Stumbling Blocks to Success

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom

We all want to succeed. We all want  a clutter-free, clean, and peaceful home. Yet sometimes we struggle. What are some of the stumbling blocks to success?

Making Excuses Instead Starting

“I’d like to start.” “I’ll get around to it soon.” “When things settle down, I’ll declutter.” Those are excuses, and if you’re using them, they’re getting in the way of your success. One of the beauties of one-thing-a-day decluttering is that it hardly takes any time, especially in the beginning. In the beginning (which is when excuses are their strongest) nearly anything you touch or see is a candidate for decluttering. Even people who have been steadily decluttering as long as Colleen and me rarely need more than 5 minutes to find something else that needs a new home – outside of our home. Stop making excuses and just start.

An Attack of Negative Thinking

“One thing a day? I’ll be decluttering for the rest of my life?” “What’s the use? There’s too much stuff.” “It probably won’t help anyway.” Stop! No more negative thinking! If you never get started, it won’t ever change, and even one thing less is better than one thing more. We all know that every journey begins with a single step and that a giant tree began as a tiny seedling. Your decluttering journey is no different. Stop thinking and start acting.

Stuck in Your Comfort Zone

You say you want a decluttered home, but really, you like being surrounded by all that extra stuff. Besides, what if you need it some day? Being comfortable is comfortable and wanting to change can be hard and scary. I used to work with a psychiatrist who said, “People don’t change until they’re sick and tired of being sick and tired.” How true. But if you’re here, searching the Internet for inspiration in your decluttering journey, I’m going to believe that you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired and that today is the day you’re going to make your first change. You’ll be leaving your comfort zone one step at a time, one day at a time. Don’t be afraid to take the first, small step. You may be amazed at how many steps come next.

A Second Attack of Negative Thinking

“I’m not getting anywhere.” “This isn’t working.” “It’s too slow, maybe I should just quit.” We’re not running a sprint in our decluttering, not even a marathon. This is a long, sometimes meandering journey on foot, and you won’t get from point A to point B in a single day. That’s okay. Your house didn’t get cluttered in a single day, and it’s not going to get uncluttered in a single day. Write down everything you do get rid of. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the numbers add up.

Input and Output

And if you truly, sincerely feel that you’re getting no where, start writing down the number of non-disposable items (not food, toiletries, etc.) that you purchase. If your incoming goods almost match your outgoing goods, that’s going to slow you down significantly. Purchasing excess to your needs and not purging is how we all got cluttered in the  first place (or inheriting a boatload of stuff from someone who purchased in excess to their needs and never purged). You’ve got to stem the inflow, too. As a bonus, your bank account will thank you.

Get a Goal

Maybe “to have a decluttered house” is too vague for you. How about setting a specific goal? “To have company over at any time without feeling embarassed.” “To sell my excess and use the money for XX (mortgage, vacation, private school, credit card debt).”To reduce my china until all of it fits in the china cabinet.” All these are specific, quantifiable goals that may make it easier to get on track and stay on track.

A Final Attack of Negative Thinking

“Stinkin’ thinkin’ ” is what I called this when I was a therapist. This is any thinking about yourself as a person that holds you back. “I’m not worthy” or “I made my bed, now I have to lie in it.” This type of negative thinking is hardest to detect and most insideous, because rarely do we say right out loud to ourselves, “I am not worthy.” Of course you’re worthy! We’re all worthy. Maybe you did make this bed, but you darn sure don’t have to keeping lying in it. Get up! You’re never too far off course that you can’t start to make a change, and it can start today. Say it with me “I am worthy. I can correct any mistakes I have made. I can change what does not work for me and make it better. All of these things are fully within my power. I AM worthy and I CAN do this.”

Today’s Declutter Item

Rather than waste time and effort trying to sell these last few records on ebay it is time to set them free the quick, easy way and more generous way, off to the thrift store they go.

The last of out record collection

Something I Am Grateful For Today

I think I have finally found just the right sandals. Being a conscientious consumer is hard work sometimes. I needed sandals but I wasn’t going to settle for second best, I needed them to be comfortable, versatile and cute and after trying on just about every sandal in town I think I have found a winner. Now all they have to do is pass the husband test.



