How to Start Decluttering When You’re Overwhelmed
Learn how to start decluttering when you’re overwhelmed. Get easy tips for the best way to get started purging the clutter from your entire home.
You might also like this post on decluttering using the KonMari method.
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After a long, snowy winter, I’m feeling the need to get my house in order. I don’t know about you, but I just feel like I have too much stuff.
We’ve lived in this house for almost 7 years now, so we’ve accumulated a lot of extra stuff.
My kids were small when we moved in and now they are teenagers. I haven’t done the best job of decluttering as they’ve grown up, so we still have a ton of kid’s toys around.
I also had a vintage shop for a while, which lead to me having more stuff than a normal person.
It’s time for everything to go. But it feels really overwhelming to declutter an entire house!
I started this process a few weeks ago and I’m almost done. All we have left is my daughter’s room and the garage/ outside spaces. My house is already feeling so much better!
Here are my simple steps for where to start decluttering when you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.
You might also like this post on decluttering for moving.
How to Start Decluttering When You Feel Overwhelmed
Gathering supplies is the first step to decluttering your home. It’s so much easier to declutter if you have somewhere to put the stuff.
Cardboard boxes are useful for books and decor items. Boxes can be acquired from recycling bins behind stores or you can buy them at your local hardware store.
Trash bags are useful for clothing and linens. They’re also useful for trash. You will be shocked at how much trash is just sitting in your home.
To keep things from getting confusing, we’re using 2 different colors of trash bags. We use black construction grade bags for donations and regular white trash bags for trash.
You also need packing tape for assembling boxes. Sharpies are useful for labeling stuff if you want.
You will also want to clear a storage area to place things until they are ready to go to the thrift store or new home.
For us, this is our front room that rarely gets used. A garage is a great place also. Or you can put boxes straight into the car.
One more note about supplies: notice I didn’t say bubble wrap or packing paper. I’m not carefully wrapping donations like I would for a move. You can use linens that you’re getting rid of or you can just stack stuff gently in the boxes.
If I have to carefully wrap every single item, I will never finish!
Decide How to Get Rid of Your Stuff
The next step is deciding how to get rid of items. You have a few options: donate, trash, sell, or give away.
I’m mostly donating stuff, selling larger furniture, and throwing away other things.
Donating items is a great way to get rid of stuff because everyone wins and you’re not putting good items in a landfill.
Make sure to only donate gently used items that people would actually want. Pet shelters will take old towels and linens. Homeless shelters will take coats and winter gear.
Another option is to sell your stuff. You could have a garage sale or just sell bigger items on a platform like Facebook marketplace. Photograph the item in good light and be sure to list the dimensions.
Be aware that selling on the Facebook marketplace can be extremely frustrating with no-shows and low-ball offers.
Due to the location of my home, a garage sale is out of the question. So, I plan on selling larger furniture that is hard to move.
My purpose is just to get rid of stuff, but it’s nice to make a little money as well.
I’m not giving items away because I want stuff gone now. Where I live, people are still pretty cautious about visiting others, so I know that we would be stuck with that stuff for longer than I want.
Develop a Positive Mindset
Decluttering is not easy, so you will need a good mindset. Having a “why” is a good place to start.
Your “why” probably sounds something like mine. I want a house with less stuff that is easier to clean. A messy house makes me unhappy and anxious, so I want my house to feel more relaxing.
Your “why” might mean moving, downsizing, or even redecorating. Find that why and keep it in mind when things get hard.
Make a Plan
I love a good planning session, so for decluttering my home, I’ve made a detailed plan. I’m also using my printable decluttering checklist for each room.
First, I listed all of the rooms in my house that need to be decluttered. I plan on working on Saturdays only to avoid burnout.
The rooms are grouped together by the level of effort.
For instance, I grouped my living room, dining room, main floor bathroom, and hall closet together because they’re all pretty easy and don’t contain a lot of sentimental items. This feels like a lot, but the bath and hallway ended up taking about 30 minutes total.
My daughter’s room needs an entire day of its own due to size, difficulty, and her sentimental attachment to everything.
For the best results, you need to decide how much time you are giving yourself for the decluttering process.
To avoid procrastination, I’ve given myself a timeline of a month. Nothing will happen if I’m not finished by then, but I needed a timeline to make sure that I get it all done.
As I said, I’m only working on Saturdays and I’m grouping rooms together where possible. Weather is also considered because we need to declutter our garage and shed as well, so those spaces are slated to be finished last when it’s warmer.
I also have a weekend built into my schedule for catching up. I plan on walking through each room of the house and grabbing those things that I forgot on the first go around.
Whatever your timeline is, give yourself enough time to do a good job!
By the way, a lot of other articles recommend working for 15 minutes a day. This is great advice if you don’t have a lot to declutter and if you’re good at doing stuff every single day.
