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Decluttering Mistakes and How to Overcome Them

Decluttering Mistakes and How to Overcome Them

Decluttering is easier if you know how! In this article I’m sharing some common decluttering mistakes and tips on how to overcome them.


I know a lot of people find decluttering difficult. It can be overwhelming and difficult to declutter when you don’t have time, your family isn’t on board with decluttering, you don’t know what decluttering questions to ask, how to decide what to keep or what to get rid of or even, where to start decluttering.

Many of us try a decluttering list or find a blog post on ways to declutter your home and think these will magically solve our decluttering problems. Then we wonder why we’re stuck with our stuff and can’t keep the clutter away long-term.


In this article I’d like to share some ideas on how to declutter your home by looking at some common decluttering mistakes and how to avoid them.

Decluttering mistake – Keeping too many items just in case

‘Just in case’ clutter is sneaky. When we’re not sure whether we’re going to need something in the future, we keep it ‘just in case’. We want to avoid the regret of decluttering the wrong things which we might later wish we had. Worse still, we might even feel we need to purchase the item again so shouldn’t we have kept it ‘just in case?’!

How to overcome this:

Keep a list of decluttering questions handy. Use them to help you decide what to keep and what to get rid of as you go through each item. You can only make decisions based on the information you have available so looking into the future as to whether you might need something ‘just in case’ won’t serve you. If the item is expensive or difficult to replace, give yourself a timeframe. If you haven’t used the item in that timeframe, commit to getting rid of it.

Decluttering mistake – Not preparing beforehand

Not preparing beforehand is a sure-fire way to make decluttering seem more complicated than it needs to be. You might not be in the decluttering mindset, have the right decluttering supplies or have a plan for what to do with your decluttered items after you’ve decluttered

How to overcome this:

There are many things you can do to make decluttering easier and less stressful, including having a plan, using a list to follow and making sure you have everything you need before you even start picking up an item. Read these tips for 11 simple things to do before you start decluttering.

Decluttering mistake – Not making decluttering a regular event

When we don’t do something regularly, we lose momentum. When we lose momentum, we can find it more difficult to get started again, know where we got to last time, and be in the right mindset. We can find more exciting (or easier) things to do and put off decluttering until another time but there may not actually be another time at all

How to overcome this:

Make decluttering a regular event by scheduling it into your calendar. Create a regular event, every day, every week or every month and block out this time for decluttering and so you don’t book something else in its slot. Set an alert on your phone to remind you. Decluttering regularly will become a habit, maybe even something that you look forward to!

Decluttering Mistakes

Decluttering mistake – Decluttering other people’s stuff

If only I’d realised this mistake sooner! When I was first decluttering my clothes I also had a little go at decluttering my husband’s clothes but he soon noticed and wasn’t too happy! This led to a few choice words, frustration and even a little resentment. He was right though. If I was keen to declutter my stuff then that was my choice. He wasn’t ready and it put him off decluttering for quite a while

How to overcome this:

Avoid resentment and confrontation by decluttering your stuff only. Choose items and areas in your home that are yours and leave the rest until you’re further through the process. Encourage and gently support your family to declutter with you but take it slow, choose your words carefully and don’t pressurise them. Try these tips on how to declutter if your spouse doesn’t want to.

Decluttering mistake – Not dealing with your unwanted stuff

It’s frustrating and demotivating to declutter your stuff only for that stuff to be sitting in your car or hallway for a while until you can get rid of it. You (or your family) might be tempted to root through the clutter and it causes a bottle-neck which hampers your decluttering progress

How to overcome this:

Before you declutter, decide what to do with your unwanted stuff. Are you taking it to the charity shop, the recycling or the rubbish? Make a point to remove your decluttered items from your home or car completely as part of each declutter session. This way you won’t be left a clutter build-up which you’ll have to sort through before you start another declutter session. Read these tips on what to do with your decluttered items.

Decluttering mistake – Not being clear on why you are decluttering

Decluttering can be draining and frustrating so to get you through the difficult times, it helps to be totally clear on why you are decluttering. What do you want your home to look or feel like? What decluttering benefits do you hope to experience? Knowing your ‘why’ will give you incentive and motivation to keep decluttering even if you struggle every now and then

How to overcome this:

Brainstorm with a notepad and paper exactly why you want to declutter. Get my free Declutter Starter Kit to help you get clear on your ‘why’. Take a look at this article on the benefits of decluttering to understand how decluttering can help you create more time, space and freedom now that you’ve got less stuff to manage. If you enjoy journaling, you might like these decluttering journal prompts to help you explore your relationship with clutter.

Decluttering mistake – Having unrealistic expectations

This is one of those very common decluttering mistakes. We can set ourselves up to fail if we expect too much. Maybe we think we can declutter our home in one afternoon, or that life will magically be great with less clutter weighing us down. Although decluttering has many benefits, it won’t instantly simplify your home or life overnight. Clutter takes time to build up and, therefore, time to get rid of.

How to overcome this:

Decluttering is all about progress over perfection. It’s about consistent, small steps to get rid of clutter. It is not about decluttering perfectly or worrying if you’re doing it right, or are keeping the correct number of this and that. Here are some tips on progress over perfection in decluttering and how decluttering doesn’t have to be perfect to be effective.

Decluttering Mistakes

Decluttering mistake – Not moving on if you get stuck

Some items are easier to declutter than others. That’s why it’s often suggested that you start decluttering somewhere easy, like the bathroom. If you get stuck on items that have an emotional attachment, such as books or sentimental clutter, we can slow down and lose decluttering motivation.

