A guest post by Kristal Gunn of It’s My Favorite Day

How do you start decluttering when you are overwhelmed? That question is at the heart of why so many of us are not loving our homes. We fill stress, overburdened, and trapped. But here’s the thing, our homes matter, after all, it’s where we spend the majority of our time!

When you are stuck in a home that is full of clutter, it’s natural to feel completely overwhelmed by the mess. Of course, figuring out where or how to start decluttering your home when you’re overwhelmed like feels impossible.

If this sounds at all familiar, then, this post is for you and will help you learn how to start decluttering your home when you are overwhelmed.

But before we start, let me assure you, that you are not alone, most of us have clutter in our homes. Because decluttering is hard work, coming up with the motivation to tackle the clutter is also hard.

So we are going to tackle it step by step and make it fun along the way!

How to start decluttering when you are overwhelmed

1. Take the 15 Minute Challenge

I love playing games there’s nothing overwhelming about that! Well, if you’re the competitive type you might get a little intense, but it’s still fun!!

A while back there was a popular game show called Minute to Win it. You were given a particular challenge to complete and you had 60 seconds to do as much as you could.

We are going to play that same game with your clutter.

Here’s how to start:

First, look around your home, find the stuff on the floor, things on the countertops, items on tables, and dressers that don’t belong there.  Do you have knick-knacks from years ago that you don’t love? Make a note of them.

Now go grab a laundry basket and set the time on your phone for 10 minutes.

You’ve got 10 minutes to run around your home and collect as much clutter and misplaced items as you can from off the floor, counter-tops, tables, dressers, and any other items that are lying about that you don’t love. Fill that basket with as many items as you can.

When the timer goes off stop! Now look around your home, doesn’t it feel so much better. You’ve taken that first step!

As you’re sitting down watching TV, sort through the basket. Have a bag for trash and a cardboard box or two. Simply start tossing everything that’s trash. Then put the things you want to donate in one box and all misplaced items in the other box. Easy- peasy!

2. Give Away an Item a Day

“Tis’ better to give than to receive”. I’m sure we’ve all heard that quote, honestly, I think it’s true! Personally, I enjoy being able to bless others with little gifts. That’s why this is such a fun way to start decluttering your home when you are overwhelmed!

There’s another simple but truthful quote to keep in mind here: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. You see, you’ve got stuff you want to get rid of. Most likely a lot more than you realize.

There are probably a lot more people than you think that are in need of that stuff. So you’re going to give away one item a day until you’re left with only the things you truly want.

Ways to give them away

There are a few ways you can do this. You can post the items on your Facebook page to see if any of your friends or family are in need. Or you can post it in your local Buy Nothing group.

Another option is to put your item in a box each day during the week and at the end of the week, take the box to your favorite donation center.

Before you know it, you’ll be left with only items in your home that make you happy or are really useful. The best part is you’ll be decluttering your home without taking on your entire house-full of things at once.

Getting rid of one thing a day is easy to do no matter how busy you are or no matter how overwhelmed you’re feeling!

If you remove just 1 thing each day at the end of a month you will have remove 30 items that you no longer need AND you will have blessed 30 people!

Those little things all add up to something pretty incredible! Including motivation for getting even more clutter gathered up and out of your home once and for all.

start decluttering when you are overwhelmed

3. Keep It Simple

Speaking of keeping things simple, when it’s time to start tackling some of that stored away clutter we’re gonna go slow and steady.

If you think about it, it’s no fun playing a game you know you’ll never win or that takes years to master. You want a little bit of a challenge, but also know you’ll have a chance at winning.

The same is true when it comes to decluttering your home. So let’s look for the simplest ways to make a dent in that clutter so we stay on track with the progress we’re making.

How do we do this? Ah, I am so happy you asked!

Pick one room to focus on, we’ll talk more about this later. Within that room, you are going to pick one area to focus on.

This should be an area that allows you to make fairly easy decisions. Something like the bathroom medicine cabinet or a junk drawer or a kitchen utensil drawer.

Once you’ve picked your area start by tossing out anything that’s clearly trash. Things that are expired broken or stained or no longer useful.

Starting with these items helps you practice making decisions when they’re easier so you can later work up to the harder stuff. And you’ll be surprised by how much you eliminate.

Don’t believe me? Try it out and see.

These small wins will motivate you instead of overwhelming you. You might just be amazed at how much you remove.

