Common Decluttering Roadblocks

October 09, 2017

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Decluttering is an ongoing process for me, I don't think it's ever 'done.'  New things are always coming in when you own a house and live with someone else, so I'm always reassessing.  That said, we're about as close to done as a home could be so I get a lot of (a) requests from other people to help declutter their homes and (b) questions like 'well what about ____?'  Certain questions and roadblocks are pretty common, so I've rounded up a couple and given my thoughts on how to combat them.

Fantasy Self

I mentioned this in a Three on Thursday last month, if you missed it, because I recommended Allison Anderson's video on the topic.  Essentially 'fantasy self' is the term used when you're saving things that your current self doesn't actually use but the fantasy version of you does.  Kitchenware, for example.  You might be keeping tons of gadgets because fantasy you has all this time to cook elaborate meals, but reality you order takeout pizza every Friday night.  Personally, my fantasy self has all sorts of time to try out new makeup looks and loves wearing fun eyeshadow colors and every lipstick under the sun, but I had to get real - I don't have the time for that in the mornings, I don't want to make the time for it, and I can't wear crazy makeup at my semi-conservative job.  That leaves Saturdays and why was I holding on to so many items I could use maybe 52 times a year?  Makeup goes bad way faster than I could use it up!

How to Combat This: Recognize the simple fact that getting rid of these items does not mean saying goodbye forever to that part of you you wish existed.  Like Allison said in the video, getting rid of her skis does not mean she's never skiing again, or even that she'd never be a regular ski bunny if she wanted to.  It's something she can go back to later in life.  Be honest and pack up the things that aren't serving you in this moment.  If it's hard to part with them, at least store them for awhile in an out of the way place, until you realize that you really haven't used any of it.  I was finally able to get my makeup down to just a small sized bag of every day items.  (And 7 lipsticks.  I'm still me.)

Decision Fatigue

You have to think of your brain and decision making power the same way you think about the battery on your phone.  Every decision you make takes a little bit of that power away, like a battery going down, and you need to reset and recharge (by sleeping, by taking time off, by vacation, by a bath, whatever) before that battery dies.  Some things take monumental power away, the way playing a game on your phone does, like deciding what to do with sentimental items.  Some things are easy, like deciding that shoes with holes in soles are trash.  But it's still a decision, and you can only make so many in a day.  Period.  A lot of people get frustrated with this, and they quit before they finish the process of decluttering. 

How to Combat This: Push through.  It's not the answer you want to hear but decision fatigue is temporary so if you hit that wall, it's okay to take a break for the day.  But the next decluttering session just push through and you'll see it get easier again.  I have a post tomorrow about some decisions that I don't make any more - they have nothing to do with decluttering, but since I've removed those decisions from the rest of my day, I have brain power leftover for getting rid of things.  Hopefully that can help you too, see where you might be overexerting yourself that you don't have to be.

Lack of Time

Big decluttering and organization projects tend to make a space look worse before they look better, since things get scattered and piled up.  If you don't have time to start and finish the project in one sitting, the piles get jumbled, never put away, and you're back where you started, or worse.  And sometimes you just don't have the time.  You have 3 kids to get to soccer, dance class, and guitar lessons all at the same time and then they expect to be fed too and crap did you even wash that soccer uniform?  I hear you.  If that's your schedule at this moment, that's okay.  You don't have to spend any time purging if you don't want to, but my guess is you'd still like to get things under control in the tiny pockets of time you do find.

How to Combat This: Make a plan and work systematically.  A lot of books on decluttering will tell you to do one whole room or one whole category at once, but that just isn't feasible if you don't have an entire day or weekend to devote to the project.  If that's you, try to carve out just 15 minutes a day or even every other day.  Set a timer and just get done what you can in those 15 minutes.  But be systematic about it.  If you just create a bigger mess, you're going to make yourself crazy.  Make a list and break it down into things you know you can tackle in those 15 minutes - one kitchen drawer, just jeans or sweaters, one linen cabinet.  One shelf in the linen cabinet if you need to.  And make the family pitch in - if the kids are old enough to play a guitar and land back handsprings in gymnastics, they're old enough to clean their own rooms and sort the family DVDs.  And try practicing the one in, two+ out rule: for every item you bring into the house, two or more have to leave.  If you have time to shop, you have time to remove a few things.


What do you think some roadblocks are for you?  If I didn't list it, ask me in the comments and I'll do my best to help you out.


Thanks so much for stopping by.  You can also join me on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.  In addition to minimalism and organizing, I love all things 'real life' so use the hashtag #notentirelyperfect on social media so I can see your beautifully unstaged life.  On the top of the side bar to your right, you can follow me on Bloglovin or subscribe via e-mail to be alerted to each new post.


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