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4 Common Mistakes People Make When Spring Cleaning, Explained by a Professional Organizer

It is officially Spring, the perfect time for clearing out the old, stagnant energy of Winter and making room for new intentions and growth. I may be biased, but I can think of no better way to reset than by engaging in some good ole fashioned Spring Cleaning! That being said, I recognize that many struggle with decluttering and organizing. Many have tried, "failed", and believe that having an organized spaced is just not in their cards. If this resonates with you, I'm here to remind you that you are not your past attempts at organizing and to encourage you to try again with some guidance. In my experience, there are some common mistakes people make when decluttering, that make people feel demoralized and incapable of making progress. Avoiding these four traps can help you reach your organizing goals with less strain:

1. Starting with an Intimidating Space

If you already see organization as a challenge or chore, then starting with a large space filled with emotional landmines is a recipe for disaster. When it comes to organizing, keep in mind that your space will get worse before it gets better. As such, I like to encourage my Clutter Coaching clients to start with a small space, preferably one where the objects within it do not carry a lot of sentimental value, like the bathroom or a junk drawer. The goal here is to tackle a space in a relatively short amount of time (in an afternoon or over a weekend), prove to yourself that you can maintain the organization system with ease, get hooked on that feeling of taking care of this space and apply that excitement to other spaces in your home. Choosing a smaller space as your first project helps ensure that you don't become overwhelmed by decision fatigue. The other important issue to consider is how much emotional attachment you have to items within a space. I know that organizational goddess, Marie Kondo, suggests starting with your closet, but this is area can trigger nostalgia and feelings around self image and cause you to slow down. Again, start in a space where you can work relatively quickly. This is how we build organizational momentum!

2. Not Releasing Unwanted Items Immediately

I, myself, am 100% guilty of picking through my donations bag and migrating items I'd already decided to let go of back into my closet. To reduce the possibility of backsliding, I encourage my clients to put all donation items in an opaque container so that they're not tempted to "revisit" something that catches their eye and also making a plan to get rid of unwanted items as quickly as possible. I understand the desire to resell your items and make back some money, and this is where you have to be very clear with yourself: is it worth the $20 that you might get to have this item that you're no longer in love with take up physical and mental space in your home--not to mention having to deal with people online trying to negotiate prices and coordinate pick-up times? If this is your first big pass at organizing, I recommend one large donation drop off and/or identifying consignment stores and professional resellers ahead of time. In future organizing sessions when you presumably have less unwanted items, you can more thoughtfully re-home your stuff.

3. Aiming for Perfection

Have you ever been caught fantasizing to organization porn? You know what I'm talking about: beautiful catalogues and Instagram accounts of neatly decanted grains and perfectly spaced out hangers in wardrobes. I'm not here to shame anyone for visualizing your dream space. In fact, it’s the first step in my 1:1 Clutter Coaching Program. It’s important to clarify how you want to feel in the space, how you want the space to look, and how you want it to function! This vision is what will pull you toward your organized future.

But real talk, simply looking at catalogs or pinning pictures will not transform your space. You’ve got to take action! If you have trouble with this, consider enlisting the help of a friend or a Clutter Coach to keep you accountable to your vision. Also, do not let perfection be the enemy of good! Do not wait until you have all the "right" materials to start organizing. And, celebrate the steps you’re taking towards a more orderly life! Do not beat yourself up if your space gets a little untidy. After all, no one’s house the immaculate and camera ready 100% all the time.

4. Not Being Involved in the Process

This may be an unpopular opinion, but I truly believe that in order to create sustainable change and order, you MUST be part of the process. You have to do the work! You can hire a professional organizer to pretty up your space and offer suggestions for what to let go of, but unless you are there making decisions about what to keep and informing the design of YOUR organizational systems, you are bound to find your home re-cluttered and hard to upkeep time and time again. Often times, when I'm helping clients edit their belongings, they ask me, "What do you think? Should I keep it?" and it is my responsibility to turn the question back on them. When you actively participate in the organization process, you feel empowered and also achieve closure around items in your home that no longer serve you.

If you'd like further assistance navigating these pitfalls, please feel free to email me. I'm here to help.


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