8 common mistakes people make when starting to declutter

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No matter what size place you're living in, there's a certain point when 'peak chaos' is reached. Maybe you've been too busy to put things in order, or maybe you've just been procrastinating.

Either way, once you decide to get started organising you're filled with determination and good intentions. You can do this!

And yet, all too often, we start to tackle those stacks of paper... and heaps of clothes... and shelves of stuff in the pantry... and piles of things in the garden shed... and we end up with a bigger mess than before. How does it happen?

There's an art and science to organising that most mere mortals (Marie Kondo acolytes aside) aren't born knowing. As a result, many of us end up creating more chaos than ever.

1. Buying storage bins before opening the closests 

It's much more fun to head to the Plastic Box Shop, drop a load of cash, fill the car boot with bins in various sizes and think "Yes! I'm organising!" than it is to open up your closets and drawers and, you know, actually start dealing with your stuff.

Consequently, those new bins become yet another part of the overall clutter.Before you load up on nifty boxes and baskets, make certain you know what you need. Measure shelves, closets, and under beds so you know that what you're buying will actually fit.

2. Diving in head first

You can't just take the plunge and hope to emerge at the other end with an organised house. Get a pen and pad, and take a few moments to jot down exactly what areas need to be addressed.

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Next, estimate how much time each area will take, and then write that down, too. This way, when you have an extra hour (or even just 10 minutes), you can pick a spot to work on.

3. Choosing the wrong time

Not a morning person? Then don't think you'll get up at six o'clock Saturday morning and start organising the pantry. And if the weather is simply glorious out, there's no way you'll want to be stuck indoors. Could you tackle something in the garage or shed instead?

What's the biggest timing mistake? Waiting for a big block of it to miraculously appear out of thin air.It's rare that you'll have a huge chunk of time to devote to organising. Instead, work in increments, chipping away at a large project or finishing a few small ones.

4. Setting the wrong deadline

Things like school holidays, an impending visit from overseas relatives or a big event (like hosting a party) can seem like a great motivational tool. You'll start the decluttering now, and you'll have it done by the big day because, of course, you have to.

But if that self-imposed deadline event comes with its own significant to-do list - preparing food, planning activities, organising events - chances are you'll soon feel overwhelmed and distracted.

5. Getting sidetracked searching for supplies

When you finally find that pocket of time, you want to get to work.

So make sure to keep all the supplies you'll need well-stocked, such as cleaners, sprays, bin bags (and of course all those plastic boxes you bought!)If everything's in place, you won't have to run out for something and end up getting sidetracked altogether.

6. Taking a long walk down memory lane

This one is hardest to resist. You open a box, and find the kids' primary school portfolios are inside. You open one of them.

Suddenly, it's two hours later, you've been alternating between laughter and tears the entire time, and you're emotionally spent. You certainly can't throw any of those precious things out. In fact, you really ought to make a proper scrapbook… and now you're distracted again.

7. Rearranging instead of organising

Piles of papers that are neatly stacked on the kitchen counter are not organised. And stashing things in a drawer to clean off the dining table serves only to create a junk drawer.

To be truly organised, your stuff needs a home. If you find something on the floor or benchtop, you should know exactly where it goes.

Many homeowners confuse organising with rearranging. Those two words do not mean the same thing.

Get into the habit of finding a place for new items the minute you bring them home. You might also adopt the "one in, one out" plan, too, especially when it comes to clothing, books, and magazines.

8. Stashing rather than purging

You can't organise unless you purge. Go ahead, read that sentence again. Accept it.

If the Marie Kondo "Spark Joy" scenario is a bit too airy-fairy for you (and really, do gardening tools or winter gumboots really 'spark joy'?) just look at the stuff you're dealing with. If you haven't used it in ages, it doesn't fit, or it's expired, place it in the pile to toss or the one to donate.

And if you can't decide on an item, put it in storage temporarily. That might mean in a black bin bag, it might mean in the boot of the car. But if you don't miss it after a few weeks - out it goes.

- Homed