Skip to Content

Why Decluttering is Hard (And How To Make It Easier)

Why Decluttering is Hard (And How To Make It Easier)

WHY DECLUTTERING IS HARD AND HOW TO MAKE IT EASIER

Decluttering comes with many benefits but achieving a clutter-free home isn’t always easy. In this article I’m sharing 10 reasons why decluttering is hard and some tips and ideas on how to overcome them.

DECLUTTERING CAN BE DIFFICULT

Decluttering is a popular way of creating space and calm in our homes and making them easier to run. This in turn means we have more space, calm, time and freedom for the rest of life.

If you’re new to decluttering and curious to learn how it might benefit you, try this article on the benefits of decluttering your home and life.

Despite some wonderful advantages, decluttering isn’t always as easy and straightforward as we might like it to be! There are many reasons why we struggle to clear our clutter and that’s what I’d like to help you with in this article.

Here are 10 reasons why decluttering is hard and some helpful tips on how to move past them.

10 REASONS WHY DECLUTTERING IS HARD AND HOW TO OVERCOME THEM

Here are some of the common reasons why decluttering is hard and many of us struggle to clear our clutter, plus some tips and articles for more detailed help where and if you need it.

1. You haven’t found your why

Most of my guides and workbooks begin with a chapter on finding your why. Unless you know why you’re doing something and you’re clear on the reason behind it, then it’s likely that any changes you do try to make won’t last long-term. You begin enthusiastically but lose steam as the motivation wains. Or you might question why you’re starting in the first place and never really get off the starting blocks. I think this applies to most things in life and decluttering is no different. This is why decluttering is hard.

How to overcome this:

Before you even begin to think about the clutter in your home and life, I invite you to pause and reflect before taking any action at all.

Ask yourself why you want to make changes. Is it because you want a home that’s easier to clean, to give you more time, to create space and calm? What will be the true benefits of decluttering to you?

There are many reasons why we want to clear the clutter but why do you want to do that yourself? Why do you want to do it now? What is that clutter holding you back from or why is it getting in your way?

Take a moment to find your WHY and it will make the HOW feel easier.

2. You haven’t established an end goal

Let’s assume that you’ve found your why. My next question would be to ask what’s your decluttering goal? How will you measure success and how will you know when you’ve achieved what you set out to?

Many of us find tasks easier when we can get them done and tick them off. We know there’s a way of measuring our success and it keeps us motivated to start, continue and reach that end point. Most of us love a set of goals, a list or checklist for this very reason.

However, if you’re looking around your home right now and deciding to get rid of your clutter, then your enthusiasm in getting started and keeping it up might dwindle as you become knee-high in piles of clutter, piles of stuff to be sorted through (donated, recycled, sold or thrown away) and that might be just the first room you’ve tackled!

How to overcome this:

It’s often not enough to decide you want to be clutter-free and why. It helps to know HOW you’re going to measure that. You might need an action plan of what you’re going to do and when, a list of items to get rid of, or defined areas and rooms to work through for example. It might even be as simple as looking around your newly decluttered room and feeling a sense of peace and calm instead of anxiety and stress!

End goals don’t need to be complicated or overwhelming. Take a moment to establish your end goal and how you’ll know when you’ve achieved it.

3. You don’t have time

This is one of the most common reasons (or excuses!) that people give for not decluttering their homes. I struggled with lack of time myself in the beginning when I was decluttering my own home, in between juggling a busy job and young children. However, with a little bit of creativity and determination, I did manage to clear my clutter.

How to overcome this:

I used little windows of time to do what I could, whenever possible. I accepted the fact that my home wouldn’t become clutter-free overnight and instead I took it slowly but steadily. It helped to plan and prepare before I started decluttering as this helped me declutter productively when I did have time.

Read these tips on how to declutter when you don’t have time to declutter, or these tips on how to declutter fast.

4. Not understanding what clutter means to you

Clutter means different things to different people. I may not know how to use my husband’s DIY tools so to me, they’re just cluttering our shed and garage. But, to him, they’re not clutter because they’re useful and valuable. My husband doesn’t read much, so he would say my books are clutter whilst I love them like old friends.

