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Stop Making Excuses for Not Decluttering and Create a Calm, Organized Home

Updated on January 2, 2020
Susan Caplan McCarthy profile image

After growing up in a home with parents who hoarded, Susan cleared her own clutter and then became a decluttering coach to help others.

Face Your Excuses So You Can Work Past Them

Maybe your spouse, partner, parent, sibling, or kids keep telling you that you need to declutter. They mock your mess and that just puts you on the defensive. Hey, you have a lot of good reasons for not decluttering your home.

And, big deal, it’s just some extra stuff. Right? The next three-day weekend that rolls around, well, you’ll take a few hours to get organized. It looks worse than it is.

When you’re honest with yourself, though, you know things at home are probably worse than they look. You don’t know where to start. That the people you care about tease you regarding your disorganization leaves you feeling horrible.

You’re not a hoarder. You don’t feel obligated to keep old pizza boxes or broken dishes. But you are overwhelmed.

Feeling Overwhelmed?

The best place to start is with the first item you lay your hands on.
The best place to start is with the first item you lay your hands on. | Source

You Feel that the Clutter Exists Because of Your Circumstances

Maybe you feel that you aren’t in charge of clutter showing up and taking over your space and your life. Who’s in charge? You or your stuff? As you act, you’ll feel more confident making decisions about the stuff you’ll keep in your life.

“I don’t have the time.” You need to take time for things that are important to you. Declutter for 15-minutes a day. Although that might not seem like much time, it will add up to nearly 100 hours in a year. When you can extend the time, go for it. Otherwise, make 15-minutes a day your goal.

“My house is too small.” I grew up hearing that if we had a larger house then we’d be more organized. Yes, the house was small. However, my parents held onto old mail; broken toasters; clothing that didn’t fit; and hand-me-down blanket, towel, and curtains. Clearing unwanted and unused things would have given us more space.

“It isn’t mine.” If you live with other people, then your house contains stuff that doesn’t directly belong to you. Just as you wouldn’t want someone tossing your stuff, you shouldn’t toss someone else’s belongings.

However, you can talk to them in a non-accusatory way and explain what you’d like your home to look like and what you’d like to be able to do in the space. See if you can engage the others in your home in creating a vision for home. Then, start decluttering your stuff and be an example.

If You Do Nothing, then Nothing Will Change.

On the other hand, small actions will add up.

You Feel the Clutter is Beyond Your Control

Clutter builds up slowly, which is one of the reasons we don’t notice what’s happening until the stuff reaches a tipping point and we can’t help but face it. Just the way it showed up a little at a time is the way you can make it go away – a little at a time.

“It’s overwhelming.” Yes, it is. The process of decluttering is simple but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. At some point, you’ll end up touching everything in your home and deciding whether to keep it, toss it, or give it away. Some decisions will be easy, and some won’t be.

But, here’s a secret – consistent action will make it less overwhelming and stress-inducing. It might take a month before you notice a difference; and that’s okay.

“I don’t know how it got this way.” It got this way slowly over time. Something didn’t get put away. You held onto a possession instead of making a clear decision about its usefulness. Piece-by-piece these things cluttered your home. The solution is to declutter unwanted items one at a time. Put things away.

“It’s not my problem. My spouse/partner/roommate/kids/sister/friends/mom thinks it is.” Are you being defensive, or do you really think the problem is in their heads? I’m thinking that part of you sees a problem or you wouldn’t be reading this article. Yes, getting rid of stuff is scary and it’s a lot of work. Wouldn’t you rather eliminate the stress of being surrounded by stuff you don’t like or use?

Everything Isn't Equal

Clearing clutter gives you more space for the things you like.

Realize that It's Okay to Let Things Go

Even if everything has a purposes, it might not have a purpose for you.
Even if everything has a purposes, it might not have a purpose for you. | Source

The Clutter Gives You the Feeling of Control

Maybe, secretly, you welcome the disorganization. It saves you from making difficult decisions about your life or even acknowledging that things aren’t the way you wish they were. However, clearing things that don’t serve your life will put you in control

“The mess means I can keep my expectations low.” Are you comfortable not inviting family and friends into your home? Does the clutter mean that someone else must host Thanksgiving and that your adult children never expect you to host their wild children for the weekend?

What does your clutter do for you? Could a conversation about expectations free you from (real or imagined) potential situations?

“I’m not happy where I’m living so why waste time keeping it neat?” I’ve heard stories of people who start decluttering and cleaning a home or apartment they didn’t like in preparation of a move only to discover that it was their own clutter that made the space feel dark and cramped.

Pretend that you’ll be moving in six months and start clearing your clutter and improving the space. If you still don’t like it, then you’ve already taken an important step to get ready for a move.

“I like lots of stuff. It inspires me creatively.” Do you use the things around you to create art? Then the items do have a purpose. Group similar items together and keep small items in clear bins. Limit your storage space to a single room or area of the garage and declutter the other spaces in your home.

However, if you’re holding onto stuff because on some undefined day in the future you might want to weld together a couple of pieces of metal and make a chandelier … that’s not a plan, it’s a dream. Declutter.

Imagine Becoming an Organized Person

A clutter-free space creates a sense of calm.
A clutter-free space creates a sense of calm. | Source

It Doesn't Have to Be Perfect

You don’t get only one opportunity to clear items from your home. You might decide to keep something and three months later realize that it’s unnecessary. You could arrange things on a shelf or in a cabinet only to recognize that a different order would be better.

Perfectionism is about fear. Take a step back and realize that there’s no one right way to declutter or organize, no matter what the latest organizing book on the New York Times bestseller list suggests. Clearing clutter will make you feel better than planning to declutter someday.

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