How Your Excuses Are Holding You Back


“He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”

– Benjamin Franklin

I was a junky kind of person for a long time. I was also unhappy with my lot in life, unfulfilled in my romantic relationship, and out of shape. My home was as cluttered and dusty on the outside as I felt on the inside.

These things are not necessarily true for all cluttered people, but there was a definite link for me. My grandmother was a hoarder and a very unhappy and unhealthy woman, and I wondered if it could be genetic.

It wasn’t until she told me I reminded her so much of herself as a young woman that I was scared straight.

What do you mean, I’m just like you? You’re the most negative and unhappy person I know!

Of course you don’t say that out loud to dear old Gran, but inside her voice was echoing in my head. Genetics or not, I was going to do something about it.

To make some serious life changes, I first had to overcome the excuses I was using to hold on to all the clutter in my life – the physical clutter and the emotional clutter.

I Might Need it Someday!

Many cluttered people consider themselves prepared for anything. They keep it all, so if they should ever need it, it is there. I was no different.

The problem with this strategy is that once you get cluttered, you often can’t find what you need. So you are frustrated because you know it’s in there and you can’t find it when you need it (and likely have to buy another one). Or the flip side happens, which is that you never actually do ned it again.

My strategy here was to start living in the present. I asked myself 2 questions when I was decluttering my life:

● Do I need this item right now in my everyday life?

● Will I realistically use it within the next 12 months?

Once you force a deadline on the use of an item, it takes on a different value. It’s like the inventory in a store. You can’t make a profit if you keep the same stuff on your shelves all the time. It has to be useful so people will buy it and you can restock. I took this approach with my life and found that by moving these things out, I made room for the things that really did work in my life.

I’m Going to Do Something With This!

As a committed DIY-er, I was convinced I could turn any piece of junk into treasure. My friends called me a Pollyanna because I always look on the bright side, but what I found over time was that this was blinding me to reality.

Sometimes junky stuff is just junky stuff. And sometimes potential will never make it to reality for a host of reasons.

The final straw was the box of tickets, menus, receipts, and other memorabilia from my honeymoon. It sat in a box for 5 years waiting to be turned into a scrapbook, and by the time I rediscovered it, I had forgotten the timeline of how those items related to the pictures. It seemed like such a chore to try to match them up, and I was frustrated I let it go for so long.

And then I realized that I don’t have to do anything with it. I can still remember my honeymoon, the fun we had in Paris, and the highlights of our trip. I have a ton of pictures on my computer. I don’t need a scrapbook of tickets and other mementos to remind me of anything. So instead of feeling guilty about it, I threw it all away. And I immediately felt better.

My strategy for this type of scenario with other items was simple: The item not only had to have potential, it had to have a deadline to reach its potential or I let it go.

Once I did this, I began better evaluating the potential of everything in my life and being okay with admitting I wouldn’t follow through on much of it. That left me free to pursue the things I knew I would finish and increased my happiness and satisfaction overall.

So-and-So Will Be Mad at Me!

The guilt over what other people might think can drive you mad. I worried that my mom would be upset if I wasn’t using something she gave me, so even if I wasn’t using it, I saved it so as not to hurt her feelings (even though she didn’t know one way or the other).

We project intentions and motivations on people all the time, and I was queen of this for the first 30 years of my life. It wasn’t until I realized that getting rid of possessions doesn’t mean getting rid of people (or the flip side, that having more possessions means you have a closer relationships), that I was finally able to let this go.

My strategy became to keep only the mementos I loved, used, or brought about positive emotions. If there was guilt or obligation, I got rid of it…along with the guilt and obligation. I had far few items but much greater appreciation of my relationships.

An Excuse-Free Life

You can let these excuses keep you insulated with clutter, both physical and emotional, or you can call your own bluff and make way for more freedom, connection, and success. Best of all, if you sell what you no longer want you can use that cash and newfound space to help propel you toward the kind of life you want – one rich with experience, relationships, and free time.

What excuses are you using to keep you from moving toward the life you really want?

Photo by Meg Wills

6 thoughts on “How Your Excuses Are Holding You Back”

  1. Apparently we always find excuses when something that is challenging, difficult and out of our comfort zone. Life excuses are what holding us back and what separate the successful and mediocre life.

  2. Interesting piece, Betsy.

    I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever been a hoarder, but I do hold onto things “just in case” as you mention above. As I’m in the process of packing up my things to move, I’m trying to get rid of all the things I don’t need, instead of bringing all the things I didn’t need with me the last time I moved.

    I’m also moving into a smaller space, so this will be an interesting experiment for me as I have to up the ante and let go of furniture that has suited me well. Looking forward to the challenge…

  3. It is remarkably easy to believe your own excuses at times, much harder to reject them and get moving.. but you won’t get anywhere until you start! I have a bit of problem with cluttering, because I tell myself that I don’t really mind it, and that it doesn’t take any of my time, so therefore cleaning it up would be a waste of time.. but in all honesty, I could probably use some decluttering right about now. So thanks for this, time to get to work!

  4. Decluttering relates to getting rid of unhealthy relationship. Why do I keep holding on to a relationship that no longer makes me happy? Maybe I should let it go. My life might be better off without it. It might be a difficult task for me but one day I have to come to terms with myself so I could move on. Nice message Betsy…serves as a wake up call for me.

  5. Hi Betsy,

    Great article, especially for me as a self-confessed hoarder. The thing about the
    Menus and ticket stubs triggered something in me though. In the age we are in now of smart phones and digital photography, if we really can’t let go, there are certain items we could take pictures of. Not totally letting go, I know, but could help in kick-starting the process at least. It would be interesting also to look back at all of the things you had thrown away if all kept together in one folder. Now as I just had this idea I haven’t really thought it through but might be helpful to some. Think I might try it :)

  6. It seems for me, my excuse is an effort to always find a reason to under-mind myself. I relate much with your sense of housing clutter. I house so much of it emotionally throughout the years. Most of the time it’s based off of another’s opinion and has weighed me down much throughout life. I’m recently going through a divorce which I’m beginning to think that my military experience has weighed me much to have to go through this and if I’m to avoid any future repetition I will have to maybe implement some similar ways of filtering what excess clutter I allow in my life whether it be thoughts of what I may have failed at or have been through as an entirety. I’ve been this way since childhood it’s no wonder it has caught up with me. Every time someone does try to encourage or uplift me I always find an excuse as to why they are wrong in whatever compliment they may give me. I’m always over analyzing myself almost as if I am so self centered even while I never attempt to please my own self. I usually always try to make others happy instead. I feel the pain of the misfortuned ones but not my own. I instead numb myself of myself and add on to the excuses as to why I can’t do something or why I deserve to be treated a certain way as opposed to another. I spent much of my off time in the military drinking to forget just so it would be numb and now that it is I’m at a halt cause I don’t love or hate myself. This is the clutter I have and it’s no different than another’s except that its of my own unnecessary excuses..

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