5 Reasons I Started Throwing Away My Houseplants (& Why You Might Want To As Well!)

Have you ever felt embarrassed when someone knocked on your door unexpectedly because your home wasn’t guest-ready?

Have you ever felt stressed about having visitors in a few days because you now only have a few days to clean up your house before they arrive?

Have you ever felt like your to-do list is never-ending and you won’t ever possibly catch up?

If you are saying “Yes!” to these questions, you are not alone! That’s what I’ve been saying and feeling for the past few years.

Part of why my life has felt a bit messier and more cluttered was my ever-growing collection of plants.

And it took me a very long time to finally admit that to myself because plants also brought me (and still bring me) enormous joy.

In this post, we will discuss why clutter, including our beloved plant clutter, tends to impact us negatively AND what we can do about it.

Table of Contents

#1 The Silent To-Do List – Are your plants nagging you?

The Silent To-Do List is a concept that I learned about from a YouTube channel, called The Minimal Mom (linked to YouTube).

The concept explains why clutter correlates with higher stress levels.

Every single item that is a part of that clutter sends us a message about what it needs from us.

It may not technically be on our to-do list, but it’s silently asking us to do something with it anyway. And this applies to our plants, too.

Let me explain.

Let’s pretend one of your plants is drooping and each time you look at it you think to yourself, “I need to water that!” The plant is telling you how badly it needs to be watered by drooping.

You look away because you don’t have time to water it and see another plant. You remember that this plant has roots pooling in the saucer and desperately needs you to repot it.

But you don’t have time for that currently either.

And still another plant is in front of you, reminding you it doesn’t have an appropriate place yet.

It frustrates you to see the plant taking up space in an area you don’t want it to be in and to know that the plant isn’t getting the right amount of light in that spot.

It is almost as if the plants are talking to you:

“Water me!”

“Repot me!”

“Why haven’t you found me a home?”

“Why aren’t you taking care of us!?”

None of these are technically talking, it’s true, but they are all sending you messages of what they need when you see them.

And these messages are probably causing you tiny amounts of stress that accumulate into large amounts of stress.

All of the stuff you own, beyond your plants, sends you these messages, too:

“Why haven’t you put me away?”

“Why did you buy me?”

“When are you going to use me?”

“Throw me away.”

“You said you were going to wear me. What a waste.”

“I thought you were going to reorganize us?”

“I look messy. When are you going to clean me up?”

And so on.

How do you fix it? The obvious answer is to reduce the amount of stuff, but it doesn’t always feel that simple.

Keep reading to learn some helpful ways to reframe how you think about your stuff, including your plants, to figure out whether you want to reduce the noise your clutter is making and to help you make hard decisions about what to keep!

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A gorgeous, but cluttered group of plants. If you have a trained eye, you will see a juvenile thrips. This photo is from last summer, when thrips spread to all the philodendrons and many of my anthuriums in my house. What a nightmare!

#2 The Scarcity Mindset – Does fear drive you to collect plants? This is what advertisers are betting on.

Having clutter in our homes doesn’t mean we are failing or lazy or doing life wrong.

In fact, modern society teaches us to accumulate all of this stuff through common advertising and sales techniques, using the scarcity mindset.

The scarcity mindset is a way of thinking that centres around the belief that resources, opportunities, and success are limited and hard to come by.

It’s a mindset grounded in fear—a fear of not having enough, not being enough, and not being able to secure what we need for our well-being.

When we operate from a scarcity mindset, it affects our decisions, behaviours, and overall outlook on life.

Prajesh Chhanabhai, The Scarcity Mindset: Why It Holds You Back and How to Break Free, Linked In, Published Oct 8, 2023

Companies use these techniques to create a sense of fear and urgency to propel us to act and buy now, even when we know we should not – or to buy more when we don’t actually need more.

What these sales techniques are saying without saying is: You need this because it won’t be available for long – it’s scarce… so hurry up, and buy it… even if you have to go into debt to get it!

“We have limited supply! Buy it now before it’s gone!”

“You can buy yours now for only $99 for the next 24 hours!”

“Buy 3, Get 1 Free”

And businesses that sell plants are no exception.

I receive many weekly emails from various growers (who I love) about the:

  • current deals that I can take advantage of to get more plants for less money
  • what plants have been restocked for a limited time
  • newly released plants that I might be interested in
  • and more.

I don’t blame these companies for doing this. They are trying to make a living and keep their businesses profitable.

But not all of it is so innocent.

If you consume enough YouTube plant content, you may have heard Kaylee Ellen (linked to her YouTube channel) talk about how some growers keep the number of available rare plants lower than needed.

By restricting how many plants are available in the market, the price and perception of rarity for those plants stay high.

