How to make decisions about your stuff when you hate to make decisions

How to Make Decisions About Your Stuff When You Hate to Make Decisions

As some of you may know I absolutely hate making decisions.  Yep it’s true, decisions stress me out and as a mom and wife you know how many decisions need to be made day by day.  It just gets to be too much sometimes. What school to send your child to, what to feed the kids day after day, what to wear, where to go, what to blog about, what friends to visit, what to keep, what to give away, what color hair dye to buy, which movies to watch…blah blah blah. You know what I’m talking about.  I am just not that person if someone asks me to decide something I’ll immediately be able to do it.  Hence the reason it is taking me so long to decide on our winners for the organizing challenge.  Sheesh!  Sometimes it just borders on ridiculous as well.  For instance, my friend just called to invite me out for lunch and between the two of us we couldn’t decide where to go.  She ended up having to ask her hubby for help 🙂

Last week on one of my giveaway posts I shared how long it took me to pick out a paint color for our bedroom.  Seriously it took way too long because I just couldn’t decide.  Silly old paint.  Would it really have been the end of the world if I picked the wrong color?  Well no not really but also yes because in my old house I did pick a wrong color of paint for our bedroom, a hideous bright gold color in fact.  It was awful but because I am way too lazy there was no way I was painting the entire room again.  So I lived with it and hated it every single day.  Not a great way to create a relaxing sanctuary and a decision I regretted until the day we moved.  I should have just repainted but I couldn’t take the pressure of having to pick another color.  So once you know there are consequences for your choices it makes making decisions that much harder.

Many of you chimed in with the decisions that are hardest for you to make.  It was so nice to know that I am not alone in that let me tell you.  Here are just a few examples:

I have trouble deciding where to start- the clutter seems overwhelming!

I have a hard time deciding what kids papers to keep, and what to toss.

I always have a hard time making decisions about everything. My big one is deciding what stuff (junk!) to keep and what to give away, its so hard to give away a lifetime of memories!

My hardest thing is trying to figure out what to do with all the crap in the “junk drawer.” I know I should probably throw most of it out but, I fall into….we might need it someday trap. 🙂

I always have trouble making decision on what things to buy to organize. I research and research until I cannot research no more.

The biggest thing I keep debating on is going entirely paperless with my to do list. I go back and forth between hand writing it and using an app on my iPhone… I just can’t decide!!!

See what I mean, decisions are hard!

So how do I stay organized when we all know that decision making is at the crux of living an organized life?

Clutter = procrastinated decisions

Ahh good question right? There are how to make decisions tactics I put into place to help me alleviate the decision making process as much as possible.  Yep I bypass it altogether and the decision gets made for me.  It’s the only way I can function with the constant chaos and clutter that comes with raising kids and running a household.  I reduce the number of decisions I have to make and boy what a difference it makes!

1.  Use containers to give visual cues to act

Like with my filing, I use a basket to determine for me when it’s time to file.  I don’t decide, my basket decides for me.  I use bins to decide for me how much to keep of something so I know when the bin is full something must be tossed.  The bin determines for me when it’s time to act.  There is no waffling between well should I or shouldn’t I, the decision is made when the bin is full.

2.  Assign “expiration” dates

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to throw out a bottle of salad dressing way past its prime or even a bottle of expired medication?  Expiration dates on products make the decision for us whether or not to keep something.  What a relief it can be!  But what about products that don’t have expiration dates?  I make my own!  I have a one year rule in my house that if something hasn’t been used in a one year period it has to go.  One year means I cover every season so when it comes to making the tough decision about my stuff, the decision is made for me.  See the pattern developing here.  I don’t have to think about it.  One year not used = toss.  Whew, that was easy!  Enforce your own expiration dates and take some pressure off yourself.

3.  Start small

Sometimes starting off with big organizing decisions can be daunting so think about starting with small decisions first and then work your way up to the bigger ones.  In other words don’t let what to do with your Gramma’s china be the first thing you deal with.  Instead decide what to do with the 500 envelopes taking up residence in your office drawer.  In my experience working with clients I notice that it takes awhile for them to warm up to the idea of dealing with their clutter.  They start off very attached to their stuff and in the process of making itty bitty decisions they build the confidence to go bigger and bigger especially once they taste the freedom that de-cluttering brings.  It’s so fun seeing their confidence grow and the a-ha moment kick in.  Once this happens there is no stopping them.  That’s why you’ll often see organizers on TV shows like Consumed do a speed purge to begin with to get those purging muscles revving.

4.  Practice, practice, practice

I can’t stress this one enough.  Like anything if you only do it sporadically you’ll never master it.  Consistently practice making organizing decisions and over time it does get easier and easier to do I promise.  Here is a great example of how walking through the de-clutter process by asking key questions helped me choose between two items which one to pass along to someone else.  I do this frequently and it’s this process of really asking myself these thorough questions as I evaluate something has made it possible for me to honestly say I’ve never regretted a decision to part with something.

