would take you out in his boat.

Other purchases come in the form of bandaids to mask disappointment, insecurities or other feeling of dissatisfaction that occur in life. Like that new handbag you bought to compensate for the fact that you hate your job ~ That new dress you bought so you could feel better about yourself even though what you really want is to loose 20lbs ~ The diamond ring you treated yourself to because you husband doesn’t pay enough attention to you any more. Once the novelty wears off these items you are back at the store looking for another hit because you still have that crappy job, the excess weight and the unappreciative husband and now also some very unhealthy credit card debt and a cluttered home.

Sometimes purchases can just be an honest mistake. Say for instance you need a new appliance in the home and you make what you think is a considered purchase and it turns out not to be what really suits your needs. You though you had all the information you needed to make a good choice but six months down the track you are sorry you ever laid eyes on this thing. You couldn’t live with your choice any longer and bought a replacement and now that other reject is sitting in your garage taunting you every time you see it.

There are many more stories behind why we purchase these items of guilt but the fact is that is does no good to keep them in our homes if they aren’t being used. They are never going to realise their worth and it is best to cut your losses now and try to sell them on to someone who may appreciate them more. You may only get back a fraction that you paid for them but that is better than wallowing in regret. The grief they are giving you far outweighs the joy they every gave you and it is time to move on.

What is important here is to learn from your mistake/s. Should you make a habit of this vicious cycle then you are really in trouble but if you realise the error of your ways and address the issues that inspire these kinds of purchases instead of running away from them then you will be on your way to recovery.

So if you have any items in your home that you feel may fall under the category of Guilt Clutter it is time to disassociate from them. Take a long hard look at these items and …

  • Recognise why you think you bought these objects in the first place.
  • Understand the mistakes you made.
  • Promise yourself to make more considered choices if you find yourself in a similar position in the future.
  • Forgive yourself.

Now use whatever method suits you to remove this object from you life, whether that be to recoup some of you losses or donate it to charity as penance for your transgressions but either way let it go.


Also in the series

Disassociation Part 2 ~ Obligation Clutter

Disassociation Part 3 ~ Aspirational Clutter

Disassociation Part 4 ~ Security Clutter

Disassociation Part 5 ~ Sentimental Clutter

Declutter Item of the Day

This baseball mitt no longer fits my son and even if it did he no longer plays baseball so I sold it on ebay.

Baseball Mitt

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Continue reading with these posts:

  • Don’t agonise over getting rid of clutter It has been a busy week for me and I didn't get around to writing a second post. So rather than leave you uninspired for the week I am republishing the following post from the archives. […]
  • It’s all about you Today's mini mission is ~ Just declutter something that isn’t “you”. In reality all of this weeks mini missions have been about getting rid of things that aren't you. By this I mean […]
  • Don’t agonise over getting rid of clutter I had a reader back in the early days of my blog who seemed to have trouble letting go of her clutter. It wasn't that she wanted to keep the stuff, or found it difficult to make the […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. I find that when I get rid of a “guilt item”, I also get rid of the guilt once it is gone. I can throw out the guilt and the item at the same time, if I am willing to let go of it, and move on. It is really nice!

  2. Thank you for this post! It’s really important to understand how our emotions and our clutter are so closely tied together, especially when you’re dealing with people in your life who are hoarders, like my parents. Because of this connection I’ve become a fan of getting help from a psychologist. They can really help tease out the “whys” behind our clutter! There’s no shame in it. Thanks for posting!

    • I agree entirely, getting the help from a psychologist is a good idea no matter what kind of psychological issue you are having. Been there done that. And far from being ashamed I advocate the practice as you are doing here. People need to know it is a good option to help guide you to a better place.

      • do you think when we are saving craft items that can be put to further use (eg paper cardboard, ribbons etc) that you being a hoarder? This is an honest question as someone resendly said this me that I might have a tendency to be a hoader. Not sure would like some input from others about this.

        • I do want a reply please just forgot to tick it at the bottom.

        • Hi Denise, I think sometimes we can get a little too carried away with collecting certain things especially where hobbies are concerned. When the collection overruns the boundaries of space we have to store it then it is time to get it back under control. I think true hoarding tends to overrun more than just its bounds but also your life. If you can still sort through it and cull the items that you know haven’t been used and a really unlikely to then I don’t think you have a problem. When you can’t bear to part with anything that is a real problem and especially so if you continue to add to the collection. I used to add to my craft supplies all the time until my use of it really backed off then I stopped adding to the supplies and started slowing using it up. When I realised that it was getting used up very slowly I sold some of it and gave some of it away. I have recently gone through it and chosen more to declutter but in reality I still have more than I need. Do so long as I am reducing it gradually rather than mindlessly adding to it I don’t see it as a problem. I hope that helps.

          I read an article once, I can’t remember where that asked ~ Are you a crafter or do you just love collecting the supplies. At that point I was more on the crafter side but later I was buying a lot more than I was using so I stopped. it is very easy to get carried away when you can see the potential in things but you really have to step back and be realistic about need v want.

        • Hi Denise!

          I think that it’s best to limit the amount of things you are collecting as supplies physically: Let’s say one box or maybe one cupboard, but not more than you are confident to use within the next one or maybe two years.
          While it’s a good thing for both the environment as well as your savings to re-use cardboards, ribbons and so on, there’s no sense in hanging onto things that you most likely won’t use within the next 10 years – or probably ever at all for that reason.
          If you own more ribbons than you need for wrapping the next three years’ presents, you should think about getting rid of some. You will receive new ribbons in the meantime.

          If you’re not able to sell your supplies and don’t want to throw them away, think about donating them to a kindergarten, school or similar. The children there will tackle (and use!) them in no time. 😉

          • Thank you Sanna

          • I knew that I needed to get rid of some wrapping supplies when a daughter mentioned that I had used that particular wrapping paper since she was born. It was an exaggeration, but not too much actually. Our Christmas giving has gotten more simple, so require less wrapping paper, so I kept my very favorite and donated the rest, so some other family can use it! It’s a nice feeling having such things more manageable.

            • Hi again Ann,
              you are so right having less of everything does make it so much more manageable. I used up a lot of our excess wrapping paper by turning the plain side out and wrapping my ebay sale items in it to post. I now have no paper just a few gift bags that I am now starting to think have also been lingering there too long. We have streamlined our gift giving to just about nothing so perhaps it has come to a point where we should just buy wrapping if we need it.

  3. Isn’t it interesting that even those of us that aspire to minimalist living still have some attachments to clutter and need tools to deal with it. Thanks for the post.


  4. I remember this post and it resonates just as strongly the second time around.

    (I’ve been busy busy busy playing Grandma and not online much; hope to be back soon)