However, only working for 15 minutes a day is going to take forever if you have a lot to declutter like I do. Plus, I know myself and know that there’s no way that I can remember to declutter every single day, so I would fall dreadfully behind.
Choose a timeframe that works for your needs.
Work in Bite-Sized Chunks
Do not try and declutter your whole house in one day. Unless your house is tiny, it’s just not possible and you’re going to feel frustrated and exhausted.
Decluttering is hard work. It’s hard emotionally and physically. My body hurts after a decluttering session. (I’m so out of shape…)
Working in small sections will help preserve your sanity. But it also makes the impossible feel possible.
I could not do this work by myself, so I’ve enlisted my family members to help me.
My son and husband have been taking everything to the thrift store. My daughter helps where she can and gives me hugs and words of encouragement when I need it.
If you live alone, consider asking close friends or family members for help.
Where Should You Start?
Your starting point should be an easy room. This will be different for every person.
Do not start in an area filled with sentimental items. You’re not ready for that yet.
For me, the easiest room is the kitchen because I hate cooking. The bathroom is also pretty easy because it’s mostly throwing away expired items.
A small space is a great place to start. Don’t start in a basement or garage that is packed to the ceiling.
In bedrooms, I find it easiest to tackle clothing first. I’m not attached to my clothes and I know what I actually wear and what fits right now.
In a kitchen, a junk drawer is an easy place to start (it’s probably mostly garbage!)
Whatever room that I start in, I try to finish the entire room before moving onto the next room. Right now, I’m aiming to get each room finished to about 85% done.
This is because I know that I will end up wanting to donate more items as I go. So I’m not going for perfection right now. This also helps with overwhelm.
What Are You Keeping?
I find that it’s easier to approach decluttering if I think about what I’m keeping. This spins it in a positive manner instead of thinking about everything that you’re getting rid of.
Keep the things that truly bring you joy and get rid of the things that you’ve stopped noticing.
Decluttering can feel incredibly wasteful, but it can also feel liberating. Sometimes we keep things because we spent money on them or someone else bought them for us.
Those items sit there unused and make us feel guilt whether we acknowledge it or not. The unused yarn makes us wish we loved that knitting. The crystal goblets make us feel guilty for not being fancy.
Those unfinished projects stare us in the face begging up to finish them, but the reality is that we’re not going to finish them.
Giving those items away frees up space in your home and your brain. Donating or selling those items gives them the chance to be loved and appreciated.
Acknowledge the guilt and pledge to do better in the future. This process can help you develop better shopping habits in the future.
Sentimental items can be rough to get rid of. Kid’s artwork, souvenirs, and gifts can be hard to get rid of. Take photos of items if it makes you feel better.
I feel like someone needs to say it: You don’t need to keep everything.
Your kids don’t even know that you’ve kept every piece of artwork since they could pick up a crayon. And it’s not something they will want as adults.
I’m giving you permission to get rid of stuff that you never look at or use.
However, decluttering doesn’t have to mean getting rid of everything. You can keep special items, but take the time to find a special place for them. They’re not special if you have multiple boxes of things that you never look at.
Designate a specific box for those keepsakes and only keep what fits in that box.
What if You Can’t Decide
If you’re having a hard time deciding on something, place it in a box and put it away for 6 months (or your own specified timeframe.)
If you don’t retrieve that item and use it during that time, go ahead and get rid of it. You will probably find that you’ve forgotten about the item!
Decluttering is Not Organizing
Don’t run out and buy cute coxes to put your stuff in. This step is about getting rid of stuff.
Organizing is the next step and you should resist buying organizing bins until you know what you have.
It Gets Easier As You Go
I find that the longer I work, the easier it gets to get rid of stuff. It’s like a snowball effect. The more stuff you get rid of, the less anxiety you feel, and the more gratitude you feel towards the items that you’re keeping.
As I work, I get so excited about how much easier my house is going to be to clean. And it frees me up to try a new decorating style.
What Kind of Stuff Should You Get Rid Of
As you declutter your home, you will find that most of the stuff you get rid of is stuff that you’ve stopped seeing. You will be shocked that you still have some of this stuff!
- things that aren’t being used
- clothing that doesn’t fit
- expired items (trash)
- books that you’re not going to re-read
- junk mail
- outdated technology
- decor that you don’t love
- gifts that you don’t use
- small kitchen appliances that you don’t use
- items that you have multiples of
- items in a junk drawer
Get my complete list of items to get rid of!
After Decluttering Your Home
Your house is clutter-free. Now what?
Take the time to learn from what you’ve gotten rid of. This process can tell you a lot about your shopping habits and can help you make informed decisions about how to buy new items for your home in the future.
You will probably need to declutter once a year, but it should be easier from now on!
Enjoy your clutter-free home!
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Emy is a vintage obsessed mama of 2 DIYer who loves sharing affordable solutions for common home problems. You don’t need a giant budget to create a lovely home. Read more…