Have you ever wondered, “why is decluttering not working for me?” Believe it or not, you are not alone!
If you’re stuck in a decluttering rut and can’t seem to move forward, there may be a few reasons why. We often aren’t aware of them. Instead, we may think we’re just busy, unmotivated, have too much stuff, or are failing when everyone else isn’t.
Here are 8 solutions to find success when decluttering is not working.
1 | Don’t be too subjective.
If you’re too connected to an item – emotionally or mentally – that makes it difficult to let it go because you don’t know if you truly DO need something or not.
Before you feel bad, there IS something working against us here! It’s called the Endowment Affect. This is a term used in psychology that says that “people are more likely to retain an object they own than acquire that same object when they do not own it.” It also explains how once we own an object; we automatically attribute more meaning and value to it. Solely because we own it!
However, if it’s been 1 year (or even 6 months) since you last used it, you don’t need it. You have permission to let it go.
Maybe it was used very frequently in the past, but at a certain point in time, it wasn’t being used as much anymore. This is a normal experience.
An obvious example is a child who outgrows a toy. But even as adults our tastes, interests, and stages of life change over time. It’s normal to use something for a while and later no longer need it.
ASK YOURSELF: If I were out shopping, would I pay full price for this right now?
2 | Set parameters.
If we don’t set specific time frames like 3 months, last season, 1 year, etc. then we don’t have a parameter of the last time it was used. Then when we come across something useful, we get hung up on “what ifs.”
What if I need this someday?
What if I declutter it and regret it?
Without parameters, there’s a WHAT IF reason to hold onto everything.
How about this instead: What if we didn’t even realize that we owned it in the first place?
That’s question is telling.
ASK YOURSELF: When was the last time I used this?
READ ALSO: Decluttering Sentimental Items – Conquer these 5 Roadblocks
3 | Define your why.
Why are you decluttering? What’s your ultimate goal?
Save money and pay off debt?
Have less to pick up if you have young kids or babies at home?
Pursue a passion project?
Live off-grid in a tiny house?
Travel the world with only a suitcase?
If you don’t have a strong enough WHY when you sift through your belongings, then decluttering will always be an unsuccessful uphill battle.
Otherwise, you may be spinning your wheels without ever feeling that you’ve reached your end goal.
ASK YOURSELF: Why am I decluttering?
4 | Have the right tools on hand.
When you tackle any decluttering project, big or small, quick or lengthy, be sure that you have the right tools.
Grab a laundry basket, box, or trash bag to have right next to you for donations or trash.
This way, once you’re done with any amount of decluttering – no matter how brief – you can put the donation items in the back of your car immediately after and take out the trash right then.
ASK YOURSELF: Where is my donation box or trash bag?
5 | Set boundaries.
You’re probably thinking, “wait, didn’t we just address this?”
But if you’re asking, “why is decluttering not working?” then consider boundaries as different than parameters.
Parameters are more like time frames of “when was the last time I used this?”
Boundaries are set limitations on how much of something you keep inside of your home.
A boundary may be “all the kids’ books must fit on this bookshelf.”
Once the bookshelf is stuffed or overflowing the books MUST be decluttered. There is no option to get a second bookshelf or put extra books in a basket on the floor.
Of course, the boundary should be a realistic size for the amount of stuff that goes inside it.
Boundaries of how much of something we keep helps us to know when and how much to declutter.
WHEN is when that boundary is reached.
HOW MUCH is that the stuff must fit within the boundary. This applies to storage areas too.
Without boundaries, the stuff will continue to overflow, and conquering the clutter creep will seem insurmountable.
ASK YOURSELF: What exactly is my boundary here?
READ ALSO: How to Declutter Kids Clothes & Why You Should
6 | Know how much stuff you can realistically manage.
Usually, we reach the point of overwhelm when we have more stuff in our home than we can realistically manage.
And we don’t recognize that threshold until we’ve reached it and are in over our heads. Then we wonder, “how did I get here?” Or “where did all this stuff come from?”
If you’re asking, “why is decluttering not working?” you may still have more stuff in your home than you can realistically manage.
ASK YOURSELF: How much stuff can I realistically manage?
7 | Begin with the end in mind.
Before you start decluttering, imagine in your mind how you’d like that particular space to look and function.
Maybe your goal is to free up more countertop space so that you have more space to cook in your kitchen.
The look? Uncluttered countertops. The function? Having plenty of space to cook dinner.
ASK YOURSELF: What is my ultimate goal in decluttering?
READ ALSO: Create a Capsule Wardrobe for Kids in 4 Simple Steps
8 | Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Setting a goal like “declutter my entire house” can be overwhelming. Not to mention that when you do actually make progress in one area, it doesn’t seem like much since it barely moved you more than an inch toward decluttering the entire house!
You can still have a big goal like “declutter my whole house,” but breaking it into bite-sized goals will provide you with the feeling of accomplishment you crave. Start by decluttering a few drawers, and before you know it you’ve decluttered an entire section of your home.
For some people, the onion approach works great when decluttering. Declutter your home layer by layer, gradually getting stuff out of your house. As you progress through each layer, you’ll become more confident at decluttering. Then you can tackle another layer of decluttering until you reach your goal of having the right amount of stuff in your home.
ASK YOURSELF: What’s one small goal that I can start with?
Why is decluttering not working?
In conclusion, there are several reasons why decluttering is not working. This wasn’t an exhaustive list, but a few observations from my own experience in downsizing our home.
By digging deeper into what’s keeping us stuck in decluttering, IT IS POSSIBLE to move forward! All we need to do is ask ourselves a few simple questions, like the aforementioned, and we can experience success in decluttering our house.
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