In other words, the grower allows plant sellers and buyers to believe the availability is low to keep the demand for the plant high and, therefore, the price of the plant high.

Here’s a video from Cass at ClutterBug explaining more about the Scarcity Mindset and how we are taught to spend more rather than save.

How might the scarcity mindset play out when you or I go plant shopping? Here’s an example:

Maybe I go plant shopping with 2 plants on my wishlist that day. When I arrive, they are having a sale where you can buy 3 plants and get 1 free.

I’m extraordinarily lucky and find both of the plants that I’m looking for. Now that I’ve picked out the 2 plants that I wanted, I think, “Well, I might as well get 2 more to take advantage of buy 3 get 1 free….”

The result of taking advantage of this “deal” is that I will be spending money on another plant I didn’t intend to and bringing home two additional plants. That’s 4 plants that I need to make room for in one shopping trip.

I didn’t want or intend to acquire those extra plants. And I don’t have a good place to put them. I don’t even really want more space taken up by them.

But I do like plants…. and I do like the extra plants I picked… So it’s okay, right? Well… that’s depends.

I didn’t really need them. I spent more money than I wanted to. I now have less space than I intended.

And if I continue to take advantage of deals like this, I can acquire many extra plants without necessarily meaning to.

Through feeling like I am getting a bargain, I will quickly accumulate more work and plant clutter than I wanted.

And I can attest that my home has become more cluttered than I ever intended.

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#3 Too Much Inventory – Are you managing too much inventory?

It can be tempting to criticize yourself when your home looks messy and cluttered a lot of the time, but the truth is that there’s just too much stuff for you to manage.

Or, to put it another way, you are trying to manage too much inventory.

The concept of managing inventory in our home comes from The Minimal Mom on YouTube.

When we are trying to manage too much inventory, it’s difficult to keep everything in order.

It is overwhelming and time-consuming to manage so much.

This isn’t because you aren’t managing or organizing it properly. It’s simply because you need less inventory to manage.

Lowering the inventory (decluttering) to a manageable level will make a huge difference.

One way to lower the inventory in your home is by removing everything from particular areas and then only putting back what you really love, need, or use.

This technique of clearing a space before putting back what you really love and need is called “House Hushing.”

House Hushing comes from Myquillyn Smith’s Article, “House Hushing & Why You Need It”.

She explains that House Hushing stems from the idea that:

“Over time, every room in our house is holding more stuff and we’re managing it whether we realize it or not.

If everything that sits out in your home has a voice, what started as a pretty melody can turn into a screaming roar when left unchecked. […]

To Hush your House, begin with just one room and 24 hours.”

Myquillyn Smith, House Hushing & Why You Need It, thenester.com, Source., Dec. 30, 2023

Myquillyn Smith describes House Hushing as backward decluttering because it eliminates decision fatigue.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Pick the room or area of your home that you would like to hush
  2. Pick the room or space of your home that you can use as a holding area to temporarily move stuff
  3. Remove anything that is sitting on the surfaces in the room or on the floor that is not critically necessary and place them in the holding area
  4. Allow the space that you cleared to sit “empty” for 24 hours, if possible, so you can get used to the new quieter space
    • Why 24 hours? “Once you live in your hushed, quieted room for a day, you’ll start to feel how wonderful it is and you’ll want to protect that feeling.” Myquillyn Smith, House Hushing & Why You Need It
  5. After 24 hours, you can carefully decide which items to bring back into the space and let go of the rest

If you feel like you cannot get rid of anything, ask someone to assist you in making decisions or ask a mental health professional to help you understand your connection to your things, which may make all the difference.

No matter what, having a more manageable home is possible.

Pink1
Here’s a gorgeous Begonia Pink Minx that deserves not to get lost in a cluttered group of plants

#4 The Container Concept – Do you let the container contain your collection?

The Container Concept is so simple, but so life-changing for me! This idea was introduced to me by Dana K. White, who blogs, creates YouTube videos, has a podcast, and writes books.

I’m going to include a snippet from her blogpost explaining the concept way better than I can (truly, I tried and it wasn’t nearly as good).

“It hit me the other night that the root word of “container” is “contain.”  Simple, really, and probably everyone else in the world, even non-word-people, got it the first time they heard it.

I didn’t. […]

I’m not claiming that my Root Word Realization Moment is going to change everything, but I think it’s a teeny-tiny step in the right direction.

Containers are for containing.  I’ve always thought of them as being for sorting, organizing, blah blah blah.  All the things that were abstract concepts for me.

Contain.  Let’s use it in some sentences.  “Contain yourself!”  Meaning – don’t let your emotions, anger, whatever out inappropriately.  “The firefighters are working to contain the fire.”  Meaning – they are keeping it in one place so it doesn’t spread and cause damage or destruction.

