6 Tips to Declutter When You Feel Overwhelmed

One of the most asked questions I see in my comments, on Facebook, or on other blogs is “How do you declutter when you feel overwhelmed by it all?”. I’ve been there too. I have been overwhelmed and exhausted and just completely over the mess and clutter in my house. I get it.

2017 was a rough year. We were overwhelmed physically and mentally. Our home certainly reflected how we felt.

When you feel overwhelmed by clutter and can’t start decluttering because you feel overwhelmed, it is hard. Here’s why we started decluttering and ultimately began our minimalist journey:

  • We were ready to start a family but didn’t fee like we had the space
  • The clutter contributed to our daily stress
  • It also contributed to the workload of house work that needed to be done (and I was over it)
  • We wanted to save more money than we already were
  • We were ready for change

These next tips will help guide you on how to start decluttering when you feel overwhelmed.

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Tip #1 – Find Your BIG WHY

To declutter when you feel overwhelmed, you need to start with your BIG WHY.

Why do you want to declutter?

This isn’t why you think your spouse or your mom wants to declutter. This is all. about. you. Decluttering can have selfish motivations and that’s okay. If you’re at your wit’s end and can’t take the clutter anymore – that’s part of your BIG WHY!

For example, our BIG WHY was to get rid of all the stuff that was holding us back in the past and to make room for what’s important to us now. We decided to declutter to let go of that emotional and physical room that clutter took up.

Tip #2 – Enlist the Help of Family and Friends

When you start to declutter (especially when you declutter when you feel overwhelmed) you will need emotional support and the backing of your family and friends. If I was the only one in our home that decided to declutter, it would have taken me a lot longer to go through everything and make those tough decisions.

When you live with people, you need to have a respectful conversation with them about what is going to take place – about your decluttering journey.

One way to gently approach your family is to explain your BIG WHY and let them know that you would love it if they joined in. You’re not out to discard all of their items, but you want to make sure they have room for all of the things they love (activities and items).

Do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT discard someone else’s belongings. It will end badly for you. If you hate that grody armchair from college in your living room that belong’s to your husband – talk to him about it! Don’t just throw it to the curb and expect him to be okay about it.

This is the same with kids. Don’t throw out a toy because it is in your way. If your child is old enough to help (age two-three is when they can make decisions) enlist their toy expertise! Have them pick toys and outfits they no longer love and drop off the donation with them. This way they feel very included.

Tip #3 – Be Realistic, This Takes Time

More power to you if you can pull a weekend long all-nighter (fueled by RedBull and coffee) and declutter your whole house. But that just isn’t realistic for most people.

To declutter when you feel overwhelmed, it is best to take your time. This can be a very thoughtful and cathartic process.

We have been decluttering since July 2017. Our son was born in the spring of 2018. It’s now May 2019 and I finally feel like we’re at a stopping point. If a baby would not have been added to the family (I love him dearly so I am very thankful to be his momma!), I would estimate that we would have taken about a year to fully declutter.

When you go through a BIG decluttering process, you’ll realize a few things about your home which can extend out the process:

  • You find that you have more space
  • You’ll probably rearrange furniture (at least twice!)
  • You might fall in love with your house all over again and remember why you bought it in the first place
  • The more you use your new, clutter-free spaces you might find that you want to declutter even more

ALL of those happened to us!
We found that our home was very spacious – more spacious than we thought.
We rearranged furniture and purchased new furniture that made our lives easier.
I remembered why I wanted to purchase our home in the first place almost five years ago.
The more I decluttered, the less overwhelmed I felt… so I kept decluttering!

Tip #4 – Start Small and Go Room-by-Room

I know, I know. Marie Kondo tells you to declutter by category. The KonMari method totally works! But when you pull everything out that belongs in one category (clothing for example), you create a bigger mess. That’s not what you want when you already feel overwhelmed.

Start small. What’s the smallest room that you own? It’s probably your car! Take an afternoon and declutter the contents of your car. Grab the vacuum and some wipes and give it a good detailing too. Drive it through the car wash and you’ll feel like you own a brand new car again.

This small step in a small space will leave you feeling refreshed every time you get in to drive somewhere.

For a room-by-room guide, head on over to my 28 Items to Declutter post for an in-depth look.

Tip #5 – Decluttering Guilt Will Happen

Like I posted about last week, decluttering guilt can happen to anyone. Especially when you declutter when you feel overwhelmed, that guilt that creeps up can cripple your efforts.

Power through the guilt.

Say “thank you” to the items that once served you well but you no longer need.

Use an item one last time as a way to say good-bye and confirm that you no longer need or want it.

Give items away to charity or recycle items as you can to lessen the waste produced by your decluttering efforts.

Tip #6 – Keep Going and Don’t Look Back

When you feel like you can’t do anymore and it’s just too taxing on you, remember your BIG WHY.

  • Remember what got you started.
  • Think of how good it will feel to have your home and belongings under control again.
  • Learn to love your house again.
  • Keep turning your house into a home that you cherish coming back to everyday.

When you stay committed to decluttering and see the process all the way through, your home is less likely to fill up with junk again. You’ve dedicated so much time out of your already busy schedule to sort out and declutter your belongings. Why stop now?

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  1. I can’t imagine getting rid of this much of my clothing & accessories!!! I do own a lot of clothing & accessories but I use them!!! I need them to dress!!! I would be very sad if I had to get rid of 75 to 80% of my wardrobe!!! Perhaps it would be helpful to rid myself of 1/3 of my clothing only!!! I may try and do this!!!

    1. Whatever amount feels manageable, you should keep! There’s no rule that says you only can have 10 things in your closet (because the rules are fake!). I got rid of so much because of the season of life I was in and what I could mentally/physically manage. I still have quite a pared down closet and it works for me! If you do feel like you have too much, you can always try to pack some up for a while and see how it makes you feel. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

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