Delcutter When Overwhelmed

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When you walk into your home, what is the first thing you notice?  If you said the clutter, then keep reading because I am going to give you some steps on how to start decluttering when you feel overwhelmed. 

These tips will be quick and easy, so let’s get started so you can reclaim your house.

How To Start Decluttering When You Feel Overwhelmed

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My own house used to be very cluttered because I was plagued with crippling back pain for about 13 years.  Let me paint you a picture of my cluttered homelife…

…two kids leaving toys out everywhere. Snacks on the table and wrappers all around that were not thrown away. And a mom who couldn’t stand long enough to clean up after them. 

My house was a disaster zone.

My husband did as much as he could, but in the end, we just had to deal with a lot of the clutter for that period of time.  And I hated it.

I hated that I had to walk into my home and have it be cluttered instead of a sanctuary where I could relax.  

And over the years, the mess just kept accumulating and getting worse.

So when my back finally got better, I made a vow to myself to start going through the overwhelming amounts of clutter in my home, and this is how I started.

How to Start Decluttering When You Feel Overwhelmed By The Mess

Where do you start decluttering when you feel overwhelmed?  You start at the beginning of course, but it is hard to know where the beginning is when the mess looks the same everywhere.

So here are some tips that can help you start in the right place.

1. First, let’s get in the right mindset.

If you are overwhelmed by the clutter in your home, then your house is probably already super cluttered.  

In other words, things cannot get any worse, so I don’t want you to think you have to get it all done in one day.  Instead, you need to pace yourself in this process.

Not pacing yourself is a mistake that many people make when they are starting out.  They made the decision to clean up their mess, and now they want it to get done fast.  

But trying to do it all at once will just cause you more overwhelm.

It is going to take some time to declutter your entire home, but know that when this is all over, you are going to be happier and feel like a lot of weight has been lifted from your shoulders.  

So take a deep breath and let’s get started on the next step to help you succeed.

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2. You Need A Goal

Once you are in the right frame of mind for decluttering, it is time to think about what you want to achieve.  

I know the idea of knocking the whole house out in one day is appealing because then it will all be done. But like I said above, this will just overwhelm you more, and you will be more likely to quit.

Instead, break your large goal into smaller goals.  

When you are already feeling overwhelmed by the clutter in your home, then the right place to start is somewhere small.


A spot that you can finish in about 15 minutes or less.

Even trying to declutter a whole room is too much for your first task.  

I would recommend starting with a small bathroom drawer or vanity drawer first.

This small area will help you in two ways.  It will get you familiar with the process on a small scale and it will help you gain confidence to tackle your next area. 

Once you have finished that first small space, make more small goals in that same area to tackle on another day.  Eventually you will finish decluttering the entire room.

Then you can move on to the next room and break it into smaller goals.

3. Have A Plan.

After you have set a goal, you need a play of attack.   Lucky for you, I already have a plan that will work for you.

Place the name of each category below on a piece of paper and tape it to your wall or lay it on the floor.  These are the categories/piles where you will place the items you clean out of your space.  

Here are the categories that you will need when you start decluttering.

  1. Garbage
  2. Move
  3. Keep
  4. Donate

4.  Remove Items From the Space One At A Time

Many times you hear organizers say to just pull everything out of the space all at once and go through it.  

But that is not a good tactic for someone who is already overwhelmed by the decluttering process.  

So in order to start decluttering the right way when you are overwhelmed, I want you to take one item out of the area at a time.

When you do this, you avoid becoming overwhelmed by the process and giving up in the middle of the job.  Which would ultimately leave you with a giant mess on your floor that needs to be put away and would add to your clutter problem instead of helping it.  

With the ‘One At A Time’ plan I am giving you, you can stop whenever you start feeling overwhelmed, clean up what you have already placed into the categories, and come back to finish another day.

5.  Where To Put The Removed Items

Remember how we labeled things “Move”, “Garbage”, “Donate”, and “Keep”?  Well, as you remove the items from the area you are decluttering… one at a time…, you will place them in the pile where they need to go.  Let me give you the criteria for each pile category.

Move – Applies to any item that does not belong in the space that you are cleaning out.  We will use the bathroom drawer for this example. If you are cleaning out your bathroom drawer and you find a measuring cup, then you would put the measuring cup in the “Move” pile.


Later, when you are finished decluttering your space, you will take the measuring cup back to the kitchen and put it away.

Garbage – Applies to anything that needs to be thrown away.  Back to the bathroom drawer example. If you have tubes of lipstick that you wore to prom and you are now married with children, it is probably time to get rid of those tubes of lipstick.  

*While we are on the subject, you can go here to look up the expiration dates on all of your makeup in order to help you declutter and throw out expired makeup immediately!

Donate – This pile is for all of the things that you no longer use, but they are still in good enough shape that someone else may be able to use them.  

I am not talking about makeup or bathroom items in this case.  But possibly a hand towel that you no longer use because it doesn’t fit your new color scheme.  A donation center would gladly accept that.

Keep – This is the pile you create with the items that you are going to put back into the space you are decluttering.  If it is the bathroom drawer, then you would put the makeup that you use on a daily basis in the keep pile.  

5.  Finishing up.

When you have gone through all of the items in your space, the only thing left to do is finish up.  So, throw out the trash, make a trip to the donation center, and move the items that didn’t belong to where they do belong.  

And last, but certainly not least, put away those items you are planning to keep in a nice orderly fashion.

Want to become more organized?  Read 5 Easy Steps To Get Organized In Your Home.

One question I hear A LOT…

How do you declutter sentimental things?

Sometimes we think we know how to start decluttering when we are overwhelmed, but then come upon items that are too sentimental to get rid of.

I totally get it.  Maybe you have things that were handed down to you from grandparents, or art work that your children did in preschool.  I understand not wanting to throw those things out. So here are a few things that I suggest instead.

What you can do with old photos

Placing photos in a photo album or a this beautiful photo box is an option.  But if you are really trying to cut down on clutter I would suggest uploading them onto your computer and dedicating a file to them.  From there, you could always create a photo book online with a service like Shutterfly.

Not computer savvy?  There are plenty of services online that can help you.

What you can do with children’s art work and school work

One option is to take photos of the art or school work your children have done and then save the pictures in a file on your computer.

If you wanted, you could even create a picture book online of all of your child’s work .  Then these books would stack nicely on a bookshelf. A site like Shutterfly is perfect for creating sentimental books.

Another option is going through the piles of art and school work and only keeping what you absolutely love.  Then place those items in a file folder or shallow bin labeled with your child’s name and the year they created the items.

What to do with items like Fine China, Porcelain Figurines, and other passed down items

I would recommend not keeping all of these items on display.  Choose 2-3 of your absolute favorites and place them where you think they look the best.  

Then with the rest, you can box them up and store them, sell them online to other enthusiasts that you know will love them as much as you do, or donate them to a donation center.

And the last option would be to take pictures of the sentimental items to keep on hand, but then box up the items to either be stored, sold, or donated.

I hope you know how to start decluttering when you feel overwhelmed now.  

Just remember, that decluttering isn’t hard as long as you follow the steps, start slow, have a plan, and know that in the end you are going to have a home that you love.


Check out these related posts:

5 Steps to Get Organized
7 tips to declutter without mess
As a Stay At Home Mom... parenting, organization, kid's activities and blogging have all become my passion and I want to share what I have learned with you! Browse my site or follow me on social media!