Making mistakes while decluttering can slow down the whole process.
We declutter to reduce the overwhelm of having too many unused (or useless) things and thus to be able to live in a clean home.
But making the following mistakes can affect the success of your decluttering process.
Let’s see how you can avoid these mistakes and finally find the peace you are looking for in your living space.
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1. STARTING DECLUTTERING WITHOUT PREPARATION
If you don’t make plans before starting the decluttering, you may likely end up with a mess you don’t know what to do with.
Before starting with an area, find out what all do you need to deal with the clutter. Estimate whether you can finish the project in the designated time.
If not, it’s best to declutter one cupboard at a time rather than get it all out and find out that now you don’t have space to walk.
Before decluttering, make sure you have cardboard boxes or carry bags ready to give away the items you don’t need anymore.
2. STOP MAKING THE MISTAKE OF DECLUTTERING DIFFERENT AREAS TOGETHER
Got a sudden motivation to clean the entire house? When you get bit by the cleaning bug, it can happen.
Try not to declutter the whole house or even different rooms in one day. It can result in overwhelm and frustration. So make a step-by-step plan for each area after looking at the items you need to declutter.
It’s best to start decluttering with smaller areas or do projects that can be done in ten minutes like these. You can also try decluttering category-wise as Mary Kondo suggests.
Once you get the hang of decluttering, you learn how much time and energy is required to tackle different projects and hence can move onto bigger projects.
3. BUYING STORAGE ITEMS BEFORE DECLUTTERING
Another thing not to do when decluttering is buying storage units beforehand.
Chances are, after decluttering, you will have free space than earlier to store the items you want to keep. So the extra storage items can, in fact, cause clutter now.
Buy storage containers only after decluttering and only if it’s a need.
I know it’s tempting to go get that cute-looking basket you saw last time when you were in the mall. But you don’t want to waste money as well as waste the decluttering efforts you made, right?
4. PROCRASTINATING ON GIVING AWAY
I am guilty of this mistake. After decluttering, do you keep your stuff under the bed, in the garage, or in the trunk of your car thinking you will give it to the goodwill on your way to the gym?
And then how many days does it lie there?
You might have decluttered your home, but your silly mind keeps on nagging and reminding you of the “final step” whenever possible.
For me, it’s as hard as seeing the clutter. Only when you get rid of it from your life, you get the real peace you were looking for.
5. DO NOT TRY TO DECLUTTER OTHER PEOPLE’S STUFF
We declutter to clear the extra stuff and enjoy the newly created space, right?
Unfortunately, when we live with other people, and especially if they are messy or likes to accumulate stuff, it can be hard.
But to keep the real peace at home intact, it’s better not to touch their stuff without permission.
You can talk with them and ask if they really need the accumulated stuff. But what looks like clutter for you may be a valuable sentimental item for them.
My daughter doesn’t let any of her stuff to be thrown away even if it’s a Kinder toy she barely remembers owning.
In the case of kids, you can make them understand how they can have more space if unwanted things are given away or donated to people who don’t have as many toys as them.
But ultimately, it’s best to respect their choices when it comes to their belongings.
If others are open to the idea of a trial, maybe you can do a small declutter project for their stuff and see how they enjoy the after-effects.
If they love it and agree that decluttering does make life easier, good for you! Or just respect their decision and let go.
6. GETTING DISTRACTED
While decluttering, you may find things that belong in some other area of your house and when your focus turns to straighten other areas, you lose a lot of time and energy as a result.
You also get distracted by people or other clutter you see in those areas.
When you start decluttering, remember that the more you can focus the sooner the task will be done.
So if you find things that belong to other areas, keep them aside and take them to the respective places at the end of the current decluttering session. Or you can ask for some help from your spouse or kids to make sure they reach their destined place.
7. GETTING LOST IN MEMORIES
Another distraction is the memories associated with the item especially if it’s a sentimental item.
This is a decluttering mistake many of us make because we all have memories attached to the things we own. Maybe it’s from a special trip, or from a special person, or from a special time in our past.
