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How to Declutter When You Feel Overwhelmed

How to Declutter When You Feel Overwhelmed


Decluttering our homes can be tough. Getting rid of our stuff can be hard, physically and emotionally but particularly if we have a lot of clutter, not much time and don’t know how and where to start. If you feel overwhelmed by your stuff, here are some tips on how to declutter when you feel overwhelmed.


Decluttering feels like it should be easy doesn’t it? You just get rid of the stuff you don’t want and keep the stuff you do. Right? Well, yes in theory that’s what decluttering is. Yet, in reality, decluttering for some of us can be far from easy.

Here are some scenarios which you might recognise…

  • You’ve got no time or energy
  • You’ve always got the kids with you
  • Your partner doesn’t understand what you want to do
  • You’ve got lots of stuff
  • You’re a bit of a hoarder and struggle to let go
  • You don’t like throwing things away or wasting money
  • You don’t know where or how to start

Decluttering can feel overwhelming, physically and emotionally, for a number of reasons. The problem is, when something feels overwhelming, we put it off, find excuses, procrastinate, save it for another day, or just continue as we always have done. We get stuck in a decluttering rut.

Clutter won’t go away just because you pretend it’s not there. And, often, clutter tries to invade our homes every day, from junk mail through the letterbox, packaging on our food and emails into our inbox.

Clutter grows. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by your clutter already, but want to do something about it, you might need to deal with it sooner rather than later before your clutter grows some more.

In this article I’m sharing some tips to help you know how to declutter when you feel overwhelmed. I hope they support and encourage you to make a start and feel the benefits of decluttering your home.


Here are some ideas and tips to try when you want to declutter your home but feel overwhelmed and stuck. I hope they help!

1. Understand your why

When faced with a task, and particularly if you’re finding it a daunting one like decluttering your entire home, it’s vital to ask yourself ‘why’ you want to do it.

  • Why aren’t things working for you now?
  • What will change?
  • What benefit will you get?

Identifying the reason and the purpose will spur you on when the going gets tough. It will help motivate you to carry on if you hit a stumbling block (sorting through old photos perhaps or tackling the attic!?).

Remember your ‘why’, write it down and repeat it out loud to yourself before you start decluttering.

2. Keep it very simple

When things get complicated, we tend not to follow them through or make excuses to avoid them. Each time you pick up an item, just ask yourself some easy questions:

  • Do you love it?
  • Do you need it?
  • Does it add value in some way?

If the answer is no to all three of these questions, get rid of the item. You’re not likely to make more use of it by stuffing it in a cupboard somewhere.

Read more tips to help you know how to decide what to keep and what to get rid of when decluttering.

3. Have a plan

Some of us just decide to dive straight into clearing the clutter and get swept along in the process. Others work better when they know what they’re doing.

There’s a few of ways you can define the rules before you go into battle with your clutter. Either:

  • choose a room, type of item or particular project and stick with that or,
  • decide how long you’ve got, set a timer and plunge in.
  • follow this list of 100 things to get rid of to declutter you home. It includes a free printable which you can follow and track your progress.
  • try my free 30-day Declutter Challenge, to declutter your home, one day at a time. Again there’s a free printable you can use.

Whichever way you choose, go with a plan and try it out. A plan makes it easy for you to follow, you don’t have to think about what, where and how – feel overwhelmed by the number of decisions, let alone the amount of stuff. You can instead focus on just getting started.

4. Prepare beforehand

As I mentioned above, planning and preparation beforehand, both practical and for your mindset, will help make decluttering easier. It will also help you overcome some of the common decluttering challenges and obstacles which trip us up or impede our decluttering progress.

Try these tips for things to do before you start decluttering.

5. Start small

The hardest part of anything is usually getting started in the first place. Whether you have one cupboard or a whole house to declutter, you’ll still have to start somewhere. Once you’ve started, the momentum and confidence you gather will hopefully encourage you to continue and, decluttering gets easier with practice.

Here are some very tiny projects for you to start with (and how you can build on them if you have time and inclination):

  • Delete an unused app from your phone (then try deleting all unused apps and re-order the ones you’re keeping)
  • Donate one book (moving onto the whole shelf)
  • Remove 5 old or unwanted emails from your inbox, not mine hopefully(!), (aim towards all unwanted emails and re-order/archive what’s left)
  • Throw out any empty or very-nearly-empty bottles in your bathroom (then have a go at the flat surfaces and storage in your bathroom)
  • One shelf in your fridge (moving onto the whole fridge)

Starting can be small but effective, especially when you consider that even big projects need to start somewhere to be successful.

6. Start in an easy place

If decluttering feels overwhelming you might want to start in a place of least resistance. It should be easy and quick to declutter and where you can both see and feel the results. The bathroom is a great place to start decluttering as it’s probably small, with a limited amount of stuff and no difficult-to-declutter items such as sentimental pieces to hold you up.

7. Start where it will make a difference

If you have little kids, toys are likely to cause you clutter, stress and take up your time, space and energy.

