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You’re ready, you’re going to tackle this clutter once and for all. You’ve got your boxes and bags and you’re doing it. Then, you sit on the couch and stare at the mess that is your home. And, you’re overwhelmed with how to even start decluttering.
I get it, clutter is overwhelming in and of itself. It causes overwhelm in our lives, but the sheer existence of it and trying to tackle it? It’s a lot to handle.
The piles keep piling up and you sit there wondering how in the hell Marie Kondo made it look so easy! She did, too. Am I right? She made it sound like this was going to be the easiest thing you’ve ever done in your life.
Well, honey… it’s not. Not at all. In fact, for most of us, decluttering, at least in the beginning, is one of the most difficult things to start. Because we do not know where to begin. We lose all motivation just staring at the overwhelming heap of crap that we’ve accumulated.
But while we can all sit and come up with excuses. We can all be completely overwhelmed with the prospect of decluttering. I’m telling you, the difference doing this will make in your life is worth the challenges you’re going to face.
If I can do this, you’ve totally got this.
How to Declutter When You’re Overwhelmed
Just Get Started
Duh… right? I know, you’re sitting there saying seriously, this is your advice? I just told you I can’t start. But, hear me out on this one. The best way to get over that feeling of overwhelm is to just go for it. Once you get started, it’s so much easier to continue because you’ll start feeling the benefits and it will feel good.
However, I know just giving you some stupid simple advice probably isn’t very constructive. So, here is how to just start.
Pick a Space
It can be your worst space, the easiest (less cluttered), the smallest, the biggest, the one you spend the most time in (this is my personal suggestion). Whatever it is, you’re going to pick a space. Yes, an entire room. A lot of people suggest the living room, some even suggest the bathroom. I suggest the worst space. Yes, I know, you’re overwhelmed. But once you tackle that incredibly overwhelming space, the rest of your home is going to seem like cake walk in comparison, remember that heading in.
Now, you’ve picked a space, you need to actually start. You’re looking around and thinking nope, not today. Stop. You got this, here’s the steps to get you through.
A small spot. A very small spot. Maybe a bookshelf is overflowing with junk. Walk over to it and pick just one of the shelves on the bookshelf. Top to bottom, bottom to top, the stuff piled in front of it, whatever. You want this to be manageable so you start small.
Other super small spaces would be things like the top of a table, one drawer… you get the point. If you don’t have anything like that in this room or that isn’t where you want to start, I suggest picking a corner, furthest from the door. Make the space somewhere around a 2X2 section. Do you need to go get a tape measure? Of course not.
Just know you’re only tackling that small section of the room, not the entire thing.
Set a Timer
You’ve picked a small, manageable area. Set a timer. Everyone says they never have time to do this, but this is a different post for a different day. For this post, I’m going to tell you to set a timer for 10 minutes, just 10. Everyone can spare 10 minutes in their day.
Set that timer and know you’re only tackling this small area and when the timer goes off, you’re going to be finished.
Toss the Trash
We all have trash, unwanted papers, broken items, etc that have no real purpose, they just got added to the pile. Throw them in your trash bag. You’re just going to go through that small space and find anything you can’t donate or sell and toss it.
If it’s paper or other recyclable material, great. You can absolutely do that with it. Just know you’re not donating or selling this stuff and it’s already lightening your load.
See an old trinket on that shelf that you can’t stand? A book you read once and will never read again? An old jacket in the closet that hasn’t fit you for a decade? Let it go. Put it in the donate box or bag and get rid of it. If you’re planning to sell your items, that’s fine. But, if you can donate them to a good cause, that’s even better.
Whatever you decide to do, sell or donate, add them to that bag or box. When you’re finished, tape it up, take it out. Do not leave it in your house. Put it in the trunk, the garage, remove it from the room.
Keep or Relocate
Stuff you want to keep, you’re going to dust off and well… keep. These things will be put back in the small space (or wherever it is they belong). Things you’re keeping that do not belong here can quickly be put in their proper spot when you finish. This will only take you a few moments so add them to their own pile.
There are no Maybes
I know… even I have said in the past to keep a maybe pile. But, the truth is, maybes are donation pieces. If you don’t love it, want it, or need it enough for it to be a keeper automatically, it needs to go.
If you absolutely insist on having a maybe pile, put it in a separate box. When you’re finished, tape up the box and put it up on a shelf. Not just any old shelf, one that you don’t really notice the things sitting on. Leave it for 30 days (set a timer on your phone).
After 30 days, if that maybe box hasn’t been opened, out to the trunk of the car it goes. Do not open it. Just place it in your car. If you didn’t miss that stuff in 30 days, it was all donation stuff to begin with.
You just spent 10 minutes decluttering! That wasn’t so so bad was it? Now, if you have anything that doesn’t belong in the place it was, go put it where it belongs.
Put the bag of trash in the trash. Put the box of donations in your car or garage and you’re finished. You can do another 10 minute session or you can wait and do it tomorrow. But, try to set aside 10 minutes every day and continue tackling the clutter in that space. Once you finish your small space, just move to the next small space until you finish the entire room.
Don’t quit until your space is uncluttered and organized. When you can walk in and you don’t feel overwhelmed with the sheer amount of stuff that’s piled in that room… it’s probably done. If you’re still overwhelmed, go through it again. Small, simple steps.
Suggestions on Where to Start Decluttering
Like I said, I usually say pick the worst room in the house and go with it. While the task may seem insurmountable right now, it will make the rest of your house seem like a walk in the park.
You could also go with the room that is going to make the most difference. Somewhere where you and your family spend a lot of time.
- Living Room
- Kids Room
- Master Bedroom
And lastly, you could pick the smallest, easiest room to declutter and that, my friends, would be the bathroom. I love decluttering the bathroom. There’s nothing in there that I question whether or not I should keep. It’s either out it goes or in it stays.
The bathroom is small and there’s generally tons of junk in there for you to toss out. Expired, unused meds can go in kitty litter and be tossed. The half-used bottles of hotel shampoo can be tossed. Extra, unused toiletries can be donated to a shelter. You get the drill. Easy peasy.
A word of caution picking the easiest room first, though. In my experience doing the difficult stuff first makes everything else seem achievable. If I know going in that it’s only going to get more difficult, sometimes I lose my momentum. Don’t let yourself do that, you can get this done.
Tips to Decide What to Keep when Decluttering
I know how difficult it can be to decide what to let go of. We constantly say what if I need this someday. The truth is, you probably won’t. But, some tips for all of those emotions are:
- Touch everything for just 3 seconds. If you don’t love it after 3 seconds, donate it goes.
- Remember, if you haven’t used it in the past year, it isn’t likely you ever will.
- I know we’re not made of money (or I’m not anyway) but if I can replace something in the unlikely event I actually need it for less than $20, it goes. This doesn’t mean I throw out my hand mixer every month. This is the stuff that you are trying to hold on to for someday that hasn’t been used since the day you got it.
- Are you holding on to someone else’s blessing? Could this item bless someone else instead of taking up space in your home when you don’t really love it or need it? Let it go bless them.
- Sentimental stuff is difficult to let go of, I know. But, we should try to detach the emotions we often attach to material belongings. Those material possessions we attach don’t define the person or memory. I have lots of suggestions for dealing with this type of clutter in the article I linked above.
You did it. You’ve got a whole entire space decluttered! Awesome!
What keeps you from decluttering your home?
Other decluttering posts you’ll love:
- 117 Things to Declutter Right Now
- How to Easily Let go Of Sentimental Things Without Overwhelm
- How to Downsize: 9 Tips to Live Smaller