5 Common Decluttering Mistakes – and How to Avoid Them

5 common decluttering mistakes - and how to avoid them

Today I’m sharing 5 decluttering mistakes I’ve made over the years while decluttering, simplifying and embracing minimalism. These decluttering mistakes are common and easy to make. But that doesn’t mean you have to make them too! Take what I’ve learned and skip the decluttering mistakes so you can declutter more efficiently and effectively right from the start!

When I first started decluttering our home, I was doing it on my own. I had no guide or program to follow. I just knew I was overwhelmed by the amount of stuff in our house and was looking for a better way. I was learning to declutter and simplify as I went, and it didn’t always go smoothly. I hit a few stumbling blocks along the way and had to figure things out through trial and error.

These 5 decluttering mistakes are what slowed my decluttering progress down the most. While I was in the midst of decluttering, it was easy to make these mistakes without realizing the impact they were having on my progress simplifying our home. Take what I’ve learned and avoid making these same decluttering mistakes yourself.

5 common decluttering mistakes - and how to avoid them
Photo by Jarosław Ceborski on Unsplash

5 Common Decluttering Mistakes – and How to Avoid Them!

1. Not getting decluttered items out of the house right away

This is a big one. When you’re decluttering, it’s easy to set things you’re decluttering aside, ready to be donated/sold/thrown out/etc., but not actually taking the final step and removing them from your house. When items you’re getting rid of hang around the house too long, it becomes all too easy for you or other members of your family to second guess your decluttering decisions.

Maybe you’ll worry you were too ruthless and you should keep that thing you haven’t used in years “just in case” you ever need it. Or seeing something that’s been sitting in the back of a closet for years reminds your husband how cool it is and how you can’t possibly get rid of it. Or your kids start checking out all the “treasures” in the pile and before you know it they’ve spread the things all over the house.

However it happens, the results are the same – not getting the stuff out of the house right away gave you or your family the opportunity to second guess your decluttering decisions. And the stuff has made its way back into the house, undoing the hard work you put into decluttering in the first place.

Solution:

When you’re decluttering, don’t let things you’re getting rid of sit around for weeks or months. Make a plan to get them out of the house quickly. Throw out the garbage right away. And plan regular runs to the donation center to drop off items you’re decluttering.

In between runs to the donation center, keep decluttered items in a “holding zone”. Make sure it’s a place that’s out of the way. And keep items in boxes or bags you can’t see through. This helps remove the temptation to take things out of the donation pile. And helps makes sure your hard work won’t be undone!

Not only can hanging on to decluttered items too long make it easy for things to find their way back in the house, undoing all your work. But hanging on to piles of stuff you’re getting rid of doesn’t let you start experiencing the space and freedom you’ve created by decluttering.

2. Trying to organize first instead of decluttering

Organizing stuff you don’t use or need will never solve your clutter problem. Organized clutter is still clutter. Eventually, it will make its way out of your organized system causing the same clutter, mess and stress in your home again.

Solution:

Always declutter first, before you even begin to think about organizing. Don’t buy a bunch of bins, boxes or baskets until you’ve thoroughly and ruthlessly decluttered. It’ll only waste your money and leave you with more stuff/clutter disguised as organizational tools.

First, get rid of all the things you don’t use regularly or love. Once you’ve done that you won’t have nearly the amount of stuff to organize. And likely won’t need as  many organizational tools anyways!

5 common decluttering mistakes - and how to avoid them
Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

3. Not being ruthless enough

This was one of my biggest time wasters while I was decluttering. I would declutter an area, but keep things “just in case”, or because I might be able to use them “someday”. Then as time went on I would realize I wasn’t as ruthless as I could’ve been and had kept a lot of stuff we still didn’t use, need or love. Then I would need to go back and declutter the same area again.

Solution:

Decluttering is a process, one you get better at the more you do it. And it’s very common for it to take several rounds of decluttering before you feel satisfied with the amount of stuff in your home.