One of the things that holds us back is not knowing what’s clutter and what isn’t. This makes it more difficult to make decluttering decisions and when we find something difficult, we often find a way not to do it.

How to overcome this:

Get clear on what clutter means to you and exactly which clutter is stressing you out. That way you’ll know what you’re dealing with and how to deal with it. For example, there’s no point decluttering the stuff in the attic (which you don’t see every day) if your cluttered living room is stressing you out every time you walk into it.

You want to eliminate or avoid reasons and excuses to stop you self-sabotaging your progress.

You might find it helpful to read my article on what is clutter to identify what clutters your own life. Or this article on the different types of clutter in our lives and some different ways to think about what clutters your home and life.

10 reasons decluttering can be hard

5. Not knowing what to keep and what to get rid of

Another potential obstacle to decluttering is knowing what to keep and what not to keep. Making decisions like these does get easier with practice, especially if you start somewhere simple and straightforward.

We hold on to clutter for many different reasons including because we’re scared of making the wrong decision.

How to overcome this:

Let’s try to keep those decisions really simple. Start small, start slow but start somewhere. The more decisions you make, the more comfortable you’ll feel in making those decisions.

  • Think about decluttering not in terms of what you’re getting rid of but more in terms of what you’re hoping to gain.
  • Reflect on your ‘why’ that we mentioned at the start of this article and remember the end goal that you also decided on.

Keeping in mind your answers to the two points above will help you make decisions more easily over what’s going to add value, what you use, need and appreciate and what’s just cluttering up your life.

You don’t need to declutter your entire home in one go and stress yourself out in the process. Develop confidence, become comfortable with making decisions on small items, and build up to the big, complex or difficult to declutter items only when you’re ready.

Try this article on how to decide what to keep and what to get rid of.

6. You feel unsupported

Deciding to declutter your stuff is one thing, but what about if you’re decluttering a home where it’s not just you that’s created the clutter but also others in your household. And then, worse still, they don’t understand why you want to declutter and what you’re try to achieve.

I understand why this can be hard and it’s something that I experienced too. My husband was (and still is) a hoarder and my kids were young with plenty of toys. Convincing them that decluttering would benefit them as much as me was almost impossible. So, I tackled the areas of our home that were in my domain, or contained my stuff – the kitchen and my clothes, for example, and I left their stuff alone. In small steps, my life became easier and I became less stressed. I had more time and felt less frazzled and weighed down.

My husband noticed a difference in me and my whole family benefited. So, eventually, we began to declutter the rest of our home and life in small, non-confrontational steps.

How to overcome this:

If you feel unsupported, don’t give up. Make changes to the things you CAN change, let the rest go for the moment and until your family feel ready to make the changes you’d like them to. Their priorities might be different to yours so it’s probably better to adjust your expectations of what they will and won’t do or you’ll frustrate yourself and possibly them too!

Here are some tips if you’re decluttering without your family on board, including:

  • Don’t declutter their stuff, leave it until they’re ready to do it themselves.
  • Declutter just your own belongings for now
  • Offer gentle encouragement or help to declutter or organise their clutter but don’t nag or persist
  • Encourage them to start small, one pair of socks, or one small stuffed toy at a time
  • Live the benefits of a clutter-free life (less stress, more time, you can find things easier) in the hope they might see the difference and want to try it too
  • Create a maybe box so they can put things in there without it feeling as final and scary as getting rid of it completely

7. You struggle to let go

Some items in our homes are more difficult to declutter than others. Family photographs, our child’s artwork and other sentimental items carry with them memories and feelings which we might not be ready to part with.

If this is something you find difficult, try these tips on how to declutter your sentimental items.

How to overcome this:

  • Be in a positive frame of mind whenever you start decluttering. If you feel anxious, down or emotional, perhaps leave decluttering until you feel better
  • Can you repurpose or keep the items in a different format, for example, old photos to be saved digitally?
  • Can you keep just one of something or the best of something instead of all of it, for example, one small plate instead of a whole dinner service, one set of baby shoes instead of your child’s complete set of baby clothes, one great photo instead of a hundred fuzzy ones?
  • Break decluttering into small time slots, it feels more manageable and less overwhelming that way.