4. Play Mystery Box Challenge 

In the spirit of keeping decluttering tasks fun, we are going to play another game. At this point in time, you’re starting to come across items in your home your not sure whether you should get rid of it or not.

To help you make these decisions we’re going to play the mystery box challenge.

To play the game you need one medium-sized cardboard box. Every time you come across an item in your home that your not sure whether you should keep or let go, place it in the box.

Once the box is full seal it up and write the date on top. Now place the box in the garage or a closet.

If after three months you have not needed any of the items in that box or if you cannot remember what items are in the box, you donate the entire box!

Here’s an important rule, opening the box at this point is cheating! If the contents of that box are a mystery or you haven’t needed any of the items after three months you can let them go!

Read this for more help with ways of identifying clutter in your home.

5. Come Up With Plan

Look at how much you’ve accomplished in getting rid of your clutter! Pat yourself on the back, you deserve it!

But it’s time to start getting a little more serious because things are going to start getting a little more difficult. By now you’ve eliminated a ton of little things that were just cluttering up your home.

You’ve also built up a lot of motivation and are ready to start tackling some of those bigger projects. The best way to conquer big projects and keep the overwhelm at bay is having a plan before you start.

Having a plan in place to deal with the big stuff is the key to less overwhelm. When you know what you are doing, when you are doing it, and just how long it will make decluttering is so much easier!

Begin by taking the time to think about what you want your space to look and feel like. This will help you decide on what should stay and what should go.

Pull out your planner and write down a schedule of when you’ll work on your project. 

Having a clear plan is the best thing you can do to start decluttering when you are overwhelmed by your stuff.

6. Divide and Conquer

Now that you have a clear plan in place it’s time to divide and conquer. Dividing up a large task is fundamental if you want to start decluttering when you are overwhelmed.

It’s very common when faced with an enormous amount of work (like going through an entire house full of stuff) to feel overwhelmed with where to begin.

In fact, because of the sheer size of the task at hand, we tend to put it off until we start to feel the effects of it.

However, the solution is simple!

Stop thinking about decluttering your entire home at once. Instead, divide a room of your home into sections. So if you’re working in your bedroom you’re only going to think about the dressers.

Now, section off that one section. For example, you will only focus on decluttering one drawer of the one dresser in your bedroom.  That’s your task for the day.

Sounds a lot better, right?

There’s no reason to feel overwhelmed by dividing and conquering the clutter one section at a time. This method also creates less mess. Before you know it you’ll create a home you love!

start decluttering when you are overwhelmed

7. Have a Sorting System In Place

One of the biggest things that make us ask the question “how do you start decluttering when you are overwhelmed?” is that we don’t know where to start or what to do with the stuff we’re sorting through.

We’ve looked at several places to get started with your decluttering efforts so now let’s look at what to do with the stuff you are sorting through.

It really and truly is quite simple. Before you take on any actual decluttering task you’re going to have four boxes at hand and a sharpie marker.

Now label the boxes as follows —– “trash,” “give-away,” “keep,” and “undecided”. The first three are self-explanatory, and the last box is your mystery box we talked about earlier.

As you go through each and every item in the room you’re decluttering, place the items in the correct box. When you’ve finished decluttering an area place the items from the “keep box” back where they belong.

Take the “trash” box and empty it into your outside trash bin. Next, take the give-away box to the donation center you decided on in the planning process and finally seal that undecided box as we discussed above.

You will rid your home of more clutter than you ever imagined following this simple process!

8. Ask the All-Important Questions

You’ve been working hard so it’s time for another game. Do you remember the game “20 Questions”? The goal of the game is to guess the person, place, or thing by asking 20 questions.

As you’re working on your clutter there’s going to be some things that are a struggle to know if it’s worth keeping. This struggle is what makes it hard to declutter your home when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

So to make that decision you are going to ask yourself a series of questions.

  • Have I Used This Item in the Past Year?
  • Would I Buy This Item Again?
  • Would I Keep This Item If I Were Moving?
  • Is This Item Worth Repairing?
  • Do I Own Something Similar?
  • Could Someone Use This Item More Than Me
  • Is This Item Worth the Space it’s Taking Up?

These questions will help you easily determine which items to keep and which items to let go of. Develop the habit of asking good questions as you declutter and before you know it, you’ll be living in a clutter-free in a home that you love!

start decluttering when you are overwhelmed

9. Completely Declutter One Room From Top To Bottom

One room. That’s it, just one room. There’s no way to express the importance of this step if you’re feeling overwhelmed by your clutter.

