It can be incredibly satisfying to clear out clutter and see your home neat and organized – but it turns out that you can take it too far, and there are some signs it’s time to stop decluttering that you shouldn't ignore.
Although many decluttering tips tell you to maintain your pared back home with frequent decluttering sessions, there comes a limit to how much you can get rid of before you make your life more difficult than it was in the first place.
We have spoken to professional home organizers to learn more about the signs you have done enough, and why it is important to take a break.
Signs it’s time to stop decluttering
Avoiding over-decluttering is simple, and usually involves making a decluttering checklist and finishing when you achieve each of your goals. Here are the signs you may have already taken it too far:
1. It is becoming addictive
It is no secret that decluttering can change your life, but it might not always be for the better.
‘Decluttering can become addictive!’ warns Zoe Snow, professional home organizer and founder of Sorted by Snow. ‘I see this time and time again after clients have successfully decluttered and organized every room in their home, they feel an emptiness take over, and can be challenging to completely discontinue. This is taking it too far.’
Zoë has had a passion for organization and design since she was a child. As she witnessed the immediate improvements to her clients’ surroundings – and their profound appreciation – Zoë realized that her passion for helping people, and her knack for creating order, can be truly life-changing.
2. You have reached all your decluttering goals
There are several ways to take your decluttering to the next level, but you should always stick to a plan to avoid going too far, says Anna Horgan and Charlie Evans, professional organizers and co-founders of Well Organised:
‘A sign of when you may stop decluttering is when a specific decluttering goal has been achieved. These goals may include creating more space, reducing visual clutter, or simplifying your life. If your goal is to reduce your collection of sentimental clutter by 50%, keep only the most meaningful items, or organize them in a way that makes them more manageable. Once that goal has been achieved, this is a sign you can stop.’
Well Organised has been one of Perth’s leading home organising businesses since it was established over five years ago. They have helped numerous clients create a more organised home, reflecting the way they want to live now and in the future.
3. You feel guilty
There are several ways decluttering can make you feel guilty. This could be because you are experiencing declutter regret, a time where you miss the things you have gotten rid of, or you feel guilty for not donating and getting rid of enough in the first place, says Zoe Snow, professional home organizer.
‘If you feel a sense of obligation to keep returning to the donation center where you've been dropping off the donations, you may now feel you may be letting the recipients down if you no longer deliver with donations. This isn't the case and there are plenty of other ways to be charitable that don’t require giving away all of your life's possessions.’
4. You can't find anything to wear
Decluttering a closet is one of the most common decluttering tasks on people’s lists – usually because they can't find anything to wear. If you have decluttered and still can't find the perfect outfit, it may be that you have swung the situation the other way and now don't have enough choice, Mary Cornetta, professional organizer, and CEO at Organized Overall warns:
‘I had cleared my closet out of so many clothes that I was struggling to find enough things to wear every week. Currently, I know I want to get rid of a lot in my closet again as my style/lifestyle has drastically changed in the past couple of years but I learned my lesson last time.
‘Instead of donating bags and bags all at once, I've been following the "one in, one out" rule and slowly removing things as I replace them. To prevent multiple trips to the donation center, I keep a bag in a corner of my closet to toss in items so only when it gets full do I drop it off.’
Mary Cornetta has been in the professional organizing industry for over 5 years. She founded her decluttering company in 2017 and since then, has worked hands-on and virtually with hundreds of clients to clear their clutter and create functional systems in their homes and offices.
5. You are decluttering every day
Although there are some spots in your house you should declutter daily, this is not a rule that you should apply to your whole home, Mary Cornetta, professional organizer, advises.
‘I've since learned that there is a time and a place for letting go,’ Mary shares. ‘If you're getting ready to move, having a baby, or experiencing any life changes that will require more space, then by all means, amp up your decluttering. But for everyday life, you don't need to be going through your things constantly.
‘Stick with quarterly or bi-annual decluttering sessions for most of your stuff and put more energy towards the things that pile up daily – mail (physical and digital), laundry, counter clutter, etc.’
6. People around you are starting to feel agitated
You can make decluttering fun, but it is important to remember that it might not be for everybody around you. It can agitate those around you when you start to declutter too much. Zoe Snow, the professional home organizer, explains that it is a good time to stop if tension is arising over your need to label everything and get rid of a whole trash bag of stuff a week – or even a day.
7. You can maintain your lifestyle easily
One of the major signs that it’s time to declutter your home is the inability to perform daily tasks with ease. When you have reached this stage where your routines flow smoothly, it is usually time to pack it in, says Anna Horgan and Charlie Evans, professional organizers.
‘We believe a sign you can stop decluttering is when you've reached a level of clutter that you can realistically maintain. Some people prefer a more minimalist lifestyle with fewer possessions, while others are comfortable with a bit more clutter. Once that level has been reached and it aligns with your comfort and lifestyle choices, and you feel you can maintain this level, this should be a sign to consider stopping.’
Is it possible to declutter too much?
It is entirely possible to declutter too much. Decluttering incessantly will result in you not being able to complete daily tasks easily – not because you can’t get around your house but because you don't have what you need. You can also suffer from declutter regret, missing items you once let go of.
Why do I have the urge to get rid of everything?
You might have the urge to get rid of everything if you feel stressed or overwhelmed by your belongings. Getting rid of everything you own is not always the answer, however, and can sometimes make your life harder. It is important to seek help from a professional home organizer or a therapist if you are overwhelmed by clutter, and they can help you manage your home more efficiently without having a huge purge.
More often than not, after decluttering, it is not the amount of stuff you have that is making you uneasy, but how it is sorted in your home. Readdressing your storage, and making things both pretty and aesthetic could be a great solution that avoids you taking things too far.
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Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for a year, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.
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