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Are You “Dueling” with Clutter? How to Win the Battle and Get Your Life Back

By Rita Wilkins February 15, 2020 Lifestyle

Are you fighting a never-ending battle with clutter? If you think you are alone, you’re not!

According to the National Association of Professional Organizers:

  • 54% of Americans are overwhelmed by clutter.
  • 55% say clutter is a huge source of stress.
  • 33% hold onto things they no longer want, need, or use.

Americans are “dueling” with too much stuff, and they know that it is impacting their health, wealth, and relationships. It is costing them time, money, energy – and focus.

The Pain of Living Cluttered Lives

The other day, I received a call from a new client, who was responding to an article I had written, “Breaking Up with Your Stuff Is Hard to Do.”

She said, “I really need your help. I can’t seem to get rid of all of the clutter in my home. It is everywhere and it is literally making me sick! I’m overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.” She continued, “No matter how many new storage containers and organizers I buy, my problem just seems to get worse.”

STOP! Buying more pretty baskets, storage containers or organizing bins is like putting a band-aid on a gaping wound.

Americans are drowning in their stuff, and we are making desperate attempts (like buying more files, shelves, and plastic bins) to try to take back control of our lives. Our overabundance of “stuff” is making us miserable, causing stress, anxiety, frustration, overwhelm, and embarrassment.

The impact that it has on the quality of our lives is great. Our cluttered lives prevent us from living a simpler life with less, so we have more time, money, freedom, and energy to pursue what matters most to us.

In my TEDx Talk, “Downsize Your Life: Why Less is More,” I confess to once owning 11 closets and 9 rolling racks of clothes. My ultimate realization during my downsizing and decluttering journey was that buying more “stuff” didn’t make me happier.

In fact, the more I bought, the emptier and less fulfilled I became. Once I disrupted the downward spiral of thinking I needed more, and once I changed my relationship to “stuff,” I won the battle! Stuff no longer owned or consumed my life. I got my life back and never looked back!

Many people complain that they do not have enough room for all their stuff, while at the same time saying they know they need to get rid of stuff they no longer want, need, or use. They are afraid to let go, and yet, they continue to accumulate and add more.

Is There a Clutter Crisis in America?

Americans are drowning in “stuff,” yet we continue to buy more. Let me offer a few scary clutter statistics:

  • 300,000 – this is the average number of items in the American home (UCLA study video “A Cluttered Life: Middle-Class Abundance).
  • 11% of Americans will rent a storage unit in 2020 at a cost of $1,095 per year (Bloomberg).
  • $38 billion that’s how much the storage industry was worth in 2018 with more than 50,000 facilities in the U.S. (Bloomberg).

Is It Time to Let Go of Your Stuff and Get Your Life Back?

Every day, people ask me to help them solve their own clutter crisis. But, before dealing with the physical clutter, it’s even more important to honestly address these difficult and confronting questions:

WHY Do You Want to Declutter?

  • What is the impact clutter is having on the quality of your life and on your happiness?
  • WHAT is it costing you in time, money, energy, and freedom?
  • HOW is it impacting your relationships?

WHY Do You Buy and Accumulate More Than You Need? Does It…

  • Make you feel more secure?
  • Make you feel happier and less lonely after loss or divorce?
  • Make you feel more important, more successful?
  • Make you feel like you can measure up to others?

WHY Do You Have Difficulty Letting Go of Stuff?

We often attach meaning to our stuff and are afraid, resist, or procrastinate in letting go.

  • Sentiment – Our “stuff” can be reminders or memories of special people, places, or times in our lives.
  • Security – Feeling safe and secure is a basic human need. Does owning an excessive amount of physical possessions make us feel safer and more secure?
  • Scarcity – Fear of not having enough or being without can have us hold on tight. The idea that we spent “good money” on something and would be wasting it if we got rid of it is also a reason we don’t want to let go.
  • Someday – Resisting or procrastinating in letting go… just in case you might need it someday!

10-Step Plan to Win the Battle with Clutter

Here is a handy 10-step plan that can help you win your space for yourself and effectively get rid of clutter.


Create a vision for what your life will look like without clutter. Then, focus on what matters most in your life.

Willingness to Do What It Takes

Commit to making changes – getting rid of clutter and not allowing it back into your home and your life.

Stop Buying More

Develop the mindset of having enough and being enough. You don’t really need more.

Create a Plan

Strategize. Set Goals. Create a Timeline. Track progress. Have accountability partners.

Ask for Help

If you think you need help, ask for it. From family, friends, professionals who are not emotionally attached to your stuff.

Schedule Decluttering

Pick a favorite decluttering method and a schedule that works for you and stick to it. Start small or start big. Just start today!

Develop Your “Letting Go” Muscle

If you don’t want it, need it, or use it, let it go. Sell it, donate it, repurpose it.

Have Fun

Make decluttering a game. Laugh at yourself and why you accumulated so much in the first place.

Be Resilient

You will get stuck, you will want to quit, you will question why you are doing this. Recall your reasons for wanting to live with less. This will serve as a reminder and motivate you to continue on your journey.

Remember, This Is a Journey

Along the way, you might actually realize how much less you need, but even better, how much less you want.

Decluttering is a process that takes time, effort, and commitment. It takes real courage to “duel” with your clutter. But, I assure you, it is a fight worth winning!

What decluttering challenges are you having? How long do you think it would take you to get rid of the stuff you don’t need? I would love to hear from you so let’s have a conversation!

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The Author

Rita Wilkins, known as The Downsizing Designer, is a nationally recognized interior design and lifestyle design expert, Tedx speaker and author of Downsize Your Life, Upgrade Your Lifestyle: Secrets to More Time, Money and Freedom. She challenges baby boomer audiences to reimagine, reinvent, redesign their lives to live abundantly with less. Learn more at

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