For years I didn’t really notice the yo-yo decluttering pattern, but whoo boy – it was there.
Every time I got frustrated with my piles of crap (which happened a lot), I’d spend a whole day tossing some clothes and décor items into a donation bag and hauling them out the door. I’d then meticulously organize the remaining 90% of my stuff and vow to never let my home get that messy again.
But within a few months (okay, okay… sometimes weeks), it would be just as bad as before. If not worse. And I had no idea how it had gotten that cluttered again.
Does that sound like you too? Because if so, you might be a yo-yo declutterer.
WHAT’S YO-YO DECLUTTERING?
Like with the toxic yo-yo dieting culture, where you lose weight too quickly and then gain it right back, it’s a cycle of decluttering a space and then cluttering it back up again.
When we’re in that situation, the clutter-free results never last. And as the yo-yo decluttering cycle keeps repeating, the problem can often get worse and worse.
For you, maybe it looks like:
- Clearing out a space, and then going on a few shopping sprees and filling it up again
- Decluttering on a whim, without really planning it out or doing introspection about why you acquired the stuff in the first place
- Getting the urge to declutter around the same time every year, and then getting the urge to accumulate lots of things at a different time of year
- Impulse shopping, hunting for deals, or collecting things from the curb – without stopping to question if you actually need it
- Not knowing why the clutter always comes back, and feeling a little helpless and frustrated AF
THE DECLUTTERING TACTIC THAT’S WORKING AGAINST YOU
You might have noticed that you tend to declutter in a frenzy (especially when you’re fed up with the clutter). Here’s the thing, though – often, that spur-of-the-moment decluttering is working against you in the long run.
And here’s why.
It doesn’t allow you to slow down and explore the root cause of our clutter. And as we often talk about here, the only way to get lasting results with decluttering is to dive deep into our feels. Decluttering on a whim is basically a desperate attempt to get some control over our surroundings – but without doing the emotional work, the clutter will continue to control us.
Freeing yourself from yo-yo decluttering cycle involves three main components: mindful decluttering, mindful consumption, and maintenance. So if you’re ready to declutter for good, then read on, my friend.
Oh, and don’t forget to grab my Ultimate Decluttering Guide while you’re at it!
1. SLOW DOWN YOUR DECLUTTERING WITH SOME MINDFULNESS
I know some decluttering methods (*cough* Marie Kondo *cough*) that encourage you to declutter in one big sweep. As I understand it, their strategy is to shock the system into noticing a clear before and after. And for some folks, that may work – but I advocate a more mindful approach.
When you’re going through your things, you need time to figure out any patterns that you have when it comes to clutter. Grab a notebook (or even the notepad function on your phone) and start taking notes to see if you notice any patterns.
Ask yourself questions like:
- What time of day, day of the week, or season did I buy this item?
- Did I buy the item full price, or on sale?
- What was I feeling at the time? (Maybe you were shopping alone to blow off steam, or shopping with friends to celebrate something?)
- Was the item an impulse buy? What problem was I trying to solve by buying it?
Recognizing the specific details of your clutter pattern is crucial to putting an end to it. And decluttering mindfully is the first step.
2. PAUSE BEFORE YOU SHOP
The next step is to ending the yo-yo decluttering cycle is to pause before you buy (or before you accept free things from people).
Just like you did with your decluttering, I want you to slow down with your accumulating. Otherwise, old habits are likely to kick in, and before you know it you’ll be up to your eyeballs in “but it was on sale!”
When you get the urge to take something home, ask yourself questions like:
- What am I feeling right now? And am I using shopping as a way to try and avoid those emotions?
- What needs – physical or emotional – am I trying to meet by buying this? Can I meet those needs in another way?
- Where would it live? If it doesn’t have a specific home or function – like, an exact shelf or cupboard or drawer – it will almost certainly end up cluttering up your space.
Once you discover a pattern in your shopping triggers, make a plan for how you’ll manage when the triggers arise in the future.
For example, if you tend to shop as a social activity or a way to pass the time, brainstorm other non-shopping activities that you can propose to your friends. If your friends can be a little pushy about buying things, you might also consider practicing phrases like “you’re right, it’s super cute, but I actually don’t need any more decorations right now.” Or “I agree that the shirt would look awesome on me, but it’s not in the budget for this month.”
With practice, you’ll gain confidence in saying no to any purchases that you don’t really need.
3. PREVENT YO-YO DECLUTTERING WITH A NEW “MAINTENANCE MODE”
The last step to staying clutter-free is maintaining your newly clean and organized home. Honestly, the biggest game changer I recommend introducing a daily gratitude practice into your routine. Because until you appreciate the shit you already have, you’ll always want to accumulate more!
Oh and if you’re decluttering or transitioning into “maintenance mode,” definitely check out my Grateful as Fuck Challenge. I designed it specifically to help you appreciate your things during or after the decluttering process. You can find it here.
There are plenty of different strategies to staying clutter-free, and I explored them in another recent blog post. Hop over to give it a read, and pick out a couple tips that you feel will be easiest for you to follow!
Breaking the yo-yo decluttering cycle can take a different set of skills and habits than we often use for decluttering. But by decluttering deliberately, shopping more mindfully, and practicing the maintenance strategies above, I really believe that you’ll be able to kick the cycle for good!