But if you take a lot of time reflecting on each item during decluttering, the whole process can be time-consuming.
Keep the things you want to reminisce on aside and continue with the decluttering process. Maybe after a while, you can go down memory lane when you have free time.
8. RUSHING THE PROCESS
It can be tempting to finish it all at once and have a clutter-free house in two days.
But depending upon the amount of clutter you have, it can be overwhelming to have unrealistic expectations.
Take it slow and steady so that you reach your goal successfully. When you rush it, it can derail your plans of having a clutter-free house as you succumb to overwhelm and tiredness.
Make realistic plans according to the time you have in your day and the help you will receive. Also, be flexible to changing plans if it takes more time than you intended.
9. ORGANIZING BEFORE DECLUTTERING
Sometimes we procrastinate on decluttering by not getting rid of the clutter.
And instead, we organize the clutter again and again procrastinating on decision-making.
But it’s just organized clutter now and you are not free from clutter again.
It’s hard to make decisions regarding our stuff, as we hold onto them thinking “we might need it someday”, or “even though I don’t seem to be using it, I can’t part with it now”.
So we keep organizing it. But the problem is that it’s still a part of your life even if it seems organized. It may be the old magazines and CDs you have neatly kept organized or utensils or kitchen appliances you don’t love or use anymore.
Even though they are neatly tucked in somewhere, you know it’s there taking up space and that you need to do something about it.
So instead of taking the “putting the band-aid” approach, get rid of the clutter immediately, and enjoy the nag-free space you have now.
10. HOLDING ONTO SENTIMENTAL ITEMS
It’s not necessary to get rid of each and every sentimental item you love. And it’s not easy to declutter sentimental items too, as we have emotions attached to each of them.
So you have to come up with a good plan to declutter sentimental items.
One thing to remember is that memories are attached to the person or place, but not the thing itself. Even if you get rid of the item, you still have memories available to you.
By giving away the item, the love in your heart for the person or place doesn’t decrease even an ounce, does it? They still have a place in your heart.
But it’s just that you are making the decision to live in your present more than in the past. It will only serve you better.
That being said, find ways to honor the memory by keeping only the most special things that are truly valuable to you.
Or you can make use of some creative ideas to turn those memorabilia into home decor or use it in your daily life if it’s possible.
Another idea is to take a photograph of the object. That can serve the purpose of “reminding” too so that you don’t feel guilty about it later.
And keep the photos organized in a folder called “memories” or any other name you prefer.
11. DECLUTTERING WHEN YOU ARE NOT IN THE RIGHT MINDSET
Another mistake you could be making while decluttering is decluttering when you are not in the right mind frame for it.
If you are feeling emotional, hungry, tired, or uninspired, it’s better to do it later when you feel motivated and in the mood to do it.
It’s hard to work efficiently when you are not in the right mood. And also if you feel busy because you have so many other things to do as well, decluttering may not be effective.
So, set aside some time for decluttering when you can be focused and when you know you have nothing else to be done on your list.
12. STOP KEEPING THINGS FOR JUST IN CASE
This is another mistake I think we all make when we declutter. We don’t want to feel guilty later about the decisions we made of letting go of things when we actually may need it “someday”.
The truth is, that “someday” may never come.
Right now, I have a shelf containing some recipe magazines which I bought years ago. Whenever I decluttered the shelf, I would flip through the magazines and would think I might need this someday.
But I never opened it and now I need more space to keep my daughter’s belongings so I have decided to let them go. I can practically look up any recipe in the world online anyway.
So sometimes it’s good to be merciless and make a firm decision during the first round of decluttering itself.
And the thing is, you become better at decluttering and learning to let things go as you do it more and more.
So you don’t need to worry if you can’t do it one round. You will eventually learn to live with less and you will be surprised at your improved ability to declutter.
