7 Ways To Overcome Decision Paralysis

7 Ways To Overcome Decision Paralysis

Decision paralysis occurs when you struggle with and even avoid making decisions. It’s wise to think through a decision (decision analysis), but the inability to move forward (decision paralysis) is a problem. De-cluttering can lead to decision paralysis.

man with decision paralysis

Overcoming De-cluttering Decision Paralysis

Here are 7 ways to move beyond decision paralysis when you’re de-cluttering. Click on the tabs below to read more about each suggestion and see helpful examples.

Setting guidelines before you start helps avoid overthinking your choices. Here are some decisions you might make before beginning to de-clutter:

  • I will keep only the clothing size I’m currently wearing plus 1 size up and 1 size down. Everything else goes.
  • I’ll get rid of anything I haven’t seen or thought about in 2 years. (Typically the guideline is 1 year, but if you’re struggling with decisions, it’s OK to go with 2 years.)
  • I will get rid of anything that exceeds the space I have for it. For instance, if there are 2 bookshelves and no room, desire, or budget to add more, keep only what fits on the existing shelves and discard the rest.
  • I’ll get rid of anything I never really liked or makes me feel yucky–like that ugly painting from Aunt Frieda and my junior high diary. As Marie Kondo says, if it doesn’t spark joy, let it go.
Think through what you’re trying to achieve with de-cluttering. Find your “why”. Develop a mantra to use when you find yourself unable to decide whether to let something go. Some examples are:

  • If it’s not blessing me, it should be blessing someone else
  • Simplify, simplify, simplify
  • This is where change starts
  • If a tornado was coming, this wouldn’t be on my top 100 list of things to grab
  • How does this improve or maintain happiness in my life?
Let someone you trust pre-sort “Keep” and “Suggested Discard” piles for you.  Take a quick look at the Keep pile and remove anything you’re OK with discarding.  Now, take a QUICK look at the “Suggested Discard” pile and take out what you don’t want to discard.  But remember, you’ve asked someone you trust and who knows you what they think you don’t need.  Don’t overthink or override their suggestions too many times.

If you’re struggling to decide whether to keep or discard something, put it in a bin and label the bin with a date 6 months from now. (12 months is fine too but don’t go beyond that.) If you haven’t thought about or needed what’s in the bin while it was stored, let it go. However, don’t touch things in the bin when you open it other than gently moving them to see what’s there. Touching things creates an emotional connection and may put you back at your starting point.

You may fear what happens if you make a wrong choice. Articulate that fear. What bad thing will happen? Here are some typical fears:

  • Offending someone (even someone who has passed) if you discard something they gave you or was special to them. But ask yourself, whose life am I living?
  • The possibility of needing an item later. You might want something later but there’s a cost to keeping too much. If it’s a small cost item, you can always re-buy it. If it’s pricey or hard to re-acquire, you can probably borrow, substitute, or change your strategy if you find you need it later. And let’s be honest, sometimes you WILL wish you kept something but the vast majority of the time, you won’t even remember you had it. It’s OK to play the odds.
  • Your kids or someone else may want or eventually need what you’re thinking about getting rid of. It’s nice to be nice but when you have a big de-cluttering job, you need to remember your goals and that you’re not a warehouse.

If you try to first de-clutter the things that are hardest for you to part with (clothes, books, and kitchenware often fall into this category), you will get weighed down and find it hard to move forward. However, if you make easier decisions first, you’ll feel the joy of success and develop an idea of how much progress you can make when making decisions quickly.

Body doubling uses a partner to keep you on task and focused on making decisions in a timely manner.  Your partner may work with you, just be in the room with you, or on a Zoom call with you.  Having a body double helps reduce the struggle to make keep/discard decisions.

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