Your house is a mess, your closets are out of control, and you have no idea how to start decluttering when overwhelmed. You are not alone, my friend! Most of us have too much stuff. Clutter is a huge problem in many homes, and it can feel like an impossible task to get on top of it.
But it doesn’t have to be.
Here are some simple ideas to help you clear out the clutter and reclaim your home—without the stress.
Clutter in your home is anything that takes away from your enjoyment or use of your home. Decluttering is removing unnecessary items to make room for the things you genuinely love and want to keep.
Clutter in our home clutters our minds, while decluttering our home can help us sleep better, increase our productivity, and reduce our stress. In fact, according to a popular 2009 UCLA study, women who see their homes as cluttered have elevated levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
- Makes it hard to focus
- Keeps us stuck in the past
- Causes stress, anxiety, and depression
How Do You Want Your Home to Feel?
Before we get to any actual decluttering, consider how you want your home to feel. What do you want to feel when you walk in your front door? How do you want your friends and family to feel in your home?
Really think about it for a second.
If you’re at all like me, you likely want your home to feel cozy, comfortable, and welcoming. So, given that clutter makes us feel stressed and anxious, clearing out the clutter should be at the top of your list of things to do.
But what about when you just feel plain overwhelmed by the thought of decluttering? How do you begin when you feel paralyzed by the thought of all that work?
How To Start Decluttering Your Home When Overwhelmed
There are a few ways you can set yourself up for success in your decluttering efforts and make the job a whole lot easier before you even begin.
Get In The Right Mindset
Before you start to remove the clutter in your home, you must work on your mindset. Here’s how to do that. Remember:
- Rome wasn’t built in a day. Start small and be realistic about what you can accomplish in the time you have.
- Decluttering is as much emotional as it is physical. It is hard work physically moving all that stuff. But it’s also hard emotional work, especially with letting go of things that are sentimental. When you know this ahead of time, it can be a little easier.
- Don’t confuse decluttering with organizing. It is completely futile to try to organize clutter. Always declutter first, then organize.
- Imagine the outcome. It helps to envision the finish line after all your decluttering—in this case, a lovely, clutter-free home. Talk about motivation!
Treat Decluttering Like an Appointment
In addition to getting your mind in the game, you also need to be committed to your decluttering, because something ‘better’ or more fun to do will always come along.
To avoid procrastinating indefinitely, schedule your decluttering sessions and make sure you keep that appointment with yourself just like you would any other appointment. This is important work. You can also set a timer and use this to help you fit decluttering into your schedule.
Gather The Necessary Supplies Before You Begin
Don’t give yourself a reason to not get started or to get distracted once you start. Before you begin, make sure you have the supplies you need:
- Markers or pens
- Post-Its or Masking Tape
- Garbage Bags
Use a Checklist of Things to Declutter
It can be helpful to have a list of things to look for when you’re decluttering. Believe it or not, you probably have a bunch of stuff just lying around waiting to leave your house! Things like:
- Glasses that aren’t the right prescription anymore
- Old magazines
- Worn out shoes
- Old video or board games
- VHS tapes
The list goes on and on. In fact, you can even use this printable list of 50 things you can throw away guilt-free right now.
How to Choose Which Space to Declutter First
Make a list of the areas in your home that you want to declutter and organize. Then choose where you want to start. You can begin with a high-impact space that will make a massive impact in your home. Or maybe start with your biggest source of stress first.
Maybe give yourself an easy win by choosing a space to tackle that you can finish entirely in a short period of time. Like one pile of stuff, one shelf in your pantry, one section of your closet, one drawer, or one countertop
It’s your choice! Just choose the option that will give you the most confidence to keep going. Also feel free to skip areas if they feel too hard. Come back to them later when you’re feeling less overwhelmed.
How To Declutter & Organize Every Room in Your Home
The steps for decluttering and organizing are the same no matter which space you’re working on. Remember that decluttering and organizing is a step-by-step process. Once you know the steps, it becomes so much easier!
Empty Out the Space
Remove everything from the space you’re trying to organize. Dump it all out. Create a huge pile if necessary.
If this is too overwhelming for you, work in sections or zones. Empty one drawer or cupboard at a time. Or work in one corner of the room at a time.
Sort Like With Like
Next, start sorting. Place like with like. Don’t try to be tidy with this. The mess actually has to get worse before it can get better. Just create piles of similar things.
If you’re cleaning a playroom, for example, make little heaps of toy cars, dinosaurs, dolls, etc. If it’s the kitchen pantry, put all the crackers, cereal, soup, etc. in their own ‘piles’.
Edit and Eliminate What You Aren’t Keeping
After your things are sorted, decide what you want to keep and what you don’t.
