Overcoming Decluttering Guilt


Guilt is a complicated emotion that can be a big obstacle when decluttering.  It causes us to keep gifts we don’t like and items we paid good money for but don’t use.  If you’re tired of letting guilt make the decisions, read on to find out how to change your perspective, leave the guilt behind and reclaim your space!



Raise your hand if you’re keeping something you don’t like because it was a gift and you feel guilty letting it go?  I get it; you don’t want to hurt the gift giver’s feelings or appear ungrateful.  But before you keep another gift just to be polite, think about what gift-giving is really about.

Gifts Are Meant To Bring Joy



Gifts are meant to bring joy, make you feel good, or help you.  They’re supposed to create a positive feeling and association between you and the gift giver.

If you’ve received something that doesn’t do these things, or worse, causes you stress to keep and creates a negative association, it’s unlikely the giver would want you to keep it.  It’s the exact opposite of what a gift is supposed to do.

And let’s not forget once a gift is given, it’s yours to do what you want with.  A true gift has no strings or expectations attached to it.  If it does, it isn’t really a gift, it’s an obligation.

Gratitude Doesn’t Require Keeping a Gift Forever


I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t show appreciation for a gift.  You should always be grateful for a gift, however misguided it was.  But showing appreciation and gratitude for the time and thought that went into picking out a gift, doesn’t require keeping it forever, or for any amount of time.

The two are not the same.  You can genuinely appreciate the thought behind a gift and convey it, without keeping the gift.  Your feelings matter too and you haven’t done anything “wrong” by not liking an item someone gave you.

Someone Else Can Enjoy the Gift


It’s also helpful to remember just because you don’t like or use something, doesn’t mean no one will.  By donating unwanted, but perfectly useable gifts, they’ll hopefully find their way to someone who will use and appreciate them.

People Don’t Remember What They Gifted




If you’re still worried, remember most people don’t come to your house and search for items they gifted you.  They’re far too busy with what’s happening in their own lives to think about what you did with their gift.  Especially after the passage of time, most don’t even remember what they’ve gifted.

How often do you go to someone’s house and scan for gifts you’ve given?  Have you ever been to someone’s house and only remembered a gift you gave because they reminded you by using it or bringing it up?  If they hadn’t, you probably never would have thought about it, right?  It’s the same for most people: out of sight, out of mind!

Let It Go!

Remember, you’ve done nothing wrong by not liking an item someone picked out for you.  Change your perspective and focus on what gift-giving is really about then let go of the guilt and the gift.



Years ago, I kept a pair of heels for 2 years that were uncomfortable and squeaked when I walked (yes, squeaked!).  I did this because they were expensive and I convinced myself that although I wasn’t actually wearing them, I could and therefore they weren’t a bad purchase.

After trying them on for the 100th time to see if they magically became comfortable and silent (spoiler alert, they didn’t), I finally realized keeping the shoes wasn’t bringing my money back.

My money was gone and had been gone since the day I spent it 2 years ago.  There was zero financial benefit to keeping the shoes in my closet and letting them go wasn’t going to cost me any more money.

With this new perspective, I let them go and it felt great!  I got back valuable closet space, which was nice.  But the best part was no longer having to see them and be reminded of the terrible purchase.

The Money Is Gone


If guilt over the money you spent on something is the only reason you’re keeping it, let it go.   The money is gone.  Keeping the item in a closet, basement or cupboard won’t bring the money back and letting it go won’t cost you a penny more.  What it will do, is free valuable physical space and free you from having a constant reminder of a bad purchase.


In fact, letting it go could actually make you some money.  If the item is in good, useable condition, you can sell it on sites like Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace.  As was the case with gifts, just because you don’t like or use it, doesn’t mean someone else won’t!

Learn The Lesson And Let It Go

You can’t go back in time.  But you can learn from the purchase and make better decisions going forward.  Accept the money is gone, let go of the guilt and then let go of the item.





A change in perspective is all it takes to overcome the guilt surrounding decluttering gifts you don’t like and items you paid for but don’t use.  Let go of the guilt, let go of the items and reclaim your space!

For more from my Decluttering Deep Dive Series, click here for 10 Tips to Make Decluttering Faster & Easier and here For How to Declutter When You Feel Overwhelmed. And check back in two weeks when I’ll be tackling how to declutter the infamous “I might need it someday” items.  If you liked this post, please share it!

Happy organizing!