How to make sure you don’t have regrets after decluttering - 5 tips that'll keep you from having "organizer's remorse"

Avoid making these mistakes when it comes to organizing and you'll never regret what you get rid of from your home

a kitchen island with built in storage
(Image credit: Madeleine Landry. Design: B AND D Design)

Deciding what deserves to take up space in our homes can be a tricky process. To avoid having to make these hard decisions, sometimes we can be guilty of letting things build up and our houses becoming cluttered. 

Once an area feels cluttered, it can feel like an overwhelming task to try and tackle it. We then tend to shut it away and forget about it completely, or go on a dumping spree that we can later regret. But is there a way how to declutter your home that won't leave you with remorse later down the line?

Escape this vicious cycle by following these professional tips on how to declutter without regret. 

1. Sort and categorize

Ignore the temptation of diving into your clutter head first without some sort of plan. Having an idea of what you’d like to keep and what you need to throw away is a good place to start decluttering. Lilian Chiu, professional organizer at Peony Professional Organizing explains that ‘the number one way that I find helpful to making sure you don't regret decluttering an item is to sort and categorize before you start’.

‘For example, when you're decluttering your closet, pull out and sort items into piles: t-shirts, dresses, jeans, etc. Then, declutter each pile. When you see all your t-shirts together, you feel like you're making more of an educated decision about why you want to keep the t-shirts that you want to and why you want to get rid of the ones you don't love anymore’. 

2. Consider sentimental value

a bright white living room

(Image credit: Lu Tapp. Design: Erin Fetherston)

Putting time aside to declutter a certain area of the home is a labor of love. When it comes to how to declutter a room while making sure you don’t regret throwing anything away, consider whether an item holds any sentimental value. Objects that don’t hold any emotional attachment can be easily replaced, whereas treasured possessions (no matter what their monetary value is) often can’t be. 

When asked how to avoid feelings of regret when decluttering, Ben Soreff from House to Home Organizing says that ‘the items that are keepsakes are the most important. These we can't get again, however something is not sentimental unless we actually think it is, not because we are supposed to’. Ben reiterates that you shouldn’t feel obliged to keep something if it doesn’t hold meaning for you personally.

3. Keep a goal in mind 

You may find yourself ‘keeping things for a rainy day’ but if you haven’t reached for that item in a while and know deep down that it’s simply taking up space, then it’s time to let it go. Lilian highlights the importance of ‘keeping in mind your larger goal to make sure there is no regret’. 

‘Most of my clients want to be able to find the item they're looking for and not feel completely overwhelmed in their space. Decluttering with that larger goal in mind helps you feel better about getting rid of the things that are no longer serving you’. 

4. Create a "pending" box

a living room with a white chair

(Image credit: Sara Tramp. Design: Kerry Vasquez)

Struggling to commit to throwing something away or donating it? Shara Kay from SK Organizing suggests that ‘if you think you might regret letting something go, pack it away in a “pending” box with an expiration date in a few months. If you haven’t changed your mind by the expiration date, take the box straight to donation without opening it’. 

This is most effective when decluttering practical, high traffic areas such as kitchens, bathrooms and kids rooms. Shara states ‘we often do pending boxes for children’s toys to ensure they’re not missed’, avoiding any tantrums or feelings of regret. 

5. Remember, it's pretty unlikely!

Once you’re in the mindset of wanting to declutter your space, you’re already at the point where you’ve accepted that some things are going to have to be given away. Shara explains that ‘after more than six years of professional organizing serving thousands of clients, we have never had anyone say that they regret decluttering’! 

A tidy, clutter-free home will leave you with a sense of calm and tranquility. As long as you consciously consider what you are getting rid of and what you are letting take up space in your home then regret shouldn’t come into the equation. 

Becca Cullum-Green
Freelance writer

Becca Cullum-Green is a freelance interiors content creator and stylist. She fell in love with interiors when she landed her first job as an editorial assistant at a leading UK homes magazine fresh out of university. You can find her renovating her 19th-century cottage in the Suffolk countryside, consciously trying not to paint every wall with Farrow and Ball’s ‘Pitch Black’. Her signature style is a mix of modern design with traditional characteristics. She has previously worked for House Beautiful, Grand Designs, Good Housekeeping, Red, Good Homes and more.