10 things in your home that are making you unhappy

It's time to say goodbye.

It’s amazing how much our “stuff” can impact our wellbeing. When we’re selective and purposeful about the decor we bring into our home, it can make us feel inspired, uplifted and joyful. But on the flipside, some possessions can make us feel burdened, weighed down, or even trapped. 

So take a deep breath and think for a minute. Is your home somewhere you enjoy being, or is clutter getting in the way? If the answer is yes, then it’s time to shine a light on those things that aren’t making you happy, and to say goodbye to them once and for all.

1. Heirlooms

Just because your great auntie’s gravy boat has been passed down to you though the generations, doesn’t mean you have to keep it. Especially if you never use it.

“We hold onto heirlooms/gifts even though we don’t like or enjoy them because we feel guilty giving them away,” says psychologist and author Dr. Susan Bartell.

“They weigh us down emotionally and cause physical clutter. We keep things that don’t match our sense of style, and we then don’t have space for items that would truly bring us joy.”

black cabinet with fluted glass
It’s important to fill your home with items you actually love, rather than holding onto things out of a sense of obligation. (Credit: Photography: Sue Stubbs / Styling: Jessica Bellef)

2. Broken items

How many times have you pulled out a chipped plate and felt annoyed at the sight of it?

“My theory is that it’s a feeling of lack,” says Anjie Cho, architect, certified feng shui consultant and founder of Holistic Spaces.

 “We’re scared of not having enough, it’s a poverty mentality. Which really is about not feeling “enough” or worthy in ourselves. The fear of letting go of things. But cultivating the poverty mentality only perpetuates it, and surrounding yourself with broken items creates a similar broken energy in our inner and outer lives.”

3. Collections

We often collect things during specific times in our lives – but that interest doesn’t always last a lifetime.

“The collection is associated with memories of a time in life or a person, and so the difficulty with parting can be the unconscious feeling you are abandoning the memory or person,” says Dr. Gail Saltz, psychiatrist and host of “The Power of Different” podcast. 

“It helps to create your own very tiny memorial to the memory, like a note describing them or one piece that signifies the rest of the collection kept in a special place so you can know that removing the rest is not forgetting the person or memory.”

No longer love your collection like you used to? It’s ok to part ways with it and make room in your life for something different. (Photography: John Downs | Styling: Kylie Jackes)

4. Your childhood keepsakes

It’s so easy to accumulate stuff from your childhood, but so hard to let it go.

“Facing up to the fact that a former treasure no longer holds its old magic is to acknowledge that we ourselves have changed. And often that realization forces us to ask ourselves, okay, what now would be a source of happiness?” says Waters.

“Change always brings up questions of who we are and what we want out of our lives. To find that the collection of dolls we’ve had since childhood no longer enchants, is to be forced to grow up. Always a tricky prospect.”

5. Piles of paperwork

It’s amazing how quickly that stack of ignored paperwork can grow.

“Paperwork is overwhelming and tedious. Old greeting cards and correspondence is often just like broken items, it represents old memories that people are afraid to let go,” says Collette Shine, professional organizer and founder of Organize and Shine.

“Big piles of paper clutter can bring on anxiety, feelings of being overwhelmed, shame and definitely stress.”

Stay on top of paperwork to prevent it taking over your office, or your entire home! (Photography: Elouise Van Riet-Gray | Styling: Lana Caves)

6. Freebies or discounted items

We tend to place extra value on a freebie or something you’ve scored in a sale.

“This type of clutter is annoying and my clients have a hard time getting rid of this stuff,” Shine says.

“The conference swag also always seems like it would be useful, but it usually just ends up rattling around your kitchen or junk drawer. It’s hard to let an item go when it’s free or on sale, because of the perception that you got a good deal or you think it must be worth something.”

7. Books you no longer love

Books take up a lot of space in our home – literally and emotionally. And while books are a must in any home, if your bookshelf is overflowing, it may be time to cull back.

“Books inspire such strong emotions, because they have been portals into other worlds, they gave us other lives and expanded imaginations,” says Christina Waters, PhD, author of Inside the Flame: The Joy of Treasuring What You Already Have.

“We tend to keep those that have been with us during important times in our lives. It’s like giving up a piece of our lives to let go of a beloved book.”

Books can be sold, passed onto a friend or family member or donated to a local library. To prevent more books from taking their place, consider going digital or signing up for a library card and borrowing books instead.

A book nook with zebra armchairs and a round table.
An abundance of books is a great problem to have, but without adequate storage, they can quickly make a home feel cramped. (Credit: Photography: Mindi Cooke / Styling: Tahn Scoon)

8. Your children’s things

Kids have their own special type of clutter – and, if you don’t have toy storage solutions in place, it tends to spread quickly.

“Kid clutter makes parents anxious, because it is so difficult to clean up and to find a space to keep it, so it worsens the feeling of being out of control — a feeling that so many parents already have around raising kids, when things aren’t going smoothly,” says Dr. Bartell.

9. Unused craft items

We often start craft projects with the best of intentions – but what happens when we don’t complete them?

“Abandoned or unused hobby supplies are a form of aspirational clutter. It’s much easier to collect the materials for a hobby than to make the time and effort to pursue it,” says Francine Jay, the blogger behind Miss Minimalist and author of The Joy of Less.

“And we feel that as long as we have a closet full of yarn, we’re a knitter — even if we haven’t touched our needles in months (or years!).”

kids room with double bunks and hanging chair
Set up clever storage solutions to keep kids’ clutter and art supplies at bay. (Photography: Louise Roche | Styling: Kylie Jackes)

10. Heavy curtains

Heavy drapes can make us feel cocooned and comfortable, but they’re not altogether good for our entire wellbeing.

“Generally, the heavier your furniture and window treatments are, the heavier the atmosphere feels,” says Laura Benko, holistic design expert and author of The Holistic Home: Feng Shui for Mind Body Spirit Space.

“There are certain times when a space calls for a substantial, weightier drape, but choose your window coverings carefully and remember, ‘light and airy’ will make you feel light and airy!”

  • Seek support. If you find decluttering overwhelming, enlist the help of a trusted friend or family member to help share the load and decision-making. Speaking to a mental health professional can also help if you’re finding it difficult to part with your possessions.
  • “Value your space as much as your stuff,” says Francine Jay. “We need space to engage in activities we love – be that play with our children, do yoga in our bedroom, or dance a tango in the living room. It’s what we do, not what we own, that makes life memorable and meaningful.”
  • Take small steps. There’s no need to declutter every room in the house in one go. Even decluttering one cupboard at a time or setting a 15-minute timer to focus on one part of the house can be hugely productive and take a weight off your shoulders.
How to let go

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