Generational clutter: how to break the cycle

We know that clutter, and the mindset surrounding our clutter is passed on through generations.

We know this because we follow the same consumption patterns that our parents, and grandparents practiced. This automatic way of living can create big problems. What ends up happening is that we unconsciously overconsume, hold on to way too much stuff, and ultimately drown in our clutter. 

It is not your responsibility to take on generational clutter and all the complex emotional ties with it.

You can effectively and respectfully create and maintain boundaries surrounding your family's clutter.  You can also hopefully inspire others to start taking ownership of their stuff and homes too!

There are two kinds of generational hoarding

There are the automatic consumption and keeping habits we learn from our family. Things like holding onto all the yogurt containers to use as tupperware. Thrifting and stocking up on things we don't really need, but were a good deal. It can also look like accepting all free hand me down clothes and toys. 

There are many ways we learn consumption habits from our parents, so think about what ones you have internalized.

The second kind of generational hoarding is when we inherit all of the stuff from deceased family members. We get overwhelmed by it all, fell obligation and guilt to keep it. Then we end up with homes, storage units and spaces full of decades old items that serve no purpose. They also tend to have no real value as well. 

Why does generational clutter happen?

It's a complicated subject, but often it comes from just doing things and not questioning why. Why do we feel the need to keep all the empty ice cream containers or sauce jars we never use? 

Another reason we repeat these patterns of consumption and clutter is because beliefs such as “we won't have enough money”, or “we need to be prepared just in case”. Some of us have also been trained to believe that letting go of anything useful is wasteful, so we should definitely keep it all. Forever. No matter what. Eventually someone will use – or inherit – it. 

Why does family push clutter off onto their younger generations?

First, know that the intentions behind being given generational clutter are pure. Rarely, if ever is it meant to be a burden. 

Sometimes they do it on purpose, believing they are passing on resources in the form of support. Maybe they believe they are passing on sentiments and family values. Often though, it just feels like being given glorified trash proclaiming to be relics or “help”. 

They may also be using you as a scapegoat. Clutter is emotionally heavy, of course we know this. One of the ways we make it easier to part with is by saying that it is going to someone who can use it, or wants it. Whether that is the reality or not. Clutter scapegoats are a thing that happens often. 

You can establish boundaries and say no to generational clutter

No is a complete sentence. If you don't have room for the stuff, you can say no. You can do it with grace and gratitude and say please take it somewhere else, we just don't have space for it. Mental and emotional space counts!

You can also lead by example. Include your family in your personal decluttering journey. Invite them to pursue it for themselves too if they find your journey captivating. 

If you want to dive in and lead by example by decluttering your home and changing the generational clutter cycle get into Decluttering Simplified! This 4 week program will change not only your home, but generations both forward and in reverse!
Enroll in Decluttering Simplified now!

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