I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have some amount of stuff they no longer need, use, or want. A full life contributes to excess things in the house. But when it comes time to do something about it, where to start? What to release? What to keep? Sell or donate or toss? So many questions! Indeed, how to start decluttering when overwhelmed is a universal question to answer so we can get it done!
But stick with me to get unstuck! Just like any resolution, project or goal, creating a game plan for how to get it done is essential.
Having a basic decluttering plan is like having a map to plot how you’re going to drive from Point A to Point B. When the distance between the two is far, knowing when and where you’ll stop to rest and refuel along the way is critical. It prevents running out of gas on a couple of levels! And taking your time instead of speeding allows you to admire the scenery along the way.
Similarly, accumulating stuff in your home didn’t happen in a day or a weekend. So it’s going to take time to sort things out. While you’re decluttering, emotions will arise … some good, some not-so-good. This is why pausing to process your feelings lets you appreciate the people, places and events represented by your stuff. Then you can release the excess without regret as you clear space for a new life chapter!
Shall we get started?
Today's post provides a step-by-step plan for how to start decluttering when overwhelmed so you can clear space with confidence and joy!
Step 1: Begin with "Why"
Everyone who contemplates decluttering has the same primary goal: less stuff, more space. But from there, we each have a unique set of secondary reasons for what we want, need, or hope will happen.
For example, Stephanie wants to clear space for an art room in her home. It’s been too long since she’s had time to pick up a brush or her sketchbook. She needs a dedicated space for painting. Hauling out her supplies from the basement, setting up her easel in the family room, and then taking it all down again is tiresome. She hopes to create pastel images of her worldwide travels. She envisions creating a greeting card collection to raffle off at her annual church fundraiser. This is Stephanie’s personal “why”.
What’s your “why”? Close your eyes and ask yourself, ” What could and would I do if I had less stuff to deal with and maintain?” “What interests me that I’m not doing now?” “What would make me eager to get out of bed each morning?” Honor what your heart tells you and write that down.
By defining exactly what decluttering will do for you, you create a powerful reminder to continue making room for your personal goals. Then when your resolve is faltering, your “why” will bolster your commitment to decluttering for what matters most to you now … not 5, 10 or more years ago!
Step 2: Create A Look Book
Next, gather images of how you’d love your space to appear. There’s nothing like a beautiful visual to keep you on track when you’re not quite feeling the decluttering vibe.
But do keep in mind: creating a collection of inspiration shouldn’t turn into a whole other major project. The main goal is to focus on clearing space in your actual house, not on curating an imaginary home!
So keep it simple with the approach that suits you. For instance, creating a Pinterest board is one way. Constructing a vision board with magazine clippings is another. Or compiling a dropbox or folder on your computer works, too. In fact, even taping an image of your ideal room in each of your rooms could do the trick, too … you choose!
Step 3: Pick A Room
Now, decide where you’re going to begin decluttering. If you’re like most people, there’s likely excess stuff in every room. But my suggestion is to pick a room that you have to spend time in every day. And start in the smallest room to achieve the quickest results.
The reason is this: the sooner you declutter that room, the more noticeable the improvement will be, since you’re in there frequently. And the sooner you feel the positive impact, the more encouraged you will be to keep going!
So consider the kitchen, the bedroom or the bathroom. It’s pretty hard to avoid those areas, don’t you think? I mean, we have to eat, we have to sleep and we have to ___ … you get the idea! That’s why they will give you the quickest and biggest boost when you’re not sure how to start decluttering when overwhelmed.
Step 4: Keep It "Easy"
Once you’ve landed on your first designated room, begin with the surface areas. Then move on to drawers, cabinets and closets. As you clear cluttered counters and remove stuff stacked on the floor, use a simple 3-bin sorting system: “toss”, “donate” or “keep”.
Firstly, anything broken, expired or missing parts constitutes “trash” so pitch those items. No one needs stuff that doesn’t work any more.
Secondly, serviceable items you no longer need or use get set aside and go right in your car trunk for a donation run. If a pickup is possible, stage the items in one room or your garage and then call the charity of your choice to come get the goodies! Refer to this post for the easiest ways to donate wardrobe contents: Donating Old Clothes & Recycling Textiles | Repurposing for A Better Planet!
