Decluttering Mistakes that are Sabotaging You

Have you been decluttering but just not seeing the results you hoped for?  I understand the frustration, but don’t let that stop you.  Read through this list of common mistakes and identify the ones that apply to you.  Then try the suggested fix to jumpstart your progress.  

The more focused you can be as you declutter, the more quickly you’ll see real change. 

It’s easy to fall into a scattered approach when there is lots of clutter and you just want to get to all of it. Or maybe you hit a roadblock in one project and find it easier to let it sit and move on to something else. 

But this often leads to feeling like you’ve put in a lot of effort without major results.

By working in a methodical way through a space (for instance, one room), each small success will build on the last and help you feel motivated.   

It’s so tempting, but the fact is that until you actually declutter you probably don’t really know how many, and which, items are staying. 

Only after the fact can you accurately know what size, shape, and amount of storage you need for your newly slimmed down belongings.

And then those extra containers that you bought too soon need to be stored, creating their own type of clutter. 

It may take a bit of willpower to hold off until you know what you need, but you’ll save money and space in the end.

One of the reasons we struggle with clutter is because we tend to think of decluttering as something that we only need to do every so often, when things get bad enough.

And by that time, it’s much more of a feat to get it under control again.

But decluttering is an ongoing process that never ends, like grocery shopping and laundry.

A simple mindset change can go a long way toward helping you avoid this pitfall.

Consider decluttering a regular houshold task and fit it into your weekly schedule.  It will feel much easier and help prevent clutter from building up as quickly. 

Well, this probably isn’t going to happen. 

And if it does, it will be unpredictable.  Not a good way to make progress toward your goals.  Especially since we know that getting motivated is often a result of taking action, however small.  

It doesn’t take much.  Simply do something.

If you’re in the waiting game, it may be a long wait.   

Don’t wait for the mood to strike, help create it by taking the first step.  Just another good reason to build decluttering into your regular household schedule.  

There are many things competing for your time, and there are lots of things higher on the list than decluttering. 

So waiting until we have a significant chunk of time free can mean putting off ever getting started. 

But the good news is that you already have enough time. 

Yes, even with the schedule of a busy mom, there is room to fit in enough decluttering to make a difference. 

It’s a myth that decluttering requires a lot of time all at once. Set aside small chunks of time (even 10 or 15 minutes) on a consistent basis instead of waiting until you have hours to spend.

Cleaning, tidying and organizing are all good and necessary things … but they’re not decluttering.

Do you find yourself getting sidetracked with these tasks when what you’re really doing is avoiding the decision-making needed to get rid of the clutter? 

Sure, the room (or drawer, or closet, etc.) may look better when you’re done.  It can even feel very satisfying.  But don’t fool yourself.  

Decluttering means deciding to keep some things and let others go.  If you’re not making decisions and removing things from your home, you’re doing something else.

There are reasons that you want to declutter your home, and these go beyond just having a tidier house or more space. 

Common why’s include a more peaceful home, less conflict between family members, less stress as you go about your day, freeing up resources to work toward other goals, etc.

These reasons are important to remind yourself of when you’re in the process and need to stay on track.  

Your “why” has to do with the bigger picture, how life will change and what you’ll gain from decluttering.  Keeping your eyes on your “why” will guide you and help you make better decisions in the process.

Because decluttering at its heart is a simple process, do we really need a plan?  Isn’t that overkill? 

The beauty of a plan is that it doesn’t have to be complicated, and it allows you to spend less time remembering what you did and what to do next, and more time getting it done.

The truth is that a simple plan can make the difference between success and frustration.  It should include how you’re going to deal with current clutter and how you’re going to manage clutter moving forward.

It’s impossible to put a dollar value on our time, energy, relationships, etc.   

But it’s easy to calculate how many dollars we could get from selling items we no longer want.  

Unfortunately this means we often spend too many of our precious resources chasing after a relatively few dollars, just because it feels more concrete and measurable. 

But if listing a $10 item on eBay will take you 3 hours to post, sell, pack, ship, and document, is it really worth your time?  

For every thing you do there are many other things you can’t also do.  Be aware of the total cost of a task.  And begin to give your invisible resources the value they deserve. 

Decluttering fads are a bit like diet plans.  There’s always a new approach that’s popular. 

And there are really helpful ideas in lots of different programs.

Whether you’re a beginner or a veteren declutterer, there are always more strategies, tips and tricks to learn that can make the process faster and easier. 

It’s good to try new ideas and see what works for you, but …

Don’t stick with a method because it’s popular and people seem to love it.  Stick with the parts that work for you and leave the rest behind.  Create your own mash-up of methods and don’t be afraid to change it up.

I’ll just say it.  Not every empty space needs to be filled.  At least not right away. 

It can feel a little strange at first, but if you declutter and end up with an empty shelf or drawer or cupboard, just enjoy it!  Give it some time. 

Be intentional about what will be kept there. It’ll begin to fill up soon enough. 

Get used to the look and feel of a little space.  Leave some small areas intentionally empty. It may be an adjustment after being used to a lot of clutter.

You’ll never win the battle with clutter if you’re bringing as many or more items into your home as you’re letting go.  It’s simple math. 

But it’s easy to focus only on what you’re getting rid of, and feel like surely you have room for everything coming in. 

Unfortunately this can put you right back where you started. 

