Guilty or Not Guilty? Emotional Guilt

Last week we discussed the financial guilt surrounding clutter and disorganization. Now let’s discuss Emotional Guilt and how we attach it to things in our space. 

While there can be several reasons we attach emotional guilt to items as professional organizers, we have determined to two (2) most likely reasons for emotional guilt are;

  1. The item was a gift
  2. The item was inherited


“The gift is in the giving.” This quote is one Kelly likes to use when talking to clients about the guilt associated with not wanting to keep something they were given as a gift.  What she means is; When someone gives you the gift, the sentiment is not in the item itself, it’s in the act of giving the gift. Your appreciation for the gift is your only “commitment” to the giver and the gift itself. Regardless of who gave you the gift or why they gave it to you, the gift has no best before date or expiration date. You, as the receiver, make the decisions on where the gift goes or does not go, how it is used or not used and how long or not long to keep it. 

Inherited Items

When it comes to items you inherit, you need to ask yourself “why did I inherit this item?” Did you want it? Or did someone else decide you wanted it? Do I have a space/use for it? Or am I having to pay for space to store it – either in actual dollars i.e. a storage unit or in it taking up valuable space in your own home? Is it an item that you have fond memories of, or is it someone else’s memories?  If you truly want the item and it makes a positive difference in your life knowing you have it, then it needs to find a home and be used.  To do so, it may need to replace something else in your space and you are comfortable making that choice.  Otherwise, there is emotional guilt attached to the item and is a source of negativity. We have to remind ourselves that many items passed down from generation to generation was not out of legacy, it was out of convenience and cost savings.  Historically, if items were still good and in working order, then it only made sense to pass it along.  Your Great-Great-Grandma never expected her dresser to still be around in 100yrs.  It’s great that it is, and if it can still be used, then find someone to use it.  It serves no valuable purpose if it is stashed in a storage unit or basement.  

To be able to tackle emotional guilt attached to stuff, you need to give yourself permission to surround yourself with items that ignite positivity and happiness. You need to be thankful that others had you in their thoughts and wanted to give you gifts, but they never wanted those gifts to bring undo stress.  

As professional organizers we have come up with some great ideas on preserving memories without having to keep the items.  Feel free to reach out and ask for help.

Next week we will discuss Environmental Guilt.

About Pauline

Pauline Hoffman, CPO® founded Just In Time Solutions in November of 2001. Her clients feel comfortable and at ease as they make important, and sometimes daunting decisions about their space and belongings. Clients often comment how much easier their lives have become, which allows them to maintain a more independent lifestyle, regardless of age and/or ability.

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