However, with that being said, reminding yourself to be ruthless while you’re decluttering is important too. The more you get rid of now, the less time and energy you’ll spend decluttering the same area again later.

A great way to encourage yourself to be more ruthless while decluttering is to set a clear goal when you begin decluttering a space. Do you want to get rid of half the items in the space? Or maybe you want to only keep what can fit easily on one shelf. Before you begin decluttering, decide what your vision for the space is and what you need to do to make that happen. Then, use that goal to keep you motivated to be as ruthless as possible while decluttering.

4. Getting hung up on selling items to recoup money spent

When you’re decluttering, seeing all the money you’ve spent on stuff you don’t use, need or love is hard. It can feel like you’ve wasted a lot of money. And you might want to try selling items you’re decluttering to recoup some of that money.

The problem with trying to sell items you’re decluttering is it takes a lot of time and effort to sell things. And while you see them as valuable, they often aren’t worth as much as you hope anyway. Spending a lot of time selling items can slow your decluttering progress significantly. And make it difficult to see the results of your decluttering.

Solution:

Accept that the money you spent is already gone. Getting rid of an item now isn’t wasting money. The money was wasted when you bought something you didn’t need or love in the first place. Take it as a lesson for making more intentional purchases in the future. Keep your focus on clearing the clutter, instead of feeling regret or trying to recoup money already spent.

Some larger and more expensive items, like furniture, are worth the time and effort to sell. But make sure anything you’re trying to sell is worth the time and effort it will take. Maybe set a minimum amount you can ask for an item to decide if something is worth trying to sell. Donate everything else and enjoy the time and space you’ve created in your life by getting rid of it.

5. Getting rid of stuff, only to buy more stuff

Sometimes we declutter and get rid of a bunch of stuff, but find our home cluttered again a few months later. So, we declutter again and end up in a cycle of decluttering then buying more again. The result is we never get to fully experience the benefits of decluttering and simplifying because we are constantly bringing more stuff back into our home.

Solution:

Decluttering is great. But if you are constantly buying more stuff after decluttering, you’ll never make much progress simplifying your home.

Simplifying is a two-part process – getting rid of anything you don’t use or love is the first part. The second part is stopping the inflow of more stuff coming into your home. A big part of embracing minimalism is changing your habits and routines.

First, it’s important to learn to shop more intentionally and thoughtfully, only buying what you truly need and will use. Next, working to shift your mindset about stuff overall by spending your time and money in ways that add value to your life not clutter to your home. And finally, embracing routines that let you become a gatekeeper for what comes into your home. Learning to stop the clutter before it has a chance to make its way into your home at all!

5 common decluttering mistakes - and how to avoid them
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

These 5 decluttering mistakes are ones I’ve made – and sometimes still struggle with. They aren’t things you can change overnight. But often becoming aware of these decluttering mistakes is the first step towards avoiding them moving forward. You don’t need to slow down your decluttering progress like I did. Learn from my decluttering mistakes and begin experiencing the benefits of a simplified home faster and easier!

Have you experienced any of these decluttering mistakes? Which decluttering mistakes are the hardest for you to overcome? Leave a comment and let me know!

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16 Comments

  1. This is a great post in that it made clear for me the glitches in my decluttering process and offered really clear tips to avoid those glitches. I wondered if you have any thoughts on being in the right frame of mind for decluttering? Is there a time that you find is best? Thanks!

    1. Thanks, I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed the post and found it helpful. For me, the right frame of mind for decluttering depends on a couple of things. First, I find I have to go with it when the mood strikes. If I feel like doing some decluttering, I try to set aside what I’m working on and go for it. It’s not always possible, but I often find when I feel motivated or inspired to declutter, I get a lot done, so I try to take advantage of those times.

      Aside from that, I find planning times to declutter is helpful so that I don’t feel rushed or like I should be doing something else. I know I’ve planned for this time, and can go for it.

