Do you feel like dealing with clutter in your home is like banging your head against a brick wall? Ouch. You've probably had one or more of the experiences below. Rather than suffer through the journey, what if someone could tell you where you can go wrong, so you can avoid problems along the way? Here are some common ones that trip you up and block your progress.
1. Starting in one room, and ending up putting things away in another room
You have good intentions, you start putting things away in a room, and then find items that belong in another room, so you take them there. Once you're there, you find something else that grabs your attention, and 20 mins later, you realise you've been diverted, and the other room is just as messy as it was before. D'oh! This happens very easily when you have kids. Solve this by: grab a container, and put the things in there that belong in another room. Stay in the room and work through the resistance (unless the things that belong in another room are blocking you from continuing in the room), and it will get easier. You could also enlist someone who enjoys the finding rubbish and things to donate part of the process, and make your focus the "making it beautiful" part.
2. Taking it on, but not finishing
Anybody raising their hand for this one? Yep, I hear you. You started with great enthusiasm, and then it took longer than you thought, or made so many decisions along the way that you couldn't decide any more, or you found something that you'd lost, or you thought you needed to make a Bunnings run to grab the perfect container for all the stuff, and then it all just... hung around. Maybe this is one of many projects? Solve this by: taking a section of things out at a time to reduce the overwhelm. Look after your energy by setting a limit. Have a break and keep going. You could also find someone to talk to about what your next step is to nudge you into action. Sometimes life gets complicated and you end up with a few projects on the go. The best thing to do is sit down and make a list of the projects and their current status. You need to understand why you started the project in the first place, when the project needs to be finished, what difference the project will make to you and your household, what resources it will take to finish (money, time, other people), and what skills are needed and will you need to learn anything. Once you have those, you can prioritise which project you work on and go ahead intentionally instead of being caught up in anxiety and switching projects.
3. Cleaning instead of organising
Cleaning makes a space feel good, doesn't it? If you're cleaning around piles, you're not actually dealing with the piles, and it makes it a lot harder to clean. Solve this by: cleaning is an important step, but do this after you have emptied the space you are decluttering, and before you are ready to put them away.
4. Tackling someone else's belongings
Yeah, this one is probably a reflection of you being irritated or frustrated with someone else's habits and taking on the job for them. This one leads to arguments and a lack of trust, especially if you "declutter" their things. Solve this by: declutter and organise your own areas first. Marie Kondo recommended this in her Life-Changing Magic of Tidying book, and it's the best way to gain respect for what you're doing and influence others. If that doesn't help, you probably need to have a chat with the person in question (when you're both in a good mood) to understand each other's perspective and find out the other person's intentions.
5. Getting lost in memories
The things you find when you go through what you have, right? A secondary school uniform keepsake in your wardrobe, a letter from an old boyfriend in your papers, a sample of that gorgeous smelling shampoo in the bathroom from the hotel you stayed at when you went on holiday 5 years ago... These things are often memory joggers and remind you of old friends, old feelings, and old intentions. Solve this by: have a pen and paper handy to make a list of anything you want to follow up on eg. send a message to that old school friend, buy a full-size bottle of the shampoo you loved etc. That way you don't need the item to be reminded and you can keep going. Also, be aware of areas that hold a lot of memories for you and tackle them later in the decluttering process, so you've had practice at decluttering, and have a better sense of what's important to you.
6. Exhausting yourself
You've been putting off decluttering for a while and then you decide to finally deal with it and smash the problem. Then you jump into it like you can solve the problem in a matter of a day, end up knackered and disheartened that there is more to deal with than you thought and the problem isn't gone. You remember that feeling this way is why you've been putting it off. Solve this by: Check your mindset - it has taken time for this situation to grow into a problem, and it takes time to go through it and resolve it. It's ok to look after yourself while you work on this. Break the problem into smaller chunks eg. a drawer, a shelf, a cabinet. Make sure you take regular breaks and have drinks and something to eat. Stretch. Stare at something green for 5 mins. Celebrate your steps forward. Take photos to show your progress. Listen to music if that helps you to relax and enjoy it. You could also give yourself a time limit eg. 15 mins and see how much you get done in that time. It works when you're expecting guests, doesn't it? If you have other limitations or challenges, you may wish to bring in help.
7. Asking yourself "but what if I need it?"
You're not sure if you want it, but anxiety creeps in and you feel like you're going to make a decision you'll regret and then kick yourself for later. This comes from you realising how many things you are decluttering and feeling a sense of lack. This will definitely block your progress. Solve this by: start off with a vision. How do you want to live your life? What is part of your every day life? What do you love? Once you can describe that, it is easier to see what doesn't fit into that vision, and you can understand why you would let it go. Also, you can just continue the train of thought. Is the item cheap and easily available? Yes? Then if you find a need for it, it won't be much trouble to buy another one (or borrow one). If it's expensive and rare, you can keep it if it's something you're using, or keep it and give yourself a time limit on how long you are going to keep it eg. 6 months, before selling or donating it.
What about you?
So have you experienced any of these traps? Are you stuck on a decluttering project now? Keep in mind these solutions to help keep you going and create a space that makes you happy. I'd love to hear how you go!
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