Are you sabotaging your uncluttering and organizing efforts?

In 1994, when the Beastie Boys released the album Ill Communication, I’m certain I listened to the song “Sabotage” continuously for weeks. The title of the song is fun to say (sab-o-tage), and the guitar and bass lines are rhythmically addictive. Additionally, sabotage is a powerful word that most everyone can relate to — we sabotage ourselves when we don’t trust in our abilities, we know people who sabotage relationships, and conniving companies sabotage their competitors to get a greater market share.

It’s simple to sabotage yourself when uncluttering and organizing. The easiest way to do it is to make excuses for why you can’t do it: not enough time to do it perfectly, don’t know where to start, will take too long, no one in the family will respect the work put into it so why even bother. These excuses protect you from potential failure and change. I remember sabotaging myself like this numerous times when I was embarking on my initial uncluttering project.

Another way to sabotage yourself is to take on too much at a time. You pack your schedule to the brim with outside responsibilities, and then decide you need to unclutter your entire house in two hours. When you fail to become super human and don’t succeed at your uncluttering efforts, you throw in the towel and give up. The sabotage is complete.

There are hundreds of ways to sabotage your uncluttering and organizing efforts, and just one solution for all of them — admit to yourself what you’re doing and that you’re sabotaging your success.

The minute you admit you’re acting in a way counter-productive to your success, you can stop that behavior. Instead of an excuse, you can spend your time and energy searching for a solution. Instead of having unrealistic expectations, you can set more practical and obtainable goals. Anyone who is of sound mind and body can unclutter and organize his or her life. There is no need to be your biggest obstacle. Stop the sabotage.

24 Comments for “Are you sabotaging your uncluttering and organizing efforts?”

  1. posted by Beth on

    This is exactly what I needed to hear today. I’ve been failing to follow through on uncluttering by holding on to boxes of things I no longer want but think I can sell and make some money off of. Realistically, I don’t really want to spend the time to put together a yard sale or post on Ebay, especially when these items probably have very little resale value.

  2. posted by Susan Levin on

    I so agree. I have two boxes by the front door and my husband keeps asking me what am I doing with the stuff in them…I was planning to give the things aways but so far – two weeks, I have not found anyone who might want them.

    They are going out tonight!

  3. posted by Ann on

    I am definitely stalling! Time to kick myself and get a move on!!!

  4. posted by Marinda on

    Post on Craig’s list and put them on the street and bam, they are gone. I walk my subdivision and the day before trash day, people put the decent reusable things out early and they go. There may be problems with you being able to do this on your street or in your town, but here, it works.

    We also have pickup done by veterans groups for there thrift stores, call and set up and day and they will come and get it from your front porch and leave the ticket for your tax return.

  5. posted by Phalynn on

    This not only sums up my decluttering but dieting too! Thanks!

  6. posted by Danielle on

    Thank you for this this post. I needed to hear that this week.

  7. posted by Dawn on

    Another way to get rid of things super fast is to post with your local Freecycle group. I have posted quite a few unwanted items and I usually ask for same-day pick-up (on the front porch) and most often I get immediate responses and super fast pick-up. I even got rid of a broken down lawnmower that somebody wanted to have to fix up for their teenage kid to do summer lawn-mowing.

    I think another problem is when someone else sabotages you. I have seen a couple where one person puts a lot of time and effort into decluttering, cleaning and organizing a space and the other person will come home and sabotage what they had just completed. It’s sad and it can be a difficult battle.

    Great post today!

  8. posted by Natel on

    Totally what I needed to hear today. I am temped to post a picture of my work desk. I am so overwhelmed by my desk!

  9. posted by ageekymom on

    Dawn, I live with that saboteur! As soon as I get a surface cleaned off, he piles stuff on it. He will drop something on the floor and not bother to pick it up! You’re right, it is a difficult battle. It makes me want to live alone!

  10. posted by Patti on

    My challenging is making the tough decisions between decluttering my home or going to the gym. I can never seem to find time for both, and when I try sometimes I end up with just a half-hearted attempt that accomplishes little.

  11. posted by Carol on

    Wow, I’ve needed this post and comments today also! I’ve been successfully decluttering, but saving everything in boxes and bags for that someday yard sale that will net so little money … and in the last few days that increasing pile has made me feel so anxious. I still feel like I have too much stuff that I don’t want whenever I look at the pile. So it gets donated on Saturday!

  12. posted by Cindy on

    This is something I’ve been guilty of. I’ve had to learn to let go of the need to do organize perfectly because otherwise nothing will ever feel completed and that in itself is a form of clutter.

    I enjoyed reading your book and posted a review of it at my book review blog today.

    I have been doing serious uncluttering and downsizing the past few years so it’s a topic I write a lot about at my regular daily life blog as well.

    Thanks for all the great ideas and advice here.

  13. posted by Jane on

    I need to always be moving forward. When I emptied my garage I had folks asking me all the time, “Gee, why are you giving it away? Why don’t you have a yard sale?” The answer was, the easiest way (for me) to part with things is to get them out of my sight. Also, I didn’t want to spend an entire weekend setting up a yard sale to make what, a $100? At some point we need to start valuing our time over stuff.