Get it?  Contain.  So the big secret organized-types know that I don’t, is that containers aren’t just to look pretty and make a space one-time-show-off-able . . .  they’re to contain things. 

Markers go in this container, and no where else.  Markers that don’t fit in this container can’t be in our home. 

If they get placed to the side of the container because it’s too full, they cause damage to our home, our psyche, our peace by being a mess. 

If the container really truly doesn’t hold enough markers, I should get a bigger container.  But if there are plenty of markers in the container to support the coloring habits of three children, I don’t need the markers that don’t fit.”

Dana K. White, OOOoooh, “Contain”er . . . Now I Get It!, A Slob Comes Clean, Source Link, Published May 21, 2010

The Container Concept has been revolutionary for me in how I think about my home.

Why? Because just like Dana, I thought of containers as tools to organize or store things. I did not consider containers as ways to contain the fire, limit the chaos, or prevent the mess and clutter.

Once I did, I realized that this was one of the ways I went wrong with plants.

I filled one space and looked for another.

Filled another space and bought a new shelf.

Filled that shelf and bought another stand.

I filled that stand and bought a grow light to put in a dark corner. And so on.

Because I never tried to contain my plant fire and passion, I simply continued to buy more containers.

Now, I’m pivoting my view and creating containers or limits to where I want my plants to be and limits on what I want my planty interactions to be like. This is also true for plant-related items, like pots, tools, etc.

Since incorporating this rule, far more plants have left my home than entered it.

When plants do enter, there needs to be a spot for them. If I repot plants and they are now expanding outside their container, I have to make hard decisions to ensure plants still fit in the same area.

If I want to bring in more plants, I have to take out some plants to make room.

I’ve heard some minimalists refer to this as the One In, One Out rule, where if I bring one thing in, I need to take one thing out. So, I am not increasing the total number of things in my home.

rootbound
Because I have too many plants, this poor Anthurium is way past the point of needing a bigger pot. So rootbound!

#5 Collectoritis – Are you lost in the idea of collecting?

It’s really difficult for me to see a new plant that is striking and unusual and deny the desire to try growing it and experiencing what it is like. The desire to continuously pursue new plants is what I’ve started to call Collectoritis.

Collectoritis is a term I came up with randomly one day, but I am not alone in its use. After googling the word, I’ve seen others use it in the same context.

When I am super excited and passionate about something, I really want to learn everything about it and try everything related to it.

This is fine if there are only ten things to try and learn about it. But with plants, the number of plants to try feels nearly infinite.

The space I have to house those plants and the time and resources I have to devote to those plants…. are far from infinite.

So that stinks.

The problem with allowing Collectoritis to go unchecked is that it saps my resources: my ability to manage my time, my space, and my bank account.

It also negatively affects my current plants because I have less time and effort to devote to them.

So, to start to rectify this issue, I’ve been reminding myself of some things:

  • #1 I could grow every plant, but I cannot grow every plant well. And I want to grow my plants well.
  • #2 I can appreciate a plant in a greenhouse without bringing that plant home. I don’t have to own every plant. It is literally impossible for me to own every plant.
  • #3 I want to focus on the growth of my current plants and the growth of my ability as a grower rather than the growth of my collection.
  • #4 I have a specific list of plants I want to try, and I will prioritize making space for those in my home. If a plant I see isn’t on that list, it can’t come home.

Some days, this works, and some days, it doesn’t. But it’s working more days than not. And that’s a win!

plantshopping
I took a picture of this orchid instead of buying it to appreciate it from afar.

Conclusion

Our physical surroundings have a lot to do with our mental well-being. This includes our plant collections and the stuff associated with caring for our plants.

Reducing clutter, including plant clutter, in our homes will allow for more peace, less stress, and more rest at home. It also allows for more care and enjoyment with our plant collections.

It can be quite difficult to minimize a plant collection, particularly if you genuinely enjoy growing all of the plants (like me). However, I have found that it is incredibly satisfying to see cleaner spaces, healthier plants, and less internal stress after I’ve done the hard work of getting rid of some of my plants.

How can you get rid of your plants?

You could:

Throw them out

Give them away

Sell them

Place them on the curb for someone else to take

Whatever feels right to you is absolutely okay.

Good luck and happy growing!

Disclaimer

This advice may not work for every houseplant grower, but it works for me and my plants!

If you do something different that works better for you, share it in the comments below! That’s how we learn and grow as a community. 🙂

When Life is Super Stressful, Here’s What To Do With Your Houseplants

A Houseplant Collector’s Dilemma: Own Every Plant or Have a Beautiful Home?

Help! My Plants are Growing! (Problems Only Plant Collectors Can Understand)

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