Are you wanting to start decluttering your home, but having a tough time with it? If so, you’re not alone. Many people struggle to declutter their homes because they are overwhelmed with how to start. Here are 7 easy baby step you can do to get you moving in the right direction.
How Do You Attack Clutter When You’re Overwhelmed?
It doesn’t take much to feel overwhelmed when your home begins to become overrun with clutter. Just a few hours of my boys being home from school, and any semblance of order I’ve created quickly unravels. It doesn’t take long for the stress levels to rise and the patience levels to go down. Wayyyy down.
To make matters worse, continuing to live in a cluttered home can begin negatively affecting your health. There have been numerous studies that link clutter to anxiety and the increased release of cortisol, otherwise referred to as the stress hormone.
While the struggle with clutter is real, it doesn’t have to feel like you’re fighting a losing battle. Sometimes, learning a few simple tips can help in your path to a decluttered house. Doing a few small things can get you ‘unstuck’ and start moving you in the right directions to decluttering your home.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you look around and see just how much has to be done. But baby steps is the way to go. With a few easy strategies, you can be on your way to a clutter-free home.
Where to Start Decluttering Your Home When Overwhelmed: 7 Easy Baby Steps
1|Start with a List
Step one. Start with a list. This will be one of the most helpful steps.
You will accomplish a lot of decluttering with the help of to-do lists, even if it’s over days, weeks or even months.. If they’re not already a part of your life, get on that!
The main reason why lists are so effective has to do with your brain. Lists are extremely effective tools to create a sense of accomplishment, especially in visual learners. The feeling of crossing off an item on your lists makes you feel good.
Start with making a list of where and what in your house needs to be decluttered. Start by going room by room. Then, break it down what needs to be decluttered inside those rooms – closets, drawers, cabinets, under the bed, shelves, etc.
You can find many premade checklists (this is one I like), but I personally find it easier to make my own list, and then check it against another to see what I’ve forgotten.
You know your house best, and sometimes, someone else’s list adds to the overwhelm.
After that, take one item in that room to tackle. Or, if you have time, tackle the room.
But once you have it listed, tick them off one by one. Keep the list in a visible place, so you can attack an area the next time you have some free minutes or even better – schedule it in.
2| Set a Timer to Declutter for Small Period of Time
Most people don’t feel a rush of excitement at the thought of decluttering an entire home. And as helpful as a decluttering challenge might be, it can feel overwhelming, too.
Not only that, it can feel like that’s just impossible to accomplish, because who has that kind of time in a day or in a week?
If this massive task sounds unappealing to you, too, you’re not alone (hand-raised!). For an easier way to declutter your home, start with just a small period of time – even as little as five-minute periods. Set a timer, an amount of time you know you can follow through on, and pick a spot on your list.
By doing this, you’re accomplishing a few things. First, you’re giving your brain an incredibly easy goal to reach. It’s much easier to think about cleaning for five minutes than for 5 hours.
With this method, you’re also tricking your brain. This process is otherwise known as the five-minute rule. The thought behind this process is simple. By promising yourself to do something for five minutes, you typically get engrossed in what you’re doing. In this case, decluttering your home for five minutes can soon turn into an hour or more of cleaning.
3| Declutter in the Margins
This one is probably one of the most effective life hacks for me, especially when my boys were home with me all day, every day. You would be surprised just how much you can get done in the margins of your day. And by margins, I mean those small increments of in-between time …while dinner is cooking, while your kids are watching a TV show, when you have a few minutes before you need to leave the house.
That list you made? When you have a few minutes, attack one of those things on your list. Even if you don’t get the whole job done, you’ll get something done. And just go back to it the next time you get a few free minutes.
I know, it’s hard to leave a task undone, and it’s hard to start it if you know you can’t finish it. But trust me, you can get a lot done in those little margins of time. And sometimes, that may really be the only time you get to work on it. Five minutes here, 10 minutes there – it all adds up to a decluttered space.
4| Try to Donate One Thing Everyday
You’ll often come across items that you no longer want while decluttering your home. When this happens, consider donating the items you no longer need. Giving household items to charities gets them out of your home, effectively reducing clutter.
Get a box, put it in a closet or some other out-of-the-way place, and then just continuously add items you want to get rid of. Trust me, it won’t be long before that box is overflowing.
And you don’t have to do this in the middle of a decluttering session. As you go about your day and are in your house, just make this a daily goal – to find one thing you don’t need or use, that would be helpful for someone else.
You’ve probably heard of KonMari’s strategy of asking yourself if this object is bringing you joy. Clearly, not every item in our home brings us joy – sometimes it’s just useful, lol. But if it’s not useful and the joy you’ve received from it has been exhausted, it’s OK to let it go.
There are other beneficial reasons to donate things to a charity. In addition to decluttering your home, obviously, another major benefit is that you’re helping others who are less fortunate than yourself. Knowing you’re helping others makes most people feel a sense of pride and happiness.
