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Get Rid of Clutter: What to do About “Indecision Clutter”

Get Rid of Clutter: What to do About “Indecision Clutter”

Did you know a lot of clutter is actually just stuff you need to make decisions about? For many of us, it’s very true. That’s why today’s post is all about how to get rid of clutter caused by indecision.

You’ll learn exactly what indecision clutter is. Why it matters when you’re decluttering your home. And what to do about it to clear the clutter for good!

What is indecision clutter?

Indecision clutter can be a big source of clutter in many homes. It’s clutter as a result of things you can’t, don’t want to or haven’t made a decision about.

It’s the stuff you don’t know what to do with. Or aren’t sure if you should keep it or not. Or are worried you might need it someday, so keep it “just in case”.

It can be projects you’re meaning to start. Books you’re planning to read but never get around to. Clothes you might wear someday. Toys your kids might want to play with one day. The makeup you might start wearing one day (even though you never reach for it). Decor items you’re not using, but might want to use later, etc.

You probably know you don’t use, need or love this kind of “stuff”. But you just don’t want to commit to the decision to get rid of it. So instead of making a decision about what to do with it, you avoid deciding and hang onto it instead.

But the thing is when you do this, you HAVE made a decision. You’ve decided to keep the item and allow it to continue adding clutter – and the burden that clutter adds – to your home and your life.

“Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.”

~ Laurie Buchanan
Get Rid of Clutter: What to do about "indecision clutter"
Photo by Kam Idris on Unsplash

Why does indecision clutter happen?

In many cases, indecision clutter happens because of emotional reasons. It might feel safer or easier to keep the things you don’t want to make decisions about.

Sometimes you avoid making a decision out of fear or fear of regret.

Maybe you worry you’ll need an item later and regret getting rid of it. Or maybe keeping “extras” gives you a sense of security that you’ll always be prepared. Even if it means you’re living with clutter, excess and unused/unneeded stuff in the meantime.

The fear often hides behind words like “what if”, “maybe”, “might need it”, “someday”, etc.

Other times not making a decision simply feels easier.

The items you’re struggling to decide about might carry strong emotional ties or a lot of emotional baggage. You know it’s going to take some emotional and mental work to sort through and make decisions about them. And maybe doing that work feels hard or scary. So it feels easier to avoid the work and the decisions.

Or maybe you’re simply tired and burnt out from trying to keep up with a home full of so much stuff day after day. And you just don’t have the energy to make the decisions about these items.

Why does it matter?

It can be easy to wonder why it matters? Why can’t you just keep the stuff you can’t decide about and not worry about it?

It matters because indecision clutter can add up to cause a significant amount of clutter in your home. And if your goal is to create a clutter-free home that gives you more time, space, energy and freedom, you need to make the decisions once and for all.

Everything you own takes some of your time, space & energy

When you avoid making a decision about whether to keep something in your home or not, it’s not a one-time event. Everything that stays in your home is something you will have to continue to deal with. It continues to take some of your time and energy from you.

You’ll have to clean it, clean around it, organize it, look for it, pick it up, put it away, move it to find something else, reorganize it, etc.

Even if it’s “out of sight, out of mind” in a storage closet, attic or basement, it’s still there. It still weighs on you, requires you to care for it, manage it and maintain it.

In fact, storage space can be a blessing and a curse! It’s nice to have some storage space. But it also gives you more space to let things you need to make decisions about pile up.

Making the decision once vs facing the item again and again

When you keep indecision clutter, every time you do another round of decluttering – because your house feels cluttered with all the “stuff” you haven’t made decisions about – you are faced with making decluttering decisions about these same items again and again.

Instead, you can make a decision to get rid of something unused, unneeded or unloved once, then never have to deal with it again.

After you make the decision, it’s no longer hanging over your head. It will never take any more of your time, space or energy once you make a decision and get rid of it.

And just remember – if you’re feeling overwhelmed or burnt out from caring for your house and the stuff in it, the best thing you can do is declutter!

You’ll regain so much more time, space and energy by clearing the clutter. So while it feels difficult to muster the energy to declutter and make the decisions now, decluttering is exactly the thing that will make your life easier in the long run!

Reduce decision fatigue when you get rid of clutter

Another good reason to get rid of clutter caused by indecision is that it can add a lot of decision fatigue to your life.

We are only capable of making a certain quantity of decisions each day before the quality of those decisions starts to decrease.

Essentially, you can only make so many decisions in a day, before your brain gets tired and stops making the best decisions possible. All those decisions add up and wear you out over the course of the day. That’s called decision fatigue.

We all have to make many decisions over the course of a day. From what to wear, what to eat for breakfast, how fast to drive, what to say in an email, how to navigate an issue at work, what to make for dinner, etc.

Some decisions are important, others are minor. But they all contribute to decision fatigue.

Why waste some of your limited decision-making ability sifting through clutter? Removing the clutter helps remove some decisions from your day and reduce the decision fatigue you face.

Here’s an example. You have 15 tops in your closet, but only like and wear 5 of them. Every day, you have to take in and decide between all 15 tops. Even though you’re really only deciding between the 5 you like and actually wear.

Why force yourself to make decisions about tops you don’t like and never wear anyway? Get rid of the 10 you don’t like. Then you only have to decide between your 5 favourites you always end up choosing anyway.

Get rid of clutter: dealing with indecision clutter

Now that you can identify the “indecision clutter” in your home, it’s time to take action. To start making decisions, getting rid of the clutter you don’t use, need or love and creating the simplified, clutter-free home you’re craving!

