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3 Ways of Reducing Your Fear of Donating Belongings

By September 18, 2021June 1st, 202418 Comments

I read this quote the other day when I was working out at the gym: “Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear” by George Addair. I wonder how many people are letting fear prevent them from getting organized and donating excess belongings.  There are so many fears which we associate with the organizing process. One of the fears I often hear is implied in the question: Is this the most disorganized or hoarded home you’ve ever seen?  I’m not a therapist. I’m a professional organizer and as such I can tell you that most people are disorganized in some part of their home. No one’s home is always perfectly organized, not even mine. Don’t let fear paralyze you. Let’s put fear aside. I’m going to share with you 3 ways of reducing your fear of donating your belongings to get more organized in your home.

3 ways of reducing your fear

Donate to a charity you believe in

You decide to declutter your living room and come across some candle sticks that are hidden in a cupboard. Your friend gave you these candle sticks. You don’t like them, but you love your friend. These candlesticks used to come out of the cupboard when your friend came over for dinner.  Your friend moved away a few years ago but these candle sticks stayed in the cupboard. What if (you say to yourself) my friend came for a visit? She will wonder why those candle sticks aren’t out on display.

Let’s think this through. What are the chances your friend will ask about the candle sticks if she ever visits? The answer is that she will probably not ask that question. She will be more interested in you and your family. Take those candle sticks out of the cupboard. Put them in the donation box. Let someone have them who will love them.

Who do you think would love these candle sticks? In Atlanta, we have numerous charitable organization that help people set up their homes. I’m sure you have something like that where you live too. Do your research and find an organization to support by donating things you believe someone else may love. It’s much easier and less fearful to give when you know you are helping someone in need.

Can you replace it quickly?

Keeping something, even if you don’t like it, just in case you may want it or need it is not a reason to keep things in your home. Face it. These things are taking up valuable real estate. They are using up space that can be given to something that you use or love.

Donate things you don’t use without fear. If you happen to need it (or something like it) you can probably buy it again.

The Minimalists have an article that talks about keeping things just in case. They say that if you can get something in 20 minutes or less or for $20 or less then you don’t need to hang onto it now.

Look at the things you don’t use. Do more research. How long does it take you to find an item such as that one online? Or is there a local store who carries these things that is close by? Finally, how much will it cost you to replace this item?

I understand you don’t want to waste your money by donating something you think you may want or need sometime in the future. However, how long do you need to hang on to something before you realize you’re never going to want or need it?

Take a Picture

I heard a story recently about someone’s husband who was keeping his father’s favorite comfy armchair in their basement hallway. This armchair was in the way. I heard that when you went down into the basement you had to wriggle around the chair to get where you were going. The wife wanted to donate the chair, the husband didn’t. This armchair held a favorite memory of his father. He could picture him sitting – lounging, in the armchair. The husband was afraid of losing the memory if he donated the armchair.

I suggested they bring the armchair up out of the basement to where there was good light and take some pictures. The best picture could be framed and placed somewhere the husband could see it often and be reminded of the memory.

We know in our heads that things do not store memories. It’s our hearts that need reminding that just because you donate something that belonged to a special person you don’t lose the memory. The object triggers the memory. Having a picture will serve as a trigger so you can release the object.

In conclusion

As you think about organizing your home, challenge yourself to work through the fear of holding onto things you don’t use or love. Ask yourself why these things are taking up valuable real estate in your home. Are you holding onto them just in case? Be realistic.

Here are 3 ways of reducing your fear of donating your belongings:
  1. Donate to a charity you believe in
  2. Figure out how much it costs to replace and how quickly you can do that
  3. Take a picture. Let the picture trigger your memory and donate the object

The more things you have in your home, the more time it takes to clean your home. Reduce your fear of donating and challenge yourself to find one thing every day to donate.  

If you struggle with reducing the belongings in your home, consider joining the Clear Space for You virtual clutter support group I run with Jonda Beattie. We start a new session at the beginning of each month.

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer® ,a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC and co-owner of Release●Repurpose●Reorganize, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia. Contact Diane for a free 30-minute phone conversation.


  • Julie Bestry says:

    “Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear” is one of my favorite quotes; I use it often to challenge myself to move from inertia or paralysis into action, but I don’t use it often enough with clients. You’re so wise to share it.

    You’re also so wise to recognize all the fear people have that their friends or relatives are constantly thinking about gifts they’ve given, but almost nobody does that. Giving a good home to something you’ve received as a gift is three gifts — to yourself, the person who gets it, and the (admittedly anthropomorphized item that gets donated)!

  • I especially love your second tip and use it all the time. People (including me) tend to keep things just in case when it’s so easy to replace something these days. I taught this idea to a client just a few days ago.

  • I love the idea of taking a picture. I started doing this with a client of mine in the early 2000s, and it helped her let things go. Great post, Diane. I will be sharing this one on social media.

  • Lucy Kelly says:

    Three great strategies that are sure to help many. I often encourage people to consider Goodwill as their favorite charity despite the fact that it’s not a specific, targeted donation destination. I point out that Goodwill is almost always nearby, that they are very generous in what they will accept, and that the universe will manage it so the right person finds their donation. As Hazel points out, clients often get discouraged by the limited hours and specific lists of conditions and items from the smaller thrift stores. Understandable, since they don’t have the space Goodwill or ARC do, but in their search for the best home for their things, people can get tied up in trying to find the perfect home instead of the good enough home.

  • I love the fear quote. So often, it is fear that prevents us from living the life we want. As organizers, our clients’ challenges with managing the “stuff” of life can create a lot of fear and inaction. Teasing out what the fear is about and focusing on possible ways forward is great, and you’ve done that so beautifully.

    I’ve been on a personal mission to ‘live with less.’ I find that some categories I’m editing, like clothing or housewares, are easy to decide about. The more challenging ones are things like past work or projects, books, and artwork. Challenging, but not impossible. Some things need more time and thought before they are released. But the bottom line is that I want to live in the present and not be encumbered by the past. Finding that right balance is tricky but possible.

  • Yep. 3 terrific ways of letting go!

    The only problem with finding specific charities for specific things (such as blankets to the animal shelter, and toiletries to the homeless shelter) is that often there isn’t “enough” to take yet, or their operating hours are limited, and the things remain in the garage as clutter. I always offered to clients that I would take a load to Goodwill for them (because they take most everything). If they hadn’t yet taken their items to the specific charities by the time I returned, I would offer again, or suggest that they simplify their charity wish list, so to speak.

  • Sara Skillen says:

    Wow, I love that quote about fear! And what a great post – you’ve perfectly captured three of the blocks to decisions that I routinely encounter. Another one I often hear is “but I could turn that into a….” (paperweight, piece of art, some other gadget, etc.). And I usually counter that with something like, “So what other commitment will you give up in order to make time for that?” 9 times out of 10 it goes in the donation box. Such great reminders that it really is all just stuff.

  • Seana Turner says:

    I love that “20/20” suggestion from the Minimalists. That’s a helpful guideline. I love donating to the Vietnam Vets because I figure anything I can do to help our Vets just makes me feel good!

  • Great article embracing different situations we might find ourselves.