7 mistakes to avoid when you begin to declutter

Decluttering is not the same as organizing your wardrobe. Learn how to declutter like a pro

woman confused with what to wear / how to declutter

We all love the idea of an organised, clutter free wardrobe. But many of us struggle to achieve a Zen like, "stuffocation" free wardrobe space. I’m sure everyone reading this article has had at least a few failed decluttering attempts. I know that I and a lot of people I know have definitely had a few.

There is no thumb rule to achieve absolute perfection in the wardrobe. Different rules work for different people, depending upon their style, weather, shopping frequency etc. But here I am pointing out a few common mistakes that I have made in the past while attempting to declutter my wardrobe.

1. Procrastinating

Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions. Waiting for the right time that may never come will only make matters worse. It will only lead to more stuffocation and stress. When you feel like you don’t have enough space in your wardrobe to keep that new dress that you just bought is generally a tad bit late to start the declutter process as more stuff means more work, more decisions to be made, more time needed and hence further procrastination. Did I say late? I apologise because it is never too late. But the point I am trying to make is that if the decluttering exercise isn’t done in time, it just makes the entire process even more daunting. I recommend diving into a declutter every season change [apart from life events like birth of a baby, major weight loss, location move etc.], because this is the ideal time to move clothes that you may not wear again for a good few months either into the storage or the donation box.

2. Diving in unplanned and without a schedule

One of the biggest mistakes people make is just starting to clean out their wardrobes without a plan. This leads to absolute chaos and, more likely than not, after spending hours slogging in front of your wardrobe you will be left with perhaps a slightly-organised-but-still-cluttered wardrobe as before.

I recommend drawing up a plan and scheduling some time in advance. I usually list out what I want to achieve from the exercise e.g. accessibility to outfits, categorisation of spread out items, clearing out the odds, donating not-in-use pieces etc. Then I buy some appropriate storage like bins, baskets, shelves, bags etc. and keep these ready before I start the exercise. This helps because if you want to categorise items or divide shelves,  you don’t have to abandon your declutter exercise mid way. Also, taking some time out exclusively for the project would mean that you do not get distracted by the doorbell or your favorite TV series.

3. Asking the wrong question

Most often people do not see the need to declutter because they have enough space for the clutter. But clutter is clutter even when hidden behind the garage door or in the loft storage. The main question that one should be asking oneself isn’t "Do I have the space for it?" but "Do I need it?"

Answering this simple question isn’t always easy. You need to ask yourself a series of guiding questions that will lead you to answer the question "do I need it?". Some examples are:

  • "Do I use it regularly?"
  • "Do you have more than one?"
  • "Can something else that I have replace it?"
  • "Am I saving it just in case?"

The questions really depend on your wardrobe, amount of clutter, style and so on and these often vary from person to person. But the key principal is to ultimately be able to answer the basic question which is "Do I really really, really need it?" Finally remember, "When in doubt, throw it out!"

4. Mistaking decluttering for organising

I have seen some people start a declutter process very enthusiastically but, as it progresses, it ends up becoming more of a cleaning and organising exercise than a decluttering one. This happens because people think of organising as decluttering. Clean, neatly stacked clutter is also clutter. Anything that doesn’t add value to your life and is taking up space, time and money to upkeep and maintain is clutter. It doesn’t matter if it is stacked up neatly in pretty labelled boxes.

5. Keeping items for emotional reasons

I noticed this about myself: I used to hoard a lot of stuff, especially pieces of garments, for emotional reasons. Pieces that didn’t fit me anymore in the hope of losing weight—my first business suit; an out-of-fashion piece from my trousseau—the list is endless. I hoarded all these only to throw them away a few years later. This could be due to lack of space, or pieces going out of fashion or because of a change in the way I viewed certain life events. When I look back I feel like I held on to so much unnecessary negative energy in the form of clutter for no practical reason, only to clean it out one fine day without hesitation. If only I were practical during my previous declutter exercises, I would be rid of this clutter much earlier. Also the items could have been used by someone else rather than being hoarded in my dusty wardrobe. Today, I follow this one rule: "It has to go if I haven’t used it in 12 months".

6. Not categorising item

The ultimate aim of a decluttered wardrobe is to be able to access your garment pieces and place them back after the laundry without any stress in the least amount of time, while at the same time making your wardrobe look neat and pretty. This is not entirely possible without categorising/grouping the garments. If you keep your shirts, pants, dresses all neatly folded and ironed on one shelf they may look neat. But over time you are bound to pull out a white dress when you are looking for that smart white shirt just before an important morning meeting. Grouping also helps the declutter effort. For example, when you put all your shirts in a pile together, you will immediately know if you have more than a few and this will make it easier for you to let go of the ones that don’t fit that well or have started looking weary over time. This will help to make the decision of letting go of extras.

7. Going back on a shopping spree immediately after a declutter exercise

Obviously you will create space after a declutter exercise. But that is the point. The reason we engage in this exercise is to clear out unwanted stuff so that there is enough space for what matters. Don’t mistake it for extra space, because it is not. The biggest mistake some of us make is buy more garments as soon as there is little extra space available in the wardrobe. We have become used to spending money we haven’t yet earned on things we don’t need to impress people that don’t matter. Tame that shopaholic in you! Believe me life feels fuller and more beautiful with less. Less really is more.

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