Home & Away,  Organization

How to Start Decluttering When You’re Overwhelmed & Frustrated by Mess

This post is all about how to start decluttering when overwhelmed.

how to start decluttering when overwhelmed

Overwhelmed by clutter?

If so, “Where do I start?!” is probably #1 on your mind right now. 

For many people, it can be tricky figuring out exactly how to begin decluttering your home.

Odds are, you would love to have a tidier house, but I know making that a reality is easier said than done. 

That’s where a good, solid plan comes in handy. 

If you take time to create a system, getting rid of clutter can actually be a pleasant and productive experience that yields excellent results!

Luckily, you don’t have to come up with such a system yourself – I’ll share mine! 

It’s my step-by-step plan for decluttering successfully, even if you’re swamped with stuff (and we’ve all been there!).

Removing Barriers That Make Decluttering Feel Overwhelming

Overwhelm leads to procrastination, so it’s important to identify what’s causing the overwhelm in the first place. 

Sometimes, it’s simply a lack of physical energy to tackle the job. It’s not exactly a light and easy task to declutter your living space. 

If that’s what is making the task feel so formidable, keep reading because I share some tips below I know you’ll be able to use. 

On the flip side, maybe you struggle to find the time. Between work and family, it can feel daunting to carve out time in your busy schedule just to declutter.

Many times, however, it’s actually mental barriers that hold us back. 

Clutter isn’t always just trash. It can be sentimental items that represent fond memories. 

Or maybe your grandmother grew up during the Great Depression, and you feel like it’s wrong to throw that stuff away. 

Perhaps, it’s just a matter of finding the motivation to declutter. When the amount of clutter in your home becomes truly overwhelming, it can make the situation feel hopeless. 

While there’s no shame in feeling that way, it’s important to fight the instinct to give up.

I daresay the first step to decluttering is cultivating the right mindset. 

Rather than looking at the clutter in your home as an impossible obstacle to overcome, look at it as a challenge that you CAN handle. 

Ok, we’ve talked mindset. 

Now let’s get to the nitty gritty of decluttering.

12 Ways to Declutter When You Feel Overwhelmed by Too Much “Stuff”

Remember that system I mentioned earlier? 

Well here it is…12 simple decluttering tips that should make the process more manageable for you!

This simple approach can help you tackle even the toughest jobs. 

Let’s dig in. 

1. Create a “Declutter Your Home” Checklist of All Areas That Need to Be Addressed

If you’re not sure how to start decluttering your house, I highly recommend creating a checklist

By writing down each area you need to declutter, you can get a better idea of how big the project is and how much time you’ll need to commit to it. 

Additionally, using a checklist allows you to plan ahead which rooms need work so you can prioritize them.

Long story short, it brings clarity to the task of decluttering, which helps eliminate some of that overwhelm. 

2. Start with the Cleanest Area First to Build Confidence & Momentum

As hinted at in tip #1, you should prioritize rooms. 

A lot of people say to tackle the hardest project first, but that’s just not realistic when you’re already struggling with motivation. 

So I suggest starting with whatever area of your home is the least cluttered. 

Why? Well, the toughest part of any big tidying job is getting started. 

Starting with the easiest room allows you to comfortably ease into the decluttering process. 

3. Focus on Large Items First to Free Up Space

“Ok, I figured out where to start decluttering my home, but where do I start decluttering this room?”

Choosing a room is one thing, but once you’re actually standing in it, the overwhelm hits you all over again. 

A great technique I learned was to start with the largest pieces of clutter first. 

Every time you remove a bulky object, it makes a huge difference in how cluttered the room looks.

That alone serves as motivation!

Not only that, it immediately frees up space, allowing you to move more freely throughout the room. 

4. Start Small: Tackle One Corner of One Room

Another effective strategy is to simply go one corner at a time. Don’t look at the entire room as a big hairy beast that’s impossible to tame. 

Instead, get laser-focused on one area of that one room. 

It can be a shelf, a closet, one wall, one corner, etc. 

In fact, I like to work from wall to wall. And when I’m working on wall #1, I don’t even think about walls 2, 3, and 4. 

Breaking down a room into “chunks” is key to making it less overwhelming. 

5. Set a Timer Once a Day & Declutter Until It Stops (Even If You’re Not Finished Yet)

This is one of my favorite ways to start decluttering when I feel overwhelmed. 

When I know I only need to clean for a specific amount of time, it’s so much easier to get started (and remember, that’s half the battle!).

There’s no rule that says you have to declutter your entire home in one day. 

Especially if you’re feeling pressured or overwhelmed, you should approach the job by decluttering for a set period each day. 

