There’s no end to well-meaning advice about how to declutter your closet, your home, and your life. But if you’re clinging to any of the following common misconceptions about organization, your attempts at decluttering might be a wasted effort. Beware of these five pitfalls that can make decluttering a waste of time.
You see decluttering as a one-time project.
This myth promotes the idea that one serious decluttering session will so dramatically transform your life that you’ll stay effortlessly clutter-free forever. You might have encountered the idea in Marie Kondo’s popular book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but she is not the only one to perpetuate this sort of wishful thinking. A major decluttering project can be very beneficial if you’re moving or simply feeling motivated to pare down your belongings. What it won’t do, however, is prevent your home from ever becoming cluttered in the future. Decluttering is, sadly, not magic; it’s more like deep cleaning a carpet – no matter how thoroughly you do it once, you still have to be careful to keep the carpet clean.
You don’t understand the underlying causes of your clutter.
Clutter can accumulate in your home for many reasons. Perhaps you shop when you’re bored or can’t resist taking home found objects. Maybe you’re hanging on to abundance clutter (extras bought “just in case”) or aspirational clutter (purchases made for the life you dream of, not the life you live.) Or it could be something else entirely. No matter what the cause, however, the physical clutter will always creep back in as long as you don’t deal with the root of it.
You use decluttering as an excuse to buy new things.
Part of what makes decluttering so appealing to many people is the “fresh start” it offers. Unfortunately, this life makeover often includes buying a heap of shiny new things. Granted, you may occasionally legitimately need to swap one set of belongings for another. (If you move from a tropical climate to a snowy one, for example, or begin an outdoor job after years as an office worker.) But if the only thing that’s changed is your sudden desire to live more simply, one decluttering-and-shopping binge will soon lead to another as each new “fresh start” gets old. Remember, outside of an Instagram feed, no one has ever really lived more simply by buying more stuff.
You don’t have a plan.
Before you give away almost all of your possessions on a whim, as some minimalism gurus advocate, you’d better have a good reason. If you’re serious about becoming less materialistic, or traveling the world with all your belongings in your backpack, you’ll probably succeed in keeping the excess stuff away. Your reason doesn’t have to be deep; disliking the look of cluttered spaces is as valid as choosing to spend money on experiences rather than things. But if it’s not meaningful to you, decluttering is sort of like suddenly deciding to eat healthily and rushing out to buy kale without considering your long-term goals. You’ll be back to craving junk food – or buying unnecessary trinkets – in no time.
You don’t commit to decluttering.
If you want to declutter for once and for all, you have to evaluate everything you own, in every part of your home, and you have to be a bit ruthless. Donating one bag of old clothes from your overstuffed closet or decluttering your desk while ignoring the nine boxes of documents in your basement won’t cut it. To be clear: there’s nothing wrong with decluttering a little bit every day or getting rid of a few things you don’t use. (You probably have a bunch of these items you can donate right now sitting around your house.) But these little steps won’t help you permanently organize a messy space unless they are part of the maintenance of a larger decluttering project.