13. BELIEVING YOU CAN DO IT ALL AT ONCE
Decluttering in real life may not be what you look like in the TV shows. It can take more than a weekend or even a week to have that clutter-free house.
It depends on many factors like at which stage you are in (beginner or experienced), or how much time and help you have for the more complex decluttering.
So, it is a mistake to think I will have a clutter-free house in one week. Decluttering involves lots of energy, time, emotional ability to let go of things, learning to work with indecision, etc.
So don’t be surprised if you can’t do it in one go. There will be more rounds of it where you can practice your decluttering muscles more and more.
So give yourself some grace and understand that it’s more like a journey than a chore.
14. COMPARING WITH OTHERS
Well, decluttering is not always synonymous with simple living. Some people declutter because they want to live simpler while some others do it for less effort and more space in their living area.
You don’t need to be competitive and get rid of things that others are throwing away.
Your home mirrors YOUR personality. And the stuff you own is tailored to the lifestyle you like to live.
So don’t get rid of all your journals just because you saw your friend switched to digital journaling.
You might still be a pen and paper person and that’s what you are comfortable with.
15. FEELING GUILTY ABOUT YOUR PURCHASES
I am guilty of having this guilt. When you start decluttering, you might find having bought items you thought were useful and that you needed it.
Sometimes we make expensive purchases on a whim and end up never using them more than once or twice.
I am here to tell you that I have felt bad about it too. I won’t say that you should never feel guilty. Because sometimes guilt lets us know what actions we need to stop, right?
If you are a shopaholic, that guilt can serve you well. Because it helps to make better decisions in the future. But don’t beat yourself up about the decisions you made in the past.
We are human beings and we are meant to grow. Since we are supposed to try different things and experiment with new ideas in life, we may accumulate stuff like that.
For example, if you are like me, your creative brain would decide one day that “I am going to learn photography, or quilting or sewing.” And then you are all excited and you buy stuff.
And after two months, you might lose interest and those remain in a corner.
Recently, when my parents were selling their house, I went there to clean up some stuff I had there. I found two quilling books I never used. They were expensive too.
But I knew beating myself up was unnecessary as I followed my interests at one time. But I learned a lesson that I don’t need to invest in expensive items until I am serious about it.
And as they say, clarity comes from engagement. You can decide if it’s for you or not by trying it. But if you lose interest, it’s ok and you can move on.
It’s so much better than wondering about what would happen if I learned this or that.
But don’t let this old unused stuff guilt-trip you. If you give it away now, you are not wasting money NOW.
If it is an unused kitchen appliance or a home decor item you don’t like now, the money was wasted when you bought it. Keeping it won’t return the money you spent. So Learn the lesson and move on.
You can be more intentional in your purchases in the future.
But if it’s a hobby item like I said, you enjoyed engaging with it for a period of time in your life, so it’s not a waste. You are just following your heart.
16. MAKING EXCUSES
Decluttering can be hard depending upon the number of items you have. And our brain has the tendency to shoo us away from doing things that are hard.
It will whisper to us saying, “It is hard, it will consume time, you will not be successful with it, there is too much stuff”, etc.
Yes, everything is true. But the key is to focus on the end result.
How would your life change as a result of this hard thing?
If necessary, write it down. This answer will be the one that motivates you to do the decluttering.
And you can ask this question with any hard challenges in life too.
17. NOT CHANGING YOUR HABITS
The biggest mistake after decluttering would be to continue with the same habits that made you end up having clutter.
If nothing changes, nothing changes.
You will soon find yourself in the same situation of overwhelming clutter, guilt and indecision.
So decide how you would change your life when it comes to buying things. Decide what matters most in life and what stuff you need to make your home a beautiful place to be.
And be intentional about each purchase and think through it many times if necessary.
Make sure you are not buying things to fill a void or for the high you get after each purchase.
Always remember, we learn from mistakes. It could be from our own mistakes or what someone else made. I hope this post helps in learning about some of the decluttering mistakes and avoid them.
What are some decluttering mistakes you have made? Let me know in the comments below!
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