It not only makes the process feel more manageable, but it develops discipline and consistency that will serve you well in the future. 

6. Create 3 Piles: Toss, Donate, Keep

Decluttering doesn’t mean throwing everything away. You’re sure to come across some good, useful items that you want to keep, and there’s nothing wrong with that. 

More on that in the next step.

There may also be items that are still in good shape, but that you don’t necessarily need. 

If you struggle to let go of stuff, try donating it. 

It feels good to know you’re helping others. It also relieves some of the guilt of throwing stuff away. 

read next : How to be ruthless when decluttering clothes

7. Be Honest About What You Really Need to Keep

As mentioned above, there’s nothing wrong with keeping things of value to you. 

At some point, however, we have to be honest with ourselves about what we really need

Clutter will never go away if you’re trying to fit too much in too little space. 

Let’s take clothes for example. 

If you’re not sure how to start decluttering clothes, I always start with a question:

“Have I worn this in the last 6 months?” 

If the answer is no, it goes to the donate pile. End of story.  

Be realistic about which items you’ll actually use again. Yes, it’s tempting to want to hold onto everything, but what do you want more? That item or a tidy, peaceful home?

8. Have Boxes, Containers, Trash Bags & Shelves Out and Ready for Use

This one is pretty self-explanatory. All that clutter has to go somewhere while you’re working through it. 

It helps to have multiple storage containers ready ahead of time so that you aren’t just moving stuff around.

9. Play Energizing Music to Get You in the Zone

Decluttering your home doesn’t have to be a drag!  

You’ll be surprised how turning up some fast-paced, high-energy music kicks you into productivity mode.

Create a fun playlist before you get started, and enjoy!

And while you’re in the zone, check out these 30 most productive things you can do each day

10. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

You can declutter your house alone if you really want to, but team work makes the dream work. 

Cheesy but true. 

Don’t be afraid to approach a friend or family member and simply say “I need help decluttering my house.

Accountability is priceless, and I think you’ll find that the job gets done so much faster.

There’s no shame in that game!

11. Keep Your Eye on the Prize: A Tidy, Clutter-Free Home

It’s true. Decluttering your home can be a long, strenuous process. 

As a result, it’s easy to kinda deflate along the way. 

If that’s the case for you, the best thing to do is visualize the goal you’re working towards. Think about how nice and neat your beautiful home will look once you’ve finished!

Imagine the peace and calm you’ll feel when everything has a place (that you can easily find!).

Most importantly, think about how you won’t have to look at all of that clutter anymore. Visual clutter is so stressful. Just imagine it gone! 

Trust me, it’ll give you the motivation you need to get across the finish line.

12. Make Daily Decluttering a Habit So It Doesn’t Get Overwhelming Again

Once things are under control, spend a few minutes each day to tidy up and remove clutter before it builds up again. 

In doing so, you can avoid the stress of it turning into a major project. 

You’ve got this!

Frequently Asked Questions

Some people work through this decluttering checklist and still have questions. 

I get it and want to help! 

Here are some of the most common questions people have about decluttering:

How can I motivate myself to declutter?

The simple answer is to set goals for the process and envision what it will feel like to achieve them. 

Stress is a major motivator. Use those overwhelming feelings to push you to do what needs to be done to restore calm. 

Other than that, recruiting a friend to declutter with you can be a huge help.

Don’t forget that there’s no rush. Doing a little bit of decluttering each day means progress (and progress is motivating!).

What is the fastest way to purge clutter?

I don’t mean to sound harsh, but the fastest way to get rid of clutter is to let go of your attachment to it. 

It’s those mental roadblocks that keep us from letting stuff go. Once we get those out of the way, it’s easy to get rid of piles and piles of clutter quickly. 

I recently heard about a seemingly extreme decluttering tip: 

You pretty much remove all the clutter items from a single room as fast as you can without doing any sorting whatsoever. 

Then, once it’s all together in one place (like in an open space or out in a hallway), line up those Trash-Donate-Keep boxes and start tossing things into them. 

What should I declutter first?

It depends on how confident and motivated you’re feeling. If you’re having trouble getting started, begin with the easiest room or area. 

Once that’s done and you see the results, you’ll naturally want to keep going because it feels so good.  

On the other hand, if you’re eager and ready to go, you can tackle the biggest project first. 

There is something to be said about getting the “hard part” out of the way early on.           

I hope this checklist and FAQs gives you the confidence you need to start decluttering when overwhelmed. 

It’s completely doable, and that tidy, organized home will be so worth it in the end!

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