10 organizing bad habits you need to break, according to professional declutterers

Create better decluttering habits for the future by taking this expert advice on board

a white living room with modern furniture
(Image credit: Kerry Vasquez)

Not everyone is blessed with the natural ability to keep a clutter-free home. Habits are learnt over time and aren’t always easy to immediately pick up. 

Organizing the home can end up being pretty far down on the to-do list due to other life commitments but to keep a clear mind and a sense of well being, it’s important to keep our spaces decluttered. And when it comes to how to declutter your home, these habits can stand in the way. 

If you’re guilty of having bad habits when it comes to organizing that you are keen to break, listen to this professional advice.

1. Being too optimistic 

Try not to be delusional when it comes to organizing by believing that you can declutter your entire home in a certain amount of time. Christel Ferguson, founder of Space to Love explains that ‘an organizing bad habit is thinking you can get the whole house organized in one day, it simply can’t be done’! 

The best thing to do is to break it down into individual tasks that are achievable. For example, start with a section of a particular room first and move on from there.

2. Not thinking it through beforehand

Christel explains that ‘buying bins before you declutter isn’t a good idea’. It’s wise to survey the space you’re planning to organize first to see if you can plan what storage solutions you’re going to need so you don’t end up wasting time or money.

Think it through properly before you start to invest in the best organizers so you have a plan in place and can envision what your new decluttered space will look like.

3. Leaving clutter to build up

a modern mud room design

(Image credit: Kobel + Co)

Ignoring something unfortunately isn’t going to make it go away. Joshua Smith, founder of Joshua Smith Interiors suggests ‘make it a habit of clearing clutter as you come across it and being proactive in putting things away. These small organizational actions can help you from blocking your joy in everyday life’. 

Turn a bad habit of leaving things to pile up into a good one by clearing away any mess or clutter when you see it and without deferring it to some unknown time slot in the future. It's the biggest tip to take away when organizing a room with too much stuff

4. Being money motivated

It’s all too easy to keep hold of something because it cost you a lot of money. However, if it doesn’t serve its purpose anymore - whether that’s to be of use to you or to bring you joy, then it doesn’t need to take up space in your home.

Christel says we can all be guilty of ‘keeping things because we paid a lot of money for them’ but if those things become redundant we shouldn’t have to think too hard about either donating or  getting rid of them. 

5. Not putting things back where they belong

Little changes can make the biggest difference and a great habit to adopt is to immediately put things back where they belong. Life’s busy and we can all misplace things however, if you keep in mind that every item in your house has a home then it should be easier to put things back where they came from. 

Be mindful about this and create designated containers where possible and label them up to keep things really clear. The one-touch decluttering rule should help you achieve this in a more structured way. 

6. Not designating enough time

a dark grey living room

(Image credit: Reid Rolls. Design: BHDM Design)

Try not to underestimate the amount of time it takes to declutter a space. A bad habit that is easy to slip into is to all of a sudden think that we need to tidy up an area of our home then not having enough time to complete it to a decent enough standard.

Ben Soreff from H2H Organizing says that ‘organizing and cleaning are all about time. Most people don't finish what they start and when it comes to spring cleaning people start off with good intentions, but things can quickly go south leaving the house messier than before they started’. Ideas like the one-minute decluttering rule can help here. 

7. Holding onto gifts

There should never be a feeling of guilt associated with what we decide to keep and display in our homes. Christel explains that ‘keeping things because someone gave it to you as a gift but you don’t really like it is definitely a bad habit’. 

Try to avoid storing it in a cupboard for it to gather dust and instead donate it to someone who might find some use or joy out of it. 

8. Starting but not finishing

Decluttering isn’t the most fun pastime so it can be very tempting to skip from one task to the next without completing it. ‘Starting a project and not finishing it before moving on to another project is never a good idea’ explains Christel.

This often creates more clutter than was there to begin with and can easily become quite overwhelming. Avoid doing this by writing down a decluttering checklist and ticking things off, that way you have a clear vision and are more likely to stick to it. 

9. Procrastinating

a white entryway

(Image credit: Marie Flanigan)

A bad habit that pops up in all aspects of life is procrastination. Organizing isn’t many people's hobbies and it can be difficult to commit to decluttering even though you know it needs to be done.

Try not to procrastinate by having a solid plan in mind and working your way around your home with simple steps and solutions. Use stationery such as post it notes and labels to keep you on track. 

10. Putting a plaster over the problem

We’ve all been guilty of starting to organize a certain area of our home and then quickly realizing we aren’t quite up to the task, so instead of cracking on and finishing the job at hand we do a mediocre job and leave it for another day.

Quickly making things look tidy doesn’t solve the problem of clutter. Be methodical when you’re trying to organize, which means setting aside enough time to get the job done properly. We suggest popping on your favourite album or podcast to help the time fly by! 

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.