Your Decluttering Mantra: It’s Just Stuff

The act of purging (or just assessing) your clutter may spark intense guilt or regret or sentimentality. That’s OK. But letting those emotions stop you from getting rid of stuff — and simplifying your life — is not.

Labeled storage containers can dramatically cut down on the amount of time needed to find something, simplifying your life.
Labeled storage containers can dramatically cut down on the amount of time needed to find something, simplifying your life.

People with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) get sentimental about lots of things, especially the stuff we have been given. We tend to cling to things more than neurotypical people do. Guilt over giving away stuff given to us by people we love makes it very difficult to get rid of stuff and de-clutter our rooms and closets.

Here are some common excuses for holding on to stuff, and some even better reasons for getting rid of it.

“I feel so guilty about getting rid of a present.” That was Jan’s reason for keeping many of the items in her kitchen, which were stored in unopened boxes and cabinets. I told her that gifts are symbols of the love we accept from family and friends, and that re-gifting them is a way to keep that love flowing. Jan glanced at an ugly black vase and said, “I guess you’re right. This could keep the love flowing for a long time. It was made for re-gifting.” Once Jan gave away the first gift, the rest was easier to part with.

[Free Download: 22 Clutter-Busting Strategies for Adults with ADHD]

“I will eventually make something out of these things.” That was Matt’s reason for holding on to most of the clutter in his garage, which had become a warehouse for junk. To Matt, who liked to tinker on weekends, the items were treasures. A compromise had to be made. To keep it simple, Matt looked around and chose items he would use in a refurbishing project he knew he had time for. He said goodbye to the things he would never work on.

“I can’t bear to part with this. It is too special.” This is the way Tara responded to 90 percent of the clutter in her bedroom. I knew that it was time to have a discussion about sentimentality versus over-sentimentality. We talked about taking photos of her most prized possessions and putting them in a digital photo frame. Her memorabilia is now preserved in an awesome slideshow displayed on a clutter-free dresser.

“Maybe this is valuable?” asked Tim as he walked through a room full of things he’d inherited. We solved that problem by Googling the items. We discovered that old magazines, baseball cards, and childhood toys rarely fetched a lot, unless they were in pristine condition. We also found an auction house that did free appraisals, in the hopes that Tim would sell some of the items. And he did.

[The Ultimate Room-by-Room Organization Guide]