Inside: Let’s face it. Not everyone is excited or motivated to declutter their stuff. Read on to learn how to declutter when you don’t want to, but know that you need to.

Are you totally overwhelmed by the amount of clutter in your home – but can’t find the motivation to actually get rid of it?

Or maybe you’ve managed to muster up the energy to get started – only to find your motivation disappears before you’ve made much progress. 

Either way, you know you need to deal with the problem. But decluttering when you don’t feel like it can feel like an impossible challenge. 

Fortunately, this challenge is one that you can overcome. With a little mindset shift and the right strategy – and some solid background music – you can find the motivation to declutter, even when you don’t want to, and get the job done.

declutter when you don't want to

Why do we lose the motivation to declutter?

It’s easy to think that you’d have no problem finding the motivation to declutter… but it’s easier said than done.

Even if you actively dislike the amount of clutter in your home and really want it all to disappear, actually doing the work isn’t something many people look forward to.

Decluttering can consume a ton of time and energy – two resources that many of us are already running low on.

It requires a surprising amount of mental capacity and strength to determine what stays and goes, and to force yourself to part ways with stuff you don’t really want but still have a hard time letting go of.

And it can be such a massive task that it’s easy to feel like you’ve made no progress at all, even after spending hours decluttering your stuff (this is especially true if you’re trying to attack a large space all at once!).

With that in mind, it’s easy to understand how your clutter became such a problem in the first place – and how finding the motivation to actually make a change is such a challenge.

declutter when you don't want to

How to Declutter When You Don’t Want to: Ways to Regain Your Motivation

While finding that motivation to declutter when you really don’t want to can be a challenge, it’s one you can overcome. And once you’ve built a little momentum, you’ll be surprised to see how much progress you can make when it comes to decluttering your space. 

If you’re struggling to find the decluttering motivation you need, here are some tips and tricks you can try to change your mind and make it happen. 

1. Visualize the end result. 

For many of us, decluttering is a marathon, not a sprint. One of the biggest reasons we lose our motivation is the fact that we can spend hours decluttering our space – and feel like we barely made a dent.

But think about it. Chances are it took YEARS to accumulate all of the clutter in your home. Do you really think you’ll be able to clear it all away in an hour or two?

For many of us, it’s going to take a lot longer than that to complete the job – or to even begin to notice a meaningful difference throughout our homes.

That’s why it’s so important to visualize the end result. Close your eyes and picture your home free of all that clutter and junk.

What will it look like? How will it feel to relax in a space that’s clean and clutter-free? How nice will it be to quickly and easily find the things you’re looking for, without digging through unnecessary stuff?

By visualizing the product of your hard work and letting yourself get a little taste of how great it will be to accomplish the task at hand, you can tap into those feelings when you hit a wall and find the motivation to continue.

clean bathroom

2. Set small goals.

Don’t wait to celebrate until you’ve decluttered your entire home. Instead, break the task up into smaller, more manageable goals.

Not only will this make the thought of decluttering way less overwhelming, but it’ll also give you some reasons to celebrate your progress along the way. These goals can be as big as tidying up a single room and as small as tackling a corner, closet, or drawer – whatever you think makes the most sense for you.

The key? When you achieve your goal and reach your milestone, celebrate it! Treat yourself to a quick break.

Take a before and after picture and admire your progress. You can find ways to treat yourself while still living minimally.

Some ideas are to get coffee with a friend, take a walk in an area you love, or take the time to read that book you’ve been wanting to. Choose something that feels rewarding to you while still aligning with your goals.

By celebrating your success and tying your progress to positive things, it’ll be easier than ever to find the motivation to make even more progress. 

phone timer

3. Set a timer. 

Another great strategy to help you find your motivation to declutter involves setting a timer. If the thought of decluttering all day is absolutely draining, how about one hour? 30 minutes?

If you’re pressed for time or really struggling to find your motivation, even 5 or 10 minutes can make a big difference.

Grab your phone and set a timer for however long you decide – and commit to being focused on decluttering until that timer goes off. Put away all distractions, roll up your sleeves, and get to work.

When you’re focused, you might be surprised to see how much progress you can make. And when your timer goes off, step back and admire the progress you’ve made.

At this point, you can either step away and take a break or use your newfound motivation to keep going. 

Not sure what areas to start with? Check out these easy areas to declutter in 10 minutes. You’ll want to pick small doable spaces so that you can get them completed in the time alloted.

declutter when you don't want to

4. Make it fun!

Let’s be honest – decluttering isn’t always the most enjoyable task in the world. Going through old stuff, cleaning and sorting and throwing things away, isn’t exactly most people’s idea of a good time. 

But that doesn’t mean it has to be a miserable experience. Instead, find ways to make decluttering enjoyable!

For some people, decluttering is way more fun with company. Call a friend or family member and see if you can recruit them to help. Catch up as you sort clothes into ‘keep’ and ‘donate’ piles or tackle the mess in the garage.

Prefer to tackle your clutter solo? Put on an upbeat playlist and turn your decluttering session into a dance party – or listen to a well-loved podcast that you can get lost in as you work.

By finding a way to make decluttering an activity that you look forward to by pairing it with something fun, you’ll have a much more enjoyable experience – and be more likely to continue the task to completion.

family enjoying nature

5. Remember your why.

There are a number of reasons why you may want to declutter your space and simplify your stuff. Focusing on the benefits of having a decluttered home, can help you regain your motivation.

Maybe you want to create a more calm space where you can truly relax. Or perhaps you’re tired of wasting time looking for misplaced items.

Or it could be that you want to save more money and hope to get some money back by selling your unwanted items.

