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5 Mistakes People Make When Decluttering and How to Avoid Them


Have you ever spent hours decluttering and organizing a room or closet, only to let the clutter pile up again? Do you quickly shut the door when friends come over so they can’t see the mess? Do you wish you could get a handle on it once and for all? You can if you avoid these five mistakes people make when decluttering.

1. Buying organizing products before starting.

If you’re like me, The Container Store is your happy place. I can spend hours walking up and down the aisles, looking at baskets, containers, shelving, and trays. So many choices! Do I want the plastic drawer dividers I can position in any drawer or a tray with fixed dividers? Which baskets would look better – the tan ones or the ones with the bold print? Should I get a hanging jewelry bag or an armoire? How many containers do I need to hold all my pantry goods??? Then I pile my cart high (have you ever had to use two carts? No? Just me?) and haul everything home, only to find that I’ve misjudged the space and how many containers I need.

To avoid this costly mistake, go through everything in one category before you go shopping. When you know exactly how many storage containers you need, you will make good choices about what to buy. And don’t forget to measure the space! Estimating whether or not something will fit often results in another item on your to-do list: returning what you bought, which wouldn’t be a big deal, except you can’t find the receipt (am I right??)

2. Decluttering one room or closet at a time.

Many people decide to tackle the spare bedroom or hall closet in one afternoon. It seems like a good plan – sort through everything, tidy it up, and you’re done. However, we tend to store a variety of things in a bedroom or closet. A spare bedroom might house winter coats, seasonal decorations, and craft supplies. Each of those things belongs to a different category, and there are probably more coats, decorations, and supplies in other rooms. You will come across them later, move them to the spare bedroom, then put “reorganize the spare bedroom” on your to-do list. It’s better to organize by category, gathering everything in one place, sorting through it, and deciding where to store what you’re keeping.

3. Doing a little organizing each day, stretching the process out for months.

Many organizing books suggest breaking up a task into small chunks of time – 30 minutes to organize your junk drawer one day, 15 minutes to go through your sock drawer another. This makes the task of decluttering and organizing your whole house seem less overwhelming. The problem with this method is that it will take forever to finish, and you will undoubtedly let the clutter creep in again, causing you to have to reorganize over and over. If you set aside a morning or afternoon to dive into one category, you will work more efficiently and experience the satisfaction of completing the task.

4. Not getting rid of enough stuff.

This is the biggest mistake people make when decluttering. If you don’t completely purge a category of everything you don’t love, want, or need, you will soon be closing the door to that room or closet when friends come over. The key to getting rid of enough stuff is gathering everything you have in one space, being single-minded about keeping only the things that spark joy, and being willing to let go of things that don’t.

It’s easy to justify keeping something you don’t love: you might use it someday, you feel obligated because someone gave it to you (tacky wedding gifts anyone?) or you feel an emotional attachment to it. Keeping clothes, decorations, or supplies you don’t want means you won’t wear/use them; then you’ll buy new things and shove them into a bedroom or closet, closing the door when friends come over. Again.

5. Not organizing to perfection.

You may have heard the expression “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Striving for perfection can be counterproductive to accomplishing something; good enough might be all a task requires. I have found, though, that if I don’t organize to perfection, it’s easy to let the clutter get out of control again. When I touch each garment, decoration, or craft supply and carefully consider if I love, want, or use it, I know I’m getting rid of enough stuff. Japanese organizer, Marie Kondo, calls this the “click point.”

I try to organize what I’m keeping right away so I don’t lose momentum, and when the result is a beautiful, tidy space, I’m motivated to keep it that way. Everything I’ve organized to perfection in my house still looks the way it did when I finished. I have to go through and tidy periodically, but I’ll never have to do a major purge again.

Do you make any of these mistakes when you organize? What are your strategies for getting rid of enough stuff? How do you maintain your organized space? If you’d like to read more of my organizing posts, click here.

2 thoughts on “5 Mistakes People Make When Decluttering and How to Avoid Them

  1. Does the komari method address folding shirts that have fabric like silk. You cannot stand those on their own. I don’t want to buy anything.

    1. Hi, Cathy –

      KonMari works well with t-shirts, button-downs, and other tops that have some structure in them. Blouses that are rayon, silk, and polyester won’t stand up. I prefer to hang them on flocked, slim hangers. They will hold their shape without getting “hanger marks” in the shoulders. If you don’t want to buy hangers (which I totally understand!) you can roll your blouses, which is what I do when I pack a suitcase. I fold the blouse in half, then fold the sleeves back (you will have a long, skinny rectangle) and roll up the blouse. You can lay them flat or stack them. I hope that helps!

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