“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

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

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  1. you have your motivation week, right? amazing as well.

    and congratulations on the sandals. But how exactly can sandals fail/pass a “husband test”? Is he wearing them as well?

    • Hi Lena,
      my husband has a bit of a thing about shoes and soon lets me know if he thinks the ones I have chosen are ugly. He absolutely hates flip flops.

      • I didn’t use to wear anything that showed my toes! And flipflops (thongs), oh my, they are for showering in icky places, or the pool – not the supermarket, night out etc!

        At least I have graduated to open toed shoes (it was too hot in Greece to think of anything else, and they are the land of grecian sandals!) I actually saw a LOVELY pair whilst doing errands, and I’m thinking about them again (I just saw them on a shelf in a store as I strode past!), so I think I might go back and have a second look. I am struggling with buying them – I mean, the grecian ones are wearable, but the toe loop is stretched, meaning I strain to keep them on… Is that enough of a reason to replace?

      • lol- that explains it. I keep the fingers crossed that he likes them. Let us know what he thinks. 😉

        and snosie: I know that thing for open toes, it took me also quite some time to get used to it. I love it now though.

        I just counted my shoes yesterday (12 pair including winter- and rubberboots, etc) and I realized that I only own shoes that I really love and wear a lot. If the others are better and you love them and like the feeling and the look, I would say, yeah replace the “old ones”. But only if you feel you get a good deal…

        • Snosie, It doesn’t sounds out of line to buy a replacement pair, especially since you know you love and will wear this style.

  2. Cindy, what a great reminder that decluttering – like so many changes we want to make in our lives – is a process, not just a change that happens overnight. This is something I tend to forget, and therefore I end up feeling like I have failed, or that I can’t change old behaviors. I need to remember this more often.

  3. Cindy,
    This was so well-timed for me. I was starting to wonder if I would ever “win”, but you’ve reminded me how much has gone in the year, and how very little has come in. Thank you!
    Of course, another procrastination trick is to sit too long at the computer “inspiring” myself, instead of just getting on with the “hard” bits!
    Thanks again to you both, Cindy and Colleen.

    • Oh the computer, hitting the refresh button and hoping that something interesting will happen? I’ve been there myself. I remind myself that when I’m sitting on my rump really not doing much of anything, that I feel much better about my day when I GET UP and GET SOMETHING TANGIBLE accomplished. Then I have to stay away from the desk chair that somehow has learned how to call my name “Cindy, Cindy, come sit in me and waste some tiiiimmmmmeeeee.”

  4. I used to love eBay. Now,things go for so little, that after all the faffing about it barely seems worth it. So now I just give things away, it makes more sense and makes me cheerier to see someone really grateful for a new item, than selling it off for a few dollars. Great post btw.

    • I’m glad you like the post. I still Ebay a couple of things of month, and it’s well worth it to me, but this has been a frequent debate here, and I know lots of people agree with you.

  5. Your decluttering item of the day caught my attention. We still have LPs and the reason I won’t get rid of them is that they can’t be replaced on CD or a download. They are mostly from friends who made an album in the 60s or 70s and gave us a signed copy. I love to listen to them but now we rarely have a turntable set up. I don’t know how to transfer them to another format and DH is unmotivated to do so for the reason that is is hugely time consuming to do a good job. I would welcome suggestions from you and readers concerning good software, how to make tracks instead of one big file, how to deal with scratches. Thanks.

    • There’s a place here in town (Austin, TX) called Dub King that can transfer practically any media to any other format. I think a professional is the way to go, and I’m sure there are Mom and Pop stores like Dub King all over the place.

    • I keep looking at a turntable that connects to your computer by usb cable for importing. I have a mac, so I imagine I would use garage band to do what I need, unless it came with software. LPs are actually making a comeback, they say, and the “noise” as you play it is being added to some new recordings so you get the feel of the LP. Stick around long enough and things get popular again?!

