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Why It's So Darn Hard to Let Go of "Past Self Clutter", as Explained by a Professional Organizer

Past Self Clutter is a category of stuff that is tied to an old version of you. Have you ever gone through a “phase” and outgrown it? Then you probably have Past Self Clutter! Its usual hiding spots are wardrobes, hobby closets, garages and storage units. Professional clothing that you wore two careers ago? That’s Past Self Clutter. Furniture that you used in a past home but doesn’t really match your current aesthetic? Same. Past Self Clutter. Tons of equipment from that period of your life when you got really into fly fishing but now that you think of it, you can’t remember the last time you organized a trip? Yup. You guessed it. It’s Past Self Clutter that is sitting dormant in your home and blocking you from fully being your Present Self.


The reason it’s so hard to let go of Past Self Clutter is embedded in the name! We base so much of our identity around our things. Often we rely on our belongings to help us to express who we are, highlight what we believe to be our best qualities, and reflect what we’re passionate about. Our possessions become an extension of us, and letting go of Past Self Clutter can feel like we are shutting out a part of ourselves. This struggle can feel particularly difficult if we see our past self as better than our current self. Have any of these scripts ever run through your head?

  • “I used to be able to fit in those jeans! I wish my body still looked like that!”

  • “I used to be so ambitious!”

  • “My youth was so exciting.”


When organizing your living space, it’s important to revisit the definition of clutter. I think of clutter as anything that does not support you in living as your best self. So, when dealing with items from the past, really pay attention to what feelings the items evoke. Are you feeling nostalgia (a wistful affection for the past) or are you feeling dissatisfaction with your current situation? If an object brings up feelings of happiness, then perhaps it is not Past Self Clutter or clutter at all and would be more appropriately categorized as a sentimental object. If the item makes you feel bad, this item is not serving you. If it makes you feel down on yourself and also is never ever ever used by your present-day self anymore, then this item is SUPER not serving you! Cue Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman because It is time to say goodbye! Holding onto an object from the past will not bring your current self any closer to this former glory. However, taking action in the now will: commit to meal planning and regular exercise; clarify what you're looking for in a job; find a coach or therapist or accountability partner. Do what you need to do to start moving forward, instead of staying attached to the past. Release the object, so that it may help someone else be their highest self.


Remember, human beings are not meant to remain static. Evolving is a good thing. You can close an old chapter of your life and still be grateful for it. You can cherish your life experiences without having to live among physical reminders of the past. You are not a fixed state, nor is your clutter.


©2021 BY MONICA LIN | PROFESSIONAL HOME ORGANIZER & CLUTTER COACH