5.  Ask a friend for their opinion

Friends see things that we might not and are coming from a viewpoint perhaps completely different than our own.  This is helpful when we have alternate scenarios to choose from and can’t make up our minds on something.  Whether it’s deciding if we should toss a sweater we’ve loved for perhaps far too long or the color of paint to choose for our walls, friends can be valuable resources.  An honest friend that can gently say to me, why in the world would you ever keep that shirt, is a friend I want in my life forever.  Just be careful not to ask too many friends for opinions at one time as you’ll only make things more complicated for yourself.

If you struggle with making decisions like I do, I hope you find these tips helpful.  What would you add to the above list?

Filed under: Organizing, Organizing Basics, Purging, Simplicity


18 Responses to How to make decisions about your stuff when you hate to make decisions

  1. 1
    Cavaliers Corner says

    I just love love LOVE this post! It is so true for many of us, maybe all of us. What I loved most was giving things an expiration date. What a great idea. And starting with decluttering the unimportant items is perfect. But asking a close friend is the best idea and one I have done. Like my good friend who told me last year after Id lost weight, why are you still hanging on to that ovesized mustard jacket? Toss it! and I did. Throwing out clothes we no longer wear, fit into, or even like just because we’ve paid good money for them or worry that we might put that weight back on again is counter productive. Got rid of almost my whole wardrobe and now theres no way of going back. I downloaded your app this week on my ipad and am loving it. Cant wait for the menu planner and grocery list. Thank you.

  2. 2
    Ally says

    I love this topic. What I’ve found useful lately is that we are currently on flood evacuation warning in my part of Australia. When we found out I went around the house lifting up anything I would want to save if the water got to us. I was surprised how little I really cared about most of my stuff. Since then when I
    have to make a decision about throwing stuff out I ask myself if I would have saved it from the flood, if not I toss it out. Thankfully the flood isn’t expected to get to our house.

  3. 4
    Saraj says

    I have a motto: “Make a decision and be happy about it!” You can “what if” yourself to the moon and back.

  4. 5
    Melissa says

    I try to also remember that nothing is really as important as I might think. The sweater, old coat, knickknack, whatever it is. It’s not really every more important than my family or providing what they NEED, vs what I might think I need or want out o the THINGS in my house. It makes it easier, and you’re right about the purging power. This past week temperatures here were so warm, I was cleaning out rooms like a madwoman..and it just inspired me to keep going, even if the weather cooled. I was tricked into spring cleaning, but once I started…I was a goner.

  5. 6
    Theresa Finnigin says

    Yes, reducing the # of decisions is key. Delegate when possible and only make decisions that you HAVE to make. Identify priorities and make decisions accordingly. Great tips – THANKS!

  6. 7
    Stacie says

    I am a notorious packrat (not quite in the hoarding category). I’ve found that the “expiration date” process works best for me. Sometimes I don’t even give it that long. I’ll ask myself “What exactly will I use this for?”, and if I can’t think of something right away, out it goes! Sometimes I
    ll fudge a little and keep it anyway, but I’m getting much better! 🙂
    P.S. I don’t blame you on not being able to make a decision on the organizing challenge, everyone did such an amazing job!

  7. 8
    Michelle says

    Start small and practice… LOVE IT! This is were I am in my process. I’ve been working on make it a habit, but I think I like the word “practice” better. I am, also, finding that when I start with the smaller projects the bigger ones present themselves and they are not so overwhelming when you are already do it. 🙂

  8. 9
    Susanne says

    Love the idea of make your own expiration dates. How clever are you?!

  9. 10
    Becky says

    Actually, no, I have a hard time throwing out stuff past the expiration date. I know manufacturers make them early to be on the safe side and avoid lawsuits. I spend a long time smelling it and googling and trying to figure out if it’s ACTUALLY expired.

    Some things aren’t “used” like programs and ticket stubs. Those are the things I have the hardest time with, in addition to magazines.

  10. 11
    Dana says

    Great post! I tend to get overwhelmed and then just leave the area, which is not working. I need to start small, not over think it because regardless more stuff will keep coming in and it will only get worse. I seem to feel better and more motivated seeing I’m not the only one struggling with clutter. Thanks for the work you do and others for their comments.

  11. 12
    Janet Barclay says

    I use many of these same tactics, and they work well for me. I’ll have to see if I can apply them to some of the decisions I find challenging!

  12. 13
    Cara says

    I have just come to your blog from A Slob Comes Clean and I’m finding you for the first time. Thank you for sharing your “realness” with your readers. I wasn’t going to read yet another blogger telling me the same things I already knew. I’m convinced that there is a Decluttering Gene and I don’t have it.
    But you’re sharing about your indecision was a Godsend for me. Because you shared your indecision about the exact same problems I have, well, I feel a kinship with you. Perhaps I, too, can move beyond my perfect imperfection paralysis.
    Thank you!

    • 13.1
      Laura Wittmann says

      So awesome to hear Cara! Thank you so much for stopping by 🙂


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