      Reading an article or book about decluttering right before I get started is also really helpful. When I read a great article about simplifying, it often motivates me to get rid of more. I recently read Soulful Simplicity by Courtney Carver. It’s not really a “how to” decluttering book, but it is full of so much great inspiration to simplify. It would be a great pre-decluttering session read!

      As far as a time I find best, I find decluttering when I feel good tends to be more productive. For example, I don’t like to start decluttering if I’m hungry, tired, not feeling great, etc. If I’m not feeling great, I often don’t work as effectively or efficiently and end up feeling discouraged by my lack of progress. But when I feel good, I can get more done and feel motivated by my progress.

      I hope this helps and answers your questions! Let me know if you’d like to know more. Thanks for reading!

  2. This is a great post. I am an experienced declutterer, sad because that means I am always in process and have not reached a point of where I can look around and feel good about reaching a goal. Every point trips me up to the point of paralysis. Thanks for posting these, points that can be known only through experience.

    1. Thanks, Elaine, I’m glad you found the post helpful. I think a lot of us struggle with these decluttering pitfalls. But I always find once I know and understand what types of things trip me up while I’m decluttering, it’s easier to overcome them. Knowledge is power 🙂 Thanks for reading and sharing your experience!

  3. I love your posts! Thanks for the inspiration. I have been decluttering my house now for a few months. It is addicting. I have been trying to do a little or a lot each day depending on my work schedule. I have found that by doing a little or more each day has become habit forming and when I am sitting down in the evening I am thinking in my head what can I do next. My goal is to go through my whole house. I have made 3 trips to goodwill with my truck full of donations so far. I try like you suggested to get it out of the house as soon as I can. Clothes are easy to drop off in my area most towns have drop off bins for good used clothes and I have filled about 50 grocery bags full already and donated them. It feels great! Clothes I bring in my vehicle as soon as I am done going through them since there is a drop off on my way to work. My house feels so much more relaxing already. My dressers and closets have extra room instead of being literally stuffed full of clothes and other things. My kitchen cupboards and drawers look great and I love having the things I love accessible. My surfaces are mostly clear now making cleaning so much easier. The benefits really are endless. Have a great day! I am off to clean.

    1. Wow! This is awesome, thank you so much for sharing your progress and the awesome benefits you’re experiencing because of it. I absolutely love hearing about what a difference you’ve made in your home. It’s so inspiring! I agree, trying to do a little decluttering every day is a great approach to take. It really does become a habit and you start noticing you’re always on the lookout for what isn’t adding value to your life. Thank you for reading and thank you so much for sharing your experience, it sounds like you are doing absolutely amazing!

  4. Whatever you do … DONT STOP feeding us with all this amazingly helpful advice! Thank you so much for such generosity … you are really doing good here

  5. This is great stuff! I’ve recently been converted to the decluttering lifestyle, and have gotten rid of so much junk! It definitely makes my home calmer!

  6. These are such awesome tips! After moving 3 times in the past 5 years, I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to let things go, especially if you haven’t used or looked at them in the recent past.

  7. Thanks for these wonderful tips. I was hung up on #3 until I read your post which helped me to keep going. I am decluttering and minimizing my sewing room. Do you know what means?? Fabric galore and fabric scraps. I’m almost Where I want it to be so I can enjoy my sewing room instead of feeling encumbered and burdened by stuff.
    Thanks so much.!!!

    1. Thank you, Kalalen! I’m so glad to hear you found this post helpful! Good for you for tackling your sewing room. Sewing and crafting of all kinds can definitely leave you with a lot of supplies and “stuff”. The problem with this is when you have so much stuff that you feel encumbered and burdened like you said, and it starts interfering with your ability to actually sew! I’m so happy to hear that you are working on your sewing room and getting it to where you’d like. That’s awesome! Thanks for reading and sharing your experience!

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