10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Decluttering
I felt a bit frazzled during a recent purge. It was all worth it when my mother-in-law, a total neat freak, noticed that “you’ve been cleaning up lately” after seeing my basement. “All the rooms are so clean!” Music to my ears.
There are approximately one million articles about the benefits of decluttering , and I contributed one or two to that mess. I genuinely enjoy clearing our home of excess and find it makes life easier in the long run. However, there are some drawbacks I’ve experienced throughout the process.
I imagine these are the very reasons people stop short with this task, or don’t get around to it in the first place, so let’s just all acknowledge that decluttering and minimizing is hard! And that’s why we need one million articles reminding us why it’s good.
So don’t to be surprised when it’s hard. This is all a normal part of the process. Here’s what I experienced:
- You will neglect other chores. Dishes, laundry, yard work, vacuuming…something’s gotta give if you’re going to go through all your things and then sell or donate some of the excess.
- You will feel more stressed initially. The joys of owning less are more of a long-term promise. In the short-term, you will actually feel more stressed out or overwhelmed as you make time ot go through your stuff, and have to make decisions about what to pitch. After you’re done, you’ll have a backlog of laundry and other chores to catch up on.
- You will think about stuff too much temporarily. Minimalism promises less focus on material possessions, but the actual process of minimizing requires thinking about stuff more. I found myself absentmindedly thinking about whether I needed to keep a particular item when I should’ve been focused on other things.
- Your kids will not cooperate. They’ll make crazy messes while you try to reduce the mess potential of your home. Especially with the stuff you are trying to go through, which will make it tempting to keep that stuff because they’re playing with it! They also might request stuff back after it’s entered the donation truck! You know, stuff that they told you they hated and never use. This was a little embarrassing but the attendant was very kind about it.
- You may have to go over an area more than once. I’ve gone through my closet and kitchen twice this year, and I always find more I can part with. Something I may have been on the fence about 6 months ago can probably go if I haven’t needed it in that time. I’d love to minimalize once and for all, but realistically, it’s more of an ongoing process that gets quicker and easier each time.
- Your house may not look that different. If you have children or a messy partner, they will continue leaving stuff around the house. Even if there is a lot less stuff in your home.
- You may not be able to find stuff. The second half of decluttering is supposed to be organizing. But sometimes when you do a lot at once, it’s hard to find it next time you need it! It took me 10 minutes to find Neosporin after moving our medicine cabinet. I’ve also found myself looking for clothes I got rid of.
- Your kids will cry months later, too. You know the toys they never touched, so you gave them away? When my kids spot those in old pictures, they suddenly spout tears and profess their eternal love for that item. Although the storm passes, it’s not my favorite part of decluttering.
- Your spouse may not like it. Just because you’re on a mission to clear your space doesn’t mean the rest of your family will automatically be on board. And there may be some areas that are simply off limits. It doesn’t matter that I don’t think my husband (a cube-dweller) doesn’t need 5 pairs of old, dirty pants for working on cars. He thinks he does, and it’s not worth marital strife to fight over “minimalism.”
- You may regret some purging. Out of sight, out of mind? You won’t even miss the clutter? Sometimes I wonder if I got too over-zealous with a few items, especially when I find myself looking for them. In the long run, it’s insignificant and I could replace the item if I really wanted to. I’m sure I hang out to more that I don’t need, than vice versa.
Lest my warnings de-motivate you, let me remind you of just a few of the many benefits:
- Someone else can use it. Whether I decide to sell, donate, or just give it to a friend, I love knowing someone can put my excess to to good use.
- Find what you need easier (in the long run). I’m not just talking about finding rarely needed items in a basement box. I’ve decluttered my kitchen and now it’s so much easier to find the items I need every day.
- Less to clean. I still have plenty of messes to tackle but clearing out the extra toys, clothes, and household items means there is less for my children to make a mess with!
- Use what you already have. I was longing for a new summer dress when I found one I’d forgotten about in storage. And I’m a lot more likely to actually wear it now that I’ve donated the stuff I never wear.
- Freedom from the burden of maintaining and storing stuff. Less stuff (to a point) means more flexibility.
- Your mother-in-law might be impressed, or even think you’re a cleaner person than you actually are!
How you experienced any difficulty with decluttering? What is your favorite benefit?