Overcoming indecision

Having a hard time making decisions about your possessions? You are not alone, indecision is very common when it comes to clutter. Here is a quick look at some of the psychology behind indecision.

Clutter is decisions that haven’t been made. So decluttering, is ultimately about sitting down and making time to assess a series of choices. Some are mundane: Do I really need manuals for devices I don’t even own anymore? Are four potato peelers really necessary? Others are more serious: Am I ready to move house? Can I let go of my late mother’s crockery?

It’s fine to want to make the right decisions. The problem is when the fear of making the wrong decisions paralyses you. And indecision is about more than just fear. Here are five places your indecision might be coming from, and how to start to overcome them.

1. Lack of confidence

Overcoming indecisiveness usually means developing confidence in your ability to make choices. Feeling you have the knowledge and skills to make informed decisions, rather than just leaving it to chance.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming everyone else is more capable than you of making the “right” choices. But, even the most efficient and assertive people have moments of not feeling confident in their abilities.

Top tip: Confidence generally comes from learning and practice. That means taking some risks and being okay about making a few mistakes. Start with the easy decisions to get you into the flow: look for what you can recycle, bin or donate. If you aren’t sure about something, put it in a ‘don’t know’ pile and come back to it later.

2. Decision fatigue

You have limited willpower each day, and every decision saps that energy. Eventually, you will hit ‘Decision Fatigue’ hindering your ability to make educated choices.

Unlike physical tiredness, which we’re aware of, decision fatigue happens without us noticing it.

Top tip: Set clear time boundaries for your decluttering project, divide it up into stages and take breaks in between. Your brain uses nearly a quarter of your calorie intake, so make sure to stay fuelled as well. Bear in mind if you are a sprinter, you will need a rest and recharge at the end, and if you are a jogger, pace yourself.

3. You don’t want to take responsibility for the outcomes

One obvious reason for indecisiveness is fear of regretting the outcome. If things don’t turn out as planned, no one wants to be the one who went down the wrong path.

It’s okay to fear making wrong choices, but letting that fear paralyze you means you’ll never truly grow.

Besides, outcomes are very hard to control and who is to say that what seems a bad outcome tomorrow won’t turn out to have been for the best in the long run?

Top tip: Feel the fear and do it anyway. Remember you are only responsible for your actions, the outcomes follow as they are meant to unfold.

4. Analysis-paralysis

Alongside fear of making the wrong decision, can be fear of making an okay decision, but not a great one. When we are living in a world with so many options, picking the best one can feel overwhelming.

Psychologists call this “analysis-paralysis”, where you get overcome with analysing all the possibilities and so end up putting off making any decisions.

Top tip: Don’t overthink the small decisions in your life, the difference between bad, okay and great are not that big in these cases, so give yourself a break. For the bigger decisions, know that if you have considered all the variables and the choice is not clear, then there is no right or wrong option. Just trust your gut in this scenario.

5. Emotional factors

Let’s face it, some decisions are just too hard to make right now. If you have just lost someone, ended a relationship or been through another major life event, items associated with these may simply carry too much emotional weight. Be compassionate with yourself: we all need time for grieving loss.

Top tip: I call these sort of items ‘Gremlins’. Box them up, and put them away, along with a note and a commitment for when you will revisit them. Give yourself six months or a year and make your decisions when you have had time to process it.

Indecision is a big subject and I have only skimmed the surface, but I hope these suggestions are helpful. If you want to dive deeper into the psychology of your clutter, sign up for my Getting Clear workshop or The Clutter Shift.

Clear structure helps you beat indecision

One of the best ways to deal with indecision is to have a clear, structured approach to your decluttering and home organising. This is where my Home Declutter Kit comes into its own, with an easy-to-follow manual and 36 beautifully illustrated decision cards, it is a practical tool for a practical problem. Use on your own, with a friend or helper or gift it to someone who is struggling.


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