If you like cooking, it might be your kitchen and food cupboards so you can find utensils, pots and pans and ingredients more easily.

Declutter your clothes if you’re fed up of stressing in the mornings deciding what to wear and run out of time. Less options in your wardrobe means less decisions and more enjoyment for you.

Tackle the things or areas in your home where the clutter is the biggest problem. That way you’ll feel the benefits of decluttering your home quickest and hopefully be inspired to keep decluttering the rest of your home.

8. Declutter in waves

Try decluttering in waves. Declutter big and bulky items to instantly create more space and make sorting through your clutter easier.

Grab a laundry basket and do a quick sweep of each room or area, to declutter the stuff that’s in the wrong room, obviously rubbish, or that you definitely don’t want to keep.

Then go back in smaller waves and each time you’ll notice something new in the room that you hadn’t noticed before. Decluttering gets easier with practice so just dive in and get started!

9. Break it down into manageable chunks

Don’t plan to declutter a big project, like the entire kitchen, in one go. That might feel overwhelming and is just likely to take you ages and put you off before you’ve even started.

Instead, try breaking it down into manageable chunks. Using the kitchen as an example, try breaking it up into – cupboards, drawers, worktops, gadgets, appliances, the fridge and stock cupboard. You can tackle these one by one in stages, so it feels easier and less overwhelming than attempting to do the entire kitchen in one go.

10. Take regular breaks

Make sure you give yourself plenty of breaks, perhaps for a cup of coffee whilst you sit down. Decluttering doesn’t have to be done all in one go as that would put most of us at the thought of the sheer scale of the task. Break it down in small chunks with regular breaks in between.

How to declutter when you feel overwhelmed

11. Think of decluttering as gifting

If you have trouble getting rid of your stuff, think of it more in terms of giving to others. Give a book to a friend, take a bundle of clothes to the charity shop, take toys your kids have grown out of to the local nursery or playgroup. There’s usually somebody who can benefit from the stuff you no longer need.

Decluttering that feels like a gentle act of kindness might be less overwhelming and intimidating than deciding to declutter your entire home.

This worked especially well with my kids and their toys. I asked them to think about donating some of their unwanted toys to other children who weren’t as fortunate and it’s still a practice we do regularly even now.

12. Decide what to do with unwanted stuff

One of the biggest problems with decluttering is knowing what to do with the stuff you don’t want to keep.

You really have 4 options:

  • Donate
  • Recycle
  • Sell
  • Throw away

It’s a personal choice and there are pros and cons to each. Donating is much easier than selling so consider this option whenever possible.

13. Reward yourself

If you decluttered some stuff, give yourself a high five and some kind words of encouragement. Treat yourself to a slice of cake, a warm bath, a glass of wine. We all need an incentive sometimes to look forward to!

14. Create decluttering habits

You can get rid of clutter once but it will build up again. Create some decluttering habits that you can practice every day and your clutter won’t get a chance to build up.

Try these habits for a clutter-free home for some ideas.

15. Declutter little and often

You might find it easier and more convenient to do decluttering little and often rather than dedicating a large chunk of time to it. Declutter slowly and take your time. Not many of us can devote a whole day or weekend to clearing our clutter, or want to for that matter!

Doing 5, 10 or 20 minutes consistently, here or there in small windows, will get you much better results than doing nothing for a week then catching up all Saturday.

Just plan what and where you’re going to declutter with each spare bit of time. This way you’re organised and know what needs to be done in the time you’ve got available, rather than wasting time deciding when you could actually be decluttering.

16. Schedule decluttering into your calendar

Sometimes when we find something overwhelming, we put it off. Put decluttering time into your schedule on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Set a reminder, plan what you’re going to declutter during that time and make a start when the reminder goes off.

17. Organise after decluttering

Once we’ve decluttered, it can be tempting to organise what’s left. For example, labelling food containers, hanging clothes by colour or category etc. Organising our homes is helpful but it’s a big job in itself which could overwhelm you further. Declutter first, then organise!

18. Forget perfection

Decluttering is not a precise science and there are many ways to go about it. Even if you manage to declutter now, I’m sure you’ll continue to find other items to declutter over time. Don’t aim for perfection in decluttering, or getting the process right, just dive in, get started and do your best. Even a little less clutter is a good start!

19. Focus

Above all, if you’ve decided to declutter you need to focus. Avoid distractions, push the negative thoughts to one side, commit to what you’re doing, remember why you’re doing it and keep focused on the task at hand. You’ve got this!

I hope these tips are helpful and give you some ideas on how to declutter when you feel overwhelmed.


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I’m Antonia and on this blog I share practical inspiration to simplify your home, time and life. Follow me on InstagramFacebook and Pinterest! You can also subscribe to Balance Through Simplicity and receive regular simplicity tips straight to your inbox for free. Make sure you never miss an article plus you’ll get a copy of my free Declutter Starter Kit as a welcome gift!