I don’t know what your shopping habits are and what your level of clutter is, but I do know that they both play important roles in decluttering success. 

Examine your buying habits and make sure they’re not offsetting your decluttering gains. Find a ongoing balance between what you bring home and what you get rid of.

Decluttering will require you to step a bit outside your comfort zone, for all sorts of reasons. 

To reach your goal there will be things that cause discomfort, whether that means owning up to bad habits, or experiencing the emotions attached to certain items, or making tough decisions. 

If you’re avoiding any uncomfortable feelings, your going to have trouble making real progress.

Challenge yourself to push through some discomfort.  Start small and work your way up to more difficult tasks gradually.  

You did it.  You made the decisions and know exactly what needs to be donated, given, sold, or returned. 

So why are these items still somewhere in your house?   

The longer they sit the greater the chance that some of them will find their way back into your living space.  

And you don’t want that to happen. 

Ideally you’d be able to get those items to their new destinations right away, but that’s not always practical.  So take regular trips to your donation locations and offload what has been collected.

Knowing the questions to ask can make decluttering decisions much easier. 

How do you know what to keep and what to let go? 

It’s by asking yourself a series of questions.  Do I need this?  Do I use this? Do I have room for this?  etc.

Good questions get to the heart of the matter.  When you ask good questions, the best action to take will usually become clearer.

Have a standard set of questions that you ask as you’re decluttering.  Make sure they’re in line with your goals and help you deal with some of the tougher decisions.

Decluttering brings out a whole range of emotions, but it’s important to make sure you’re being guided by both your head and your heart.

Leaning too heavily on your emotions will no doubt lead to keeping way more than you should. 

Leaning too heavily on your mind can lead to getting rid of things you’ll regret. 

This is also where your “why” comes in handy.  Remember the reasons you’re doing this and the outcome you want to achieve.   

Take your emotions into account, but balance them by making sure your decisions are contributing to your “why” goals.

Just know that if you do this, there’s a very good chance it will cause a negative reaction.

Which is not what you want when you’re trying to get your family on board with the whole decluttering thing, right? 

Most people (even kids) feel strongly that they should have control of the things they own, and do not want that to be violated.   

Set an example first by limiting your decluttering to your own things or neutral household items.  You know your family.  Respect their property and only declutter it when they’re genuinely on board.

Do you ever feel paralyzed from taking action because you want to do this decluttering thing “just right”? 

You’ve got high expectations and don’t want to make any wrong decisions. 

Well, the truth is that you will make some mistakes.  You’ll get rid of some things that you’ll wish you’d kept, and keep some things only to throw them away later. 

Don’t let the idea of perfection get in the way of the good.  Take action and accept the fact that you’ll make some mistakes along the way. and that’s okay.

Just because you could sell an item doesn’t always mean you should.

Sometimes it’s worthwhile and sometimes it’s not.

When you’re deciding whether or not to sell an item, remember to account for the amount of time, energy, money, and focus it will cost you to do so.  This depends on how and where you plan on offering it for sale, the price you’re likely to get, and the likelihood of finding a buyer. 

Before deciding to sell an item, make sure it will be a net gain for you.  Not just in terms of money but other resources as well.  There’s nothing wrong with donating something that would cost more than it’s worth to sell.

Decluttering is not complicated, but that’s no reason for you to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. 

You’re in a process that will be ongoing and hopefully forming some good new habits along the way. 

Taking the time to learn from others and get started on the right foot will save you frustration, wasted time, and possibly some poor decisions.

Do yourself a favor and learn some tried-and-true strategies and tips.  You’ll be amazed how a small tip that you’ve never thought of can be a game changer.

Let’s focus for a moment on the items you’ll be keeping.   Whether they’ll be staying in the room they’re in, moved to another room, or put into storage, each one needs to belong somewhere. 

And not only a room, but an actual place in that room. 

I really like the old saying … “A place for everything and everything in it’s place.”  It’s a simple guideline but very effective.

Every thing should belong somewhere specific.  If there is genuinely not enough space to give every item its place, then you may have to rethink what you’re keeping.

There are lots of reasons why you may be tempted to move on before finishing the task you’re working on. 

Maybe you’ve hit a roadblock that you’re not sure how to get around.  Maybe you get a little bored and want to do something new.  Maybe you experience the “last 5% syndrome” and generally have trouble finishing tasks. 

Whatever the reason, don’t let this become a habit. 

Practice finishing a task, really completing it, before picking up a new one.  Having a house full of partly finished decluttering projects is still a cluttered house.

There are lots of simple tools, like checklists, trackers, challenges, and calendars that can really help make the job more easy to manage. 

The less you have to remember, and the more you have on paper (or in your device of choice), the better organized and effective your efforts are likely to be.   

Try some tools that appeal to you.  Odds are that if they help others you’ll benefit from them as well.

No matter how mundane the task, your mindset plays a huge role in the results you get from your efforts. 

The tricky part is that we often don’t even realize what mindset we have. 

I’m talking about simple, concrete ways to look at things.  For example. remembering that good enough is good enough.  Perfection is not the goal. 

Consider your mindset as important as any decluttering strategy or plan.

Wrapping Up

If you’ve read through this list, I’m pretty sure you’ve found some things that have been holding back your decluttering results.   Maybe even things you already knew but needed to be reminded of.   Pick one and start to change it today.  And let me know how it’s going!

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