Decluttering decision fatigue can be so overwhelming. It can be exhausting to wade through clutter and keep deciding what to keep and what to get rid of. How do you know you’re making the right decision? Why does it always seem to take so long to declutter? Is there a way to make decluttering easier and faster? Below are 10 tips to help ease decluttering decision fatigue and to make the whole process go quicker.
Tip #1 Set an Overarching Goal
Before you get started, set a goal for yourself to help cut down on decluttering decision fatigue. If you know exactly why you’re decluttering a space and what your goal is on the other side, you’ll have a lot better shot at staying focused and knowing what you want to say yes and no to. For example, if you know you’re decluttering the back bedroom because you’re turning it into a cozy guest bedroom, let that end goal guide you. This will help eliminate agonizing over decisions on individual items. Does the item contribute to the end goal of creating that warm, welcoming guest bedroom? If not, it needs to be relocated, donated or tossed.
Tip #2 Eliminate As Many Decisions as Possible
This sounds obvious, but so often, we tire our brain with unnecessary decisions we don’t actually need to make. Is there stuff in the space that doesn’t belong to you? Box it up and have the owner deal with it. Is there trash that can be removed without much thought? A set of books that needs to be donated? If you already know what needs to happen with a particular item, don’t stop and waste time re-reading it, rethinking an earlier decision, etc. Take it where it needs to go immediately and move on. Save your decision-making energy for the tough stuff.
Tip #3 Start with What You Love
If you’re facing a cluttered closet or a jam-packed bookshelf, it can be SO hard to know where to start. The best piece of advice I’ve adopted is to start with what you love (check out the great Do It On a Dime video on this). Pull out the things you love that you know for sure you want to keep. In other words, start with the easy decision first, and this will give you momentum to tackle the hard decisions.
Tip #4 Box It Up
This is wonderful advice. I first heard it from The Minimalists, but heard it again from The Minimal Mom (and no, I don’t consider myself a minimalist, but it’s good advice, nonetheless). Once you’ve pulled out what you love and what you need, box everything else up. Yes, everything.
Put the boxes away for a few months out of sight, and if at the end of that time you haven’t needed to reach into the box for anything, get rid of it. This sounds extreme, but again, it eliminates decluttering decision fatigue. It cuts down on a lot of those little decisions which, in the broad scheme of things, are unnecessary.
Tip #5 If It’s Not a Clear Yes, It’s a No
If boxing things up feels a little extreme and you’d rather pick up where we left off at the end of tip #3, this one is for you. When evaluating the remaining items, go by the principle that “If it’s not a clear yes, it’s a no.” This is from Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism, and it’s golden advice.
If you’re hemming and hawing over whether or not to keep something, that lack of clear decisiveness is your answer. Get rid of it. Otherwise, you’ll be back in the exact same spot six months later, handling the item again and having the same debate with yourself.
Tip #6 Use the Container Concept
Dana White (aka A Slob Comes Clean) shares a great decluttering principle called “The Container Concept.” Let the containers you have in the space be the boundaries you use to determine how much you can keep. If you have three storage cubes that fit across the top shelf of your closet, those three cubes automatically determine the limits of what you can keep.
Let those containers be the boundary “bad guys,” rather than you torturing yourself by agonizing over all your items and trying to determine what needs to go or stay. The only question you need to ask yourself is, “What fits?” Everything else goes.
Tip #7 Say No to Fear (of Missing Out)
If you catch yourself keeping something due to a fear of missing out, call it what it is and get rid of that item. You keep meaning to get back into that hobby, or you’re sure you’ll “eventually” become an athletic person, or having those books around makes you feel smart. You fear that if you get rid of these items, you’ll be missing out on becoming that better person you envision, or being part of some clique group that owns fill-in-the-blank.
But the truth is, we need to own where we are right now. Today. Getting rid of the treadmill doesn’t mean you’ll never start working out (you can always jog in your neighborhood), but it’s important to acknowledge where you are right now and live in that reality. It is amazing what other healthy habits can start falling into place in your life once your home is decluttered.
Tip #8 Say No to Guilt
This is one of the biggest obstacles in decluttering. We feel guilty getting rid of something if it was given to us or it belonged to someone we love or there’s some sort of expectation tied to the item. I know I’m not alone here! This can be a hurdle that stops us in our tracks.
It’s so important to recognize this guilt when it comes. The one question to ask yourself when weighing whether to keep or toss something you feel guilty over is this: “Is this item adding to my life in a positive way, or is it simply taking up space?” If the answer is the latter, it’s time to let that item go. The freedom and mental clarity you will feel from decluttering will far outweigh any benefits of keeping the item.
But what if the giver of that item notices the next time they come over? How will you explain? First, it’s important to note that often, the fear of someone noticing and saying something is far greater than the chances of it actually happening. If it does happen, just remember, no matter what, to be loving and gracious. You don’t have to apologize or feel bad for your decision. You are making the best decisions for you and your family, and everyone isn’t always going to understand that.
Tip #9 Work in Short Spurts and Small Sections
If you are feeling overwhelmed with decluttering decision fatigue, another option is to work in short spurts and small sections. This is pretty self-explanatory, but set a timer for 20 minutes and just go all-out for those 20 minutes. You will be shocked how much decluttering you can accomplish in that small amount of time.
And yes, working in small sections can help you make remarkable progress, as well. Just tackle the top shelf of your closet rather than the whole thing. Just clean out the fridge and do the freezer at a separate time. This type of focused effort on a small area will yield great results. In addition, you’ll be in less danger of getting interrupted partway through your project and having to leave a big pile of junk in the middle of the floor. Just take it one small section at a time, and watch your decluttering efforts compound.
Tip #10 Ask the Question, “What Would Letting Go of This Make Possible?”
Instead of focusing on the loss of something, ask yourself this question: “What would letting go of this make possible?” Go back to tip #1 and think about your overarching goal for the space you’re decluttering. Perhaps you can’t see clearly what letting go of this one item would make possible, but what about all the items you’re getting rid of collectively? Every item matters, and parting with this one item, even if it seems small, is contributing towards you reaching your goal. What are you making possible through your decluttering? Think about it and use it as the motivating factor to keep you moving forward.
A Few Frequently Asked Questions
Why is Decluttering So Exhausting?
Decluttering is exhausting for two reasons: first, you’re having to make a lot of decisions (which drains your mental energy), and second, the decisions you’re making are difficult because there are often feelings and memories tied to items you’re decluttering (which drains your emotional energy). Eliminating decluttering decision fatigue as much as possible through some simple steps can help with this exhaustion.
How Do You Make Decluttering Decisions Faster?
Think about your end goal for the space you’re decluttering. What do you want the space to be? How do you want it to function? If the items you’re considering don’t fit into that end goal, get rid of them. It never feels that simple when you’re in the midst of decluttering, but when you pull back and look at the big picture, it actually is that simple. When you know what you’re aiming for, you can make decluttering decisions faster because you immediately know if an item serves your end goal or not.
Decluttering decision fatigue can be so tough, but it doesn’t have to be a road block! Use the tips above to ease the decision fatigue as much as possible and watch as you make amazing progress in your decluttering.