11 Common Decluttering Mistakes & How Best to Avoid Them

Gabe Bult
by Gabe Bult

I have decluttered a lot of times over the past couple of years as I've been on this minimalist journey. And while there are a ton of positives, and I think it has changed my life for the better, it can also go south pretty quickly. Here's a guide to avoiding those decluttering mistakes!

Decluttering mistakes to avoid

1. Unrealistic expectations

I expected my house to go from borderline hoarder to Pinterest-level inside of like a week. That's just not the case. Decluttering and the whole minimalist journey is a process. If I had realized this sooner, then it would have made things so much easier for me.

Decluttering methods

2. Following other people

Let's say you're watching Joshua Becker. He's talking about how to declutter your home with the Becker Method. You've tried about 17 other methods, and they have not worked for you. And you're like, "this guy seems to be making sense. He's got beautiful hair. He's got a soothing voice that puts me right to sleep. How can he be wrong?"

Honestly, he's probably not wrong. I tried so many different methods and did it the way I saw other people do it. While you can learn things from other people, you need to find what is right for you. 


For me, it was having three different boxes: sell, donate, and trash. Everybody is different. Don't just stick with what somebody says, and if it doesn't work, you give up. Find what one is going to be right for you. 

How to declutter your home

3. "It was a gift"

I've done this with about half a dozen things over the past year; hanging on to random stuff that people gave me for holidays or whatever reason, and I've never used it.

I don't want to be a jerk. I felt bad about getting rid of things, even though I had never taken them out of the package. Don't do that. 


Honestly, if somebody gives you something, and you don't actually use it, and you give it to somebody who does need it by donating it, and that person gets angry at you, that might not be the best friend.

Decluttering tips and tricks

4. Analysis paralysis 

This is when you start watching a bunch of YouTube videos, getting the best tips, getting checklists, finding the best method, and reading five different books on how to declutter, but you never actually get started.

Or, you just do a little bit, and then you never continue with the process. You never make it a habit. You get excited about it, but you don't take that and allow it to gain momentum in your life, to start making progress. 

How to declutter

5. Trying to sprint

You're starting to declutter. You do a lot on a weekend. You tear your house apart. But then, Monday comes, and you have to go to work, and your house is still kind of a wreck. You do a little bit at night, but you're not as motivated.

Tuesday comes, and then Wednesday and Thursday, and you do less and less because you were sprinting. You were doing it all at once because you wanted to get from A to Z really quickly. But, you have to realize that it's a marathon. It's not a sprint.

What's more important is about building habits, because otherwise, it can be easy to give up after the first weekend. 

Decluttering hacks

6. Other people 

As someone who lives with a non-minimalist, it can be tempting to blame other people, try to declutter for them, or make them think the way that you think. But, that is not going to end well.

It's important to have open, honest discussions about where you want your life to be, how you want your house to look, how you spend your money, and all of that stuff, but there's only so much you can do. 

Common decluttering mistakes

7. Leaving stuff in boxes 

You're decluttering stuff. You get a box full of stuff. You leave the box for a couple of days, and then a couple of weeks. You start going through it, and you're like, “Well, I actually probably should get rid of this thing. It's actually worth $5, and I'm sure I can get $5 for it.”

Then you start pulling other stuff out. “Well, maybe I'll give this to a friend of mine,” and next thing you know, you're back where you started.

Once you declutter something, get rid of it right away. Have a process where every Friday, Monday, Sunday, whatever it is, you declutter until the stuff is gone from your house and out of your life. 

Organizing before decluttering

8. Organizing before decluttering

It's a trap. When I was getting started, I took my stuff, and I put it all on shelves. About a month later, I ditched 80% of that stuff that I spent a full day stacking onto shelves because it was junk.

Now, I do think it's important to organize the stuff that you do actually need, but you need to first declutter ruthlessly to get down to the stuff that you actually need.

How to declutter your closet

9. Being overly cautious with your clothes

I kept stuff "just in case" for years. But recently I have made the switch to pretty much one brand of pants and one brand of shirt.

Honestly, it is so much simpler. I don't have to think about it. I reach my hand in, and I pick out any shirt that I want, and they all go with whatever I am wearing.

For pants and shoes, I've found specific brands that fit me, and I don't have to think about it, and I just get those brands that fit really well.

Decluttering your clothes

10. Not changing your buying habits

I decluttered my entire house a couple of years ago, and then I continued to buy stuff. I would clear out my closet, and then a couple of months later, it would be relatively full again.

It was because I was shopping as recreation. Unless you address the initial root cause of the problem, then you're going to have to keep decluttering, and it can end up actually getting really expensive. 

Breaking thought patterns of buying or selling

11. "I paid good money"

Instead of just getting rid of stuff right away, I start accumulating all this stuff that I think is too good to give away for free and that I want to get money for.

You can get a decent amount of stuff from selling things around your house⁠—I've made hundreds of dollars doing that⁠—but, you can take this too far. If you're not actively selling, that stuff stays for months until you realize nobody wants to buy this.

How to avoid decluttering mistakes

Decluttering mistakes

Those were 11 common decluttering mistakes and how to avoid them. I've learned so much on my decluttering journey, including what works and what doesn't.

Let me know if there are any tips or mistakes you've made decluttering in the past in the comment below.

Join the conversation
7 of 19 comments
  • Debra Mellentine Debra Mellentine on Aug 18, 2022

    Books are my problem. No one wants them around here, as far as donating them go.

    • See 4 previous
  • Lula Porter Lula Porter on Sep 01, 2022

    Another great list from you!

    I need to repair the shed (hurricane damage) and move my tools back in it. About the only clutter I have left is tools and unfinished projects. Oh, I do have more clothes than I will ever live to wear out, but they were pretty yard sale finds that I do wear.