Another reason to donate to charity is to help stop the overcrowding of landfills. Did you know that the average person in the United States throws away over 68 pounds of clothing each year?
Plus, charitable donations can be a major help during tax time as deductions for charitable donations. (Just be sure to always ask for and save your receipts. You might need to present receipts as proof of your charitable donations.)
5| Fill a Single Trash Bag
Another great way to declutter your home is by opting to fill a single trash bag full of unwanted belongings. This is a version of the 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge that some people do before Lent. If you can commit to decluttering your home by filling up 40 trash bags worth of unwanted items in 40 days – that’s great.
However, making such a commitment isn’t always realistic for most of us busy moms. Plus, committing to declutter your home every single day isn’t the best goal for someone struggling to even just get started. Remember, we are about baby steps.
Just commit to filling up one trash bag – it can be daily, weekly, monthly. And it doesn’t even have to be a big, black garbage bag – or even a kitchen garbage bag. It can even just be one of your Walmart bags.
Give yourself the goal of filling up one trash bag every few days or once per week. That’s a very doable baby step.
Just pick one spot in your home – a junk drawer, the bathroom medicine cabinet, under the kitchen sink…anywhere, and start there. Think along the lines of expired toiletries and make-up, broken gadgets, games with missing pieces… you really don’t want to donate what is trash to you. Just get rid of it.
This is a great list 50 things you should throw away, to help you get rid of what shouldn’t still be hanging out in your house.
And, chances are you’ll have stuff to toss as well as stuff to donate.
6| Use the Closet Hanger Technique
Extreme Clutter’s Peter Walsh shared this hack in an article for Oprah.com – the reverse clothes-hanger trick. While the thought behind this cleaning method is simple, it’s also incredibly effective.
The process for this easy way to declutter your closet is simple. When you put an article of clothing back into your closet after wearing it, flip the hanger so it faces the opposite direction of your clothes. Over a few months, take note of each piece of clothing on reverse hangers. Then, consider donating or selling the clothing on the hangers that were never reversed.
I know this one can be tough because of attachments to clothes, or, if you’re like me, “the clothes I’m saving for when I lose weight.” Even if you are unsure if you’ll be able to go through it, still go through the process. Give yourself any kind of time limit (3 months, 6 months, this time next year), and assess them.
7| Start with What Stresses You Out the Most
Is there one place in your house where you can feel yourself twitch when you look at it? Like the clutter is twisting your insides? Start there.
You can use a combination of the above tips in that space – setting a time, decluttering in the margins, donating, and trashing items. You can tackle it slowly, but once it’s done, you will feel amazing! And it will motivate you to see the same results in the rest of your house.
By going after the place where you’d likely procrastinate, you are taking charge of your home and basically, showing it who’s boss.
And if you need reminding – you are. That’s who.
When None of This Works, Get Outside Help
Sometimes, you have to throw in the towel with clutter. This doesn’t mean giving up and letting clutter continue to pile up. Instead, it’s sometimes a good idea to get help from professional organizers or even friends and family who have a knack for this kind of thing,
Many people find it helpful to hire outside help when it’s time to clean their homes. One reason for this is because a neutral party won’t share any attachments to your belongings. Sometimes, these attachments can cause people to hold onto items longer than they should. If after trying these steps, your house is still being overrun by clutter, it’s OK to ask for help.
Treat Yo’ Self After a Declutter Victory
Positive reinforcement can be a big motivator. Play a little game with yourself – allow yourself a reward after you complete a room or after a certain period of time successfully decluttering. I shouldn’t have to say it, but please don’t reward yourself with more stuff, lol.
Maybe treat yourself with a massage or a mani/pedi. Or, if there’s something you’ve really wanted or needed, do not let yourself get it until you’ve cleaned and purged some of the clutter.
The Best Benefit of Decluttering? A Better Quality of Life
A cluttered home can make anyone feel helpless and stressed out. But once you take charge and get some order back in your home, you’ll see such a boost in the quality of your life – your inner peace, the flow of the activities in your home – all the freed-up space not just in your home but in your mind and soul.
With less things to manage, there is less stress. Less of that claustrophobic, choking feeling. All of that equals a MUCH better quality of life. Start small, take baby steps, and I promise, you’ll get there.
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Once you take on your home, you just might be addicted to how freeing this feels. To get that same kind of organization in your life, too, here are 21 Free Printables for Organizing Your Life and Home. This one is specifically for toy organization after Christmas: Best Toy Organization Ideas after Christmas: 7 Easy Steps to Declutter
And after you’re organized, if you want to pretty things up with decor and intentional aesthetics, check out these tips for Decorating Your Home on a Budget – no wasteful spending on more stuff!
If you’ve come across some salvageable items in your decluttering and you want to repurpose some of those for crafts or home decor, here are 25 Budget-Friendly Farmhouse DIY Home Decor Projects.
And if you have some specific rooms you’d like to update and refresh, check out the posts below!
If you take this decluttering, I’d love to hear how it’s going and cheer you on! Other thoughts? Leave a comment below!