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My top 20 decluttering don'ts



Let’s talk decluttering, the unsung hero of organizing. There are plenty of articles on the Interweb sharing tips on how to declutter your space. Things TO DO such as: make a plan, list your goals, set aside a realistic amount of time to work on the project, get help from others, and more.


But what about the Things TO DON’T? I’ve made a list, checked it twice, and am going to give you my Top 20 Decluttering Don’ts. Excited? Me too! Decluttering is my favorite part of every project. Let’s get started.


  1. DON’T try to do it all in one day. Start small or you will get overwhelmed, cranky, and want to never leave your bedroom again. Be realistic. Rather than saying, “I’m going to tackle the basement today” say “I’m going to tackle this corner of the basement today.” Then work a few hours clearing the corner, give yourself a pat on the back, set a date to tackle the next space, and go have lunch. Remember, it’s all about progress.

  2. DON’T expect things to go quickly. In most cases the disorganization did not happen in one day (unless you moved), so the problem won’t be fixed in one day.

  3. DON’T try to work on a project when you are tired or not feeling well. You need to be rested and have a clear head to make all the decisions necessary when decluttering a space.

  4. DON’T try to do everything yourself. Enlist the help of a non-judgmental friend, family member, or professional like me. And if you don’t want help during the actual decluttering, at least ask for help taking donations to the car, or taking out the trash. There is no shame in asking for help!

  5. DON’T underestimate how long it will take to sort through boxes of papers, old baby clothes and toys, books, and memorabilia. Sentimental items (yes, paperwork can be sentimental) like these are notorious for sucking you in and before you know it the entire afternoon has been lost. Be aware of your emotions and how much time you are spending on certain things. I suggest reviewing sentimental items at the end of the project, so it doesn’t slow down your progress.

  6. DON’T get discouraged if it looks worse before it looks better. Keep working toward your goal. Always remember to clear out the trash, recycling, and donations at the end of each work session. Doing so will help clear space for next time.

  7. DON’T go for a magazine cover look, or for something you’ve seen on Pinterest. Keep your household needs and goals in mind and work toward that. What works for you and your family is the best solution.

  8. DON’T hold on to things “just in case.” Live by the 20/20 Rule. If it can be replaced within 20 minutes for $20 or less, let it go. No one needs a closet full of empty boxes. Set a limit – keep a large box of smaller boxes and toss the rest. Free up some square footage that cardboard is consuming.

  9. DON’T look through the clearance racks and stop at garage sales if you know those things are your weaknesses. Focus on the big picture and say no to temptation.

  10. DON’T let items that need to go elsewhere sit around your house for days and weeks on end. I’m talking about library books, the package that needs to get mailed, the returns that need to go back to your local home store, and more. Get them out of the house and into the passenger seat of your car. There they will sit until you run errands.

  11. DON’T keep something out of guilt just because it was a gift. If you don’t love it or need it, let it go to someone else who will enjoy it.

  12. DON’T let your closet become overstuffed with clothes that no longer fit, are worn out or stained, or are out of style. Review your closet contents and donate/toss at least twice a year.

  13. DON’T consider everything special. Remember, when everything is special, nothing is. You don’t need to keep every piece of your children’s artwork. Keep the best. Take photos of the rest for a photo book and then let them go. When they are older your children will appreciate that you took the time to curate a manageable collection for them.

  14. DON’T feel guilty about not finishing a craft project or no longer being interested in a hobby you once loved. Let the half-completed masterpieces go, donate the tools and move on to your new, favorite pastime.

  15. DON’T buy a trunk’s worth of bins, organizers, shelves, and dividers until you have decluttered a space. Take measurements and figure out what organizing solutions will work best and fit into your space – as well as your budget. It doesn’t matter if your local home goods store is having a great sale. Wait on those purchases, or you’ll have some returns in your future.

  16. DON’T hold on to the past. You are not honoring your great-grandmother by keeping her set of china in a moldy cardboard box in the basement. Open the box, take out a beautiful piece and set it in a place of honor in your home. Keep a few beloved pieces and let the rest go to someone that will enjoy items that were only taking up square footage in your home.

  17. DON’T place heavy items on high shelves. You may be able to get it up there, but it could easily fall and cause harm when you are trying to retrieve it.

  18. DON’T keep shoes that hurt your feet just because they were expensive. They are not going to magically fit one day after being stored in your closet for years. Donate them – they may be the perfect fit for someone else.

  19. DON’T get discouraged just because it’s not going as fast as you hoped. Take photos before you begin and along the way to document your progress. Make sure to give yourself a pat on the back for all your hard work. Keep going, you can do it!

  20. DON’T be embarrassed to ask for help if you feel overwhelmed. The number of decisions that need to be made when decluttering can sometimes be staggering. Having support is key to a successful decluttering and organizing project.

Do you need some assistance decluttering and organizing your home or office? Contact me at (608) 345-1836 or melanie@resetorganizing.com and let’s get started.