Most would agree that we have too many things.  That our homes are filled with stuff which is not used or needed or loved. clutter trigger But how does this happen?  And why does it feel difficult to declutter excess items?  Let’s explore 3 common reasons, or  what we call a clutter trigger, as to why we accumulate too much.  Knowing how we got here will make the decluttering process much easier to tackle.  And equally important, we’ll gain clarity on how to keep our homes streamlined.

Clutter trigger #1: Family legacy

Sentimental value is one of the hardest clutter triggers to face!  We see folks hanging on to all sorts of things because they were handed down from a beloved family member.  Think Grandma’s handmade quilts or Aunt Millie’s costume jewelry collection.  Others were raised to maintain a certain type of household which included a good set of silver, damask tablecloths or Waterford crystal.  Don’t misunderstand: we believe in honoring our  loved ones!  But when things are collecting dust in a closet or drawer…when their taste is not our taste…when our lifestyle does not embrace those items…shouldn’t it be time to let them go?

Releasing family “things” does not mean rejecting our heritage!  There are several ways we can be true to our roots yet avoid filling our homes with items we don’t need, use or love.  By all means, pick a couple items that speak to you and display them, whether in a photo montage, or on an end table.  However, if the item in question truly doesn’t fit in with your style….if you’d rather set it back in the closet or’re likely keeping it solely because of your love for your family member.  Recognize that your relative and the item are not one and the same!  Release the item to someone who will appreciate and use it.

Clutter trigger #2: Room for one more

Let’s face it: when we have room to stow something away, we do it!  Americans revel in more housing square footage than almost any other nation.  We have more rooms with dedicated purposes.  Consider the dining room….the study…the guest room.  Fortunately, home builders are gradually moving towards including “flex rooms”, and “great rooms” are now in vogue.  But all this compartmentalism lends itself to acquiring and adding more and more stuff.  When the day comes that we are ready or need to downsize, it’s eye-opening how much we thought we “needed”, isn’t it?

And speaking of buying things, we may tell ourselves that the new item will replace an old one…but does the old one really make it out the door?  Sometimes we buy another thing to “stock up” or “just in case”.  Yet how hard would it be to wait and buy it only at the time we need it?  It seems we have a fear of being unprepared.  Or we are too busy to clear out the older items even though we find time to buy new ones?

Here’s a thought: consider taking time to reflect on the purchases you make.  Is it to replace or to add to what you already have?  Do you need it right now?  Do you enjoy the thrill of having something new?  This segues directly into clutter trigger #3!

Clutter trigger #3: Consumerism, baby!

Today’s consumer hardly stands a chance in the face of pervasive marketing at every turn.  Whether TV commercials/infomercials, billboard/magazine ads….it’s out there.  And now, nothing is as powerful as social media!  Facebook and Instagram and Twitter barrage us with recommendations to buy something which will make us more attractive, thinner, hipper, happier, you name it.  Every season, there is a new interpretation on what we should wear.  We have pre-holiday sales, holiday sales, post-holiday sales, clearance sales, and even “oops, our mistake…here’s a discount from us sale”!  It’s non-stop and it’s exhausting.  It’s also expensive!

But what if we turned off the noise? What if we unsubscribed from retail newsletters?  What if we stopped buying the latest version of X because the older version that we own is still perfectly fine?  Know that we are not advocating never buying something different.  Instead, we are suggesting that we purchase mindfully.  It’s our trademark mantra: “Do I need it?  Will I use it?  Do I love it?”  And let’s add to that, “Do I need it right now?” and “What else could I do with these funds?”  Thoughtful questions help guide thoughtful purchases!

Ready to declutter now?

Here’s a simple analogy: Just like with losing weight, it can seem obvious that we need to make a change.  But understanding the triggers which lead to overeating is critical.  Not only will it make the weight loss journey easier.  It will also help maintain our  better shape when those outside forces start calling our name again!  In the same way, understanding how we came to have too many things in our home will allow us to declutter in an easier and more thoughtful manner.  Additionally, we can maintain our newly streamlined space when we recognize what situations, or triggers, can be landmines in our own home!

One more tool: listen to this TED-ED talk which explores why we become so attached to our things:

What do you think?

As always, we welcome your thoughts and personal experience with clearing clutter!  Drop us a line in the comment section and thanks for stopping by!