12 Reasons Why Decluttering Is Hard [And What To Do About It]


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Decluttering is difficult for a lot of reasons. To discover why decluttering is hard, let’s look at the causes of it, and what we can do to make creating a clutter free home a little easier…

The 12 Reasons Why Decluttering Is Hard & What To Do About It

Have you ever started decluttering, only to find yourself under a pile of stuff, with no easy route out of a room – wondering what you’ve done?

I’ve decluttered a LOT in my lifetime. From my own home, to family and friends homes – to hundreds of clients homes – and one thing always sticks out.

It’s hard.

Thing is, if we are able to see why it’s going to be a struggle, and acknowledge it – then it will be easier to keep going when it gets tough.

After all, you don’t want to end up halfway through decluttering a room – with everything out on the floor – only to quit.

So – let’s take control.

Here are all the reasons decluttering is so hard, and a few tips about how to navigate each one. I hope it inspires you to keep going…

Reasons Why Decluttering Is Hard For You:

#1 – You Don’t Know Where To Start

Decluttering is a HUGE task – and so it stands to reason that if you don’t know where to start, it’s going to be hard to, well, get started!


Don’t stress too much about where you start, because anywhere is progress. Really! Yes, there are places that will make a difference more quickly than others for you, but if your plan is to declutter everywhere – just get started and make a note of where you’ve done.

#2 – You Don’t Have A Plan

Fail to plan, plan to fail – a famous quote I love – and it’s so very true.

Without a plan – ANYTHING is harder than it could be. You need a plan to work out exactly what to do, and when.

With decluttering there are so many moving parts that you need to plan out to make things easier: –

  • What order to declutter rooms / spaces in
  • Where you will take items you want to let go of (charity, people you know, recycling, rubbish, etc…)
  • What decluttering method you’ll use
  • Whether you will sell any items – and if so, where
  • When you will declutter – what time do you have available (a day, a weekend, or a bit of time over a few weeks, for example)
  • What are you decluttering goals for (how will you know you’ve finished)


Of course – creating a plan is the thing to do to make a difference to how you feel about decluttering, and how hard it is for you.

#3 – You’re Going Through Everything You Own

The only other time you’ll touch every single item you own is when you pack it all up to move house – and even then you might pay someone else to do a lot of that.

Decluttering is hard because you end up having to make a decision about everything. Little AND big.

It’s exhausting!


If you can break up each area into small sections, and focus on each of these in turn, rather than the whole thing, it will feel a lot less like you’re going through everything.

Related: How To Start Decluttering If You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

#4 – It Takes A Lot Of Time

Because of the fact that you are touching every item you own – the decluttering process takes time.

And not only that, but you have to spend time planning it out, then doing the actual decluttering, and then getting everything put away in the right places afterwards.

We are all pretty time poor in todays world – so it stands to reason that lack of time is one of the hardest things about decluttering that we can think of, right?


Take it 5 minutes at a time, and fit things in and around your other day to day things. If the dinner is cooking, use those spare minutes to declutter the kitchen drawer, for example. that way, you are still having to spend the same amount of time on things, but it feels quicker and less burdensome.

Related: 9 Quick Ways To Declutter When You Have No Time

Alarm clock

#5 – It Makes A Huge Mess Before It Gets Better

This is one that comes as a shock to a lot of people, and can stop them in their tracks during decluttering.

It feels really hard when you’re part way through specifically – because you tend to have made a HUGE mess – and that’s daunting to say the least.

The urge for tidying is real…

We HAVE to take everything out of a space to sort it out properly – and when we are staring at the state of things at this stage, it can feel harder to carry on that it was to get started…


Take out everything from only one small area at a time – so you can more easily deal with that smaller mess and make it tidy again before you move on

#6 – It’s Very Physical Work

As an ex-professional organiser – with back issues – I know all too well how physical decluttering is.

It’s one of the reasons I stopped doing 1-1 client work, in fact. Because my back wouldn’t have stood up to daily decluttering as I got older.

Now – most people don’t spend every working day decluttering – but it can still be really hard to actually DO any decluttering.

We have to reach for items in a hard to reach storage space, bend and stretch to grab things, life heavy boxes and bags, climb ladders etc… – and this can be hard to deal with – especially if you have any physical limitations.


Get help if you have any physical limitations. If you plan for this – then you can get the help you need at the time you need it. It may only be needed to move things around at the start and finish of each space, for example.

#7 – It’s Very Emotional

Oh boy – decluttering can bring out all the feels…

  • Anxiety – Dealing with so much stuff, worry that you’ll get rid of things you’ll need
  • Guilt – From feeling like you should keep things that you really don’t want to, but that you might have an emotional attachment to
  • Stress – Dealing with everything finding time to do it, etc…
  • Grief – from letting sentimental items go, from wasting money etc…

And a lot of the time we don’t think it will be hard at all to throw a few things away…


Acknowledge that decluttering is emotional. You’re going through all your personal belongings, after all. If you know that it will be hard at times, you’ll automatically be a little more prepared for it.

