6 Common Mistakes When Decluttering

When working with Clients I find decluttering is the hardest area for most to wrap their heads around.  It is the organizational stage that takes the longest and is the most emotional for people. I have identified that people make at least one decluttering mistake that is listed below when they embark on their organizational journey.  Lets see if you have done (or still do) any of these, so we can stop the cycle now:

Decluttering Mistake #1 – Fearing the Unknown

There are many stories of people starting the decluttering process and finding long lost documents or even money/gift cards they had forgotten.  That is one reason I am not a fan of just picking a box up and throwing it away.  I know it many times can open an even bigger can of worms, but it can also be very eye opening and therapeutic for you to see what you have been lugging around for years or to see that item that you had all along but because you couldn’t find it, you had to rush order another one and so you ultimately spent $50 unnecessarily (i.e., lost birth certificate or passport).  It forces you to face the reality of your life head on.

Decluttering Mistake #2 – Losing Sight of the Big Picture

Many people see an inspiration photo on a blog or on pinterest and they immediately want to replicate this in their own space worrying about where they got the container or that set of curtains, instead of focusing on the need to go through their belongings and evaluating their system to see if that would work in their world/space.  I get inspiration from pinterest and blogs too and many times use them in my work with clients, but adaption is key…adapting to your reality, your life and to your space is important if you want to develop successful systems.

Decluttering Mistake #3 – Getting Overwhelmed by Unimportant Details

I like to encourage Clients to just start by sorting what they currently have.  Don’t focus on what you are getting rid of or what you can’t bear to part with, focus on putting like things together.  Sometimes just seeing the amount of items you have in a specific category will make it easier for you to rid yourself of the clutter.

Decluttering Mistake #4 – Ignoring the Logical or Organic for the Popular

Where do you logically place things, where do you organically look for something when you need it…you know…that first place you go.  If you always go to the kitchen when you first come in the house, maybe that is the most logical place to create a landing pad for you to dump your pockets.  Maybe designate a cabinet or a basket where these items will go.  If you always charge your phone by your bed…create a charging station there for all your electronics.  What is typically in your pockets when you empty them and where do you usually do the emptying?  Create a pocket emptying station in this location be that the laundry room, where you place your keys or in your bedroom.  It may not make sense to others, but what matters is that it makes sense to you…and that will increase the likelihood of success.

Decluttering Mistake #5 – Getting Stuck on One Item

In many situations there is that one item that the mere mention of getting rid of it creates tears and palpitations. Instead of trying to force the issue at the time, you have one of two choices…and read these carefully.  (1) place the item(s) in a box/container and seal it.  On the container put a big note that says if this seal hasn’t been broken as of (enter a date 6 mths – a year in the future) then discard it unopened.  This gives the person the mourning time with their belongings.  Sometimes it is just overwhelming for them to get rid of items all at one time, especially when they have an emotional tie to it.  (2) Give the item prominence in the home.  Take a photo of it and/or frame it.  Many times the idea of framing an item will put the reality into perspective.  Ask yourself, “If I don’t want to display it or give it to someone then why am I keeping it?”  (3) you could put a note on it that says until space is needed.  That way you know you either get rid of it or get rid of something else.  As much as I don’t like clutter, if you have room for the items and have that big of an attachment to it…don’t harp on it.  Press pause and come back to it at the end.  Celebrate the wins.  You never know by the time you get to the end, you may be ready to let it go.

Decluttering Mistake # 6 – Getting Rid of Someone Else’s Belongings

This is a big pet peeve of mine when I see the conversations on forums and groups.  Lets ignore the fact that this is unbelievably rude and focus on the fact that there is no way for you to know the status/purpose of everything that person is keeping.  Put yourself in that situation and think about how that would make you feel.  It wouldn’t be nice at all.  It may drive you crazy that your spouse/teen won’t get rid of their “junk”, instead of making the decision for them, offer to work with them to help organize and or declutter it.  One recommendation I have is that you should start decluttering/organizing other areas of the space/home until there is nothing left.  Many times when a person starts seeing how it makes them feel to live in an organized space they will decide to do it on their own.  In some cases this won’t happen and you may have to bring in an expert or determine if this is a battle worth fighting.  If it is an area that only they frequent, then let it be and move on.  Now, the only time I will abandon this rule is when you have children under the age of understanding.  I purposely didn’t add an age here because each child has a different developmental calendar.  As early as possible, I would include them in regular declutter sessions so they get used to understanding what it is to get rid of things they no longer use or need.  Set up systems for them as well so they can easily make those decisions.  One way to help children of all ages is to give them limits.  Here are some that I have used in the past:

  • Oh you got five new toys so lets get rid of five;
  • Your Birthday/Christmas is coming so lets see what you have outgrown (toys and clothes); or
  • You used this when you were a baby, but you are my big girl/boy now!  Why don’t we give it to [enter person or donation spot here] because they don’t have anything like this…or you can use this space to put your [enter their favorite toy here].

Now that you know the 6 things to avoid, pick an area and jump in there.  Remember to take a before and after photo and share it with the THB family in our Facebook Group!  I would love to hear your story…and who knows you may get featured on our blog.

If you found this information helpful, please comment and let me know.  Make sure to join our Newsletter, so you don’t miss our next post.  Until then, have a happy day!

About Dana LaRieal Morales

Dana LaRieal Morales is the Founder of The Happiness Bucket where she coaches individuals and teams on having a better work-life balance. She is a Certified Project Manager, an Alum of the University of Tennessee Knoxville, where she earned her degree in sociology with a concentration in criminal justice and she is also an Alum of Tennessee State University where she earned her Masters in Public Administration, She uses her vast organization, project management and process improvement experiences to help those around her be their best selves.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *