Procrastination is worse than just getting on with it.

Wendy B wrote this very wise statement in a comment recently in regards to decluttering ~ 

“The thought of tackling the job is often more consuming than doing the job itself.”

How very true this is. I bet there are many of you out there who spent more time and metal energy putting off your decluttering than the time and effort that you actually needed to put into it once you got started. I was a little guilty of that myself to be honest. I knew, before returning home to live in Australia in 2007, that downsizing was our ultimate goal, but aside from the necessary ejection of stuff required to fit comfortably into our new home, and some extra bursts here and there, it was 2010 before I got on with the task in earnest.

And the problem with procrastinating is that you are wasting all that mental stress on getting nowhere. When it is as easy as putting one item aside each day, in the garage, or wherever you choose your transition area to be. Then donating the stuff to a charity when you have a pile big enough to make the effort to drop it off. And if you live in a place like the USA where the charity will come to you, it is even easier to get the job done, or at least make progress.

Of course you can complicate things by selling items via online auctions or similar, or by having a garage sale, but there is always an extra reward for your labours there, so it is often worth the extra effort. But that is entirely up to you.

We often procrastinate because we focus on the harder aspects of the task rather than just getting started on the easy stuff. How does the saying go? ~ “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” And there is always those things that are much easier to deal with than others. That is how I got started and in the end I got rid of far more stuff that I ever thought I would. Even things I had no intention of ever letting go. The more I decluttered the easier it was to part with things and the more things I realised a didn’t need to keep.

Actually just writing today’s post was a case of procrastination for me. That seems a little more than ironic. In the end I figured I would get a better night sleep if I took care of that and another small task before going to bed rather than leaving it until today. And I did sleep better for it I think.

The thing about procrastinating is that it makes you feel bad, then feeling bad makes you sorry for yourself so you self medicate by doing something else you would rather do. While actually by doing what you don’t want to do you can make yourself feel a lot better than avoiding it.

I know there are plenty of my readers out there, who are a long way along their declutter journey, who have been there and done that, so why not share with us your procrastination story, and how you overcame it. And those of you still torturing yourself with futile procrastination, hopefully reading our about experiences will help you start eating that elephant, one bite at a time.

Random Acts of Unusual Kindness

As a pedestrian treat the sidewalk as if it were the road. Keep to the side that the road traffic travels on in the country that you are in at the time. Don’t dart out from side allies and shops into oncoming foot traffic. And don’t walk three abreast. This ought to be common sense, but it doesn’t seem to be, and life would be a lot easier for everyone if we all adhered to these simple rules.


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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Oh go ahead, Colleen. You were here this morning, weren’t you, while we were talking about me FINALLY getting down to fixing the dings from moving in (October) and then doing the final painting so we can hang our artwork and feel as though we actually live here.

    My only way to beat procrastination is to set deadlines (or have them forced on me) or to have a goal in mind. Right now the goal is to be ready for moving again (which may be soon, may not) and that has lit a fire under my feet.

    Some jobs get put off because they are so large and complicated they seem insurmountable. I have spent the last number of months making sense and order of the tons of paper left behind by the former president of one of our groups. I have to get it out, sort it a bit and then put it away for a while to avoid being overwhelmed. Today I will finish it and get the box and binders out of my house. Oh happy day.

    And then on to the next procrastinated project(s).

    • Hi Wendy, paperwork is the worst or maybe equal worst with photos to deal with. I still haven’t taken care of photos and probably never will. Craft takes up so much more room so I will continue to whittle that away for now. So well done you getting the task out of the way for now.

      Actually just writing today’s post was a case of procrastination for me. That seems a little more than ironic to me. In the end I figured I would get a better night sleep if I took care of that and another small task before going to bed rather than leaving it until today. And I did sleep better for it I think.

      The thing about procrastinating is that it makes you feel bad, then feeling bad makes you sorry for yourself so you self medicate by doing something else you would rather do. While actually by doing what you don’t want to do you can make yourself feel a lot better than avoiding it.

      I think I will cut and paste that last statement into the post.

