Last updated on May 7th, 2021

Five years ago, I read about Marie Kondo’s Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and, inspired, I ran out to the store and purchased it immediately. Aha! I thought. This is it, the answer I’ve been looking for. I’m finally going to master decluttering and organizing for good!

Well, after countless trips to the thrift store and recycling depot, the trunk of my minivan teeming with boxes of stuff that definitely don’t spark any joy, I’m still trying to declutter and organize my stuff. (Or, to be honest, mostly my kids’ stuff!)

Why is it taking so long? Because, like so many people, I keep making the same decluttering mistakes. In this post, we’ve analyzed seven reasons why we aren’t nailing the decluttering process and what we can do today to break these bad habits. If clutter is causing you undue stress, check out some of these common mistakes to avoid cleaning catastrophe.

7 decluttering tips

No matter how many times we clean up the house, clutter seems to find a way to creep up on us. Of course, no one’s home looks like a picture-perfect IKEA catalogue all the time. But you’re not looking for perfection. You just want to have a clean and organized space where you can unwind after a long work day. Ditch some of the overwhelming stress that comes along with starting a new project by planning things out.

So why is it so hard to keep clutter in check? 

You want to know the reason? You may be making these big organizing mistakes without even realizing it. Wondering where to start decluttering? From buying new things without making room for them, to hoarding storage bins all over the house, these are the seven biggest organizing mistakes you should avoid (and how to fix them!)

1 Buying Organizers Without Knowing What You’ll Use Them For

piling things into organizer bins and bags incorrectly

People tend to get excited about organizing their home so the first thing they do is run to IKEA and get cute bins and containers. 

But you need to do the work first! Otherwise, you’ll end up with piles of stacked containers all over the house. The easiest way to make more space? Get rid of things you don’t need and toss them away.

Go through your belongings and determine what needs to go and what you want to keep. Once you decide which items are staying, separate them into categories such as shoes, coats, bags, makeup, or toys. Having visual stacks of your belongings will give you a better idea of how many containers you’ll actually need to buy.

2 Turning Organizers into “Catch All” Bins for All Your Extra Stuff

Decluttering and Organizing tips catch all bins clutter

One of the biggest organization mistakes we make is using storage bins as the place to keep all that extra stuff that doesn’t really go anywhere. 

Having extra storage space is great, but you still need to get rid of the stuff you don’t use. Categorize your containers and make the conscious decision to only store items that belong to that category. Shoes belong to shoe containers. Makeup palettes go in the makeup palette bin, and so on.  

3 Organizing Clutter into Neat Little Piles 

Decluttering and Organizing piling clutter books

Organized chaos is still chaos, right? If your desk is covered with neat piles of papers, books, and techie gadgets, then your desk is not actually organized. It’s just a bunch of organized clutter! Decluttering and organizing starts with some of the most obvious piles of things around your home.

In order to avoid having piles of neat clutter everywhere, give each thing a home and get into the habit of putting things away immediately. The second you’re done using an item, put it where it belongs.

This means placing open and unopened bills in the mail sorter, groceries in the pantry, and books and magazines in the living room bookcase. Once you’re done charging your phone, put away the charger in a bin for cables and techie gadgets. 

4 Forgetting to Use Labels 

Decluttering and Organizing empty labels post it notes clutter deorganized

You may have found the cutest storage bins on the planet, but if you don’t know what’s in them because they’re not labeled, they’ll just wind up filled with clutter again. Kitchens, pantries and the laundry room are a great place for labels.

Find a set of free printable labels online or write your own on cardboard paper. You can also use a label maker or a waterproof pen. Now you can find what you need when you need it!

5 Ignoring Vertical Space and Empty Areas around the House

vertical empty space for organizing

Adding shelving to your walls is a major life changer. Instead of a bookcase that’s bulky and takes up a lot of space, install wall-to-wall shelves to display books, toys, and collectibles. But that’s only the beginning. Decluttering and organizing is made a lot easier when you consider all of the space you’ve got. There are plenty of ways to organize clutter and make your house feel much bigger:

  • Fill the empty space above your kitchen cabinets with a few boxes for some extra storage room.
  • If there’s an empty wall in your bathroom, hang a couple of wicker baskets to store your extra toiletries.
  • You can also get a shoe organizer and hang it behind your bedroom door to store sunglasses, gloves, and scarves.
  • Want extra shoe storage? Utilize the empty space under your bed and place a few rolling drawers for some extra storage space. Here’s a model that comes with sturdy wheels for easy gliding. If you’re up for the challenge, you can easily DIY it yourself.

6 Saving Things in Case You Need Them Later

saving things you don't need in boxes Decluttering and Organizing

We all know it’s not easy to throw the things we own away, especially because we’re afraid that at some point, we’re going to wind up regretting it. The problem is that when we save too many of those “just in case” items, we end up with a mountain of worthless items we’ll probably never look at or use again. So unless we know for sure that these items serve a purpose right now, toss them. If necessary, the item can be re-bought at a later time.

Over the years, we end up holding on to things we don’t need just in case we might “need it in the future”. But that day never comes, and now that piece of ribbon you desperately need to wrap a present is stashed somewhere under piles of cables and crafts supplies. This is how we end up hoarding bins and bins full of clutter! When you decide to start decluttering and organizing, commit to getting ride of some things.

7 Storing Commonly Used Things in the Wrong Places

Storing commonly used things in the wrong place

Decluttering and organizing are a whole lot more difficult when things aren’t where they belong. Have you ever clipped your nails but left the clippers lying around somewhere instead of putting them back in the medicine cabinet? And then when you go looking for them again, you can’t find them? Later on, they turn up behind a couch cushion. Or worse! You end up buying a new pair of clippers only to find your old ones stashed in a drawer somewhere!

That’s how most of us end up searching through bins of clutter trying to find everyday items like scissors, sticky tape, ibuprofen, or a pen. 

The solution? Have an organization system where you keep commonly used items at arm’s reach:

  • Keep your keys and wallet in a tray over a table by the entrance door.
  • You can hide a wicker basket under the living room table and use it to store extra blankets, and your TV and A/C remote controls.
  • Use a tray or box to store pens, pencils, Post it notes, sticky tape, and a pair of scissors and stash it inside a drawer in the living room.
  • Need a USB cable for your phone? Reach into your “techie storage box” which I suggest keeping in your home office. Fill it up only with commonly used tech accessories such as cords, headphones, cables, USB hubs, SD cards, portable chargers, and batteries.
  • Hang a three-tier basket on your bathroom walls to store combs, brushes, styling products, and hair clips. That way you’ll easily be able to reach them without having to crouch down and go through a bunch of boxes under the sink. 

Get into the habit of putting things back where they belong. So, the next time you take off your reading glasses, put them on top of your night table. If you used your favorite mug for some hot cocoa, wash it and place it in the cupboard where it should be. You get the picture, right? 

If we can get into the habit of disciplining ourselves to avoid these mistakes, our homes will start to look less cluttered and more organized. And having a decluttered home isn’t just about keeping things looking nice; it brings a level of peace to your home and restores some of your sanity. 

Couldn’t we all use a little more of that right now?

Your turn – what’s your number one top for decluttering and organizing? Let me know in the comments below.

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