      • Hi Other Lynn,

        We have one of those turntables that converts LPs to digitial format. I also use a Mac, but the turntable comes with its own software. The drawback is that it is very time consuming, but I had some records that weren’t available for purchase in a digital format.

  6. Cindy, I loved this post! You’re right about the excuses — and the remedies. In order to cheer myself along I do make lists — incoming & outgoing, & it keeps me vigilant, and honest, and mostly encouraged.

    Now I’ve suggested a “15 minute a day decluttering effort” to my sweetie. So far, we’ve done 2 days of this. It’s a small enough amount of time that a person doesn’t feel overwhelmed, and our “rules” are that any effort (whether it yields a declutter that very day or not) counts. (some things take longer to prepare, decide, advertise, or whatever. But when 15 minutes are up, we get to “call it a day”.

    • Great plan. My eldest tends to be a packrat as well as a bit untidy. I remind her to put away or get rid of 5 things a day. It’s a big help for her (even though she sighs dramatically when I say it).

  7. Great post!

    I especially liked the part about input/output. It’s so true. I broke myself of the “recreational shopping” thing many years ago now, and it really does result in less clutter in the home, as well as more money in the bank account.

    • Shopping is one of the top 10 hobbies, isn’t it, and really, that’s all it is, a destructive hobby. If you don’t see it, you can’t want it, and you certainly can’t buy it.

  8. I enjoy donating something fabulous to charity shops because I know someone will be excited by the item. I had a box of treasures I thought could never go–
    ( sentimental gifts of moderate value ) I packed them and stored them in the attic for a few months, and brought them down & dropped them off at a charity shop last week. I know it would cost many hundreds of dollars to replace them, but I won’t ever want to do that. I just wasn’t really interacting with any of them . I had over a dozen beautiful old McCoy vases –all in perfect shape, ( ahh the thrill of collecting them over the years! ) but it felt so good choosing my favorite one and giving the rest away to friends and family. I have that vase in my foyer now, and I put fresh flowers in it regularly. It means more to me to have the fresh flowers greet me when I walk in the door.

  9. I guess my stumbling block was… if something is vintage, trendy, or worth $50 –it’s “too good” for me to donate. But I got around this stumbling block by 1.realizing that it would make someone happy to own these items, and
    2. realizing I had already “got my money’s worth” from that item.

  10. Great post! I cleared a few items from my desk drawer half way through as I was keen to make some progress. I need fresh decluttering goals & I love the idea of selling excess stuff to fund…mortgage or private schooling (I looked at one this morning). Perfect timing, thank you.

    • Great Karen. I have calculated that I make about $1 for every item I declutter. Obviously, this is the average, because no one is going to buy my kids’ thrown together art projects, but I’ve decluttered about 2000 things and made $2000. Every time I think “Surely I’ve declttered everything of value in this house” I find something else I can sell. That in itself can be motivation. My personal rule is that it has to be worth at least $5 to sell on Craigslist or and $10 to sell on Ebay.

      • Even better I found my fly buys statement & cashed in a $20 gift card. I had hidden everything off my desk when we were selling our house. Private school is looking achievable, my son will be so excited.
        I’ll copy & note your personal rules for reselling, thank you.

        • Hi Karen, we have been saving a Qantas point for a while and it saved us about $1300 off our tickets to America next year. We either travel a lot or eat too much food because we don’t earn those points buying much else.

  11. Hi Cindy,
    Like so many of us, I am carrying around that extra five (OK, be honest and make it ten) pounds that I’d like to lose. Take your recipe and change “de-clutter” to “lose ten pounds” and it works. I’ve already set the goals, started working on the input(snacks)/output (exercise) and I’m thinking positively that I can do it. It’s all about making those little changes. Thanks for a good set of guidelines.

    • so true. my mum always said that hoarders tend to have more weight than “normal people”… and if you lift yourself from items you dont need, you might be able to lift yourself from those extra pounds you carry with you. And if you believe strong enough, everything is possible 😉

  12. Hi Cindy,

    I just stumbled across your website and have read and enjoyed quite a few posts. I am intrigued by a comment about when you used to be a therapist. What kind of therapy did you practice?