11 Ways to Prevent Organizing Decision Fatigue

How many decisions did our friend make today?

Your head hurts. You feel apathetic and irritable. There’s a growing pile of things to “decide later.”

You have Organizing Decision Fatigue.

It’s easy to underestimate the mental and physical toll of making decisions. The process of organizing requires you to make a huge amount of decisions in a relatively short span of time–many more than you would make on an average day (and we’re already overwhelmed by choices)

Keep yourself ready and able to make good decisions for your organizing project by practicing these ideas for self-care in this area.

1. Acknowledge the difficulty of what you are doing

One closet represents hundreds of decisions. One banker’s box of papers represents over 2000.

2. Pace yourself

Plan ahead for breaks and take them.

This is easier said than done because for many of us, once we’ve started, we want to finish. Set a timer and obey it. Give someone else permission to enforce a break.

3. Call in your calvary

Whether it’s for emotional support or heavy lifting, having help makes a long or challenging task go more smoothly.

4. Mix up your tasks

Give your brain a break and work on a different type of task for a while, preferably a mindless one, like taking out the trash or cleaning the sink.

5. Eliminate the need to make inconsequential decisions


Have someone else order lunch and tell them that the decision is entirely up to them.


Make freezer meals in advance of a big project so you don’t have to decide what to eat. This helps eliminate some physical work, too.

6. Set parameters

Set up parameters for eliminating items that someone else can follow without your input. For example, instruct your helper to put anything smaller than a size 10 in the “donation” box.

You can set up parameters for yourself, too.

If you’re hemming and hawing about something, refer back to your parameters and your decision is made for you.

An example of this would be to write down at the beginning of a kitchen-organizing project: “Toss anything expired and donate all quinoa and oatmeal.” (Note to self: stop buying quinoa and oatmeal. You don’t like it.)

Another idea for setting parameters is to come up with an amount of money or time that is your comfort threshold for replacing an item should you actually need it later.

“If it will cost me more than $25 or more than 5 days to replace it, I’ll keep it.” This one can be great for editing collections like books.

7. Know your signals that it’s time for a break

    • headache
    • irritability
    • putting off more and more decisions
    • inability to focus
    • feeling frozen and unable to make a decision at all
    • making impulsive decisions

    are all signs that you need a break or need to stop for the day.

      8. Keep your goals and priorities visible

      What’s the big picture? Put it on the wall and take a peek when you need a motivational boost or to be reminded of why you’re doing this in the first place.

        9. Make your most important decisions in the morning

        At the very least, avoid the time of day when you’re most fatigued. In my house, we have dubbed this time “The Hour of No Decisions.”

          10. Limit your options

          Instead of 7 categories like Keep, Trash, Donate, Mend, Hand-me-down, Winter, and Sell, start with 2: Keep or Something Else. You can narrow it down on the next pass.

            11. Eat something

            Glucose is your friend.

            How do you combat decision fatigue when you’re organizing? Please share in the comments.

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