Inside: Learn the 7 stages of decluttering and how you can clear the clutter from your home to create a restful space.

“Keep, Pitch, and Donate! Yes, it is that simple!”

This was a comment I received on social media in response to a post I’d shared with decluttering tips.

While the decluttering process may sound simple, the reality is often far more complex.

For those who have no attachment to their things, it can be as easy as taking out a few boxes and sorting items.

But for everyone else? It’s helpful to understand of the stages of the decluttering process and the thoughts and feelings that come along with them.

Once you have clarity on where you are (and why you are there) you can begin to make more progress with decluttering your home.

The stages of decluttering are a roadmap that provide insights on where you’re at and how to proceed so that you can get to your goal.

stages of decluttering

The 7 Stages of Decluttering

The following are the seven typical stages of decluttering. While they aren’t always linear, these are the steps most people go through to clear the clutter from their homes.

Understanding which of the stages of decluttering you are in now can help you to start making more progress. Some steps will likely be quicker and easier to move through than others.

And if you find yourself going in reverse? Identifying what is happening can help you to break down the roadblocks and challenges so that you can get back on track.

1. Denial & Justification 

The first stage of decluttering is when you either haven’t yet acknowleged that you have clutter or you’re justifying it’s existence.

Maybe you don’t think the excess stuff you have is negatively impacting your life. Or you think it’s too late and oh well, someone else can just deal with it after you’re gone.

In many cases, the accumulation of clutter has to do with imagining scenarios in which you may someday want that item.

A scarcity mentality can make decluttering feel intimidating or scary. And if you feel like you truly love everything you have then letting anything go can feel like a bigger challenge.

In this stage you can’t yet see the potential benefits of decluttering and aren’t ready to take any action.

Helpful posts if you’re in stage 1 of decluttering:

cluttered home

2. Reluctance & Emotional Turmoil

If you’ve moved on to stage 2, you can see that you have clutter, but are reluctant to deal with it and feel a range of emotions when imagining letting anything go.

Fear often plays a role in preventing your decluttering progress. You may be envisioning a variety of scenarios in how decluttering could go wrong.

No one wants to regret getting rid of something so that can hold you back from taking action. Other times you may doubt your ability to get the job done.

While decluttering does take time, effort, and energy, it can be done in short focused bursts. You don’t have to tackle it all at once.

In this stage, it’s helpful to understand the thoughts and feelings that are holding you back so that you can work through them and move forward.

Helpful posts if you’re in stage 2 of decluttering:

stages of decluttering

3. Realization

In stage 3 you’ve realized you have too much stuff and are getting ready to do something about it.

You may be experiencing frustration at not being able to locate items or discovering that you now have duplicate items in your home.

It’s also possible that you’ve found items that were ruined by being stored haphazardly. As you realize how having too much stuff has been negatively impacting you, it serves as a good motivator to begin the decluttering process.

Perhaps you’re feeling like your home is taking too much time and effort to clean and maintain. Did you know that getting rid of clutter can eliminate 40% of household chores in the home?

Decluttering key areas in your home can save you more time. And time is a commodity you can’t manufacture more of.

In this stage you know that your home could look and function better and you’re ready to start doing the work.

Helpful posts if you’re in stage 3 of decluttering:

clutter overwhelm

4. Overwhelm & Confusion

In stage 4 of decluttering you want to make a change but you have so much stuff that you don’t know where to begin.

The process may feel overwhelming at this point. While ther are various popular methods for decluttering your home, you may feel confused by the varying strategies and opinions on how to tackle clutter.

And if you’ve tried an approach that wasn’t a good fit? Good news. There are more ways to declutter if you’ve tried others that didn’t work.

The key in this stage of decluttering is to create clear goals of how you want your home to look feel and function and then to simply begin. You’ll want to start in some easy areas in your home and work on one small defined space at a time to make the process feel more manageable.

Helpful posts if you’re in stage 4 of decluttering:

stages of decluttering

5. Progress

In stage 5 you’ve gotten the ball rolling and are making progress and are beginning to see the results of your efforts.

You’re enjoying clear countertops and flat surfaces in your home and appreciate that items are easier to find.

You may have even discovered some long lost items that you love in the process.

In this stage you are feeling encouraged by the improvements you’re seeing in how your home feels and functions.

Helpful posts if you’re in stage 5 of decluttering:

stages of decluttering

6. Messy Middle 

In stage 6 the motivation and momentum you were feeling from the previous stage has slowed or stopped altogether.

You may need to find new ways to get motivated to declutter your home.

Or maybe in the messy middle you’ve gotten stuck on some of the more difficult areas to declutter.

There could be a variety of reasons why you’re struggling to complete the decluttering process.

Decluttering is a process of unearthing layers. You may find that you need to declutter certain areas more than once to get it to a manageable amount of stuff. That clarity comes with practice and experience.

In this stage of decluttering, you’re working to get back on track. By focusing back on your goals and acknowledging where you’re getting stuck you can create a plan to move forward.

Helpful posts if you’re in stage 6 of decluttering:

habits that will keep your home neat and tidy

7. Maintenance Mode

In this final stage of decluttering, you’ve reached the finish line and are done decluttering your home!

While this is a time of celebration, it’s also important to remember that keeping your home decluttered requires maintenance.

Consider what habits need changing to prevent more clutter from entering your home and adopt super small habits that help keep your home neat and tidy.

Decluttering isn’t a one and done process, but by making adjustments as needed you can keep your home clutter-free.

Helpful posts if you’re in stage 7 of decluttering:

Which of the stages of decluttering are you currently in? Let us know in the comments section.

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  1. Hot damn! I am three boxes and two small surfaces away from having a completely decluttered home. I’ll tackle those items this weekend and declare victory. This process has been scary (initially) and exhilarating. I wish I’d done this years ago. My entire attitude shifted, shoulders softened as a result of having a clean, decluttered home. It’s amazing what it does to the psyche. My spirit is lifted. Being addicted to Simplicity Habit proved to be a good thing. Thank you.

  2. Eight years ago I moved from a 2,500 sq foot home into a 30 foot RV. It was tough! I had to figure out how to get rid of so many things I had accumulated. It took months! In the end, I had to just chuck a lot of stuff. In the end, though, it was quite freeing!

  3. Question-Is it better to declutter 1 room at a time or to do small spaces? I only have about 2 hours a day to do general maintenance house cleaning and to declutter. Should I be doing the small spaces first or try to find block of time to do 1 entire room? Having trouble getting started as I have been sick since middle of January.

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