How to Start Decluttering When Overwhelmed: 10 Practical Tips for Tackling the Mess

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Need help with how to start decluttering when overwhelmed by the mess?

Living in a house that’s overflowing with stuff or just severely lacking in the organization department can be a headache.

In fact, 66% of Americans say a dirty home makes them feel stressed or anxious. And clutter is the most annoying type of mess to deal with.

But keeping your home neat and clean isn’t always easy, especially when you have kids and a pet or two running around.

You may set out with good intentions to keep the clutter at bay but before you know it, the mess is everywhere.

And when that happens, you may feel so paralyzed by all the clutter that you give up.

But there’s a better way to approach decluttering and actually get your home organized.

Keep reading to learn how to start decluttering when overwhelmed and make your home more livable.

Related post: Declutter Your Home Checklist (10 Free Decluttering Printables!)

>>Take the FREE 5-Word Challenge and Learn How to Transform Your Home One Word at a Time!<<

What is the first step to decluttering a messy house?

how to start decluttering

Decluttering your home when you’re buried under the mess really starts with one thing: getting the right mindset. 

You have to get yourself as mentally prepared as possible. Otherwise, you’ll get stuck before you get started.

Acknowledge that:

  • Decluttering may not be easy
  • You’re probably going to want to quit halfway through (or sooner)
  • You’ll ask yourself more than once why you even started

Then, remind yourself of the benefits of decluttering:

  • When your home is neat and clutter-free, it’s easier to find things instead of losing them in the mess
  • A decluttered home is more comfortable for everyone who lives in it
  • You can save time, energy and money when you have less “stuff”

If you haven’t made the mindset shift yet to see the bright side of decluttering, focus on that first. Then you can start digging into the clutter itself.

Related post: Easy Kitchen Decluttering Hacks to Try Now

10 tips for how to start decluttering when overwhelmed

These tips are best followed in order, but really, you can start anywhere.

And remember to come back to them any time you need some motivation to stick with decluttering.

1. Don’t overthink it

Decluttering isn’t always easy.

The more stuff that’s piled up, the longer it might take for you to dig your way out.

But the most important step in how to start decluttering when overwhelmed is to just start.

Don’t spend days obsessing over what you need to do first to declutter your home or how much work it’s going to be.

Simply commit to showing up and taking charge of the mess!

2. Start small

Decluttering your entire house probably isn’t something you’re going to be able to do in a day, unless you live in a tiny home. And if that’s the case, you probably don’t have much clutter to begin with.

So instead of trying to declutter every single room all at once, pick one spot in your home you want to tackle.

It could be your pantry or your kitchen. Or you might want to declutter your kids’ bedrooms first.

If even that seems too overwhelming to declutter, scale it down.

Focus on decluttering a single cabinet, one shelf on the bookcase, the top drawer of your dresser.

By making your decluttering efforts bite-sized, you can avoid feeling even more overwhelmed or demotivated to clean up.

Related post: 11 Simple Toy Rotation Tips for Tackling the Mess in Your Kids’ Rooms

3. Create a decluttering game plan

Decluttering only works if you have a finish line that you’re working toward. Otherwise, you’re basically just moving stuff around in your home.

So as you approach how to start decluttering when overwhelmed, ask yourself these questions:

  • Where will I organize items I’m decluttering?
  • Which room or area will I start with first?
  • How will I sort the items I’m decluttering?
  • What supplies will I need to make decluttering easier?
  • How much time can I spend decluttering each day?

As far as organizing goes, this ties into sorting items as you declutter them.

For example, when I declutter my home, I put items into one of four categories:

  • Things to keep
  • Things to donate or give away
  • Things to sell (Decluttr is a great place to turn unwanted items into cash!)
  • Things to throw away

It’s a really simple system for decluttering but it works for staying organized during the process.

Also, ask yourself what your big goal is for decluttering.

For example, you might be decluttering because you’re ready to adopt a more minimalist lifestyle. Or you may just want to purge anything you don’t need that’s taking up space.

Keeping your decluttering goals in mind can help you with the plan and see it through.

And get your decluttering supplies in order before you start. For example, you might want to invest in:

Get all of your decluttering tools together in one place. That way, you’re not trekking around the house looking for them and breaking your decluttering flow.

4. Don’t multitask

For years, we’ve been told that multitasking is the only way to get anything done.

And as a busy mom, you’ve probably tried juggling two, three, four or even five things at a time before. I know have.

But here’s the thing. Multitasking doesn’t really work.

In fact, it can be completely counterproductive.

If you’re trying to declutter when overwhelmed, then there’s no room for multitasking. Instead, it’s better to get completely focused on doing one thing at a time.

By focusing your attention on one simple thing, whether it’s decluttering a drawer or clearing out paper clutter that’s piled up in the kitchen, you can actually make progress toward your decluttering goals.

If you’re flitting around from thing to the next, picking up socks here or books there, you’re going to get nowhere fast with your decluttering plan.