Related: The 13 Negative Emotions of Decluttering [& How To Overcome]

Ladies hand in a jumper

#8 – You Get Decision Fatigue

This could well be the biggest of the reasons why decluttering is hard – or at least it’s the biggest one I can think of (even with all the others to pick from in this list).

Because when we declutter, we have to pick up each item we own (big or small) and make a decision about it.

That decision will be either to keep it (and therefore where will it go), or to get rid of it (and therefore how will we let it go).

Each decision takes away a little energy from our decision bucket for that day – and we only have a certain amount available until decision fatigue sets in.

As we keep making decisions, they will therefore get harder and harder throughout the day.

Not only that – but we start to make the wrong decisions if we’re not careful – because we’ve worn ourselves out…


Create shorter decluttering sessions, and do them at times when you know you’ll have the energy and mental capacity to make your best decisions.

This is the reason I always limited client 1-1 decluttering sessions to 4 hours – because after that it becomes exponentially harder for my clients to carry on.

#9 – You Get Overwhelmed

Another emotional hardship that comes from decluttering is that we get overwhelmed by the whole process.

If we constantly think of the whole project (i.e. going through everything we own and every space we have) then it’s bound to feel hard and cumbersome.


Split things up into smaller and smaller segments – whatever makes the overwhelm disappear (or at least shrinks it). If you’re tackling the kitchen, just do a cupboard at a time. If that’s too much, do a shelf at a time. You get the idea.

Related: 15 Easy Ways To Start Decluttering When Feeling Overwhelmed

#10 – You Get Sidetracked Easily

Along with it being hard because it’s a large job, and it’s time consuming – these things mean we are more likely to have to focus as much as possible to avoid being sidetracked at all.

Losing focus means that we will end up spending even MORE time and effort on decluttering because we’ll have to re-focus and work out where we were etc… when we were sidetracked.

This naturally makes it harder than it needs to be and is worth looking out for so we can stop it in its tracks.


Tell your family not to disturb you – just like if you were working at home during this time. If you can listen to music or something as well, then you won’t hear anything that may take your attention either (of course, with little children this isn’t possible if they are at home and you’re looking after them – so you could consider getting childcare for this time if it helps you get it done faster and with less distraction).

#11 – You Don’t Really Think You Need To Declutter…

After all – organising it all is more fun, right?

We are bombarded with pictures of gorgeously ordered and organised spaces when we open home magazines or turn the TV on – and definitely on Pinterest or Instagram.

So it’s natural that creating these sorts of spaces in our own homes seems much more interesting and enjoyable, right?

Well – yes it is – to an extent.

Trouble is – what we then end up doing is organising our clutter as well. All those unwanted items are proudly displayed amongst the wanted possessions – and looking at us on those shelves and in our cupboards.

And this will STILL feel less than fantastic when we finish because we’ll know that it’s not organised at all, not really.


So – we find it hard to declutter when organising is more fun – but we need to remember that decluttering is a step on the path to being organised – so it should be fun too…

And therefore we need to MAKE it more fun!

Try racing against a timer with the family, or setting yourself a nice reward for when you finish. Whatever makes it easier to get it done…

Related: How To Make Decluttering Fun – Loads Of Ideas To Try!

#12 – You Feel You Should, But Don’t Really Want To

This is a tough one – because no-one wants to feel forced into doing anything. It feels hard when it’s started like that.

But it happens.

When we compare our homes to others, we start to feel that ours doesn’t compare favourably – maybe we feel we have a messy house – and this begins to trigger that need for changing it by decluttering.

But – just like the teenager who doesn’t see the real point of learning Calculus – it will feel harder than it needs to be…

The 12 Reasons Why Decluttering Is Hard & What To Do About It

There you have it – all the reasons why decluttering is hard…

Which do you find the hardest out of these 12?

I hope this has helped you to see that we ALL find it hard in different ways – and if you’re finding it a struggle to purge your home and create the spaces you want – know you’re not alone.

Yes – it’s hard – but everything in life that’s worthwhile is hard to some extent – right?

Keep going – because you’ll get there, and the rewards are amazing when you do!

Read Next: Positive Decluttering – A Better Way To Think About Things


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This article was written by Chrissy

Hi - I'm Chrissy... Having run my own business for 12 years as a Professional Organiser and Interior Designer, I know what works (and what doesn't!) when it comes to setting up a home that works both functionally and aesthetically. Now you can mostly find me in a coffee shop or at home, working full time on (which I setup back in 2011) sharing all my tips and ideas. My mission is to help you create a home that you love to live in every day...


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