22 Decluttering Mistakes - in Detail! - and How to Avoid Them!
Updated: Jun 27, 2022
As Bob Ross said on many occasions ‘ there are no mistakes…. Only happy accidents!’
Wouldn’t it make life a little easier if we could learn from other peoples ‘happy accidents’ though?!!!
Here are some mistakes you can avoid when you are decluttering, I have grouped them into 4 stages:
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
Don't set yourself up for disappointment or failure. You have made the decision to declutter and organise your home and your life, this is how you can make sure you start off as a winner:
Make sure you are in the right frame of mind. It is not a good idea to begin decluttering when you are going through or have just experienced any trauma, if you have had a divorce or are in the initial stages of grieving for example. If you really DO want to do something at this stage I recommend you leave anything which is triggering, which brings up raw feelings until later.
Don’t have a negative mindset. Erase the phrase ‘I can’t’ from your vocabulary!
Have a clear goal and a plan to get you there. Randomly working your way through the house decluttering along the way as and when you feel like it may seem like a good idea at the beginning but it is easily abandoned when you may need to make hard choices. By having a clear goal in mind - for example, ‘ I will have a beautiful sanctuary for a bedroom, it will be somewhere to come and relax at the end of everyday’ - you will always have a vision in your mind of what it is you are achieving and a plan which will get you closer each time you work on the area.
Do not underestimate the timeframe needed to complete a decluttering or organising job. There is no set time for particular jobs. There are so many different variables as to why it might take one person 3 hours to sort out their wardrobe whilst somebody else may need 3 days. It can depend on how easy it is for you to make decisions, how much you own, whether you are working alone and how much time you have available. As a rule I would advise you to as much as double the amount of time you think you will need! Especially on the more emotional things like photographs for example.
If you don’t already have ‘Homes and Zones’ for items like incoming mail, drop off points as people come home and laundry baskets, I strongly suggest that you develop these throughout the decluttering process. As you are working, think about the most obvious place for an item to live. Let’s think about a school bag for example. Is the best place for this to live by the front door so that it can be grabbed as you leave the house, or is it better living in the bedroom next to where homework is done? Whatever you decide - and talk to the people who are affected by this - create a dedicated space for it. Having one place for all the mail to go when it comes into your home - somewhere everyone knows about can be life changing!!!! No unpaid bills or lost invitations!!
Eat the frog! This phrase was devised by Brian Tracy, American-Canadian author and speaker, who wrote the book 'Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time'. Basically the idea is that you do the thing you are least looking forward to first. Get it out of the way so that you can concentrate on doing the nicer jobs! I don’t always think this is the best way to go ( see the first point on this list!) However, it is a good rule of thumb to follow for most jobs!
AS YOU START TO DECLUTTER
If you don’t want to jeapordise your job before it has begun, remember to bear the following points in mind:
Make sure you are not organising clutter. Firstly, you need to declutter before you organise, otherwise you are just moving items from one space to another, not really solving any problem. Secondly, decluttering first creates space for you to organise. You can then begin to decide what you want to keep and where you want it to go.
Don’t start throwing everything out / make sure you are not keeping hold of everything! It may be tempting to run at the decluttering and GET RID OF EVERYTHING so you can start again. Unfortunately this rarely works! It can leave you with a sense of loss, be frustrating and cost a lot of money. On the other hand keeping hold of items you don’t use,like or need for whatever reason is also a mistake people often make. Again ultimately it will be frustrating as you will not see any progress.
Have a system in place as you declutter. Before you tackle a space, have 5 containers at hand ( see www.lindajharper.com/post/lets-talk-paper-clutter for specific paper cluttering categories ) Recycle / Donate / Put Away Elsewhere / Trash / Unsure. The unsure box is only used where a decision is causing some stress and is looked at again at the end of the decluttering when a decision needs to be made on what to do with the item.
Don’t declutter other people’s belongings. This can lead to war! Unless you have absolute permission from them DO NOT work on someone else’s belongings alone.
THE DECLUTTERING PROCESS
Now you are making some progress and you may be feeling a bit tired and emotional, remember these next pieces of advice and you are on your way to completing a successful declutter!
Don’t get disillusioned half way through the decluttering process. As I was talking to one of my sons about this blog, he asked if I had included “ Remember it always looks worse before it gets better” - I have taught him well!!! This is an absolute 100% truism of the decluttering process - there will be a moment when you look around you and think “What have I done?”! THIS IS NORMAL! Carry on and you will soon begin to see huge improvements!
