The first and foremost reason for failure is simple: most people start with too big of a project. When you first try your hand at organising or decluttering, it is easy to underestimate the time it takes to finish what you set out to do. This is no reflection on intelligence or planning capabilities: it’s a simple result of lack of experience.
Decluttering involves a lot more than picking up stuff and shifting it or throwing it out. You’ll have to take a lot of decisions in quick succession, and that can be taxing and off-putting very quickly.
Besides, you’ll find that if you pull a lot of stuff out of its resting place and in order to get things done, you’ll have to put it down somewhere else and you’ll quickly run out of space. In addition, things will look decidedly less organised in the middle of the process. Now imagine running out of time or giving up prematurely: you’ll be left with a room that looks more dishevelled than before. Not a good move.
Lesson 1: don’t overreach!
Start small. Get a sense of time and requirements before you move on to larger projects. You’ll be better off with a finished small project that gives you a sense of achievement than you are with giving up on a large project that leaves you with a mess and a sense of being incapable of doing this.
This brings us to the second reason for failure: not taking decisions when it’s time to do so! If you have ever tried to declutter a space you’ll know what I’m talking about. Each item you come across represents this initial decision: “Should I keep this?”. Of course, that is the main beef, and while this is the big one, you are not entirely done with that item yet: somewhere down the line you’ll have to take more decisions like “Where shall I put this?” or “How do I want to let this go?”, followed by such decisions as “Which charity would take this?”, “Where can I sell this?” or “How can I get this stuff to the tip?”. Decisions, decisions.
Lesson 2: don’t procrastinate on decisions!
The important thing to never forget is that – at some point – you’ll HAVE to decide, so why not do it right now and stick with it? Whenever you pick up an item and ‘decide’ to postpone what to do with it, you choose to NOT make a decision. On top of it all, this can turn into so engrained a habit that it become pretty much impossible to overcome easily.
That brings us to the third reason: leaving the job unfinished. I’ve already hinted at the embarrassment of not finishing a job that turned out to be too big for you. Those jobs tend to leave you with a physical mess. There is, however, another kind of mess even a finished job leaves behind.
Let’s say you managed to pick a project you can handle. You have decided what to keep and what to let go, and then organised things into the their new home. Well done, you! But then you have considered this chapter done and dusted. And therein lies the trap: have you actually dealt with the items you have singled out for letting go?
Procrastination is not only an issue for the decisions you need to take, but also for the actions that make sure everything has left the building. It’s no good to have boxes and bags of stuff ‘to go’ sitting in your hallway or – worse yet – store it away in the loft! It’s all too easy to forget about the stuff you have stored and it’s also a simple matter to suddenly go back on your decisions and pull things out of those boxes and bags again.
Lesson 3: finish the job!
Make sure you carry out ALL the actions that follow your decisions:
Thanks to Rachel Papworth of Green and Tidy for inspiring this blog post.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.