      • Hi girls I hope everyone has been well and you’re all managing to stay on top of everything 🙂
        Three years on and I’m still dealing with paperwork. We went paperless with most of our bills and statements but still get back-up paperwork !!!
        I still declutter regularly and I’m still amazed that I still have so much to declutter!! I have reduced my books by another 400. I have managed to get rid of some furniture that I no longer wanted and I finally got my linen cupboard under control only to have it explode again when Summer rolls around with so many extra people in the house. Add to that extra bits for my baby great niece and I call it chaos again, but in a nice way.
        I have been chipping away slowly and steadily getting re-sorted after leaving a rental which we lived in for 18mths and then moved into our newly built home 2 yrs ago.
        I can’t afford to procrastinate anymore, I’d just never get back on top hahaha.

        • Dizzy, sounds like you are making good headway even though summer has exploded the linen closet. Hang in there and keep up the good work.

        • Dizzy – great to hear from you again!

        • Hi Dizzy, nice to hear from you after so long. Lot of water under the Bridge since we chatted last. Hubby and I made the move to a two bedroom apartment, my son is married with a stepdaughter and a baby boy now. Life is cruising along at a rapid pace as usual. Glad to hear you are doing well. Drop in anytime.

        • Hi Dizzy,

          Your comments always make me laugh! I’m glad you’re doing well and still decluttering 🙂

    • Wendy B – I understand ‘forced deadlines’ – those are the ones that I have a hate/love relationship with because I hate the pressure I have found myself under which is a result of my dilly dallying, but its the deadline that I put the Rocky Theme “Eye Of The Tiger” on and get the job done. Finally.

  2. My theory is I work better under pressure. Lol
    The just-in-time gal that’s me. I seem to wait until the last minute for somethings, others I’m way ahead of the game. Like Christmas boxes to mail off. I guess the Christmas boxes are more fun than other projects.

    I make lists and there always seems to a project or two that gets shifted from list to list. I guess some jobs get put off because other jobs seem like they are easier or more fun.

    • Ha ha Calla, I just added two paragraphs to the post above the last paragraph. You should go back and read those. 😉

      • My story about procrastination…when I was in college I had the cleanest house. I would clean before doing homework or study for tests as a way to put things off. In the many years since college I make lists of what want to get done that week. Many times projects do get moved from one week to the next. I have gotten better about completing projects on my list. Maybe it’s age?
        I do tend to get stuff done just before it needs to be done that I always attribute to working best under pressure.

        • The Other Christine

          I also use things like decluttering and tidying to procrastinate on other tasks. If the task I’m avoiding is something I’m not sure how to do or I don’t think I’m good at it, decluttering is a particularly comforting thing to do instead because it feels simple and controlled. Of all the things people can do to feel in control, decluttering doesn’t have very many or very serious problems in my life, but I would still be better doing the thing I am avoiding and getting it over with.

  3. To the tune of “The Great Pretender” by the Platters:

    Oh oh, yes I’m the great procrastinator
    Pretending that I’m doing well
    My need is such I procrastinate too much
    I’m cluttered but no one can tell

    Oh oh, yes I’m the great procrastinator
    Adrift in a clutter world of my own
    I’ve played Nicole’s game but to my real shame
    I’m left to declutter all alone

    (There’s more…maybe someone else can pick up from here…)
    Hmmm…I certainly told y’all my age range…

    • LOVE IT – I just played the song and enjoyed your rendition.

    • Deanna – my first reaction was ‘didn’t Freddy Mercury sing this?’ – but yes I was singing along. Every generation thinks they invented every great song. My daughter couldn’t understand recently when I knew all the words straight away to the ‘new’ song “Fast Car” – except I knew it when Tracey Chapman sang it.

    • …Too real is this feeling of clutteredness
      Too real when I feel what my cupboards can’t conceal.

      Yes I’m the great procrastinator
      Just laughin’ and gay like a clown
      I seem to be what I’m not, you see
      I’m wearing my heart like a crown
      Pretending the clutter’s not around…

    • LOL, Deanna!

  4. This is so very true! There are so many tasks which I dread and put off, not just decluttering, and then when I finally get to whatever it is I realize that I spent longer worrying about doing it and putting it off than actually doing it. Certain cleaning tasks, weeding the garden, replying to long-standing emails … I need to find a way to make these things appear less overwhelming to me. My current decluttering/organizing project is going through decades of letters and cards from family and friends and I have been pleasantly surprised to find that I have lost much sentimental/emotional attachment to these things. I am quite enjoying going through them and choosing the ones I want to keep, and happy to discard others which just don’t bring any joy. Having said all that, I have avoided continuing with this task for the last week, but I’ve set myself a deadline to get it done and I now feel confident of achieving it. Already I have emptied 3 large boxes and feel very good about it. I think that also doing it in small or timed chunks makes it seem more manageable.

    • Christine, I did the card culling a few years ago. I had quite a lot and it was time consuming. First, I went through the ones from family and friends. Some were very enjoyable to see again, but for the most part, I was wishing I had been more discriminatory in saving!!! Then, I got rid of cards i had given to my 1st husband. Next, I pretty much eliminated all the ones to and from my currrent husband and myself. We have stopped exchanging cards now. I still have a large box of cards FROM my 1st husband to go through. I can’t believe I had saved so many cards!!! The time it took to go through them has pretty much cured me from saving too many! I plan to do another pass thru of what I still have sometime and try to save just one funny and one serious from each person.

      I am “procrastinating” on my postcard collection from where friends have travelled the world! ha! Thankfully, they don’t require a huge box!

  5. Hey! Y’all are really clever with your renditions of the old Platters song! I’m impressed!!!

    As for me, I just yesterday got my tax figures together to mail to our tax lady in another town. I had been procrastinating since the end of last year. I particularly dreaded it this year.

    The other thing I procrastinate on is my ironing. I have lamented that on this site before. I leave it till the hanging area in my utility room is full and I have no room to hang any more. It definitely would be easier to “just git’er done”, but somehow I never do. Same with sewing, which I hate.

    I am hoping now that my taxes are taken care of that I won’t procrastinate any longer on my husbands first qtr income and expense postings. I have already postponed it till the end of the 3rd month! : )

    I end with a great quote by William James which is so very true:


  6. Procrastinating is something I am good at when it is a big task or something I really don’t want to do. I would rather declutter the entire house than make phone calls for a committee at church. I don’t like to talk on the phone unless it is with a friend and we are having a meaningful conversation. My decluttering wasn’t to much of an issue for me. Now Mom? That’s another story. Grin.

  7. Sometimes, just starting seems to be the biggest hurdle. I’ve found that if I need to do a task, even spending a few minutes on preparing to do it – gathering the necessary materials, for instance – helps to put me in a frame of mind to continue completing the task. Starting small is effective as it breaks down a seemingly Herculean task into more manageable chunks. Telling yourself that you’ll do something for “just 15 minutes” also helps.

  8. Hi Nicole V,

    I agree that allowing yourself to prepare to do a task eases the way. I think it comforts my “planning” mind… This is not to say that I don’t procrastinate sometimes haha… My husband and I took care of the annual taxes this week and my car inspection, 2 tasks that I purposely waited to accomplish until he was on Spring Break so that we could do them together. I have also been pushing myself to purge my younger daughters’ room and reorganize my older daughters clothing and her kids clothing so that I will be able to help them more efficiently (They live with me). I moved a lot of it into her sisters vacated room and the “too big” and “too small” went into bags on the back porch. There are still a lot of books to consider moving or donating but they aren’t really in the way so I can take my time. 🙂

  9. Hmmm, sometimes procrastination is just covering up feeling guilty because “I don’t want to do this task but feel like I should”. Go easy on yourselves readers … sometimes it’s OK to just let those “I don’t want to do this” tasks slide off into oblivion … maybe you don’t actually NEED to do the task.

    OK, that doesn’t work for taxes but for some other tasks, if you don’t have the motivation to get started, I’d question the need to do the task in the first place.

    Rather than feeling like I should complete everything on my to-do list, I’m getting better at editing it and getting rid of the non-essential ones.

    • Kate, I have no doubt that there are always some non-essential tasks on everyone’s todo list that they could simply just cross off. However I think that procrastination by definition relates to putting off necessary tasks. And that is a habit that isn’t good to encourage.
      “I don’t want to do this task but feel like I should.” is more in the lines of feeling of obligation. That is feeling obliged to do something even though it isn’t necessary.

  10. This is so true. Until my husband’s death, I was a fervent neatnik, due to growing up in a hoarded home — not exactly dirty, but simply packed to the gills with junk — very stressful for a child and teen (and of course my Dad as well.) After my husband died, even though donating his clothing to charity was made clear among his wishes, it took me forever to make that first small step. But, once I made that choice, donating other items became SO MUCH EASIER! I kept a few highly sentimental garments, such as his beloved motorcycle jacket, but once I decided to just DO IT one day, re-homing other items became so much easier, and the mental block I had about “what to give to whom” simply lifted on its own. The first step IS the hardest, but it is the most important one.