Generational Clutter – What it is and How to Stop it

November 19, 2022

Are you weighed down with clutter that has been passed on to you and are hoping to make changes to prevent this situation for future generations? The holidays are often spent with family and can provide opportunities for you to clarify these boundaries and encourage others to do the same. It is during these family gatherings that you may encounter conversations about what a parent or grandparent hopes to do with all their extra stuff in their downsizing process. Let’s chat for a moment about generational clutter – what it is…and how to stop it! 

What is generational clutter?

Without even realizing it, you learn habits about keeping items that you do not need from your family. This is learned generational clutter. According to Motherhood Simplified founder Krista Lockwood, you learn automatic consumption and keeping habits from your family. Another kind of generational clutter is when you inherit stuff from a downsizing or deceased family member. You feel like you have to keep these things, but in truth, you do not like the items and do not want to keep them. They take up a lot of space and time! Often times, you might hold on to clutter that was given to you by someone you hold dear because you feel like it would be disrespecting them to let these items go.

Examples of generational clutter:

  • Do you have a hard time letting plastic bags, or yogurt containers, or something else go? 
  • Is it hard to declutter because every time you decide to let an item go, you think about how you might need it one day? 
  • Out of obligation or guilt, do you keep all gifts that you have been given by close friends and family?
  • Do you go thrifting or to yard sales but just keep collecting clutter and don’t let other items go to make room?
  • When you are given hand-me-downs, do you keep all the items because you might need them one day?
  • Do you enjoy finding a good sale, but if truth be told, you know you really don’t need all the items you purchase at the sale?

Healthy Boundaries, Changes, and Saying “No”…

In order to stop generational clutter, you need to set healthy boundaries, make changes, and say no. Think about the areas of your life that have a lot of clutter. Maybe it’s a room, closet, cabinet, or drawer in your home. Think about the contents of that room, closet, cabinet, or drawer. What boundaries can you set, changes can you make, or what do you need to say no to? Is it a habit you need to nix, or do you just need to say no to keeping a relative’s items? Asking yourself the question “why?” is a great place to start. Why are you doing, buying, or keeping that? After you ask yourself these questions, then you can delve into more questions with family to further open up the conversation. 

How to break the cycle!

  • If an item does not meet your needs and comes with any sort of obligation or guilt, you may be keeping it for the wrong reasons.
  • Remember that all you have to say is “no” to stuff. You do not need to give an excuse. “No” is enough.
  • Space is a big factor in whether you can take stuff or not. Whether it be physical or emotional, this is a boundary in and of itself. Respect this for yourself.
  • Style is another factor. Tell your family that you want to make your house your home using items that reflect your style. 
  • Pay attention to see if there are any learned consumption or keeping habits to your routines. Address them as you find them.
  • As you declutter in your quest to live life more abundantly, share your journey with family. These changes in your life may inspire them to make changes in their life.

What generational clutter do you have? How are you stopping generational clutter in your life? For more discussion head to our Abundance Declutter Group on Facebook.