Inside: Do you struggle to clear clutter? Me too. Learn the 7 reasons it’s hard to clear clutter and what you can do to move past those blocks.
The other day, I got into an argument with my husband. It’s one we’ve had many times before.
I start off by telling him how stressed out I am by the clutter in our house. I tell him the areas I’d like to work on and why they stress me out.
He often complains that in the time I spend talking/complaining about the clutter, he could’ve just fixed it and been done with it.
But clearing clutter not that easy for me.
Over the last five years, I’ve been on a mission to clear clutter in my home, going from hoarder-level tendencies to having some rooms so clean they look ready for social media.
But decluttering is still not easy for me. In fact, clearing clutter is something I really struggle with.
Maybe, like me, you’ve read countless posts or books about how to declutter, and yet, you still struggle. You’ve learned every tactic that’s hot at the moment…but still live in a chaotic, messy home.
I think there is something going on internally that makes clearing clutter harder for some people than it is for others.
Here are the 7 reasons it’s hard for you to clear clutter…and most importantly, what you can do to break past your bad habits and beliefs.
Let’s be honest: It’s easier to think about decluttering than it is to actually do it. Scrolling for organization ideas on Pinterest is much more satisfying than getting up and doing the work.
I know it.
Because I will spend hours dreaming about how I could clear clutter in a space…rather than get to work and actually clear clutter.
Here’s the problem: thinking about a problem doesn’t solve the problem. It may make you feel better in the short run, but with the clutter still present, thinking alone won’t help you in the long run.
Instead of overthinking, try this:
Grab a sheet of paper or open up a blank note on your phone. Write out everything you’d like to do in a particular space, whether that’s the kitchen, garage or playroom.
Write down everything with no judgement or prioritizing. The goal is to get all the thoughts swirling in your head causing anxiety, to get out and onto the paper.
Don’t rush the process. Give yourself at least 15 minutes.
From there, pick one project on the list that you’d like to work on first. Then, go do it!
Learn more: Read this post to get step-by-step instructions for creating a decluttering checklist.
#2: Struggling to Make Decisions
It’s hard to make decisions. I once spent two hours in the toothpaste aisle at Walmart because I couldn’t decide on the right tube.
That’s two hours of my life that I’ll never get back.
Odds are, if you’re struggling with clutter, it’s because you struggle to make decisions.
I have some very organized friends who declutter so often they don’t even have a word for it. It’s just so ingrained in their minds that they clear clutter without even a second thought.
For those of us who struggle to make decisions, the scene is opposite. Determined to organize the closet, we decide to make two piles of clothes: one for keeps, and one for donation.
At first, we’re off to a roll: two to keep, two to donate. But after a while, our brain is fatigued and we find this scenario: two to keep, two to donate…no wait, I should keep that one…and that one too.
Before we know it, we’ve only put a few items in the donation pile.
Instead of struggling to make decisions, try this:
You’re going to hate me for this suggestion. I don’t have a quick fix, but here’s how I got better at making decisions: practice.
The more I clear clutter in my home, the better I get at making quick decisions.
For instance, it used to pain me to get rid of something that I knew I could fix. I’m eco-conscious, and I hate the thought of throwing something out if it can be fixed.
So, I’d put it away and promise to fix it.
A few months later, I’d come across it again in my decluttering session…still broken.
You have to be really honest with yourself: if you haven’t already fixed/worn/used it, you’re not going to. Get rid of it.
Learn more: Where to start decluttering when you’re overwhelmed by all the clutter
#3: Expecting Perfection
Stop expecting the perfect conditions. You don’t have to wait until the perfect time. You don’t have to spend 10 minutes scrolling to find the perfect music to listen to. You don’t have to wait until the kids are asleep.
Just. Start. Now.
I get preachy when it comes to talking about perfection because, I’ll be honest, it’s something I struggle with — hard.
You know what focusing on perfection actually is? An excuse.
It’s much easier to complain that you’d have a clean house if only…
…the kids played independently
…you weren’t so busy
…your toddler wasn’t obsessed with pulling everything out of the cabinets
It’s much easier to complain…than it is to do the work.
Instead of expecting perfection, try this:
Focus on progress, not perfection. I say this to myself so often I should just get it tattooed on my arm.
Perfection is a myth, it doesn’t exist. So instead of making excuses because things aren’t right, focus on progress.
Focus on taking tiny steps on a consistent basis and you will see progress.
#4: But What If…
This is a common complaint of why it’s impossible to clear clutter.
But what if…
… I need it some day
… we buy a bigger house and will have room for it
… I have more time when the kids are older
Instead of drowning in what ifs, try this:
Get rid of it. And see if you miss it.