Having a cozy, inviting, uncluttered place to rest and rejuvenate is key to getting your entire home clutter-free.

I always recommend you start with your bedroom. You’ll be able to have a peaceful night’s rest in a clean, clutter-free, and cozy room.

So take the time to tackle this room from top to bottom so you can end and begin every single day motivated to declutter the rest of your home.

Having a clutter-free zone will help energize you to continue removing the clutter from other areas without any of the overwhelm as you’ve felt the results of creating a decluttered space.

10. Create Clutter-Free Habits

Let me be honest with you, this may be the hardest task you undertake. But it’s arguably the most important!

The last thing you want is for all your hard work to be undone by bringing in more clutter. That’s why it’s essential that you develop a few good habits to stay clutter-free.

Daily routines

The first clutter-free habit to work on is setting up a daily routine to stay on top of the clutter. This doesn’t have to be complicated.

Personally, I keep a cute basket in my living room, as I go about my day and come across things that need decluttering they go into the basket. When the basket is full I donate the contents.

Everything has a home

Another important habit is to only keep items in my home that have a place to live. This makes it simple to return items to their proper home instead of them piling up!

If you find you have items that you don’t have room for, make room by getting rid of something else. If you have nothing you can get rid of, maybe you really don’t need the item.

One in one out rule

Speaking of getting rid of things you don’t have room for another great habit is the one in one out rule. For each new item you bring into your home, you get rid of one item you already own in the same category.

Each of these habits will keep your home clutter-free for good!

As you work on decluttering your home, remember we are not looking for perfection, we are looking for progress! If you’ve followed these steps, I know you’ve made a lot of progress! Yay YOU!

If you haven’t started yet, tackle these steps just one at a time and you might just be surprised at the progress you can make.

Kristal truly believes in the transformative power of simplicity. Through her blog, It’s My Favorite Day, she provides the tools and solutions for simplifying your home and life to help you clear space for what matters most!

Need more decluttering tips? Fill out the form below and you’ll receive a weekly email with tips on simplifying and decluttering your home and your life. You’ll also get the Your Home Decluttered Jumpstart which includes 100 easy items to declutter and 12 high impact areas to declutter in 10 minutes.

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  1. I just started decluttering my house in the winter. I haven’t have a problem going through and donating the big stuff ,as I seen and felt the satisfaction of space right away .I thought this isn’t really that bad ,I want to work on my house ,and maybe get it all done by spring .It’s the small things,I don’t like bothering with . Like our junk drawers ,so I thought I’ll just make this go quickly..I just took out the drawers and dumped it all in the trash ,and let it go ! I felt so good about that ,too !
    Then a few weeks later ,my Husband came to me ,and asked where did I move the small kit of screwdrivers to ? 👎 Lol
    I can’t do a ..Happy Dump it and Forget it anymore ! Lol 😂So it maybe summer before I’m done ✅

  2. Great article and ideas! I can give you one more game that helps me. I LOVE to play the Find Hidden Objects games on the computer. So one day, I was sitting on the couch and noticed I had DVDs/CDs all over the place. So I made my own Find the Hidden objects game to find all the DVDs/CDs in the room. I put them in a box and sorted them. I looked for the cases for the ones that were caseless and make a stack, then went through the remaining cases to see if the discs were actually inside. I added the complete sets to the previous stack. I went through them and determined what I wanted to keep, sell, donate and trash, Then, I put away the ones I wanted to keep and set up Donation and Sell boxes for the rest. Then all I had left were the “orphans” that, still, needed to either be reunited with it’s disc or case and made a box for them. (I’m sure I will find the missing half when I get to the other rooms.)
    I then sat and looked around the room and determined what I could see the most of lying about the room. In my case, it was craft items: spools of ribbon, beading items, etc. So, I started my game all over looking for and sorting the craft items. This all helped me A LOT with the overwhelmed feelings I’m having!! Hope this helps someone out there. 🙂

  3. Great ideas to get going and get the job done. I shopped a lot and quit last summer, lots of clothes, Knick knacks,shoes and an overwhelming a lot of everything. I’m filling boxes and bags going to the Goodwill store several times. 30 years in my house, feeling proud getting down to essentials. A little decor . I see less is best, My neighbor thought I was moving. It feels like it. My son will appreciate not having all that to get rid of when I pass.

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