Here’s how to get rid of the indecision clutter.

Get rid of clutter hiding spots

The first step to getting rid of indecision clutter is taking away the spots where you can easily hide indecision clutter.

Stop making it so easy to put stuff somewhere and avoid making decisions about it.

Think about what you usually do with your indecision clutter. Do you tuck it in a corner of the basement? Put it in the back of a closet somewhere? Push it to the side of the room and pretend it’s not there?

Wherever it is, you have to rip the Band-Aid off and not give yourself the option.  

The spot(s) you use for the clutter you can’t or don’t want to make a decision about has been your crutch. Allowing you to avoid making the decisions and keep the clutter in your home. You need to take the crutch away and no longer make it an option to hide indecision clutter.

This requires a little discipline because technically, the spot will still be there. But you’ve got to decide you’re not going to use it for indecision clutter anymore.

Use the space to add value to your life

A great way to make this easier is by using the space for a different purpose that will add value to your life to keep you motivated to stop dumping clutter in it.

For example, maybe you could set up a workout area in the area of your basement you currently dump indecision clutter. Or you could organize the closet you currently hide indecision clutter in and use it as a pretty spot for linens instead. Maybe your extra bedroom could be a beautiful space for guests instead of a dumping ground for clutter.

Only you’ll know what will work for you. But finding a functional purpose for the space that will add value to your life is a great way to stay inspired to keep it from collecting clutter.

Start making decisions to get rid of clutter

The next thing you need to do is give yourself constant reminders that your goal is to make decisions and remove the clutter. Instead of shuffling clutter from one spot to another to “decide on later”.

Catch yourself if you start organizing instead of decluttering. Just because you have the room to keep something, doesn’t mean you use, need or love it enough to justify keeping it!

This takes some practice. Don’t be hard on yourself if you need to continually remind yourself to declutter, not organize or shuffle stuff.

Declutter for short bursts of time

It can be helpful to work on decluttering in short bursts of time. Work for a few minutes on decluttering, then take a break for a little while. This can help your mind stay fresh and avoid decluttering decision fatigue.

As soon as you feel yourself struggling to make decisions, or starting to organize or shuffle clutter instead of getting rid of it, stop and take a break.

Come back in a few minutes, a few hours or even a few days, when you feel refreshed and ready to make more decisions.

Give yourself space limits

Another helpful strategy to push yourself to make decluttering decisions is giving yourself space limits for each space or category of items you’re decluttering.

Decide how much space you’re willing to devote to whatever space or category you’re decluttering. Then use that space limit to motivate and encourage yourself to be more ruthless and make decisions about what to keep or get rid of.

For example, you could decide to limit your Christmas decorations to only what will fit in two tote bins. That space limit will force you to be more ruthless when decluttering and only keep what you truly use and love for holiday decorating.

You can do this with almost any category of items.

Maybe you’ll only keep the number of books that fit comfortably on one shelf. Or only keep a certain number of hangers in your closet to limit how many items of clothing you have. You can even give your kids space limits for their toys, only keeping what will comfortably fit in designated spaces.

Ask yourself the right questions

Sometimes all it takes to make decluttering decisions is asking yourself the right questions.

Everything you keep should be something you use regularly or truly love. But sometimes you need to go a little deeper to figure out if you really want to keep something or not.

Check out this post for a huge list of questions you can ask yourself to drill down and decide what’s worth keeping or not.

If you’re unsure about something, keep asking these kinds of questions until you feel confident in your decision to keep or get rid of it.

Use a “maybe box”, but very selectively

Sometimes, as you’re decluttering, there are things you’re really stuck on. Maybe you need to give more thought to what to do with the items. Or maybe they’re very sentimental and you need more time to work through your feelings. Or maybe the fear and “what ifs” are really strong for a certain item.

If that’s the case, a “maybe box” can be a great tool.

Put anything you’re struggling to make a decision about into a “maybe box”. Seal it, and put it out of sight for a set amount of time, maybe 1 to 3 months. Set a reminder in your calendar to come back to it after that time.

When you come back to the box, if you haven’t needed, wanted or even thought about what’s in the box you can get rid of it feeling confident you won’t miss it.

It’s like a decluttering safety net. Allowing you to be more ruthless with your decluttering decisions, without fear of regret holding your back. And it can be a very helpful tool when you’re decluttering.

But just remember to use the “maybe box” very selectively. Especially if you’re prone to keeping a lot of indecision clutter.

If you’re putting more stuff in the maybe box than you’re making decisions about, it won’t be an effective decluttering tool.

Use the “maybe box” for the things you’re really stuck on. It should be used for a select few items, not the majority of what you’re sorting through.

Get rid of clutter by making one decluttering decision at a time

For most of us, decluttering is a process. It takes time, patience, trial and error and practice living with less to see how great it can be.

If you’re struggling to get rid of clutter because it’s hard to make decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of, you’re not alone.

Start by noticing the indecision clutter in your home. Then use the tips and strategies in this post to start making decluttering decisions, one decision at a time.

And remember to focus on progress, not perfection. Every time you make a decision to remove a piece of clutter from your home, you’re one step closer to reaching your decluttering goals.

You can do it, just keep making those decisions, getting rid of the clutter and creating a home you love!

Get Rid of Clutter: What to do about "indecision clutter"
Photo by Italic on Unsplash

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