In this post: Decluttering can often feel like a gargantuan task. Like it’s impossible to clear that clutter for good. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are 7 things not to do when decluttering to help you be successful. 

Want to simplify your home and life? If you’ve been around here very long, you know that that means you need to spend some time decluttering your home. But there are a few things that can make decluttering harder than it needs to be. Here’s what not to do when decluttering to ensure success. 

tidy office with text overlay that says what not to do when decluttering

What NOT to Do When Decluttering

1. Don’t bite off more than you can chew

Beautiful friend, only you know your attention span and your tolerance for mess. 

If you’re just starting this decluttering thing, or it’s been a hot minute since you sorted things in your house, start small.

Try sorting your junk drawer or your front entryway.

Once you have a couple of smaller decluttering wins under your belt, you’ll feel much more encouraged to tackle larger spaces. 

2. Don’t start when you’re feeling all the feels

Okay, so I don’t want to be accused of using PMS and female hormones as an excuse for not doing things or being lazy. But the fact of the matter is that at certain times of the month, or in certain life seasons, I FEEL mess in our house so much more than at others. 

If you’re feeling all sorts of emotions (for any reason – pregnancy, recent childbirth, grief, PMS, etc.) you need to decide if you will be able to objectively part with clutter that is no longer serving you. If you are feeling too emotional, perhaps consider waiting a bit to tackle decluttering. 

(But don’t procrastinate forever. See #7.)

3. Don’t try to do it all at once

Okay, so sometimes it is possible to declutter an entire home in a weekend. But more often than not, when my students begin decluttering, there is far too much to clear out in one go. 

If you have a plan, childcare, plenty of energy, and a whole weekend free, then, by all means, ignore this rule. But if you’ve got kiddos, or work, or just regular life happening, break up your decluttering sessions into shorter, more manageable sessions. 

decluttering checklist + what not to do when decluttering

4. Don’t buy organization & storage pieces first

I adore all things organizing. Perfectly sized, symmetrical organization is like a love language to me. 

BUT if you go out and spend money on pretty containers, without knowing what you’re keeping and where they’ll go, you’re wasting time and money.

Only buy organization and storage pieces after you’ve purged the clutter!

5. Don’t think it’s one and done

Unfortunately, I think this mindset frustrates more people than any other thoughts around clutter. 

Yes, if you set up great rhythms and routines after decluttering you can keep most clutter at bay for good.

But much like cleaning toilets or brushing teeth, decluttering other things is something that has to happen more than once. 

I don’t mean to go off on a tangent here, but honestly, recent attitudes that I’ve seen in a lot of online mom groups around cleaning and household routines frustrate me.

God created the world in 6 days and rested for one. To me, that means that we are to work for 6 days and rest for one.

God created seasons and a time for everything under the sun.

Which includes housework.

Work is literally in the name – housework

Let me be clear.

No, I don’t think we need to be slaves to our homes.

That’s why I believe in decluttering so much – because it simplifies the cleaning and tidying we have to do.

But I do think we women in North America get unrealistically frustrated by the repetitive nature of household chores and even daily tidying. 

If we have things, like a home and all that goes with that, those things need taking care of. 

6. Don’t keep things just in case

My dear sweet hubby struggles with this one. And honestly, his keeping things like wood scraps just in case has occasionally been helpful. 

But this mindset becomes unhealthy when there is no space for the things being kept, just in case

It is not wrong to keep an extra few cans of veggies or a bag of rice, just in case you can’t get to the store, or there’s a pandemic (who knew?!).

But perhaps reconsider keeping three can openers, or two veggie peelers just in case.

Those extras are likely never to be needed, and if they are, you can likely use something else in their place until you can get another. 

Make sense?

7. Don’t expect perfection

In all honestly, it is highly unlikely very many of us will ever have the totally organized, color-coordinated closets and cabinets that you see on The Home Edit.

(That’s probably a good thing since I personally don’t think that organizing everything by color is the best way to go.)

And even if you Marie Kondo the heck out of your dresser drawers, they won’t magically stay that way forever. 

(Besides, what maniac decides their bras “spark joy” anyway?)

Not being perfectly organized 100% of the time is okay.

But we can work toward having a semblance of organization and much less clutter. 

Don’t expect perfection of yourself and your home. And don’t let the idea of perfection be an excuse for procrastination either. Let good enough be good enough. 

Fun New Quiz: How Tidy Are You?

Just for fun, we’ve created a brand spanking new quiz to see just how tidy you are – and to give you some tips for decluttering better! Check it out below!

home office with trellis rug, mac on table desk and large black wall clock

More Decluttering Ideas:

Do any of these “what not to do when decluttering” sound familiar? Are you procrastinating because you believe or have done one of them?