How To Declutter When You’re Overwhelmed

declutter when you are overwhelmed


If you’ve ever found yourself standing in a cluttered room, overwhelmed by the task of clearing it all away, you’re not alone!

Tackling clutter can be quite an undertaking, but it doesn’t have to feel impossible. Luckily, there are a ton of tangible strategies and tips that I’ve discovered over the years that help me cut through clutter without losing my cool.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

I’ve found that getting rid of clutter not only helps me stay organized, but keeps me in check mentally. Decluttering can be daunting, but getting started is the hardest part. Once you know where to begin, it all gets easier from there.

ryan mitchell simple living expert

Decluttering When You’re Overwhelmed: Tips To Start

Tips To Start Decluttering When Youre Overwhelmed

I truly believe that the biggest culprit stopping people from being able to declutter their space is often a simple mental block. It’s easy to get in the mood to declutter but then feel completely mentally shut down by the insurmountable amount of clutter before you.

This mental fatigue shouldn’t stop you from getting your house, and your mind, in order. I’ve come up with a few easy tips that’ll help you overcome that mental block between you and a clean, decluttered space.

declutter challenge

Start Small, Take Note Of The Differences

Take Note Of The Differences

One of the best ways to keep yourself motivated when decluttering is to start small and take notice of your progress. If you only focus on the amount of clutter that you have left to sift through, it’ll be a lot harder to keep going and keep morale up.

As you declutter, take note of the difference that small changes make. Start with small improvements like trinkets, expired items, or junk drawers, and let yourself observe the ways that the little changes are actually big improvements.

decluttered living room

Schedule Your Decluttering Session

Schedule Your Decluttering Session

The easiest way to build a habit that you stick to is to create a specific time and place for that action to occur. It’s much harder to stick to a decluttering regimen if you’re vague with the when and where.

My best advice to help actually kickstart the decluttering process and rip off the bandage is to schedule your decluttering session. Pick a specific time and location in the house to start your decluttering process. Write down that time and place, and hold yourself accountable to the appointment you set with yourself.

check your calendar

Call For Backup

Call For Backup

Decluttering can also go a lot faster with help from others. Don’t feel embarrassed to ask for backup from friends and family to make the process go faster and easier than it would have if you were alone.

get help for declutteringAsking for help from others might look like having friends and family come over to help you declutter, or just asking them to hold you accountable to the task. If your loved ones come help you in person, you could make a whole day of it and buy your friends lunch in return for their help.

Having an objective opinion never hurts, either. If you tend to get hung up on sentimental meaning or value behind items, an outside eye can be the key to ridding yourself of truly unnecessary items. Plus, a little word of encouragement goes a long way!

Take One Room, Space, Or Category At A Time

Take One Room Or Category At A Time

One thing about decluttering is that it’s far more overwhelming if you try to tackle the big picture all at once. Like I said before, I think it’s important to start small when it comes to beginning a decluttering process.

utilize narrow spaces for storage in kitchenNot only is it important to go little by little, but I also find it helpful to go one room or category at a time. This may look like decluttering the entire living room, or working through your entire wardrobe of clothes.

Maybe you begin by taking a lap through the house to toss obvious trash. You could also devote your attention to a single space like your closet or a junk drawer. When I’m decluttering my own tiny house, I usually like to start with just the fridge and take the time to declutter all my expired or unusable food items.

declutter your home room by room

Remind Yourself That Clutter Is Normal

Remind Yourself That Clutter Is Normal

There is no shame in the decluttering game! One of the biggest reasons that I see keeping people from tackling their clutter is shame and doubt.

declutter your mindWhen you’re looking at a seemingly insurmountable pile of clutter, it’s easy to feel discouraged or guilty for letting your clutter get to the point that it has. Even if your space is littered with small piles or stray items, the sheer disorganization can cause anxiety that keeps you from jumping in.

If you’re feeling stuck and unable to get started due to guilt or anxiety, remind yourself that clutter is normal! The posts we see on social media of pristine, minimalist homes are staged more often than not.

Mess is a part of the regular human experience — even my place gets out of order from time to time, despite a decade of minimalist practice and regular decluttering. The process and principles of decluttering are meant to ease your mind, not add to your guilt.

Four Steps To Tackle Large, Overwhelming Clutter Piles

Steps To Tackle Large, Overwhelming Clutter Piles

Once you’re in the right mental space, it’s time to dive head first into the overwhelming clutter pile before you. I like to have a method to my madness when it comes to decluttering, so I’ve summarized the regimen I follow when I’m cutting down my own clutter month to month.

1Start With The Easiest Sections

There’s no need to be an overly ambitious hero here. Starting with the easiest sections will expedite your decluttering process and keep you motivated to tackle the more challenging areas down the line.

bathroom cabinetIn my decluttering experience, I often find that the easiest areas to purge first are areas with lots of small clutter or junk. Depending on which room or section of the house you’re tackling first, this could be your kitchen fridge, your bathroom cabinet, or a junk drawer in an office.

This type of space makes it easy to quickly sift through food items, old makeup, expired medicine, coupons, or junk mail and make a split-second decision about whether or not it stays or goes.

2Discard Largest Items

After conquering the easiest sections of your home, shift your focus to the largest items in your space. Scan the room for any big pieces of furniture, boxes, baskets, anything that takes up a lot of space. While doing a quick visual scan, ask yourself if each large item is staying or going.

Once you’ve settled on bigger pieces to declutter, move them into a designated holding area for your decluttered items. This might be your garage, laundry room, or the center of your living room. As you let go of the bigger pieces, you will visibly see the progress before you; your space will start to look clearer.

get rid of old tv set

3Divide The Remainder Into Smaller Sections

After getting through the simplest and biggest areas of clutter in the room, make a gameplan for the way the rest of your decluttering venture will go. Do another visual scan of the room and make a list of the sections you still have to declutter.

clothes divided into boxesYou may even want to go as far as writing down the areas you have left in the order you plan to address them. That way, you have a tangible plan that you can stick to when you feel yourself getting tired, distracted, and unmotivated to continue.

For whatever clutter is left, stick to your list and go one small section at a time until you feel you have confidently parsed through the entire room. You’ll be surprised how quickly and easily you can knock out all that clutter.

4Organize What’s Left, Discard The Rest

Viola! Now you’ve finished decluttering a room that you originally felt was unconquerable. Organizing and decluttering go hand in hand, so take a look at the items that remain and find a place for them in your new decluttered, organized home.

Then, take a look at the clutter in your holding pile and decide what you want to do with it. This is easier said than done, but there are many minimalist rules and expert decluttering methods that can help guide you when deciphering what to do with your decluttered goods.

Places To Donate Your Decluttered Items

Should You Declutter When You’re Overwhelmed?

Should You Declutter When Youre Overwhelmed

While there are tons of tips and tricks to help you declutter even in a stressed state, the question remains as to whether or not this is actually the best time to try to declutter your things. In my experience, decluttering can actually be a truly cathartic practice when you’re anxious or feel like you’re in over your head in another area of life.

Even if you’re feeling overwhelmed, take some time to clear your mind first. Then, take a deep breath and dive in. Before you know it, your simplified surroundings will help you reset your space and your mind alike.

decluttering can be cathartic

Your Turn!

  • What advice will you use to tackle your clutter?
  • How will you apply a decluttering routine to your own life?

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