Easy Ways to Start Decluttering When You Feel Like You Are Drowning In The Mess

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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 by the mess. 

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

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How To Start Decluttering When You Feel Overwhelmed

Did you know that most everyone has clutter?

YUP, that is right…clutter is a very normal thing.

Which is why having a daily routine that helps you do a little decluttering everyday will help you. But we can get to that later…

First, Learn How To Declutter Without Getting Overwhelmed

The answer to decluttering without getting overwhelmed is very simple. Start slow and start small.

My own house used to be very cluttered because I was plagued with crippling back pain for about 13 years. 

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.

Which is that horrible part about clutter. Once it starts, if you don’t take control of it, it just gets completely out of control.

And I am guessing that is why you are here. Because your clutter has gotten out of control and now you need help figuring out where to start decluttering when you already feel overwhelmed.

So here are some tips to get you started.

How to Start Decluttering When You Feel Overwhelmed By The Mess

Where do you start decluttering when you feel overwhelmed?  You start slow and small, like I said above. But it is especially hard to know exactly what area to start in when the mess looks the same everywhere.

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

1. Set Your Pace

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.  

2. Get In The Right Mindset

Take a deep breath, and get in the following mindset:

  • Any progress is good progress.
  • You do not have to finish it all today, or even in one hour, or one minute.
  • You are already on the right track…you started.
  • The space does not have to look perfect, just better than before.

3. 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.  

Are you looking to declutter your whole house? Maybe there is one room in particular that is making you crazy like the spare bedroom or the dining room?

Since you are already overwhelmed about decluttering, my suggestion is to know your big ultimate goal that you want at the end of this decluttering process, but think smaller when you are first starting out.

In other words, break your large goal into smaller goals that are more achievable.

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


4. Start Small For Quick Wins

By small, I mean to start in 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 setting a small goal like 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 chosen area. 

These quick wins will help you feel good and move onto the next space you need to declutter.

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.

5. Start With 1 Of Something

Maybe you don’t have 15 minutes each day to declutter.

Instead, just start with 1 of something.

  • Declutter 1 pile of clothes
  • Declutter 1 pile of papers
  • Declutter 1 drawer
  • Declutter 1 shelf
  • Declutter 1 section of floor

Remember to set a timer and only work for that amount of time so you do not get overwhelmed.

6. Use These Categories To Make Decluttering Easier

After you have set a goal, you need a plan 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 for most spaces when you start decluttering.

  • Garbage
  • Move
  • Keep
  • Donate

7.  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 amount of clutter in their home or 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.  

PRO TIP: 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.

8.  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.  

9.  Finishing Up And Get Rid Of Things

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.

10. Find Help

Can’t seem to do it alone? Find a friend, family member, or service to help you declutter.

How To KEEP Your Space Decluttered After You Get It Clean

In order to not get overwhelmed by your clutter again in the future, it is good to figure out how to keep up with it.

#1 Stop Bringing More Things Into Your Home

Many times we try to fill our lives with physical things. But that feel good purchase you make today becomes tomorrow’s clutter.

So instead, try filling your home only with the things that make you happy.

#2 Create Good Habits

By creating a good daily routing or daily habits, you can keep up with your clutter problem. Try adding 5 minutes of decluttering to your daily routine and after 21 days, this routine of decluttering will become a habit.

#3 Take Pictures Of Your Start And Finish

A great practice to get into is taking pictures of your cluttered…and eventually delcuttered spaces.

Why? Because sometimes we don’t really feel like we are making any progress. Taking a picture shoes you just how far you have come since the beginning.

#4 Don’t Strive For Perfection

Perfection is overrated. All you are trying to do when you start decluttering when you feel overwhelmed, is GET STARTED. You are trying to make progress. So don’t focus on making things perfect, just focus on making progress.

#5 Get Your Family To Help

If you want your kids to help you, then make it fun. Create a game where each child has to pick up 10 items off the floor before the timer runs out.

Or you could just tell your family, that part of the new bedtime routine is to pick up 5 things each night before going to bed.

Getting your family to help out teaches them that decluttering is important, but it also takes some of the pressure off you as a mom to always have to follow everyone around and clean up their messes.

#6 Create New Rules To Live By

Here are some great rules you can incorporate into your family’s home life in order to stop clutter in it’s tracks:

  • Don’t Put It Down, Put It Away. Don’t just lay things down when you are finished using them…put them away.
  • One In One Out Rule. If you bring one thing in the house, another must leave.
  • Create and Stick By Daily Routines. Routines keep us accountable for household chores and daily cleanup
  • Create a Home For Everything. If it has no home, it doesn’t belong in your home.

#7 Go Paperless

To cut down on paper clutter, try moving recipes to apps like Evernote or Google Docs.

You can also request that your bills come electronically and keep things like grocery lists on your phone.

If it is something you want to remember or keep, try taking a picture of it.

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 Can You 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 Can You Do With Children’s Art Work and Schoolwork?

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