Why having Clutter is Unhealthy and Not Smart

“I might need this one day.” Keeping the items we say this about seems like great logic. We’ll save money by not having to buy it later, right?

Clutter makes sense to us. That’s why we have it for so long.

But then we see all the money we’re spending to house that clutter. We finally realize all the time we spend working away from home so that our stuff has a roof over it. We start to find that we exert so much energy making money that by the time we get home, we’re too tired to plan a trip so we can use that camping gear or make that quilt.

We also might not need it again one day. Or even if we do, we might not be able to find it amongst the rest of the clutter.

Living Tiny, Dreaming Big

I don’t know about you, but I also thought clutter was good for me. I thought not having to deal with making decisions to get rid of stuff was allowing me the time to focus on what’s most important.

I had to change my thought process to constantly remind myself how clutter was holding me back. It really doesn’t make sense to keep things I no longer like and then spend time moving them from place to place.

Other Reasons Clutter is Unhealthy (and Not Smart)

  • It’s overwhelming!
  • It’s embarrassing.
  • It negatively affects those we love.

Unfortunately I’ve experienced all of those, sometimes without really caring how others felt about my clutter.

On the bright side, since spending a month decluttering my clothes, I have been surprised by new joy that comes from only wearing clothes that I really like (unless I’m wearing my work uniform). I thought it would keep me from doing stuff I enjoy outdoors like climbing trees and pulling weeds from the garden, but it doesn’t. This was all so unexpected that I plan to share more in the future about what an amazing experience it’s been.

This is the last in the series of posts inspired by the KonMari Method. If you missed the others, you can catch up here.

Decluttering with 3 Daughters in One Room

I love this new format for my podcast!

  • My clients share their favorite decluttering quote.
  • I answer their decluttering questions.
  • They share their best decluttering tip that they actually use.

So fun! I’d love to hear what you think. This one isn’t even on iTunes yet, but I can’t wait for my next call!

P.S. I was just informed that her family did not have 40 blankets! She had 27 and got them down to 22 a couple of days later. 🙂


If you want The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, you can grab a copy here.

The Problem with Hand-Me-Downs

My mom is the youngest of seven, and I’m the fourth out of five.

It wasn’t until I read Marie Kondo’s book that I realized the impact these simple facts had on both of us.

Kondo points out that some of the most difficult things to get rid of are items from family and friends.

KonMari Method

Well, guess where a child in a large family gets most of her clothes?

Family and friends.

As younger siblings, we aren’t just getting hand-me-down clothes either. No, it also applies to furniture, toys, decorations, etc. It’s so easy to say yes to something free. Maybe we’ll decide it isn’t “just right” later, and we’ll get rid of it after we’ve tried it out. By that time, it’s difficult to give it up even if we never would’ve bought it for ourselves.

It was so refreshing to me when Kondo explained that this process keeps younger sisters from establishing their own style. I just thought I had lots of styles, which to a certain extent is true. But there are definitely clothes that I keep and wear just because they are comfortable or nice even though they are a pattern or shape I’m not fond of. I wear plenty of clothes that really don’t fit, but I say they’re good enough. Marie Kondo’s requirement that clothes “spark joy” has made it easier to get rid of what I don’t really like.

I used to avoid shopping for two reasons relating to the above:

  1. I felt bad spending money when I had free stuff I could use (even if I didn’t really like it). It never really crossed my mind that other people get new clothes when they gain or lose weight or when they get taller, and they don’t necessarily feel bad about it. It’s just something they have to do to meet a basic need because they don’t have anyone giving them clothes.
  2. I got overwhelmed by all the choices. I have a conglomeration of styles from siblings and friends, so I don’t know instantly by looking at an item whether I’d ever wear it or not. But by getting rid of clothes I don’t love, I am making decisions that help me identify what isn’t my style. For example, my mom frequently says that everyone needs a nice white shirt. I don’t like wearing them, though. Now I just don’t have any. If I need one for a certain event, I’ll simply buy or borrow one then. Now in a store, even if I see a super cute white shirt, I remind myself that I don’t wear them. It helps easily narrow down the options.

These days, when someone gives me a bag of clothes, I only keep about a fourth of them rather than the usual three-fourths.