Get rid of anything that’s broken. You don’t need it! Next, set aside a pile of donations—any items that are in good shape but that you haven’t used in a while. Then sort what’s left by season, color, or name, and decide on a ‘home’ for each set of items.
Shop For Organization: Bins, Baskets, and Other Containers
This step is my personal favorite. After your ‘keep items’ have a home, you can shop for pretty containers, baskets, labels, or whatever you need to get and stay organized. Be sure to do this after the first three steps have been completed. You don’t truly know what you need until you have sorted, eliminated, and assigned homes for your things. It’s also a bit of a puzzle to figure out what fits where.
Make sure you measure the height, width, and depth of shelves and cupboards before buying baskets and bins. It’s no fun to choose them all only to realize they don’t fit the way you thought they would.
Don’t forget to shop your own house too for containers to corral the mess! You can also check places like the dollar store and craft store for some great storage solutions.
Label it and Put Everything Away
Use a Cricut to make pretty labels or use a label maker for simple labels. Heck, you can even use a piece of masking tape and a marker if money is tight (try cutting the tape straight to make it look tidy). Just be sure to label everything so that you—and everyone else in your house—know where to put things away.
Want to know more about the specifics of decluttering each room? Check out this blog post about decluttering room-by-room.
More Decluttering Tips
- Take care of time-sensitive issues first. Anything urgent should be handled first. This just makes sense.
- Just focus on one thing at a time. Don’t think about decluttering the whole house at once. Simply focus on where you’re decluttering right now.
- Take before and after photos. These can be really motivating to help you see how far you’ve come!
3 Questions to Help You Purge the Clutter
As you go about decluttering and organizing your home, there are three things you need to ask of all of your items in order to decide what to keep and what to get rid of.
1. Is it beautiful?
Of course, we don’t just want a clutter-free home. We want one that is lovely too. If you love something because of its beauty—meaning you’d actually go out and purchase it in the store today—and you have the space for it, it can stay.
2. Is it useful?
Along with this question is the additional question: “Is this the only thing that can be useful in this way?” If you have somehow collected three can openers over the years, they’re technically all useful…but you don’t need three can openers! Get rid of two and keep the best one.
3. Is it sentimental?
This one can be a tricky question to answer. We’ve likely all been given things from family or friends that we didn’t choose to have. But for one reason or another, they hold sentimental value. However, donating or getting rid of an item doesn’t mean that the sentiment is gone!
What to Do With the Things You Are Purging
After determining what you need to get rid of, there are only three options for what to do with your things. You can:
- Keep them
- Donate them
- Trash them
If something is beautiful, useful, or extraordinarily sentimental in value, you keep it. If they’re not, you can either donate them or trash them.
How do you know whether to donate or trash something?
If something is showing major signs of wear and tear, you should trash it. If it’s still in good shape, donate it. Try to remove the trash and donation items from your sight and your house as soon as you can. That way you won’t create more clutter or be tempted to change your mind.
What About Selling Items?
Technically you could sell items you no longer want, and this might be worth doing if you really need the money. BUT this too tends to slow down the decluttering process because you have to take the time to price, list, and deliver the items you’re selling. Sometimes the simplest route of donating is the best option.
Create Clutter-Free Habits
Moving forward, once you’re finished with things, you need to put them in their place. If you can’t put things back right away, make sure you do it at the end of every day. It shouldn’t take more than five to ten minutes in each room to get everything back in its place every day.
Adjust your organization methods as needed. There’s no need to stick with systems that aren’t working for you or your family.
Set yourself up for maintenance success by:
- Creating daily routines. Make a simple morning, afternoon, and evening routine. Build the time into your schedule to tidy the house and put things away when you’re finished with them.
- Giving everything a home. This is where organizing comes into play. If everything has a home, it becomes so much easier to pick up and tidy up each day.
- Consider following the ‘one in one out’ rule. This will help keep you from accumulating more clutter. In essence, you toss, give away, or donate one old item for every new item you bring into your home.
When you’re overwhelmed with decluttering, remember “Progress over Perfection!” Any progress you make—no matter how small it may seem—is a step in the right direction and should be celebrated. You’ve got this!
The Clutter Fix
P.S. In the fall of 2022, I have a new book coming out called The Clutter Fix. In it, you will find out your Clutter and Organizing Personalities (so fun and helpful for finding out why you have clutter and which organizing system will work best for you!), how to declutter every single space in your house, and how to create rhythms and routines that will help you keep the clutter out for good. Sign up here for free goodies and more as the release date gets closer!
Want a printable to help your declutter?
Grab the Clutter-Free Home Starter Kit from Shannon’s blog by clicking the button below!
Share This Post