Decluttering: How to help your loved one ‘let go’ of treasured items

If you’re downsizing, decluttering, redecorating or just ready to embrace minimalism, you’ll be unearthing items and ‘stuff’ that just has to go.

And while you, dear reader, might be able to shrug it off and donate your things, you may well have a partner or family member filled with horror at the idea of decluttering and ‘losing’ a little part of them.

So use this guide – written with plenty of personal experience, we have to admit – to help you help your loved one ‘let go’ of treasured items, sensitively.

A tidy and clutter-free kitchen [Decluttering: How to help your loved one 'let go' of items - blog]
Aaahhh – zen-like tranquillity awaits!

#1 – Help them construct a ‘decluttering management plan’

Someone with lots and lots of old, unused items can often feel overwhelmed when they think about how to get rid of things, or where to put them.

This might lead to panic or fear, which only encourages them to ‘hold on’ even tighter to their treasured things.

So, be kind, be gentle, and don’t lose your patience. Regardless of why your loved one feels compelled to hold on to things, you’ll need to summon all your compassion and consider them as someone who really needs your help in this moment.

A management plan or strategy could start with listing categories – i.e. clothes, books, electronics – and discussing where these things could live permanently.

Top tip

Avoid being too quick to consign items to certain areas – your loved one might need a little time to adjust to the thought of putting items in storage or giving them away.

Clutter and mess in someone's garage
Yikes – recognise this sort of clutter?

#2 – Tackle one thing at a time & make it a project

Those of us who like to hoard items will usually have a broad range of ‘stuff’, from different eras, previous owners, and of varying sentimental values.

Notice which items your partner is more neutral about – perhaps an old shoe collection or unused vinyl? – and suggest that you only focus on this collection for the time being.

Your loved one can get used to the idea of losing items, and that it isn’t the end of the world, with a smaller, more insignificant pile.

Top tip

Don’t overwhelm them. Focus on one project at a time, and celebrate the success once it’s done.

Calm and pretty bedroom in neutral shades - decluttering blog
Calm, peaceful – an oasis of serenity

#3 – Everything in its place & a place for everything

This old proverb is absolutely crucial when organising or decluttering! Having cluttered, closed boxes of lovely things in the hallway or scattered around the house means that no one gets to enjoy them.

Particularly if you’re downsizing, finding a place for everything (and keeping it there) is essential. This could mean some clever new storage within the house if your loved one isn’t ready to let everything go.

Top tip

Use Pinterest (why not start with our boards? 😏) to get inspiration on how to store stuff at home neatly & cleverly.

Hidden storage hacks Storage furniture

Couple having fun in packing boxes [Decluttering: How to help your loved one 'let go' of items - blog]
“When I said ‘let go of what you love’, I didn’t mean me…”

#4 – Choose the ‘must keeps’ VS everything else

Ultimately, the reason your loved one is still holding on to items is because everything feels like a ‘must keep’. Items might have deep sentimental value, or be a family heirloom. Alternatively, your loved one might have convinced themselves they’ll ‘use it one day’, or ‘do something with it’.

You can tackle this by avoiding the ‘b-word (bin it!) and putting items into categories of ‘keep at home’ or ‘put in storage’. Then every item is still kept, but in a more manageable place.

Top tip

After 6-12 months, point out how you’ve not needed or used the items you put away, and suggest that it’s time to donate them.

Woman putting bags of donations in car boot [Decluttering: How to help your loved one 'let go' of items - blog]
Your good deed for the month!

#5 – Find a charity for donations & avoid online selling

If your partner or family member has lots of things like books, clothes or other not-so-sentimental items, encourage them to find a charity they’d genuinely love to help. Realistically, we can’t put everything into storage, and as Frank Sinatra once sang, ‘Something’s gotta give’!

Find a charity that would appreciate your things, or plan a yard sale and donate the takings to a charity instead.

Our current nominated charity, Cerebral Palsy Cymru, does incredible work with children dealing with cerebral palsy.

And while they can’t accept donations for their shops right now, they’re asking for people to save up their donations for when they can accept them.

Top tip

Don’t be tempted to try online selling, especially for items under £20-50 – visiting the Post Office to send an item you’ve sold for £3 isn’t worth your time!

Entrance to blue self storage Llanishen facility
Welcome to blue self storage!

#6 – Don’t be afraid of storage when decluttering

You might think, “We’ve only moved it somewhere else!” – but for your loved one, it’s a step forward in removing the stuff from their immediate vicinity, and getting used to the idea of separation without the scary ‘forever’ part.

Having that physical barrier offers some safe adjustment if they’re particularly attached to the items.

Top tip

Wrap & protect the more delicate items before putting them into storage. This could help the act of storing feel less ‘harsh’ or finite.

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Clean and tidy living room in flat - decluttering blog
No mess allowed, this is your Zen Zone…

#7 – Keep one room in your home as tidy as possible

Now, this feels a big ask, especially if you’re in the process of moving home or downsizing – and it’s going to feel like whack-a-mole when you tidy a room and another goes to pot.

But even if you can keep one room a no-clutter-allowed zone, you’ll keep your sanity in check. Make firm rules for what can’t enter the room; no stuff for storage, no boxes, and no bags.

Top tip

Starting with clutter already in there? Use our ‘clearing out your house in lockdown’ guide for extra helpful decluttering tips ↓

decluttering - a tidy terraced house living room
No clutter, just a stylish interior

Wrapping it up

While the compulsion to keep, store & cherish our treasured items is perfectly common, for the rest of us, carefully teetering over piles of boxes and unused gadgets to get to the kitchen is no way to live.

Perhaps your partner has stacks of family heirlooms they can’t get rid of, or maybe your sister has an art collection that’s taking over the house – either way, you can help them conquer the clutter.

The key thing to remember is to be gentle and don’t judge. Your loved one needs you – time to get decluttering!

While this guide is not necessarily for people with ‘hoarding disorder’, it’s important to note that hoarding disorder is a serious condition that may require therapy or further help from a GP.

If you’re worried that someone you love might be a hoarder, visit for information & how to seek help.

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