You’re an individual. Your clutter and its causes are unique to you. However, most cases of clutter can be attributed to five basic rationalizations.


1.  Sale-o-Mania


Everybody loves to save money. The entire retail industry depends on it. When you go shopping there’s always something on sale. You don’t really need it, but it’s 75 percent off! That’s a bargain you can’t pass up. You repeat this pattern over and over again and end up with a closet full of clothing with tags still on them, extra shower curtains and tablecloths, and cupboards full of unopened packages. You have sale-o-mania and, seriously, you need to snap out of it. It doesn’t matter how big the markdown is if you don’t need it and won’t ever use it. It’s just wasted money and wasted space.


2.  Gift Guilt


Aunt Jane gave you that hideous “fill-in-the-blank.” She’d be terribly hurt if you tossed it. Okay, but how often does Aunt Jane actually visit, and even if she does, what are the chances she’ll ask to see the gift? You can always claim it’s being cleaned, fell over and broke, was stolen, or was given to someone who needed it more than you. You could even tell the truth. The point is, it was a gift. You didn’t ask for it. She gave it to you. Unbidden. You are not obligated to love or keep everything you’re given. If you do so, you’ll end up with shelves full of clutter.


3.  Hey, You Never Know


As humans we are hard-wired to save stuff. It’s a survival skill our ancestors developed long ago. Does anyone but you have a pair of woolly mammoth tusks? Clearly it’s time to evolve. If you haven’t used an item or needed it within the past year, get it out of the house. Either choose to throw it away or put it in a self storage unit for future use.


4.  Nowhere to Go


You have something (maybe as a gift, probably on sale). The problem is it just doesn’t seem to fit anywhere and you don’t know what to do with it. So you put it on an end table in the family room. Before long, it’s joined by other things that don’t seem to fit anywhere else. It all sits there, gathering dust and taking up space. You think, “it might be worth something someday,” or “I’ll leave it to my kids.” The truth is this: it’s in the way and it needs to go away.


5.  Betting on Someday


You never miss an episode of “Pickers,” or “Antique Road Show." You’re still annoyed that your mom tossed your Highlights for Children magazine collection. You’re convinced that somewhere in your garage there’s a long-forgotten bin wherein you’ll find a treasure of inestimable worth. You don’t particularly care for mid-century motel art, but you got that print at a garage sale for only a quarter – and it’s signed by the artist.


We hate to tell you this but for most of us, “someday” never comes. Even things that are genuine antiques rarely turn out to be worth the fortune you’re anticipating. If you are really concerned that an object might be valuable, take it to an independent appraiser. Be prepared for a sharp awakening — it may cost you more to get it appraised than it’s worth.