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Getting unstuck when you’re midway through decluttering

In every decluttering and organizing project, there’s that moment when you’re done. Except you’re not done. Far from it.

  • The boxes are still crammed full of papers.
  • The floor is still covered in piles.
  • The closets continue to look like you’re preparing to outfit a family of twenty-five.

But you’ve had it. It’s not fun anymore. The excitement about getting this done has vanished, to be replaced by the painful realization that decluttering is a crapton of work and you’re the one who has to do it.

The weight of the world falls on your shoulders as you look at the mess and calculate how many hours/days/weeks/months/years it’ll take to deal with the contents of your house.

Here are three plans that won’t work, and three plans that will.

Three strategies that’ll keep you stuck

Plan X: Keep looking for the magic bullet

Search the Internet for tips and tricks, something to make this task easier. Follow as many organizers as you can on Instagram and Facebook and jot down their ideas in a notebook.

I’ll let you in on a little secret:  You already know what you need to do to get rid of the clutter.

Your task is to go through each item and decide whether it’s useful to you now. Whether you love, want or need it. And if you do want it, then to find a home for it. 

That’s decluttering and organizing in a nutshell. No matter how much you adore something, if there’s nowhere for it to go, it doesn’t belong in your space. If that doesn’t sit right, then you’ll have to find something else to let go of so you do have room for the treasure.

Plan Y: Keep complaining

Plan Y, as in ‘Why me?’ is also a non-starter. Continuing to complain about your clutter but not doing anything about means it’s serving a purpose for you. You might hate having a crowded house, but it stops unwanted family coming over.

Be honest with yourself about whether the clutter is too useful for you to want to do anything about it. Stop wasting time complaining about it, and accept that a full house is the price you’re willing to pay to keep those relatives at bay.

Plan Z: The definition of insanity

Plan Z is the saddest plan of all: Tell yourself you should be able to do this yourself, and refuse to get help. Repeat for the next 30 to 40 years.

Compare the cost of getting organizing help, to the time it’ll give you back.

If you’re tired of dealing with your clutter, ask for help. Don’t waste another minute trying to figure out how to do something you can’t do. Organizing is a skillset, and if you don’t have it, someone else does. Hire someone to help you free yourself from the burden of your clutter.

Three strategies that’ll get you past this

Plan A: Move on

Make the executive decision to live with the consequences of tossing everything out. You’ve been working on your clutter, but you don’t want to spend any more time time dealing with the past, so don’t.

  • Birth certificates can be replaced. 
  • Locks of baby hair are cute but don’t bring back the time when your kids were little. 
  • Knowing you have an important piece of paper somewhere is no different than not having it if you can’t find it.

To make this strategy work, you’ll need to do some work on not filling your space right back up again. That might mean talking to a therapist about what holding onto things and buying stuff is doing for you.

Plan B: Ignore it

Put everything in storage units and go visit it when you need something. Except you won’t — out of sight, out of mind. If throwing a few hundred dollars a month at storage unit fees feels like the most economical solution to dealing with your clutter, go for it. Just don’t add up how much you’re spending each and every year, because that’ll make you miserable again. 

Be sure to set enough money aside so your dutiful heirs can hire the dumpsters and the crew they’ll need to clear out the storage units.

Plan C: Get real

It’s hard to live with clutter, and it’s hard to deal with it. If you choose to keep dealing with it, do so strategically. The clutter came in slowly – it took time to accumulate, it’ll take time to disperse.

Either schedule time each day to spend no more than 20 minutes methodically going through your stuff, or book regular time with an organizer to get a jump start. 

Which strategy are you going to try?

by Lucy Kelly


  1. You are absolutely the best! ❤️
    Your 20 minute decluttering tip has helped me immensely. I also learnt that we didn’t really have huge amounts of clutter compared to the examples you gave. That was a big relief! Helped me to work with a will; still a work in progress, though.
    Have you thought of writing a book about your methods? You do get the message across wonderfully well, and with humour, too. That would be one book I’d definitely get! And a hard cover one at that. 😄


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