Creating a Life Free From Chaos

The Top 5 Mistakes You’re Making When You Declutter (and How to Fix Them)

The Top 5 Mistakes You're Making When You Declutter (and How to Fix Them)

Have you ever started a decluttering project only to get frustrated and quit, feeling like you’re not making any progress toward that clean, tidy home you’re wanting? It can be disheartening to jump in with visions of clear, minimalist spaces only to wind up with stuff strewn all over the place and no plan for what to do about it. Decluttering is hard work, so before you dive back in, check your focus and make sure you’re not committing one of these decluttering mistakes. 

Mistake: Focusing on organizing over purging. 

Yes, we all want to “get organized,” but that’s not the same as decluttering. Organizing is not decluttering. When you’re organizing, you tend to focus more on how to store what you have, without giving much thought to whether you need or even want those items in the first place. 

We all want to “get organized,” but organizing is not the same as decluttering. Click To Tweet

Solution: Before you worry about organizing, spend the time to actually go through everything and decide what you really want to keep and what you can let go of. Don’t think of it as, “What can I get rid of?” Think of it more like, “Do I love this/use this enough to give it space in my home and spend my energy maintaining it?” Once you’ve gone through the decluttering process, then you can go back and organize the keepers — and it’s easier to organize when you have less stuff.

Mistake: Thinking that cleaning is decluttering. 

Similar to organizing, cleaning often distracts you from the focus of getting rid of stuff. With cleaning, you’re thinking about where dirt and grime are and how to make a space look clean and tidy. Maybe you drop clutter from the counters into drawers so you can wipe down the countertop. Maybe you start a load of laundry without looking at whether you want to keep the clothes you are washing. Maybe you’re rearranging trinkets on the mantle while you dust. 

Solution: Declutter an area before you worry about cleaning it. It’s so much easier to clean after you declutter — you won’t need to move items around to clean, and you won’t spend time stashing clutter instead of disinfecting and polishing.

Mistake: Purging other people’s stuff. 

This is one of the cardinal sins of decluttering — getting rid of other people’s stuff. If you take it upon yourself to purge a housemate or family’s member’s possessions without their permission, be prepared for a fight. Getting rid of other people’s belongings without their knowledge or consent is not cool. It’s not your stuff to get rid of. 

One of the cardinal sins of decluttering is getting rid of other people’s stuff. Don't do it. It’s not your stuff to get rid of.  Click To Tweet

Solution: Try talking to your family about why you want to declutter and encourage them to join in. Then go about your business decluttering your own stuff, whether the rest of the gang jumps in to help or not. Even if they’re not initially on board, they may be inspired to give it a try after seeing you take control of your own stuff. 

Mistake: Not getting your kids involved. 

When kids are very young, then it’s up to you to declutter clothes and toys on their behalf. However, as soon as they’re big enough to have preferences, it’s best to get them involved, even if it’s just a few little things here and there — a shirt that’s getting too small or a broken toy. Giving your kids choices about their belongings encourages them to value and take care of them. 

Solution: You may just want to offer a couple of choices when they’re little, but work up to giving them more control over their stuff as they get older. You’re not just trying to manage stuff — you’re teaching them how to manage their own stuff. Kids know when they’ve outgrown “baby toys.” Preteens and teenagers should be able to decide if they don’t like certain clothes and want to donate them, as well as deciding when they’re finished with books, CDs, or old toys. Modeling responsible decluttering from an early age makes it a normal part of maintaining a home. Your child won’t feel picked on (why are you getting rid of my stuff?) and they’ll understand that we all need to let things go over time. 

Giving your kids choices about their belongings encourages them to value and take care of them.  Click To Tweet

Mistake: Not looking at the big picture. 

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re decluttering. So much stuff — where do you start? While it’s tempting to just dive into a junk drawer and start tossing, you’ll stall out quickly if you don’t have a plan. 

Solution: Take a few minutes to map out a plan of attack. I like to start with decluttering the bathroom since there isn’t that attachment to toiletries and cosmetics that you may feel with clothes or books. Group similar items together so you can get a feel for how much you have, and you’ll be better prepared to weed out the excess. It’s eye-opening to realize you have four half-empty bottles of shampoo and a dozen new tubes of body lotion because you probably didn’t notice them when they were scattered throughout the house. Similarly, pulling out all your clothes will help you see that you have five black t-shirts and 20 pairs of jeans, making it much easier to donate the ones you never wear while still feeling confident you have what you’ll actually use.

5 Mistakes You’re Making When You Declutter and How to Fix Them