How Life is Different Once You Fix the Problem

This process of decluttering my clothes also made me aware of (and has given me space for) items I don’t have but would love and use. Keeping a list of these things makes shopping so much more fun. It’s easier and guilt-free because if I don’t find what I’m looking for, I don’t get a bunch of stuff that’s just ok. I realize that I’ve done without the item for a long time and will do without it for longer, until I find what’s just right. I like to call it Goldilocks shopping.

Anyway, having hand-me-downs so often also kept me from realizing the value of buying some things new. I still buy lots of stuff used, and if I buy something new I try to get it on sale.

But for too long, I underestimated the value of having warranties and guarantees for some items. Or how beneficial it is to experience new ideas in a book along with others discovering it for the first time. (I mean, reading Harry Potter for the first time at this point has a lot less excitement and connection to other people than reading it the first day book six came out.)

For many people, all of this will seem so obvious, but I imagine there are others like me who didn’t realize how life-changing these things can be.

Instead of our default answer being to not buy stuff new, we can consider whether it will actually save time or money in the long run if we buy something new or if it will be worth it to experience it sooner rather than later.


Have you found that Kondo’s ideas about the younger sister are true about you? Have you done anything to change it? What have you learned from the process?



This is part two in a series of Thoughts Inspired by the KonMari Method. If you missed the first post about what you do when your family isn’t on board with decluttering, check it out here. To keep from missing upcoming posts, sign up for my newsletter. Next week’s post will be about how clutter is not smart but we trick ourselves into thinking it is.

Thoughts Inspired by the KonMari Method of Decluttering

What do you do when your family isn’t on board with getting rid of stuff?

I love how Marie Kondo shares that she feels bad about the times she used to take her brother or parents’ items and give them away because she thought they never used them.

I have lots of people tell me how difficult it is to live with someone else’s clutter. It gets in our way. We have enough clutter of our own to deal with.

In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Kondo explains that once we get rid of our own clutter, other people’s stuff bothers us less. We have our place of refuge if we want a clutter-free space. Or we have time to tidy common areas without grumbling that it’s taking away from what we need to be doing to fix our own rooms.

As a person with lots of clutter, I have to agree that I really don’t like being forced or even coerced into getting rid of my stuff. What works for me is being inspired to declutter. This occurs when I hear about other people who have done it, or when I see a clutter-free space and realize how nice it is.

The internet helped me a lot with this. I’ve been able to learn from so many people who were just like me not so long ago: people with debt, and possessions, and a crowded schedule. Now they make more money than before, live in a tiny house that isn’t cluttered, and are able to travel and work a job they love while still having more time for family and friends.

Knowing that it’s possible has helped me so much.

Another thing that helped me see it as possible is visiting houses with little clutter. I worked as a nanny in three different homes, some of them quite large compared to any my family or friends have. Still, they have three or four children each. I love the peace of just sitting in their living rooms, enjoying open space. The same is true for hotel rooms.

Once I finally admitted that I enjoy clutter-free spaces, I decided to make it a priority to have that in my own home. Instead of seeing pictures of homes on Pinterest and thinking they’re unrealistic, now I think it’s possible. Not that it would look perfect all the time, but that it wouldn’t take long to make it look the way I like it.

When I started decluttering a lot myself, I had a family member with lots of stuff begin decluttering, too! It was very unusual. However, don’t make that the expectation. Since then, her stuff has taken over much of the space that I decluttered, which has made it difficult to even get to the other stuff I want to get rid of. It’s really important to not let those instances keep you from continuing with your own stuff.
Remember, they are at a different point than you and haven’t learned what you have. Let them hear you say how much freedom you feel and how much easier it is than you expected. Maybe they’ll hear you mention to a friend that you no longer keep things you might need one day because you realize it’s fairly easy to get anything you need pretty quickly.

Many times, the goal of a clutter-free life is to have stress-free time with family. Don’t let the process of decluttering add a lot of stress to your relationships. For now, if you need to, just focus on your own stuff.

Family Declutter

I’d love to hear what helps you when someone you live with undoes the decluttering you spent weeks making a reality. Leave a comment sharing what you’ve found that works in inspiring family or roommates to declutter. And what doesn’t work.


This is part one of a series of posts inspired by The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up which I read in January/February. It really is life-changing! Check back in a week for the next post (about the dilemma of hand-me-downs), or subscribe to my newsletter so you don’t miss any of them.