Clutter is the bane of most women’s existence. Except for those tidy few who are able to discard and distribute without guilt or inner angst, most of us struggle. I’ve been reading a lot about tidying and clearing clutter lately. Moving to another place to live is a huge incentive to clear out all that stuff we’ve been meaning to go through for years or decades.


Physically and pragmatically, clutter becomes a problem because we run out of room to put our stuff.  When we start thinking about building a second garage, renting an extra storage unit or building an addition onto our home, we know that our clutter has taken over and we have gone too far in letting it accumulate.  Psychologically, clutter can be really complicated. For some women, reluctance to let go of things has to do with powerful attachments to past people and experiences. Many of us keep reminders of both good and bad experiences that have shaped our lives and of people we have lost that we urgently wish to keep close to us.


We may also tend to accumulate a lot of stuff that is not sentimental: old paint, clothing, construction supplies, athletic equipment for sports we haven’t played in years, bundles of fabric for craft and quilting projects we always plan to do “someday”. And let’s not forget the duplicates and triplicates of everything from toothbrushes to cleaning supplies that we tend to buy over the over because we can no longer remember what we already have or are afraid of running out. Some of us even have a clutter of decluttering articles and books!


Clutter seems to become more annoying and bothersome as we age, perhaps because we keep accumulating more and more stuff. Books about how to declutter are readily available through bookstores, advice columns in magazines, classes and the internet. Today, our discussion will focus instead on the underlying psychological motivations and dynamics contributing to our own personal clutter problem, the meaning of clutter in our personal lives, and our motivations for clearing things out and finally letting go of parts of our past.

  • What are the emotional and psychological underpinnings for your own accumulation of clutter?
  • How has becoming older affected how you handle the accumulation of things? Has getting older changed your attitudes or behaviors with respect to clutter?
  • What are your personal barriers to letting go of sentimental things?
  • What does it mean to you to let go? Do you think letting go is important? How do you decide what to let go of and what to keep?
  • How do your thoughts about your children and grandchildren influence your thoughts about keeping things, letting go of things and passing things on?
  • Have you been able to discard or give away some of the things left to you by your parents and grandparents? If so, how do you feel about having done so?