How to Start Decluttering When You're Overwhelmed: Easy Tips

simplify life Oct 24, 2023
Decluttering when overwhelmed image of donate and garage sale boxes with stuff in them

I'm guessing that since you're here, you are overwhelmed by too much stuff. Your entire house is getting out of control, and you don't even know where to start. You just want someone to tell you about how to start decluttering when overwhelmed.

You dream of a clutter-free home, but you'll take just an entire room. However, where will you find the time? You’re busy enough as it is just keeping everyone safe and fed! I firmly believe that you can do this, so let’s talk about how to start decluttering when overwhelmed, even if that overwhelming feeling has you just about paralyzed. Take a deep breath and let's get started!

Signs You Have Too Much Stuff

You may be wondering if you have too much stuff, or if you just need to organize what you do have. Maybe your home is a bit cluttered, but not nearly as bad as your friend’s house. Perhaps you think tons of toys is just normal in today’s society. However, while there are some signs that you have too much stuff, there is hope that you can regain control. Here’s what to look for.

  • Most flat surfaces are covered with stuff.
  • You have a hard time remembering where you put something.
  • You are embarrassed to have someone see the state of your home.
  • You have a storage unit for what doesn’t fit in your house.
  • You feel like your home never looks clean and peaceful.
  • You keep buying organizational items for your stuff.
  • You buy something to replace something you can’t find.
  • You have clothes and items you haven’t used for a year or more.
  • You don’t want to get rid of things because you might need them “someday.”
  • Your kids have so many toys but complain that there’s nothing to do.

Did any of those resonate with you? When my kids were young, many of them totally fit me. Our playroom was disastrous, my countertops were covered constantly, and things were just not that clean. I was overwhelmed by clutter

If I’m honest, I still struggle especially with keeping countertops clean. Now that I’ve learned that there are many benefits to having less stuff, including having more time for the people and things that are important to me, I am much more motivated to keep things under control.


What is the First step to Decluttering?

You may say, “I’m overwhelmed by clutter. Where do I start?” This may seem a bit ridiculous, but seriously the first thing to do is the most important step. Do you know what it is? Just start! This is the very best way to get going. Push aside those feelings of overwhelm because I will give you some ideas to get and keep you going.

Now, as soon as you read this, take a break and do what I tell you. Don't overthink it. Just grab something right now that is either trash or something you know you no longer need. Throw it out or grab a “donate” box to put stuff in. If you have a lot of trash sitting around, get a trash bag and stuff it with everything you see that you don’t want. 

There! You did it! You started! Your first decluttering session of the decluttering journey is done!🙂

How to Start Decluttering When Overwhelmed

Now that you've gotten started, let's then let’s get going with some ideas for an actual decluttering plan to tackle this. Don’t worry, I’m all about simple and straightforward in order to help you NOT be overwhelmed. The last thing I want is for you to feel like it's such a daunting task and quit before you even really start!

Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? Well, the moral of the story is that slow and steady wins the race. It is no easy task to declutter an entire home, but if you work steadily and don't give up, the finish line will come. Now, let's get into decluttering!

1. Start simple

Decluttering doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, if it is, you won’t do it, especially since you’re already overwhelmed. Look around and pick one countertop or the dining room table to declutter next. It's a good idea to pick a small space as your starting point. By starting with a small area, it won't take much time to see a big difference.

 A great way to start small is to set a timer. You can set a timer for 15 minutes and do as much as you can in that time. Once you see what a difference just a little bit of hard work can make, you will be more motivated to keep going. This is how you start decluttering when overwhelmed. This quick win will keep you going.

2. Make a plan

Now that you’ve started decluttering and have some motivation, the next step is to make an actual plan. Plan where you’ll work first. Starting in an area where you spend a lot of time is recommended since you’ll see the difference and be motivated to keep going. Often that is the kitchen or living room. For me, I'd start with the kitchen counters, but you may have another option in mind.

Figure out what order you’ll do the rooms in your house, how long you will work at a time and when, and what you’ll do with the things you don’t want. You will want three boxes: a trash bag or box, a donate box, and a box for things that are in the wrong room. Go through each room section by section. Before you go too far though, be sure to check out more decluttering tips!

Another part of your plan could be to enlist some family members to help you. As the saying goes, a lot of people make light work. Having others to help you is a good way to help you work through your whole house quickly. Get rid of everything you don't need with help from the following questions before you think about re-organizing what's left.

3. Questions to ask when decluttering

We’re all different when it comes to the actual decluttering part. Some people just really have a hard time letting things go. Others are constantly trying to get rid of everything . . . and oftentimes these people are married to each other! 

There are several questions you can ask yourself as you go through this process in order to help you decide on what to keep or what to get rid of.

  • Does this add value to my life?
  • Do I love this?
  • Do I need this?
  • Do I own something similar that’s better?
  • Have I used or worn this in the last year?

Try to make quick decisions, but if you ask the questions and you’re still struggling with whether or not to keep something, box it up with a date on it and put it in your storage area. If you haven’t retrieved it in 3-6 months, get rid of it.

4. Join a decluttering challenge

Maybe you’ve started with the above steps and you’re still struggling to get rid of things. Perhaps you're still lacking motivation. I recommend joining a decluttering challenge via blog or Facebook. Sometimes just having that little help can give you the push you need to start decluttering.

A clutter-free space doesn't happen automatically. Joining a decluttering challenge can help you break up an entire area of your home into smaller tasks. It can give you small sections at a time while keeping the end goal in mind. 

Final Steps in Decluttering

Once you have started the decluttering process, you may wonder what to do with the stuff you’re not keeping. You should have thrown out anything that is broken, missing pieces, or not of good quality. You may choose to have a yard or garage sale for the other things you’re not keeping, but I wouldn’t recommend that unless you really have a lot and need the extra money. 

The best thing to do is to just donate it as soon as possible. Get it out of your house. Your local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or other thrift stores supporting a good cause are great places to donate. 

If you have some high-value items that you just don’t use, you may try to sell them, however, give yourself a time limit. For example, if you haven’t sold the items in one month, donate them. It’s really not worth having them sit there for another six months doing nothing.

So, are you ready to start decluttering? What is your biggest motivating factor? How can I help you on this journey? Be sure to take that first tiny step and then please comment below.

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