Thirdly, stuff you need and use either stays or gets relocated to the proper shelf/drawer/room when your decluttering session is done. Ending each decluttering session with putting things back where they belong has the added bonus of reinforcing this habit … sneaky yet effective, no?
If you feel uncertain just deciding what things belong in each category, no worries! You can adopt a universal definition of clutter for your space clearing here: Clutter Definition: What Exactly Is It So We Can Confidently Declutter With Clarity?
Step 5: Keep It Short
Also, set an alert on your phone for how long your session will last. It may be tempting to go all in on a marathon session. Certainly, that’s up to you!
However, keeping the sessions at less than an hour but increasing the frequency of those sessions tends to solidify your new habit of decluttering.
Again, you decide what fits best with your calendar. There will be sessions that take more effort to start, depending on your mood. When you’re “not feeling it”, refer back to your “why” statement. Then stop overthinking and start doing. You’ll be glad you did it!
Step 6: Track Your Effort
Now keeping a decluttering log may seem like yet one more thing to do. But it doesn’t have to be onerous or time-consuming. The point is simply to track evidence of your results.
We can forget just how much we’ve accomplished if we don’t have a record of what we’ve done. So do this however you like: pictures of the boxes or even the actual contents cleared; a notebook with a list of decluttered items; or a tally of how many items or boxes have left the home.
Then, when you’re feeling demotivated or discouraged with how much more there is to unclutter, take a look at what you’ve done so far. Evidence of progress is a fabulous way to keep going forward!
Step 7: Identify The Emotion
Without a doubt, you’re going to get sidelined with emotions as you consider letting go certain items. Sentimental or inherited things from those we love are the very hardest to release!
When guilt, worry, or regret start creeping in, it’s time to pause. Recognize the emotion and take a few breaths to center yourself. It’s universal to feel like we are dishonoring our family if we choose to not keep each and every single thing they gave us.
But if you know in your heart that you don’t need, use or truly want the stuff … if it’s sitting idle in a box or gathering dust in a closet … what’s the point of that?
Wouldn’t you agree your loved ones did not intend to pass along guilt or worry to you? Instead, remind yourself that the item was given to make you happy. So close your eyes and feel that love.
Keep the love. Release the item.
Let it go so that someone who will actually appreciate, use and enjoy the item can have it! Because your house is a home, not a museum.
Step 8: Reset Your Inner Voice
In order to continue uncluttering, having a few meaningful mantras can truly set us free. We’re digging into things that bring up memories or associations with times we felt “less than”. There’s a reason we’ve clung to the excess stuff we have. But now, when the reason is no longer (or maybe never) valid, it’s time for logic to prevail.
If your little voice whispers, “But I paid so much for this!” substitute, “This isn’t my style!” Or when you’re hearing, “What if I need this someday?” then replace that with, “If I need more, I will get more!”
Sometimes, sifting through stuff will remind us of when we missed the mark, got off track, or made a decision we regret. Now what? It’s time to forgive ourselves, that’s what! It’s time to encourage ourselves: “Now I know better!” Or say, “I did the best I could!”
After all, we are only human. Part of our journey is learning lessons along the way. And then moving on. It’s time, don’t you think?
Step 9: Believe in Yourself
Above all, know that you can do this! You have the power within to pursue your goals and dreams, no matter how big they are. The key is to break them down into manageable chunks.
Instead of getting ahead of ourselves and comparing where we are right now to where we want to be, focus only on your next step. Then the next one after that. And so on.
Comparison is a sure-fire way to feel demotivated and overwhelmed. So the value of the decluttering plan I’ve laid out is that you work it one day at a time. Focus on your end goal as a source of inspiration, not as a lofty out-of-reach wish.
In fact, realize that your decluttering journey is truly an opportunity to review where you’ve been. It will reveal where you want to head next. With patience for the process and love for yourself, you’ve going to arrive where you want to be! Now doesn’t that sound like something worth doing?
The Wrap: This Post Shared a 9-Point PLan for how to start decluttering when overwhelmed so you can clear space for a new life chapter!
- Learn how to start decluttering when overwhelmed by following this simple yet powerful process.
- Take time to capture your “why”: understand what you personally need, want and hope to achieve by uncluttering your home.
- Treat yourself gently and lovingly on your decluttering journey.
- Know that you can do this … I believe in you!
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