How to overcome this:

Put difficult-to-declutter items to one side until you’re more practised and confident in decluttering. Try these tips on how to declutter sentimental clutter for some tips.

Decluttering mistake – Not asking the right questions

Sometimes we just don’t know how to think about our clutter. We get stuck with our hearts ruling our head or thinking in the same way and keeping stuff out of habit. Maybe you keep things because you’ve always kept them?

How to overcome this:

Re-frame how you think about your clutter and ask yourself some decluttering questions. Obviously these questions will vary depend on the different types of clutter we have in our homes but knowing what to ask and making those decluttering decisions gets easier with practice.

Decluttering mistake – Organising instead of decluttering

If we’re scared of, or reluctant to declutter, sometimes we just end up organising rather than getting rid of stuff. Although I love to organise and many of us would prefer to live in a neat, tidy and organised home, this isn’t the same as decluttering. If you don’t declutter before you organise, you’re just going to be organising your clutter. And, that usually means you’ll still have the same amount of stuff, and storage solutions, but even more stress as you’re trying to keep everything organised too!

How to overcome this:

Declutter your stuff first, before you organise it. Then you can see how much stuff you’ve actually got, where you’re going to find a home and store it, and it will be easier to keep it neat and tidy if you generally have less stuff in the first place. Read this article on why declutter then organise your stuff.

Decluttering mistake – Decluttering once and not again

Unfortunately, clutter has a habit of coming into our home and lives on a daily basis. If you declutter your home but don’t put in place strategies to manage your clutter and keep it away, for the long-term, then that clutter will build up, undo your decluttering efforts and put you firmly back at square one.

How to overcome this:

Put in place some habits and routines to manage your clutter. Try these 20 daily habits for a clutter-free home to manage your clutter and keep yet more clutter from coming in to your homes.

Decluttering mistake – Limiting yourself to specific numbers

How many pairs of socks should you have? Or mugs in your cupboard? Or bedlinen for your bed? When we try to limit ourselves to a certain number we can put extra pressure on ourselves. Decluttering doesn’t have to be perfect, there isn’t a right or wrong way to declutter and you’re not failing at decluttering because you’ve still got a little bit of clutter yet to deal with.

How to overcome this:

Follow a declutter list by all means, but stay away from counting how much of things you own. Even one less of an item is one less piece of clutter. Every time you get rid of something, look at the space it’s created. Instead of focusing on numbers, focus on how your space feels when you’ve decluttered. You’ll know whether you need to declutter more if you give it time. Do you find yourself needing more of any item, or less?

Decluttering Mistakes

Decluttering mistake – Thinking that you have to declutter everything

My home is pretty much clutter-free but I have photos of my family, my collection of elephant ornaments, too many cushions and throw blankets (because I like how they look and how I can snuggle into them!), oh and probably a few too many books. Does it matter? No

How to overcome this:

Decluttering your home doesn’t mean you have to throw the baby out with the bath water. If you want to keep something, too many somethings, then that’s fine. Just make sure you’re keeping things because of a definite reason not just because you can’t decide what to do with it. There are no rights or wrongs here. It’s your home, your choice, your rules. Declutter your way. Read this article on how to be a minimalist if you love stuff.

Decluttering mistake – Not putting a maintenance strategy in place

A decluttered home requires maintenance.  Decluttering isn’t a once-and-you’re-done kind of project. It definitely helps to clear out a few bits but have a strategy in place for making sure those bits don’t build up again.

How to overcome this:

Read this article on the different types of clutter and what to do with them for some ideas.

Decluttering mistake – Forgetting about hidden clutter

Ok, so you’ve decluttered the main stuff in your home, but still feel a bit heavy with stuff. Or, you can’t find things or manage your home efficiently. What about the unseen clutter that we often forget to deal with – emails in our inbox, photos on our phone, the pile of paperwork that’s been sitting on our table so long we’d forgotten it was there, the contents of your nightstand drawer.

Hidden clutter still invades our space even if we’re blind to it, or can’t see it day-to-day because it’s hidden in or under something else.

How to overcome this:

Look at your home with fresh eyes or ask a friend to take a look around your home and spot any clutter lurking around. Make a list of hidden clutter in your home and commit to clearing it, little and often. Put in place some strategies to stop it building up again.

Decluttering mistake – Not starting to declutter in an easy place

Decluttering takes time to practice and build confidence and momentum. If you start decluttering by tackling your stack of old photos, or your garage, you’ll probably find it’s pretty difficult and overwhelming. To practice your decluttering muscles you want to declutter an area that’s quick, easy and high impact so you’ll notice the benefits of decluttering that space really soon.

How to overcome this:

I suggest the bathroom is a great place to start decluttering. It tends to be a smaller space, with items you know whether you use or not and you’ll be able to see a big difference pretty soon. Read this article for more tips on how to declutter the bathroom.

Decluttering is a skill but it takes practice and confidence to overcome some of the challenges. Our stuff is important to us, it represents memories, people and our choices and decisions in life and we don’t want to declutter something we might later regret getting rid of. But, our stuff also takes up our time, space, energy and freedom so the benefits of decluttering and giving ourselves more of these resources back are huge!

I hope this article has given you some ideas on the most common decluttering mistakes and some tips on how to overcome them.


If you’d like to share your thoughts, please leave a comment below. What have been your biggest decluttering mistakes or successes and what have been the biggest benefits? What would you say to anyone who is thinking of decluttering but who isn’t sure how or why to start? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!


To help you declutter your home with more ease and less stress, I created a free workbook packed with tips, ideas and projects to help you clear clutter from your home, schedule, heart and mind and avoid these common decluttering mistakes too!

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