What To Do When Decluttering Really Hurts

Why is decluttering so hard? Sometimes it’s surprisingly difficult to get rid of the things that clutter our homes and our lives—here’s how to finally let go.

I recently went through all of my scrapbooking supplies in an effort to clean up my office before school starts. My two big goals yesterday were to clean out my closet (easy), and declutter all the scrapbooking stuff I have amassed over the years.

I haven’t scrapbooked in about five years, so it should have been pretty easy to get rid of it all, right?


It was excruciating. And I really couldn’t figure out why.

Sometimes decluttering really hurts, but it still needs to be done. How I finally let go of my scrapbooking supplies when I had let go of the hobby years before. #overstuffedlife

I used to be an avid scrapbooker. 

I tried to do at least one page a day, I had a budget for scrapbooking supplies, and I was constantly thinking up cute ideas for layouts. I posted daily on a scrapbooking message board and was even published several times in scrapbooking magazines like Creating Keepsakes, Simple Scrapbooks, and Memory Makers.

I loved it.

Scrapbooking layout: Jumprope

It was the perfect creative outlet for me at that point in my life.

I was a SAHM to two little girls, I wasn’t teaching very many voice lessons (maybe 2 or 3 a week), and my husband was gone all the time working on his doctoral degree.

I scrapbooked alone and with friends and pretty quickly amassed 20+ large albums full of pages about my marriage, my children, our vacations, and our life.

Scrapbooking Layout: Separation Anxiety

But that life has a funny way of moving on, and things fall in and out of it all the time.

Sometimes it surprises me that I have completely given up scrapbooking, but other things began to fill up my life and it was slowly edged out.

When my husband graduated with his doctorate, we moved to another state and I started to teach voice lessons at the university there. My youngest was still a newborn, and my other kids were getting older and busier. I still scrapped as much as I possibly could, but it began to be less and less.

Scrapbooking Layout: I Love You A Lot!

And then we moved here six years ago. (SIX!?!)

Many of my friends here meet together on a weekly basis to scrapbook, and I joined them for about a year. But those were pretty much the last scrapbooking layouts I ever did, because my job teaching at the university here became bigger and bigger until I averaged 18-20 students each semester.

And my girls continued to grow and are busier now than ever—and that means that I am busier now than ever.

Which brings me back to the night in my office where I was surrounded by all of my scrapbooking supplies. Boxes and baskets and bins full of cute little stickers and embellishments and patterned paper.

I couldn’t bear to go through it all, and I really couldn’t bear to get rid of any of it.

I was falling into the trap of Why Clutter Happens.

I was being overly sentimental about a hobby that I had truly loved but simply don’t have time for anymore.

I was lamenting the fact that I had invested a lot of money into scrapbooking and giving away hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars worth of supplies made me a little sick.

Most of all, though, I was thinking about how many photographs are left un-scrapped. I was thinking about how much I would like to get them in albums, and that when I finally get around to doing it I would need all of my stuff to be available.

Decluttering can be such a joyous and freeing experience, especially when you really got all the use you could out of an item. “These shoes brought me joy, I wore them often, but now it’s time to let them go because they are worn out.” That’s the kind of decluttering I like to do.

But sometimes decluttering hurts a little bit.

For me, it hurts to know I spent money on something that I didn’t end up using or needing. I guess it just forces me to face my mistakes, and I don’t really like that. I also don’t really like the feeling of wasting money.

This scrapbooking thing was different though. It hurt a LOT.

It hurt in a different way because I was giving up something that I really and truly loved. Scrapbooking honestly did “spark joy” in my life (to quote the popular decluttering book of the day). I sort of felt like I was giving away my child or something.

So what do you do in this situation?

Well, what I did was whine about it on Facebook.

Lucky for me, a very wise friend commented.

She told me to weigh my priorities.

Because in order for me to find time to scrapbook again, I would have to give something else up.

  • Would I give up date night with my husband. No.
  • Would I give up family time? Nope.
  • Would I give up my job? No.
  • Would I give up blogging? No way.
  • Would I give up sleep? Maybe, but not the best idea in the world, and it would also mean giving up my health. So, no.

I already knew that scrapbooking wasn’t a big enough priority in my life for me to keep all the stuff, but this exercise solidified that for me. I texted another friend who is very crafty to see if she wanted everything I was getting rid of. I guess since it feels like I’m giving up a child that I also want to be sure it goes to a good home!

Once you know what your priorities are, it’s easier to get rid of those things that don’t make the cut.

I then followed the general advice for decluttering: Keep, Trash, and Donate.

When decluttering, use the simple system of Keep, Donate, and Trash. #overstuffedlife

I still have a few more things to go through, but so far I have filled two bags for my friend.

I have also filled a garbage bag full—mostly of paper scraps that I was saving to use for another project. And I’ve filled a bin of things that I’m not quite ready to give up. I still use my scrapbooking supplies here and there for other projects the kids and I do, and when (okay, IF) I get back to scrapping on a regular basis, I will still have some supplies.

But it will be a reasonable amount. No more than I can fit in this one bin, which will go to the basement for now so it isn’t cluttering up my office. That bin will represent only about 1/4 of what I currently have, so I think that I can consider that reasonable.

It hurt, but in the end I feel so much more free! I’m really excited to finally be able to utilize my office space for the things that are taking priority in my life right now and not give it all up for something that I only “used to do.”

If decluttering one or two parts of your life is hurting you the way getting rid of my scrapbook stuff hurt me, then try asking yourself the same question.

“Would you give up another part of your life in order to keep and use this stuff?”

See what happens when you answer, and see if giving it up is in your best interest.

A simple question to ask yourself when you find it difficult to let go of the items that are cluttering your life. Declutter once and for all!

If there are too many parts of your life that hurt to declutter, then you might need extra help. Check out The Organized Home course by Hilary from Pulling Curls. It is created especially for people who struggle with knowing where to start organizing and decluttering, and for people who have a tough time giving things up.

This is the perfect course for you if:

  • You always need hours of notice before having guests because you’re embarrassed about the state of your home.
  • You’re always worried you misplaced an important document or won’t be able to find things when you need them.
  • You’ve ever wondered why can’t YOU enjoy peaceful time on the couch or enjoying your family instead of always stressing out about the state of your home?

If you need someone to TEACH you how to address clutter and get organized, Hilary is your girl.

What is taking space in your life that might hurt to declutter? Would you give up something else so you can keep it in your life?

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