Another motivator could be wanting fewer distractions at home so that you have more time and attention to focus on the things and people that are most important to you.

Or you might be thinking about not wanting to leave a lifetime’s worth of stuff behind for loved ones to sort through after you’re gone. If you went through that after family members passed, it becomes a bigger motivator to not do that to family members.

Whatever your reasons are, keep them front of mind. These important decluttering reminders can help you regain your motivation even if you don’t really feel like decluttering.

declutter when you don't want to

6. Notice the results.

Have you ever felt like you needed to do something but had no motivation to begin? That’s a common experience.

Sometimes we wait for some magic feeling to come over us that will cause us to finally take the first step when what we really need to do is just take the step (even when we don’t feel like it).

For many people, this is how exercising is. It may not be something you look forward to doing but you know you should and that the results are worth the effort.

In many cases, starting creates motivation to continue as you see and appreciate the outcome of your work.

Progress compounds. It builds on itself. Progress begets progress…The form this takes is a number of feedback loops, or self-reinforcing cycles.” –Jason Crawford

Determine to begin even if you don’t want to and often that is all that is needed to get yourself motivated to continue.

It’s also helpful to consider that you can declutter and bring joy to others in the process. By donating items you don’t want or need anymore, you can see how your items can benefit others.

How do you find the motivation to declutter when you don’t want to? Leave a comment and share what works for you!

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24 Comments

  1. I schedule pickups from American Red Cross every 2 – 4 weeks. Having those dates on my calendar has helped me get rid of 4-5 bags of clothing, a bag of shoes, extra sheets, blankets, curtains, a bag of stuffed animals and other household items over the past few months. Spreading it out gives me flexibility and alleviates the stress of feeling I have to do it all at once.

  2. I FaceTime my niece and we each go about our tasks (we’d been procrastinating) for an hour. Also my checklist says 1 box shredded or emptied and items donated. Small goal 1 box, but I can clearly see the result.

  3. How I motivate myself to declutter is I start with one area and decide my goal for that area today. Then I begin and finish decluttering & organizing that area today!!! I don’t stop until done!!! It helps greatly that my best friend is helping me!! I’m physically disabled and unable to do this alone!!!

  4. When I get home from work I don’t sit down. I start a load of laundry, clean the cat room for my cats etc. Once I sit down I’m down for the evening and my cats are in my lap ha!

  5. One thing that helps me keep motivated sometimes, is taking before and after pictures. It is amazing how much work I can get done, and now I am making sure I put things in the right place, it just hide things!

  6. My sister is coming over on Labor Day to help me clear the back hallway. I am really looking forward to it. I’ve made progress in the living room and this is the next project.

  7. I like removing everything from one area. Then I only return those items that work or look best there. I admire/enjoy the tidy area profusely. The rest either gets put in it’s proper place, or in a donations box. Donations box gets reviewed after a “time out” period, but by then I wouldn’t consider bringing it back. That would mess with my new-found bliss!

  8. I’ve joined my local Buy Nothing and S.O.S. (Share Our Stuff) groups on Facebook and post items for others in the community to have at no cost. I’ve learned that my excess stuff (esp. clothes, books, toys, household goods) serves a much better purpose when given to people who have a greater need or use for it. Any leftovers not claimed within 3-4 days go into a donation box in my vehicle, which is then dropped off at a local donation center near where I work. I then reward myself by setting up another box in my vehicle and by continuing the process, which is a continuous reminder that my stuff is finally being used and bringing joy to someone else.

  9. Goodwill has become a friend of mine. it is my hope that the nice things that I just don’t have the mental capacity to think to give it away to specific people, will be used by someone who can appreciate it.

  10. For me it’s getting projects done because that’s causing some of the clutter. Slowly getting there & liking the results. The other part is that I want to try to sell some of the items instead of just donating them. Usually have few yard sales but unable to this year. I most likely will just donate some stuff but hang onto some & plan on selling in (near) future.
    I did just put used water softener out by road with free sign that worked but needed cord repaired because don’t have ability to get cord repaired like planned & can’t donate unless done. Only outside 24 hours before being picked up. Also gave my dad ceiling fan that swapped out for new light than he will change out for an older ceiling fan at his house.

  11. Love all the encouraging people here and thank you.

    Decluttering for the Master Procrastinator (me) is a herculean challenge, plus, I’m very sentimental toward things that I shouldn’t be attached to.

    Happy decluttering, everyone!!

  12. I have a terrible time starting tasks, so my #1 method for motivation is recruiting my husband or mom to help with the decluttering project. It helps hold me accountable, makes it more fun, and the task gets done twice as fast!

  13. never stop inviting guess to spend weekend with you. best motivation ever.
    you’ll get rid of clutter, not put it in a other room. 😊

  14. I moved from a single family home to a townhouse three months ago. I got rid of load after load before I moved because I downsized Now I’m here and I’ve been to Savers five times. I always have a box in the garage available for another load of contributions.

  15. Family. Plus, I don’t want to be doing this next year or in five years. I need to lighten the load now, so we can really enjoy our home with family and friends. I keep a notebook which includes: goals and the why, many of your posted motivational quotes, how may bags/boxes go out the door and other drivers. I feel like it keeps me accountable, and it keeps the efforts real with measurable results. I review the progress as a reminder that I don’t need forty pairs of shoes (never, ever again). I am more mindful when shopping and love the clutter-free counter space. Cabinets, drawers, closets, etc can hold a lot of ‘stuff’ – ‘stuff’ no longer needed or important but still takes much time to go thru. It is worth it in the end and happy to know that our donations may help others who need a helping hand to start over, etc. It is a process. Thank you for all of your tips, articles and motivational pushes.

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