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Why Is Decluttering So Hard? 5 Reasons + Solutions

Are you wondering, “why is decluttering so hard?” If yes, you are not alone. Find out why, and discover tips to help you overcome the challenges.

Scroll through most social media platforms on any given day, and you will likely come across stunning visuals of superbly decluttered homes. While these posts are intended to inspire, they can leave you wondering why decluttering is so hard.

Decluttering is not always the easy, happy, therapeutic practice we think it will be. Still, there are ways to overcome the challenges along the way. 

Decluttering is hard because we are forced to alter our lifestyle, habits, and behaviors through it. Decluttering forces us to take stock of our belongings and make decisions about every item while maintaining the mental image and hope for our ideal home. It is difficult to purge sentimental items. 

A Woman carrying a plastic bin filled with stuff in a garage and text overlay that reads, "Why is decluttering so hard?"

If you know that your house needs to be decluttered, but the task seems too hard to tackle, you are not alone. There are so many challenges when it comes to decluttering, and knowing why decluttering is so hard is the first step in overcoming them.

Read on to learn the most common challenges people face when decluttering.

Why is It Hard to Declutter?

Decluttering is hard for so many reasons. It is a demanding project to tackle on mental, physical, and psychological levels. We have selected some of the most common struggles when attempting to declutter homes. 

We believe wholeheartedly in the notion that knowledge is power. When you know why decluttering is hard, you will be more likely to understand how to overcome the challenges you face on your own journey. 

Let’s look at a few reasons why decluttering is hard and possible ways to overcome them. 

This Declutter Planner has helped me achieve my decluttering goals in a fun and easy way.

#1. You Feel Like Decluttering is a Punishment

If you dread decluttering, you may feel like it’s a punishment instead of a blessing. This way of thinking likely comes from the fact that you will need to give up some or many of your belongings.

While giving up some of the things you love can be sad, it is best to view an opportunity to declutter as a blessing instead of a punishment. 

  • You have been blessed with an abundance of belongings.
  • You have been blessed with resources to teach you how to declutter.
  • You are blessed with time to declutter.
  • You are blessed with the opportunity to give some of your excesses to others in need.
  • You are blessed with the opportunity to create a home that is cleaner, calmer, and easier to use. 

#2. You are in a Freeze Response

Realizing that your home needs to be decluttered can be a stressful event. It can make you feel overwhelmed and can even cause you to go into a freeze response

The freeze response is in the same category as fight and flight. It can be triggered when you experience a stressful event that your brain understands as a threat. 

If you find that you cannot start decluttering and feel completely stuck, you might be in a freeze response. In that case, the best thing you can do is give yourself a few hours or days to “unfreeze.” 

Take your mind off the decluttering project until you feel better, and then arm yourself with the resources you need to tackle the clutter in small bits. Be kind to yourself and try to focus on the good you are doing instead of the seemingly mountainous task before you. 

#3. You Don’t Have a “WHY”

I once did a short course in adult education, and one of the most significant takeaways for me was the fact that human beings need to know “why.” Just like students need to know why they are learning certain concepts, your brain needs to understand why you are decluttering your home.

Once you have a clear reason for decluttering, it will become your beacon of light, guiding you through the rough patches when you don’t feel like doing the act of decluttering. 

Decluttering is a lot like exercising, in a way. If you have your goal in mind, your daily grind becomes that much more bearable. 

Your “why” for decluttering could be as simple as any of the following.  

I am decluttering because:

  • I need more space at home to enjoy playing with the kids.
  • I want less stuff to move when cleaning.
  • I prefer a calmer space to come home to. 
  • I want a home where I know where everything is, and I know what I have.

#4. You Don’t Know How or Where to Start

This is a significant challenge for thousands of people who want to declutter. You can see the clutter. You acknowledge that it is an issue, but you have no idea where to begin. 

To quote Maria from The Sound of Music, “Let’s start at the very beginning.” You do NOT have to tackle decluttering your entire home in one go. The thought of that would send anyone running for the hills.

Choose one room or one section of one room in which to begin. Prepare containers for your trash stash, donation pile, selling pile, and what you keep. Then empty that section or the entire room if you feel so inclined. Examine every item and decide where it goes: the trash, donation, sale, or to keep pile.   

It is only when you have chosen your first room and the area of that room that you can map out your consecutive steps. Take one step at a time and celebrate every goal you reach. 

#5. You Have an Emotional Attachment to Your Belongings

Most of us have an emotional attachment to at least some of our belongings. You may have inherited items from loved ones, received things as gifts, brought souvenirs back from wonderful vacations, or the belongings could remind you of specific times and great memories. 

If you are an exceptionally sentimental person, you may feel one or more of these emotional attachments to your belongings, and that could make decluttering challenging for you. 

Inherited Items

Inherited items hold emotional significance because they are a lasting connection with the deceased person. If you have inherited things you don’t love or use, it may be challenging to let them go because you may feel that the connection may be severed. 

This exact thing happened to me. I inherited a lot of things when my mom passed. We shared her household items between my brothers, sisters, and myself, and I suddenly found myself attached to objects I had never even liked before. 

Over the months that passed, it became evident that I didn’t have room for all the objects I had inherited. I also didn’t have a use for them. I was faced with an emotional challenge. My decisions, laced with my continued grief, had to come down to logic. 

Ultimately, I kept what I truly loved, what I had room for in my home, and what was useful. The pain that I felt letting go of my mother’s belongings was eased, knowing that I was donating her things to people who would genuinely appreciate and use them. 


When you receive gifts you don’t use, you may feel guilty getting rid of them since you still appreciate the sentiment and the person who gifted them to you.

It is best to hold on to your close bond with the person. Know that they would not want you living in an unhealthy home or one that is making you unhappy. 


Souvenirs can be tricky to declutter. They remind us of such beautiful times spent with loved ones or having adventures.

If you are genuinely dedicated to getting rid of yours, one way to remember them is to take photos of them and keep a collage in a dedicated frame or album. That way, you can still look at them and remember the good times and the souvenirs you brought back without having the clutter in your home. 

Items from times gone by could be anything from clothing and shoes to ticket stubs or concert bracelets. Decluttering these kinds of items can be extra hard because they are usually tied up with an identity we felt proud of, or that was formative for us. 

For me, it is my Whitney Houston T-shirt. No matter how much I declutter, that T-shirt always finds its way back into my memory box. The attachment for me is to my late teens and early adult years when I was coming into my own and deciding who I was. 

If you have one or two items that you simply cannot let go of, keep them in a particular place and honor the memory in a kind and loving way. Remember that your entire house is being decluttered, but you are a human being and are allowed to hold on to a comfort item or two.

Final Thoughts on Why Decluttering Is Hard

Decluttering is hard. It is physically demanding and is also an emotionally and psychologically charged activity that takes a long time. It requires your full attention, dedication, and willingness to part with sometimes special items.

If you keep your end goal in mind and remember how blessed you will be when you live in a clutter-free environment, decluttering will be much easier and may even become something you enjoy. 

You may want to get this printable decluttering planner to help you make a plan, start decluttering and stay organized.

Related Decluttering Articles:

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