  14. posted by Elaine on

    Patti said:

    “My challenging is making the tough decisions between decluttering my home or going to the gym. I can never seem to find time for both, and when I try sometimes I end up with just a half-hearted attempt that accomplishes little.”

    Patti, you can do as little as 15 minutes of decluttering and still make progress! I gave a presentation to some ladies at church and suggested “baby steps”, and got really good feedback about it.

    You can work on one shelf, one cupboard, one corner of a room, one tabletop, or even one foot (12 inches) of a closet. Set a timer for 15 minutes. When it goes off, stop. Or set it for another 15 minutes, if you have time and feel like it. It’s up to you, but if you keep doing it, you *will* make progress!

    “Yard by yard, life is hard. Inch by inch, it’s a cinch”. Corny, but true!


  15. posted by Debbie M on

    Another way: when you need a break, feel like you need to get out of the house, and when you get out of the house, feel like the only place you can go is a store. Buying things as a hobby = sabotage.

    Also, refusing to realize that people change, and they don’t need all the same things anymore. I don’t have time for all my hobbies at once, and so I rotate through them. But surely there are some to which I’ll never return.

    Also, the poverty mentality. Once I actually have things, it feels wrong to just get rid of them–I spent real money on that, so giving them away for free or selling them at a loss feels wrong. However, that cost is already sunk. Nothing I do now will change that. The point of having things to to enrich our lives, not to crowd out our space. And most people find that even when they do have to re-buy things, they re-buy very little.

  16. posted by Sky on

    I’ve been holding onto a box of things to sell on ebay for far too long. They aren’t going to sell foe enough to make it worth it so I just need to take them to Goodwill.
    Thanks for the boost!

  17. posted by April on

    Ouch!! ouchy, ouchy!!! That really hurt, but its true self-sabotage kills creativity and opportunity. Know that I know that, what should I do??? HHHELLLLLPPPPPP

  18. posted by [email protected] on

    My rule is unless I can make $15 on an item, I don’t bother posting it on Trademe (NZ Ebay).

    And I never say never, but I am never having a garage sale again. When my mom, sis and I organized one together some years ago, the time-consuming details and grunt work and early mornings and arguments and , and stress made us so awful to each other that if we’d made $1000 it would not have been worth it. And we didn’t make anything like that, and still had so much stuff left over to handle.

    Remember, even if you’re not getting cash in hand for something you’re releasing, you’re getting freedom and peace – which is priceless.

  19. posted by Bryan on

    One way we self sabotage is through indecision. We don’t know what to do and as a result don’t do anything at all.

  20. posted by Hazel on

    I used to have the feeling that I really ought to be selling stuff because I’d paid for it, but have changed my mindset to taking it to a charity shop (Goodwill) by considering it my donation to charity. Freezing cold mornings at carboot sales for £30 v taking it to a shop to sell for charity and getting it out of my house (before the children can rifle through it and take it all back again!)- Charity shop wins every time. In the UK, some will even Gift Aid it (claim back the tax on the donation) so they make 20% more on each item sold. They get more than I probably would have put in their collecting pot after making a few £’s selling it.

    I’ve also got better at doing a little bit every day rather than thinking I have to tackle a whole room. That was an attitude inherited from my mother. It doesn’t work for her and it wasn’t working for me. It’s not quite as satisfying as a huge declutter, but it actually happens (!) and it does add up.

    It is the rest of the family that are my challenge. DH thinks he’s tidy, but actually just moves things. Nothing is ever *quite* put away. He is also of the ‘if there’s a clear surface it’s obviously for me to put something on’ point of view. The children are almost as bad.
    I just keep going, hoping that one day our house will get to that magic point that websites tell you about, where the house looks good enough that they will realise it’s their shoes/coat/post/phone/pile of paper that’s where it shouldn’t be. One day…

  21. posted by JustGail on

    I’ve been guilty of many ways of sabotage at one time or anther. Most days, I can give myself a stern talking to and get back on track, but other days……not so much. We’ll not discuss the lack of help the others in the household can be.

  22. posted by Cerrissa on

    Best Fortune from a fortune cookie ever:

    “The key to getting ahead, is getting started”

    This def holds true for decluttering and getting organized… or really any project.

  23. posted by momoboys on

    Just wanted to say these last three posts have been outstanding! Thank you! There is a lot of substance here, even for “veteran” unclutterers. Maybe the foot injury is giving you more time to reflect? (Hey, sometimes things like that really ARE mixed blessings.) In any case, keep up the great work!

  24. posted by Ginna on

    “…no one in the family will respect the work put into it so why even bother”
    But this is so true in my house, so why *should* I bother? So many times, I have cleaned off a large counter that is between our kitchen and family room, and pretty soon, it’s just as bad again (and not by me!) So why should I wear myself out, when there is no result? I’ve given up.

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