From the archives ~ Guilt Clutter

In the spirit of todays mini mission I have dug up from the archives a post I once wrote about identifying and disassociating from guilt clutter. I hope this helps you achieve your mini mission for the day as well as assist you in finding a few more of these annoying items to rid yourself of.

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 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.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter a Guilt item. Something you feel guilty about acquiring in the first place.

Today’s Declutter Item

Another handmade necklace donated to the thrift store. I finished this one off with a clasp to make it saleable so I could declutter it from my craft area. A little more aspiration clutter out of the way.

Handmade Necklace

Eco Tip Of The Day

Decide what you need from the refrigerator before opening the door. Standing there with the door open while you think about what you want to eat just lets the cold air out. Then the fridge has to work harder and waste electricity to regain its optimal temperature level.

* * * * * * *

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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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 am starting to really think about what I want before buying it. We got a new printer, but it is too high to fit where I want on the desk and has things on it that we really don’t need or use. Even if we could afford the cool one with all the bells and whistles, it wasn’t what we really needed. We don’t use the extras and a simple, good quality printer that fits on the desk would have been better. I feel bad about this purchase, but it will be given to someone when it is replaced. Plus, I didn’t know at the time what I really wanted, so I bought something that I thought was what I wanted but it really wasn’t in the end.

    It is interesting if you go to garage sales and people are asking really high prices for everything. I think it is because they feel guilty about spending the money in the first place and it is important to them to get back what they paid for it. The only thing is that no one will pay those prices so they don’t sell anything!

    • That is an interesting point you made about when people sell stuff at garage sales. I have noticed the same applies to second hand cars and real estate. The seller still expects to recoup all the money they spent on the purchase.
      I like browsing, firstly it is passive exercise, walking around for a few hours gets me out if the house, and secondly I spend a lot more time thinking how much useless stuff is in these shops. Last weekend was Fathers day, and the shops were packed with “guilt ” presents. What Australian father would not want a pizza oven from Target?? I can compare prices on “possible” purchases, last week I went searching for a collapsible clothes hamper, as mentioned here last week by Maggie. Nothing suitable was found, so no purchase was made. Cheers

  2. I don’t think I have any guilt clutter left. I just took a picture of all of the birthday cards I received last week. I will put the picture in my album and throw away the cards. I’m trying to do that with everything I don’t need so that I can have less stuff.

    Another album bit the dust today. Put all the pictures from a Scrapbook Weekend onto layouts and put them in an already started 12X12 album. I got rid of the smaller, fancy one we made that weekend. It just takes up more space.

  3. I have plenty of this left even though I thought I didn’t.

    My decluttering has been making progress. Hubby’s been helping me get stuff from my piles to Goodwill. My friend gave me two BIG boxes today so my goal this week is to fill them up full and bring them to a donation center. Soft stuff, like clothes and blankets and whatnot, have been going in bags…so that’s been saving the boxes for some serious clutter. That’s been good.

    I had a donation regret. Donated some pillow cases, then found out I could have fixed the issue I had with them. Oh well…that’s life. 🙂 They’d cost like $5 for a replacement set since they were just plain dark red ones and we really don’t use pillow cases right now anyway. Too hot.

  4. I’m happy to know that I am not the only one that goes through this! We are getting ready to sell our house and also discovering the benefits of living a more simple/minimal life free of clutter. (I really think these go hand and hand very well!) While going through our things for the 2nd time, trying to decide what stays and what goes…I kept running across things that I never used. I had no reason for keeping them other then the fact that they cost a lot of money when I bought them!

    So I used the tried and true method of asking the only question that matters: Is this adding value to my life? The answer in 99.9999% of the cases was NO. Someone else could benefit from it so off it went!

  5. guilt clutter. I have exactly one item that comes to mind, but I can’t deal with it yet, because its also senhat starts to bother me is the amount of clutter that has been waiting ttimental clutter. it has a place to live and it doesn’t bother me for now. wo get dealt with. I feel guilty that I figured out that those items are excess or unnecessary, but haven’t been removed from my home yet. I had a proper summer break, where I didnt spend that much time on decluttering, but thats going to change. Because it seems that if I dont do something regularly, it gets out of hands. so here we go again…

  6. I could really relate to this post today. Before I retired from my last place of employment, I was extremely unhappy and was working way too much. I was spending little time doing things that really mattered. I hated my job and I spent too much money on things that added to my clutter (instead of adding to my life) just to make myself feel better. At the time, filling my life with stuff, felt like the right band-aid, but now since I retired, I have gotten rid of most of those purchases because I know now that I really didn’t need those things and most of it I wondered why I bought it in the first place. It was definitely the temporary hit, that at first made things better, but did little for the real problems at hand. I was covering up bigger problems. How much better my time would have been spent doing things for myself and for family. Buying things does little for the real problems, facing them and dealing with them without band-aids is what should be done. I feel that on this de-cluttering journey I am making time for the important things, like what really makes me happy, having more time to take care of my health and making better choices of how to deal with life’s disappointments. In the process, I will become wiser, and my next career choice will be enjoyable.

  7. My niece and her husband separated two years ago and decided to move back to California. She had gotten a Cuisinart food processor and a Kitchen Aid mixer for wedding presents and had never used them. I make a lot of cookies at the holidays so she asked me if I wanted them. Well, I could never afford to purchase anything that expensive but always wanted a mixer with a stand. She gave them to me. The food processor sat on the top of my microwave and has since migrated to the top of the fridge. The darn thing is so heavy, I cannot move it and thus never use it at all. I am thinking that this will be donated and I will purchase something lighter in weight that I might actually use. Or, I will do as I have done for years, cut things up with a knife. There is only my husband and me home now, so we are not cooking in quantity. Now, as for the mixer, I have used that every Christmas since I got it but here is the rub. That is the only time I use it because it, too, is extremely heavy. It does have a place on the counter but if I need to move it even a small amount, I need help to do it. I blew out my rotator cuff on my right shoulder a year ago and cannot lift anything over 5 lbs. This mixer must weigh 20 lbs. I love it and could never afford to buy another so will probably keep it but need to find a place for it that doesn’t require much movement. My kitchen is very old and the plugs are limited so it’s location is limited. This is still a work in progress.

    • Hi Maggie, sometimes we miss the window of things being useful but still cling to the desire to have the item. I have fallen for this trap many times myself. The idea of the usefulness of the item is sound but life’s circumstances change to the point where we really no longer have the need. I guess this is what has happened with the two items you mentioned here. I agree, hand on the one you really have not use for and persevere with the other long enough to be satisfied that you will and can use it or really don’t need it and make your decision then. Set yourself a time limit though.