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How to Start Decluttering When You’re Overwhelmed: A Guide

Is a cluttered home getting you down? Picture this: you stand in the doorway of a room, gazing at the chaos that surrounds you. The clutter feels insurmountable, and the thought of starting the decluttering process overwhelms you. But fear not! We’re here to guide you through the art of decluttering when you’re overwhelmed. With practical tips, you’ll learn how to take the first steps toward a clutter-free and stress-free space.

Why Do We Get Overwhelmed by Clutter?

Before diving into the decluttering process, let’s understand why we sometimes find ourselves overwhelmed by clutter. It’s not just about the physical mess; it often reflects our emotional state and the attachments we have to our possessions. Here are some common reasons:

  1. Sentimental Attachment: We hold onto items due to sentimental value, making it difficult to let go.
  2. Decision Paralysis: The sheer number of items can lead to decision fatigue, making it challenging to determine what to keep or toss.
  3. Perfectionism: The desire for a perfectly organized space can be paralyzing, as we don’t know where to begin.
  4. Emotional Baggage: Clutter can represent emotional baggage we’re not ready to confront.

Now that we’ve identified these common obstacles let’s explore how to overcome them and start your decluttering journey.

How to Start Decluttering When You’re Overwhelmed

Step 1: Embrace a Positive Mindset

Decluttering is not a punishment; it’s a positive step toward a more organized, peaceful life. Shift your mindset from overwhelm to empowerment by:

  • Setting Realistic Expectations: Acknowledge that decluttering is a process that takes time, and it’s okay to start small.
  • Visualizing the End Result: Imagine how you’ll feel in a clutter-free space, and use that vision as motivation.
  • Being Kind to Yourself: Understand that everyone has clutter, and decluttering is a journey, not a destination.

Step 2: Start Small

When faced with overwhelming clutter, the idea of tackling it all at once can be paralyzing. Instead, start small to build momentum:

  • Choose a Tiny Area: Begin with a single drawer, a small closet, or even just one shelf.
  • Set a Timer: Dedicate a short, focused block of time, like 15 or 30 minutes, to decluttering. It’s easier than you think to declutter a room in 30 minutes.
  • Celebrate Small Wins: Acknowledge your progress, no matter how minor it seems.

You could also try Declutter Your Home in 30 Minutes a Day: The Ultimate Guide to tackle the clutter in small, manageable parts.

Step 3: Create Categories

To declutter effectively, categorize your belongings. This helps you stay organized and focused:

  • Keep: Items you truly need, love, and use regularly.
  • Donate: Things that are in good condition but no longer serve a purpose for you.
  • Sell: Items with value that you can sell or consign.
  • Trash: Anything that’s damaged beyond repair or unusable.
  • Undecided: If you’re unsure about certain items, create a separate category to revisit later.

Step 4: The One-Year Rule

A helpful guideline is the one-year rule. If you haven’t used or worn an item in the past year, it’s a strong indication that it’s time to let it go. Be honest with yourself about your usage patterns.

Step 5: Declutter by Category

Marie Kondo, a renowned decluttering expert, suggests tackling clutter by category, not by room. This approach helps you see the full extent of your belongings and prevents you from shifting clutter from one room to another. Start with categories like clothing, books, or kitchen items.

Step 6: Focus on Sentimental Items Last

Sentimental items often present the biggest emotional hurdle in decluttering. To ease into this, save sentimental items for last. As you build confidence through decluttering less emotionally charged categories, you’ll be better equipped to make decisions about sentimental belongings.

Step 7: Use the “Spark Joy” Test

Marie Kondo’s “spark joy” test is a powerful tool. Hold each item and ask yourself if it sparks joy, ie does it make you happy? Do you love it? If it doesn’t, it’s a candidate for removal. This simple question helps you connect with your emotional attachment to possessions.

Step 8: Keep, Donate, or Sell

Once you’ve sorted your items into these categories, it’s essential to follow through:

  • Keep: Find a designated home for the items you’re keeping and ensure they are organized and easily accessible.
  • Donate: Consider local charities, shelters, or thrift stores as options for items you’re donating. Your clutter can be someone else’s treasure.
  • Sell: For items with value, explore selling options such as online marketplaces, consignment shops, or garage sales.

Step 9: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Be mindful of the environment while decluttering. Reduce waste by recycling items appropriately and disposing of hazardous materials responsibly.

Step 10: Set Up a Maintenance Routine

Once you’ve decluttered, it’s crucial to establish a maintenance routine to prevent clutter from creeping back in. Regularly review your belongings and ensure they align with your goals and lifestyle.

A bedside table with a lamp and small vase of anemones

Additional Tips for Decluttering Success

  • Get Support: Enlist the help of a friend or family member who can provide encouragement and assistance during the decluttering process.
  • Make a Plan: Setting a goal and thinking about what you want to achieve can help you to stay motivated when it comes to declutter. You might like How to Set Decluttering Goals: Your First Step to Decluttering Success or Do This One Thing Before Starting to Declutter.
  • Digital Decluttering: Don’t forget to declutter your digital life, including emails, files, and photos.
  • Professional Help: If clutter and disorganization severely impact your life, consider seeking professional organizing help.
  • Practice Gratitude: Express gratitude for the things you choose to keep, reinforcing the joy they bring to your life.

It can be hard to start to declutter when you’re overwhelmed – you’re not alone. Starting the decluttering process when you’re overwhelmed might seem daunting, but with the right mindset and a structured approach, you can reclaim your space and your peace of mind. Remember, decluttering is about making room for the things that truly matter in your life.

So, take a deep breath, start small, and celebrate your progress along the way. With each item you let go of, you’re creating space for a more organized, stress-free, and joyful life. Happy decluttering!

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