I think “what ifs” mainly stem from a fear of failure. If we get rid of this $50 (or $5) item and then need to buy it in the future, we’ve failed. We end up wasting money to repurchase it.
But instead of focusing on what ifs, give yourself some grace and have faith that you’ll make the best decision you can.
If you have to rebuy an item, look at it this way: you freed up that space for the year or so you weren’t using it. So, you’re not wasting money to rebuy it…but rather paying someone else to store it during the time you didn’t need it.
But odds are, you won’t need to rebuy the vast majority of the things you get rid of. So, isn’t it worth paying a couple of dollars here and there to get rid of vast amounts of clutter?
Ya dang right it is!
#5: Giving Up Dreams
I’ve always wanted to be a knitter. I bought knitting needles at yard sales and boxes of yarn at a sale. And I knitted…for a little while.
But like clockwork, no matter how invested I was in knitting, when spring and summer came around, I had no interest in it.
And then a baby came. And then another.
I’ve long since gotten rid of the boxes of yarn because they’re cheap and take up a lot of space. But the knitting needles…even though I haven’t knitted a stitch in over 5 years, I still have my knitting needles, shoved in the back of the closet.
Sometimes, it’s hard to clear clutter because it means we’re giving up dreams.
The dream to bake, garden or go backcountry camping. It’s hard to get rid of those items because it means we’re watching the dream die.
Instead of clutching dreams so hard you squeeze the life out of them, try this:
The reality is that you can get most of those things back.
Let’s not argue about sentimental things. Let’s be honest, you and I both struggle to get rid of a blender we haven’t used in 5 years…do you think we’re ready to go through sentimental items? 😉
When it comes to saying goodbye to a dream, remind yourself that you’re only saying goodbye for now.
One of two things will happen when you clear clutter related to a dream:
- In the distant future, your time frees up and you go buy the things necessary to fulfill that dream. You’re so glad you didn’t hang on to 30 year old musty hiking boots.
- You forget all about the dream and live a happier life.
#6: Not Having a Home For Every Item
I used to hate hearing those organized moms say “A home for everything and every thing in its place.”
Turns out, they’re right.
When you don’t have a home for an item, you end up shuffling it from one area to another. What feels like decluttering is actually shifting the same things around again…and again.
As a result, you never see progress. This makes it so hard to make decisions (see #2) because you don’t know where anything goes.
And when you don’t know where things go, it’s hard to decide if an item belongs in your home.
Instead of constantly shuffling clutter, do this:
While you don’t have to have your items labeled and categorized by color, you do need a general idea of where things belong.
Let’s say you come across these items while clearing clutter. Would you know where they go?
- Magazines or books
- Purse and keys
These are just a couple of items off the top of my head that I know I struggle with finding a place for.
When you find an item that you know you want to keep, find a home for it. When I first started decluttering, a “home” meant the room where it belonged. Now that my home is less cluttered, I can get more specific.
Making any decision is better than no decision.
#7: You’ve Decluttered Before
If you’ve decluttered before, this could be a reason you struggle to clear clutter.
“Wait, say what? Having decluttered already makes it harder to declutter again??”
Yes, if you let it.
I’ve decluttered several times, sometimes getting rid of what feels like half the house. And yet, my home can often feel cluttered.
It’s disheartening. When I’m feeling especially anxious about clutter, I immediately think there’s something wrong with me. “Why can’t I get my act together? I’ve already decluttered, why is my home still cluttered?”
Instead of negative self talk, try this:
The fact is that your home will look better with every decluttering round. You are making progress. You’re right, you haven’t achieved perfection yet, but perfection is a myth — it doesn’t exist. (See #3)
It’s so easy to want the magic pill. We want to figure out what it seems everyone else has figured out but is elusive to us.
We search for the one strategy, tip, or hack to make all our clutter woes go away. Whether you’re trying to clear clutter in your home, lose weight or learn how to touch your toes again, here’s the secret:
You have to do the work.
I know, I hate this answer too. But after talking with hundreds of moms about their cleaning routines, I know this to be true: the people who have a clean home spend a lot of time cleaning.
There’s no way around it, you have to do the work.
Now, I’m not saying you’re doomed to live in chaos unless you commit to spend hours every day cleaning. In fact, I know some moms who won’t go to bed until their house is immaculate…even if that means staying up until one in the morning. 😲
Instead, focus on taking one small step every day to clear clutter. You’ll see more progress if you spend 15 minutes every day for a year than if you spend hours every day but give up after a month (or a week).
Even tiny steps can get you closer to your goal.
Ready to Clear Clutter?
Then, grab this free decluttering checklist, friend! You can get motivated to clear clutter, even if you’re completely overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.