8. You have a lot of stuff

Perhaps you haven’t moved for many years and didn’t realise quite how much clutter you have? Maybe you’ve a lifetime of belongings and it’s time to down-size. You might even have a tendency to hoard.

Decluttering takes time, energy, motivation and a desire to change but sometimes the sheer scale of the task seems overwhelming.

How to overcome this:

Here are some decluttering tips for hoarders and those who have a lot of stuff. You could also try:

  • Ask a friend or relative to help you so you don’t feel alone
  • Break decluttering your home into smaller projects, by room, by type of object or by decluttering in short windows of time
  • Make sure you deal with your unwanted items as part of the decluttering process. Don’t leave bags and boxes of decluttered stuff lying around. Remove it from your home as quickly as possible.
  • Reward yourself for any decluttering progress, however small. Motivation and incentive are important!
10 Reasons Why Decluttering Is Hard

9. The clutter keeps coming back

If only decluttering was a one-off job that’s easily ticked off a list! Unfortunately, it’s not so easy as that and clutter tries to invade our homes and lives on a daily basis. Think of the packaging on food, emails in your inbox, letters through your letterbox, to name a few. Hidden clutter like stuff in drawers, on top of wardrobes and stuffed in cupboards contributes too.

Unless you have strategies in place to tackle the influx of clutter regularly, then your decluttered home could easily become cluttered again. And that’s almost certainly going to knock your confidence, de-motivate you and hinder any decluttering progress you might be making.

How to overcome this:

Here are some tips on how to stay clutter-free at home, including:

  • Keep surfaces, table-tops and counters clutter-free
  • Give everything a home so it can be stored when not in use
  • Regularly sort through your email inbox, action, file or shred any paperwork
  • Have a donation box handy so that you can put things in there that you don’t want anymore
  • Check your home over in the evening for any random clutter that’s built up during the day and get rid of it

10. You feel guilty or wasteful

This guilt could be from getting rid of a gift from a loved one, or getting rid of something that cost money to buy in the first place. It could be that you’re holding on to things for those ‘what if’ and ‘just in case’ moments when you might need something that you’ve donated or thrown away.

In all honesty I can’t say that I’ve never needed an item I’ve previously decluttered but I have been able to borrow, rent or buy another. It’s happened so rarely that I can’t remember the occasion but one thing I do know – I’ve got greater benefit from decluttering that item than regretting decluttering it in the first place.

How to overcome this:

If you’re finding it hard to declutter because you feel guilty or wasteful, I’d encourage you to think differently. Here are some ideas:

  • Just because you received a gift from a loved one, doesn’t mean you have to keep it.
  • Donating your items means that someone else can benefit from it, even if you don’t.
  • Buying items unwisely is more wasteful than giving away something you no longer need or use.
  • You’re not getting rid of things just for the sake of it. You’re doing it to improve and change your life for the better

And, if these don’t work, go back to the first point in this article. Re-visit your reasons for decluttering. WHY do you want to declutter and HOW will this make a difference and make your life better?

NOT KNOWING WHERE TO START DECLUTTERING

And then, of course, there’s knowing where to start decluttering in the first place.

Getting started is often the most difficult part of anything. Here are some tips to help you start decluttering.

  • Start in an easy place where there’s limited stuff, storage and sentimental items to hold you up.
  • Practice making decluttering decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of. The more comfortable and confident you feel in making these decisions, the easier you’ll find decluttering the rest of your home.
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes and do what you can in that short space of time. Tasks feel more manageable if they’re broken down into small chunks.
  • Follow a decluttering checklist to keep you focused and on track.
  • Get rid of your unwanted items as part of the decluttering process. Don’t leave them lying around cluttering up your space.
  • Take a photo before and after so you can see your progress!

RESOURCES TO HELP IF YOU FIND DECLUTTERING HARD

I hope you enjoyed this article and it gave you some tips on how to deal with common decluttering problems.

Here are some other resources on decluttering your home, schedule, heart and mind: