Sabotaging your efforts ~ By Doodle



Are there things you do to sabotage your de-cluttering goals?

I got the idea for this post after reading “No More Clutter” by Sue Kay. She suggests the following as ways we undermine our decluttering efforts:

  1. Do you focus on how much there is left to do rather than how much you have achieved?
  2. Do you find your self apologising a lot to others and calling yourself lazy and other derogatory names rather than defining yourself in more positive language and a ‘work in progress’.
  3. Do you throw away essential things that then prove how risky decluttering is?
  4. Do you create such a mess when decluttering that you give up half way through a task and have made everything worse.
  5. Does being a perfectionist stop you from doing small 15 minute tasks; one drawer or one shelf at a time. Is it all or nothing; an entire room or it’s not worth it…but you can never bring yourself to face a whole room?
  6. Are you easily distracted, starting off one task in the kitchen, wondering off to the bedroom to put something away and start sorting the  laundry on your floor  which leads you to the bathroom to put dirty clothes in the laundry bin when you spot the sink needs a clean…
  7. Over complex or unrealistic plans of where or how  you might get rid of stuff

I have definitely at some point done all of these except for 3) The good news is,from my experience, that once you bring these behaviours from your unconscious to conscious level, all these traits you can train out of yourself and create new habits.

When working on my own stuff, I now consciously choose to tackle decluttering in small bite size chunks. If I am in the mood for a few hours sorting, I finish one bit before starting the next session, because I know how my energy for the task can suddenly go.

Of course, when working with clients, I work differently because we know we are going to be keeping going for 3-4 hours per session: I’m there as the energiser and motivator, attuning to each clients individual needs, so we won’t be giving up after 20 minutes. This does mean I can empty whole wardrobes and larders at the start rather than doing small chunks. In this instance, it is down to me to ensure the pace we work at balances with the time I allow at the end to leave the area we are working in   a far better state than when we started.

We create piles on the floor for things that need to be put away elsewhere in the house. Then we do that all at the end, rather than lots of too-ing and fro-ing distracting us from the task in hand.

A significant proportion of my clients apologise a lot and feel bad about themselves with regard to their clutter. I always gently challenge that view of themselves, because there are always life reasons why things have become too much and now they are taking steps to change: they deserve to praise themselves and believe this is the start of change.

In my own home, I find it very helpful to set an alarm/kitchen timer for 15 minutes to tackle an area I just can’t face: it means I make a little breakthrough and am then rewarded by being allowed to stop. Occasionally of course, it gets me going and I keep going long past the 15 minutes. But it is ok to stop at 15 minutes. It’s a technique I pass on to clients too.

Do you recognise yourself in any of the above 1-7 list? If you recognise any of them as the way you used to do things, how have you changed?

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter something from a bathroom in your home.

Eco Tip for the Day

Here’s one way to save paper. Write your grocery list on the fridge with a whiteboard marker and then photograph it with your cell phone and take that with you when you go shopping.

For a full list of my eco tips so far click here

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow



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Continue reading with these posts:

  • Large area declutter ~ Minimal disruption This post is all about breaking down, into steps, the task of decluttering a large cluttered area of your home without causing undue disruption. I am going to use the kitchen as my example […]
  • You can do things differently Doodles blog post yesterday got me thinking about how out of character my decluttering method is to my usual behaviour. Of the seven sabotaging behaviours Doodle mentioned in the post, I […]
  • To be perfect ~ By Andréia We all are taught that perfection does not exist. What we fail to do is to believe that. I don’t really know about the rest of the world, but I am tired of seeing in all places the […]


  1. I love the timer idea! Especially since there are timers everywhere: on my smartphone, in the kitchen, online. I love the idea because of its simplicity. I always do a quick clean up before I go to bed, but this is a great idea for a few large projects of digitizing stuff.

    Thanks for the idea!

    • Welcome to 365 Dymphy. Glad you love the timer idea – the simple ones are so often the best! It definitely is a great way to tackle jobs you are dreading and make doing those you don’t have much energy for more fun. I also use it for house work tasks, and yes sometimes I do stop washing up as soon as the 15 minute alarm goes: it doesn’t all have to be done at once if it feels to much.

  2. I have done:
    #1, 4 & 5 – Now that I know about them, I will make a serious effort to not do them anymore.
    Thanks for sharing these with us. I think I will be checking out “No More Clutter” by Sue Kay.

    • Hi Shoeaholic, I am a strong believer that bringing your own habits into conscious awareness is an important step towards changing them.
      It can be hard, when there is a lot of decluttering to be done, to only see the mountain still left to climb, but a little bit each day, as colleen advocates here at 365, or a little bit each day and the odd splurge on a bit more one a week or so does all add up in the end – it’s a bit like join the dots…the slow spread of clear space gradually joining up. Praise yourself for eery thing you get ou of the house, or put away – because it all makes a difference.
      If you are struggling with making a huge mess that makes everything worse, it may be a good idea to do smaller areas at a time… though the perfectionist in you wants to take on the bigger picture: how about trying a week of 15 minutes a day and see where that gets you…and make a note of the discussion in your head when you fight the urge to do more than you can manage.

      • These are all great suggestions. Since I haven’t actually purged the items from my home because I’m holding them for a neighborhood garage sale this spring I can see how much progress I’ve made as the pile of “purged” items keeps growing. (I, of course, have thrown a few things in the garbage that were not worth it for the garage sale or even for recycling.) I know I still have a long way to go, but since I’m getting rid of things without replacing them, I will get there. I have 2 missions and they go well together: de-clutter my life and home, pay off my debts. By not replacing things I de-clutter I am de-cluttering and lowering my debts also!

        • Shoeaholicnomore – excellent goals. Yes, putting things aside that are committed to a neighbourhood garage sale still counts. Have you thought about what you will do with items which do not sell?

  3. Oh yes, number 6 describes me perfectly.
    And number 1 of course, because after many days of 6, well … maybe we won’t go there.
    Did I just say days? Try life of 6. A constant battle with my internal wiring.
    But I absolutely will get there. One thing at a time.

    • Interestingly Stephanie, am reading another book at the moment about people with ADD and how to help them declutter/organise. Of course people with ADD have a more extreme form of the internal wiring you are referring to (and many of us experience in different levels I suspect).
      I’m hoping to pick a few more tips for creative ideas to help tackle distraction. I do find it helps to not allow yourself to leave the room to put other stuff away until the task is done: make piles on the floor for different locations that you then put away at the end. Add to this perhaps set a timer to do a task for 15 mins only, then you might find you can complete what you set out to do.

      • I borrowed a library book on this subject, which was fantastic. It really helped me, and my adult daughter, to understand more about how we roll.
        It is called Organizing solutions for people with ADD by Susan Pinsky
        We both found descriptions of ourselves (highly amusing), and found the suggestions in this book were very helpful.

        • That’s so interesting, thanks Stephanie – the book I am reading is called ADD-Friendly ways o organise your life by J Kolberg and Kathleen Nadeau. I haven’t read enough of it yet to make any recommendation.
          I will look up the one you refer to as well: the fact you have found it helpful with your own personality traits is a good recommendation.

  4. No. 6 is the worst for me, but I confess to almost all the others, as well. I’m easily distracted these days. When I take something from room x to put away in room y, I notice things in room y that I’ll never get back to if I don’t do it at that point, so then room x never gets finished. I’m so organized about certain things, where with others, I’m at a complete loss on how to get a handle on things. My gosh. I don’t have an uncluttered, clear-surfaced room in the house at the moment and it’s driving me crazy. If anyone stopped by unannounced at the moment, I’d be so embarrassed, but I have deadlines and other more pressing obligations at the moment, but surely I can tackle my laundry basket and the unwashed dishes and run a vacuum in the living room. Can’t I??

    • I think the key phrase here is ” more pressing obligations at the moment” Donna. Sometimes life is just like that and you have to prioritise other things.
      Can you work out what stops you from doing the basics, like the laundry and dishes? Can you factor doing them during adbreaks while watching the tv for example – that can be quite fun actually: I rush around like a mad thing for the 2/3 minutes of an ad break, so still get to have my needed slob in front of the tv but get a lot done.
      Why not set your self a 15 minute timer challenge to clear one cluttered surface before bedtime…and stop as soon a the timer goes. Make it five minutes if 15 feels too overwhelming.
      I tend to get ready for bed, do my teeth and get my hotwater bottle…then spend 10 minutes washing up/ wiping down kitchen surfaces, knowing all I have to do at the end is drop into bed. Works for me.

  5. I employ the timer method a lot! Then run around like a lunatic and get a kick out of what I have accomplished. Hee hee The cat’s eyes get big and round as I race around the room. What I’ve really found out is that things don’t take near as long to do as I imagine they will.

    #6: Yep – that does seem to happen to me, too. Dang it.

    • Lol, fabulous isn’t it Michelle. It’s amazing how energised I can be with a 5-15 minute time boundary.

  6. GracefromBrazil

    OUCH! I think I winced at about all of those. Thanks for pointing that we can be our own worst enemy. I need to just keep it simple. : )

    • Sorry to make you wince Grace! Keeping it simple is the ultimate best practice for life in my opinion 😉
      Knowing how you function helps you simplify your choices and actions for the results you want.

  7. I have done all of these at some time except #3 as well – too cautious to do that one, haha!

    #1 and #6 are my biggest enemies. #1 makes me feel like there is no point in trying, and if I do get some motivation, #6 is my undoing. I am getting better at doing things in small increments, though. I like the idea about staying in the room you are working on until you are done, and limiting the job – I always, always ran out of energy before I ran out of work, and would leave piles “for later” and the piles would sit for … months, sometimes, I am sorry to say. These are good insights, and good pointers – thank you! It must be a very nice feeling to help others deal with their challenges; I think it is a true gift to be able to do this.

    • Hi Jo, yes it is very rewarding helping others with these issues, though I always make sure my clients know my home is not a minimalist palace run like clockwork, lol. And I still have plenty to learn here at 365 too because we are all individuals with different experiences.
      But it has taken til I am 50 to discover I do have a gift for helping others declutter their home and it has been a real joy to uncover.
      Having had a lot of energy issues in my life, I certainly have many times lost steam half way through a project, so now I apply the ‘small bites’ to quite a few areas of my life, not just decluttering.
      The great thing is you know you are changing how you do things. It’s bound to take time to change lifetime habits, but go you, you are. Sometimes all it takes to take things up a notch is a few small pointers and this is where 365 is such a fab site for sharing ideas.

  8. Great post Doodle and sabotaging is the right word. I can’t say I have ever mentioned 3. here before. I supposed it had not occurred to me that people would do this just to try to fool themselves into believing the decluttering is unadvisable and give themselves and excuse to avoid it. But now that you mention it I dare say it happens more than one would think.

    • Thanks Colleen: I’ve not come across number 3 before either, and nearly didn’t include it. But as the author (a professional declutter with a number of years experience) has enough to include it in her list, I though I should leave it in, in case it rings bells for anyone reading.

  9. I received this question/comment via email from Kathleen…

    “Thanks for that! Any advice for a messy bedroom?”

    Perhaps you would like to answer that Doodle.

    • Well, a calm clutter free bedroom is one of the best gifts you can give yourself Kathleen. You need to think about why this room is messy. Is it because you own too many belongings for the space so nothing can ever be put away properly?
      Bedrooms tend to be used for sleeping, dressing and undressing. So the only things that truly need to be in there are a bed, a wardrobe, a chest of drawers and a bedside table and a dirty laundry basket.
      One great habit to get in to (if you don’t already) is to make your bed every day. It takes just 2 minutes and looks so good. Then never ever allow yourself to put anything on the bed – don’t put it down, put it away. That way, your bed is always ready and waiting for you to sink into at the end of the day.
      The way to tackle the messiness is one area at a time: if there is stuff on the floor, I always start there with clients as it lifts the spirits to have a clear floor. If necessary, use the timer method: just do 15 minutes at a time. If something throws you into complete indecision, immediately put it to one side and stop thinking about it – keep going on the easier stuff.
      Downsizing clothes is a whole separate post really. But clutter and mess always means you own too much for the space you have.
      Remember – only keep what you truly use or absolutely love.

    • Hi Kathleen and Doodle! I must give my two cents in the case of a messy bedroom! I (with my husband) was the owner of a very messy bedroom. It was all due to an excess: excess of everything – from clothes to furniture. One of the bigger problems I had was that I did not have a place to put things away. As I had excess shoes, clothes and a number of miscellaneous stuff in my bedroom, there was never enough room to put stuff away. Never. This caused clothes and shoes to be strewn around the room, clothes on chairs and shoes on the floor, under the bed. This lead to the room always looking messy and far from restful. It took a massive decluttering effort to get the room in order, but nowadays what I avoid, avoid, avoid is leaving anything out of place. It takes me about 5 minutes to put one pair of shoes away and get dressed/undressed in a place where I, immediately, put my clothes in their proper place (hook on the wall/closet/laundry basket). This ensures me that whenever I decide to “clean up” my bedroom it takes no more than 15 minutes.
      As for your advice on making the bed Doodle, I try to do it everyday now and it is great. I never used to make my bed before, because everything was such a mess that it was disheartening to see a made up bed amidst that mess (I think it made the mess look even worse… 😀 😀 :D).

      • Great post Andreia: we too do not have a tv or exercise equipment in the bedroom. I found we had to adapt our storage to suit our individual needs. My husband has about 4 times more clothes than me (used to be 10 times so I’m pretty happy with how much he ha managed to downsize) I came to realise with him, it was out of sight , out of mind and we also have a very small bedroom (so we can let the larger room to a lodger) so there is no room for a wardrobe with doors to open. So I put up 7 x 6 ft shelving along one wall. My husband is a brilliant folder of clothes so it is all neatly stacked (bottom 2 shelves are for our shoes and boots). It does mean he can always see what he already has. Some people may find the open shelving to ‘messy’ even though it is neatly done, but it meets our needs. We also have a rail fitting in an alcove to hang things, and I have some of this space. There are no room for drawers, so we have other shelving on a different wall with baskets on for underwear and my out of season clothes etc.
        We both have separate linen baskets so dirty washing get put straight in there. There is no chair to become a tempting dumping point for clothes used once but not needing a wash yet – they get rehung or folded on to the end of the rail/shelf every night. Clean laundry may occasionally be put on the bed, but that means it has to be hung up before we go to bed – there is no where else in the room it can be dumped.
        We have separate duvets so we each fold our own duvet the moment we get up, though in our case, we choose to air the mattress first, but the bed still looks neat and ‘made’. The only things under the bed are two little pull out boxes with our one set of spare bedding and winter duvets.
        I have hooks for my jewellery above my bedside table and a hook to hang my hair dryer up at the place I use it.

        So everything we have has a home and if anything new comes in, something else has to go.

    • Kathleen – My hubby and I made a rule that we wouldnt have a tv or exercise equipment or any unneccesary furniture in our bedroom. The next rule is we each make our own side of the bed, but I have to admit that I end up ‘fixing’ my husbands side most days.

  10. Doodle, this is a really good post. When i was helping people with this more I would see all of these often. Some people would show all of them at some point. Here’s another one that I saw–spending more time talking about what needed to be done rather than doing it. As with my friend, S, I have also seen where some people just need to either have someone helping them each step of the way or someone who will do it all for them after learning any boundaries. S is like this. I have been considering how best to help her learn how to keep her house uncluttered once the big decluttering process is over. She needs some strategies that will help her. I have a few ready but will be working on a few more.

    • Thanks Deb J. Oh, I definitely get the ‘spending more time talking about it’. It’s a real skill trying to find the right way to respectfully translate the talk to action don’t you think?
      I like your observation on how different people need different types of help – I have experienced this too, and I never know until I get there whether a client will need me to take control (teaching as I go, and always ensuring a client is fully engaging with the process) or they need to lead the process and I’m more of specialist help mate. Clients are free to use me in any way they choose to achieve what they want to achieve.
      Like losing weight – where it’s one journey to lose it and a completely different one to keep the weight off, so with de-cluttering, it is one thing to de-clutter but a different process to remain clutter free as new habits need to be learnt. And like you are doing for S, everyone is unique in what will work best for them.

  11. I find I have to keep ‘mixing it up’ so that I don’t get complacent. I realise that means I like to play mind games with myself. And worst than that, that I fall for the mind games that I play on myself.
    I am starting to run into a new excuse, the “there’s actually plenty of room in that cupboard or ??, so its not a big deal if (item) stays put a bit longer”. I am fortunate in that I have been decluttering for several years and now have a lot of white space in the majority of cupboards and drawers in our house. Such a change from what used to be a constant avalanche risk. Here and there lurks items which got thru the last several culls by a whisker, and I just know eventually they’ll get the chop.

    • I love playing mind games with myself Moni, lol.
      Like you, I know something’s have been given a reprieve for now, and are just awaiting the next round of ruthlessness, when ever that might come upon me.

  12. Great list.
    #6 is my biggest downfall whether it be decluttering, housework, gardening, shopping for groceries…. you get the idea. It permeates every aspect of my life. That being said, I celebrate every victory! (even if it wasn’t a straight path getting to the goal)
    I do find the timer keeps me focussed fairly well, but I’m always shocked how fast 15 minutes flies by!
    My husband suffers from #1 and #5, which can be a paralyzing combination for the to-do list of any kind.

    • My husband suffers from overwhelm too creative me . I help him work in very small chunks as he can’t cope with much more than a few decisions about stuff at a time and it is always initiated by me. And I have learnt intuitively to know when the best time to do this is.
      Keep celebrating those victories – that is so important 😀

  13. Hi Doodle! I do sabotage myself from time to time. I specially hit on items 01, 02 and 06, because I do tend to focus on the ‘undone’ rather than on the ‘progress’ front. I also make far too many excuses for myself. Or put myself down. This kind of sabotaging tends to drag me down on more important areas that still need a lot of decluttering (i.e. my office, always my office 🙂 ). Excellent post, that will help keep on track!

    • Right Andreia, your task for today is to find 3 things to praise about your decluttering efforts so far and repeat them to yourself at breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for a week! 😀
      I think offices are very hard because they are so dense with paper and each piece needs to be looked at before it can be rehomes or thrown. You could spend 3 hours on one pile of papers, so it does take a long time. You just have to keep working away in small chunks at old stuff, while creating new, good habits for all the new incoming.

  14. I have just gone through a massive clear-out with my son cracking the whip. I am so proud of myself and he was amazed at how much stuff I let go. I have to admit I was exhausted when he went back to Manchester (and, he admitted, so was he) so I have spent the last week organising my stash area for charity donations (now gone) and I am left with an organised area for my E-bay items. I have recruited my husband to be in charge of the selling so that he has a role to play in decluttering the top floor bedrooms where everything is now concentrated. We have just sold my mother’s bedroom suite which has taken up a lot of room in the house for the last 20 years. I made the mistake of hanging on to it “for storage” but 365 made me realise I was “storing” too much and it has to go. We have had the entire house redecorated and I have refused to mar the clean open spaces with clutter. I liken my junk situation to a sinking ship where all the rats have scurried to the top floor bedrooms and now they have to go. I am working on clearing one of these bedrooms so that my husband can decorate it for our new grandson. It’s a huge incentive.

    • Wow Jan! You have done so well. The process can be exhausting so it’s a good idea to have a break by changing the pace every so often, like you are doing. Keep up the good work!

  15. You are so right, Doodle. I really needed a break. I’ve kept going with clearing the room but I find myself losing the heart to throw out. I think this is because I had such a big purge but I’m worried I won’t get back into things. I think it’s because I’m focusing on emptying the bedroom for decorating so I’m just moving things into the other bedroom intending to get back to it all later. Perhaps an example of your first point on the list?

    • Sorry it’s taken me a while to reply Jan. I find energy to declutter comes in waves and is rarely sustainable to long periods. Allow yourself to relax into a break and trust that the urge to get going again will return. If you lose the heart to throw out, there isn’t much you can do but it really helps to keep things ticking over with Colleen’s one thing a day . I also find keeping reading this blog and posting has at times just kept me ticking over til the energy returns for another big sesh.

      • Thanks for the encouragement, Doodle. 365 has been so inspiring and when I have been unable to be physically active in my clearing due to illness I have been mentally working things out by reading all the helpful comments. I am working in the garden at present and clearing up there, just as important as the house for me and so therapeutic.