Instead, get a timer and set it for 15 minutes, 20 minutes, an hour–however much time you can spare.

Then as the minutes tick away, pick one (and only one) decluttering task to complete.

Related post: 11 Daily Tasks to Clean House Quickly When You Don’t Have Time for the Mess

5. Go for a quick decluttering win

how to start decluttering

Certain spots in your home that are cluttered might make you feel more frustrated with the mess than others.

So a simple trick for how to start decluttering when overwhelmed is to aim for a quick win out of the gate.

In other words, pick one room or one area that’s driving you crazy with clutter and clean it up first.

For example, this could be:

  • A corner of the kitchen that seems to attract phone chargers, bills and other odds and ends
  • The entryway that’s a jumbled mess of shoes, coats and bags
  • A crowded desktop that makes it impossible to find important papers
  • Your hall closet that threatens to bury you in stuff every time you open the door

The goal here isn’t necessarily to tackle the most cluttered spot in your home, since that could take several days worth of work.

Instead, you’re just trying to make a noticeable dent in the mess and get rid of one trouble spot to start.

If you’ve been thinking that the clutter is just too much to deal with, a neatly organized closet or a tidy entryway can be a great reminder that you can get the mess under control.

6. Declutter daily

Decluttering isn’t something you necessarily need to do in a day or even a weekend.

Living a simpler lifestyle at home can mean doing small things daily to keep the clutter from piling up.

For example, you could pencil in 15 minutes to declutter in your morning routine before your kids wake up. Or you could spend 20 minutes in the evening decluttering a cabinet or drawer.

I found that once I started making decluttering something I did daily, even on a small scale, it became much less overwhelming.

And eventually, decluttering became a habit.

Now, it’s easy to keep my home organized with small decluttering tasks each day. Then focus on doing a big declutter a couple of times a year.

It’s simpler this way and definitely something to try if you’re struggling with how to start decluttering when overwhelmed.

7. Make decluttering a less stressful experience

Until decluttering becomes a habit, it can still make you feel anxious.

So a simple tip for how to start decluttering when overwhelmed is to try and find ways to make it at less mentally painful.

For example, you can:

  • Listen to relaxing music or a great audiobook as you declutter
  • Use some soothing essential oils to create a tranquil environment for decluttering
  • Choose some cute bins to sort and organize things as you declutter
  • Reward yourself at the end of a decluttering session with a good cup of tea or another small treat

I’m not saying doing these things are going to make you love decluttering. But they can make the work you’re doing easier to get through.

8. Take a break from decluttering if you need to

Wading through piles of stuff, especially stuff you may have forgotten about, can stress you out.

If you find yourself getting to a point where you just can’t think about decluttering one more thing, stop.

Go to another room in your house away from the clutter.

Find a quiet spot where you can relax and take a breath.

Listen to some music, meditate–do whatever you need to for 10 or 15 minutes to feel calm again. Then you can go back to decluttering with a clear head.

And if 10 or 15 minutes isn’t enough, take a longer break, like an entire day if you need to.

Just don’t take too long of a break since you can go back to square one with feeling overwhelmed when it’s time to start again.

9. Don’t worry about perfection

Perfection is the enemy of the overwhelmed declutterer.

Seriously. If you’re worried about making things in your home perfect, you’ll never even get started with decluttering.

So ditch the idea that perfection is the goal here and instead, think about what could be good enough.

Being able to see your bathroom or kitchen counters because the mess is gone?

That’s good enough.

Knowing you can open that hall closet without things falling on your head?

That’s good enough.

Being able to meal plan because your pantry is organized and you know what’s in it?

That’s also good enough.

When it comes to how to start decluttering when overwhelmed, it’s okay to set the bar lower at first.

Once you get into the decluttering groove and get the initial mess tackled, you can go back and do a more thorough home edit to try to pare down the “stuff” even more.

10. Get help with decluttering if you’re not making progress

how to declutter when overwhelmed

If you’ve tried these decluttering tips and it still feels like you’re stuck, it may be time to start digging a little deeper.

For example, you might benefit from reading a book like this one.

Or you might check out some helpful decluttering videos on YouTube.

And you could also try an intensive home organization and decluttering course to get your house in order.

If that’s something you’re interested in, I recommend The Organized Home from Hilary at Pulling Curls.

It’s a complete guide to getting your home organized and you should check it out if:

  • You need help decluttering and deciding what to keep or what to get rid of
  • You’re interested in helpful ways to organize your home to make the most of the space you have
  • You could use some motivation to keep your home clean and organized

>>Learn more about The Organized Home and how it can help you calm the chaos!<<

how to start decluttering when overwhelmed

Final thoughts on how to start decluttering when overwhelmed

By now you know exactly how to start decluttering when overwhelmed thanks to these tips.

Do you have some tips or hacks for decluttering your home when the mess is everywhere?

Head to the comments and tell me about it!

And don’t forget to pin and share this post!

Read these posts next for even more decluttering tips:

How to Start Decluttering When Overwhelmed

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