Inside: When getting rid of clutter, don’t make these mistakes! Short-track your decluttering journey and quickly see results by avoiding these blunders.
When I tell people I’ve been decluttering for four years, what I mean is my last four years of decluttering have stuck.
Just like weight loss that ends in gaining all the weight back, my previous years of decluttering attempts only ended in clutter.
Once a year, I’d go on a mad frenzy to get rid of all the things. Every time it felt like I got rid of half the house.
And yet, a few months later, my house was cluttered again. Why?
10 common mistakes when getting rid of clutter
So often, we follow decluttering advice from someone who has never struggled with clutter.
I have friends whose “before” home looks like my “after”. They apologize for the mess when their mess is limited to the coat closet. 😩
If you’ve ever followed common decluttering advice only to find yourself still struggling with clutter, here are common mistakes I see people make when getting rid of clutter.
Related: Read this post for 5 step-by-step instructions to declutter your life quickly and easily.
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#1: You focus only on what goes out.
Unless you live in a world where no items will ever again cross into your home, decluttering isn’t only about getting rid of clutter. It’s also about making choices to keep clutter from entering your home in the first place.
Let’s take the mail for example. When you bring it into your home, what happens with it? Do you immediately go through, open up the bills and throw out the junk mail? Or do you throw it in a pile to deal with “later”?
When you’re at the store, do you often buy items that never get used? Do you buy food that goes to waste?
Decluttering is not only about getting stuff out of your house. It’s also about building the muscle to make better decisions in the future.
See also: The most common mistake people make when it comes to decluttering and organization.
#2: You view decluttering as a project.
Oh man, this one’s a soul-crusher. Decluttering is not a one-time project.
Decluttering is a lifelong journey.
This doesn’t mean you’re doomed to live a life of clutter. It means there is no pressure for doing it “right” the first time.
Every time you remove something unnecessary from your home, you simplify and improve your life.
#3: You think you can declutter your entire home in a day/weekend/month.
I’ve seen posts that claim to tell you how to declutter your whole home in an afternoon. Girl, if you can declutter your home in an afternoon, you don’t have a cluttered home.
I’ve been decluttering for the past four years and it’s still something I’m working on.
Each time you declutter, you remove a little bit more and learn to live with a little bit less. It’s like peeling back the layers of an onion.
#4: You pull everything out and put back only what you need and enjoy.
Seriously? You want me to take out the entire contents of this packed-to-the-gill linen closet and put it on my bed — the only clear, horizontal surface?
You guys, when I started my decluttering journey, I followed advice like this. I stacked, pushed and moved all the contents of my kitchen counter or table to make room to pull things out of a cabinet.
Inevitably, I lost energy and went off to do something more important, like eat or sleep. And the pile sat there. For weeks. OR MONTHS.
You see, if your cabinets are so packed full you worry about an avalanche every time you need some salt, trying to declutter the whole thing in one go is a losing battle.
#5: You think there are neat people and messy people.
The idea that there are two types of people in this world — neat and messy — is completely false.
The truth is there are neat habits and messy habits.
If you take your dirty dish to the sink, rinse it off and put it in the dishwasher as soon as you’re done eating, you’re practicing a neat habit.
If you leave that dirty dish in the same spot and only notice it days later when you’re completely out of clean dishes (guilty! 🙋♀️), you’re practicing a dirty habit.
The bad news is your habits are the reason you are in this mess. The good news is you can change your habits.
Learn more: Here’s my favorite book on how to change habits.
Overwhelmed by clutter?
#6: You focus on the messiest area first.
I don’t care if you have mementos from elementary school spilling out of every corner, or your kitchen is so full you can barely move. These are not the places to start.
You want to find an area of your home that is so easy to declutter but makes a big difference. I call these areas quick wins.
What happens when you quickly accomplish one small task? You have the energy to plow into bigger tasks.
You are like a boulder picking up speed as you roll down the hill. The more declutter, the faster you go.
Learn more: 5 Clutter Busters to Make a Huge Difference with a Short Amount of Time
#7: You expect perfection.
If I was going to get a forehead tattoo, it would read “Focus on progress, not perfection.” I’d get it inked backward so I’d be reminded of this saying every time I looked in the mirror.
Unless your goal is to be featured in Real Simple Magazine, why on earth are you shooting for perfection?
I swoon over good decor and design, but I’m realistic with myself. My home is for living.
On any given day, you could walk in to find kids racing over couch cushions scattered on the floor, science creations lining the kitchen sink or baby toys hiding in the fridge.
Getting rid of clutter is about clearing the excess so you have room to live the life you want.
You can do this!
Decluttering is not rocket science or brain surgery. You are not doomed to live in the chaos forever.
The bad news is getting rid of clutter is probably one of your least favorite things to do. The good news is anyone in any situation can make progress.