Don’t get caught up with the sentimental items. This is a whole DOCC Blog of it’s own. For now my advice is, when you come across an item which holds strong attachments, ask yourself why this item is causing you to feel these emotions. Is there a way you can capture the emotion or the memory without having the object. If you can create something from it like a quilt or a scrapbook would that help? Do you have a whole collection of items where keeping one special example would still have the same memories attached? If you do decide to keep the object, give it a home which is pride of place so that you can really appreciate and enjoy it.
Don’t get caught up thinking about the monetary value of your items. It is a mistake to keep something you neither use, want or care for because you spent a lot of money on it or because you think you could make money by selling it. Getting caught up in this is another way of putting off finishing the job you set out to do. - Remember your goal, your vision of the area you are decluttering? The money you spent on it is already gone - it is now costing you to store it both financially and mentally. It is using valuable space which could either house something you really do care about or even space which you want to be completely free and clear for your vision. It could also be causing you stress to think about how much you spent on it every time you see it gathering dust. If the object IS valuable then make a point of getting it seen, valued and sold.
Don’t keep hold of something ‘ Just In Case’. This simply adds to the mountain of clutter you are trying to get rid of. If the item can be replaced easily or if your ‘Just In Case’ item is just gathering dust and has been for over a year then it is time to donate it or ask someone if they want or need it. If you were keeping it Just In Case a particular person might want or need it - ask them, now you know if it is worth giving space in your home.
Don’t try to follow the ‘Experts’ and then get discouraged when your space isn’t looking like theirs! That includes my advice!! As Mr C Senior always says “ The good thing about advice is, you don’t have to take it!” The important thing is to take what you need, do some trial and error and find what works for you.
Keep your motivation. Keep your vision and goals in sight so in the dark periods you have a reason to continue and not carry on as before.
THE END OF YOUR PROJECT
This is when you begin to see what all your hard work has achieved. You begin to see light at the end of the tunnel! Keep a look out for the next group of common mistakes though!:
Having very high expectations. Unless you are very lucky at the end of your project, although your home will certainly look and feel much clearer and a lot tidier than it did before you started it won’t be up to the high standards set in magazines and online! There will still be things you want to do to reach the highest of ambitions. Don’t let this discourage you, from where you started you have probably come a lot further than where you want to get to. Look around at the clear, tidy spaces and take time for it to sink in that you have worked really hard and achieved all this!
Don’t leave your sorting containers lying around the house. The longer it takes to donate or put away items the more likelihood there is of them never leaving and becoming another layer of clutter. Move things on as quickly as possible.
Don’t compare. Comparing yourself to someone else and their home doesn’t work. Nobody has exactly the same circumstances as you or the same priorities as you do. You need to find the solutions which work for you and your home.
You need to change some habits. It goes without saying that if you habitually lose your keys you will need to consciously change your habit to putting your keys down in their own home in order to see success. By the time you get to this point, however, you will have homes and zones created and these habits will be much easier to change!
You will now want to maintain all the progress you have made. Now is the time, if you haven’t already, to make sure everybody is on board with the new organisation in your home, make sure everyone can see the new homes and zones for items and how using them will benefit everyone!
One of the biggest mistakes to make is to think you have finished! To keep a home looking decluttered and organised you need to be thinking about things which are brought into your home. Is it replacing something? If so, make sure to move the original item on as soon as possible. Is it something you love? Make sure you have somewhere to put it where it will be fully appreciated, not hidden away and forgotten. Keep remembering your initial vision and goal for your home, do any new purchases fit in with your vision? Your vision may change - if so bear that in mind too when you make new purchases. Maybe you need to tell friends and family what you have achieved and politely ask them not to buy you gifts which you may love but you don’t want to go back to how your home was when you couldn’t appreciate all the things you owned?
I hope this detailed list of things to avoid doing before, during and after your decluttering project inspire you and help you achieve all your visions and goals for your home!
You can also use a declutter journal to help you move methodically through your decluttering process. There is one available via the My Amazon link on my website :
Or this is a direct link to my Author Page:
You can comment below ↓↓ or look at the end of the blog for all the ways you can contact me privately. I love hearing from you with all your ideas and photos of the areas you are working on!!
If you want to delve deeper into finding a ‘system’ which will work for you, you can contact me via my email firstname.lastname@example.org or using the chat bubble on my website, I would love to help you!
You can message me on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Linda-J-Harper-Professional-Declutterer-and-Organiser-107805011001601.
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