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You have the best intentions of decluttering your home but every time you try to start, you’re instantly overwhelmed and paralyzed. You have no idea where to start decluttering.
This is one of the biggest decluttering roadblocks for many, and it’s completely understandable.
Seeing the mess and stacks of clutter fills you with anxiety and dread. You don’t know how you’re going to get it all done or where to even start decluttering.
You’ve done some research and read several blog posts that all tell you to visualize the end result. They want you to imagine your finished room, document how you plan to use it and create a decluttering plan from that.
That strategy would be great if you could actually visualize the end result. Like a lot of people, the only thing you can see is the big mess that’s staring you in the face. The only thing you can visualize is spending hours sorting through all of that stuff and not making any progress.
Let me help you get started.
Where to Start Decluttering
Decluttering is hard, but it’s even harder when you’re overwhelmed by the mess and don’t know where to start. Give yourself a break and let me help you.
Here’s a plan to help you figure out where to start decluttering.
Take a Before Picture
I know it sounds like a silly waste of time, but take a picture of the cluttered rooms right now. These ‘Before’ pictures will be surprisingly helpful during the decluttering process.
These pictures document your starting point, act as a visual reminder of how much progress you’ve made, and can help you stay motivated throughout the process.
If you’re doing a big decluttering project, enlarge the picture and print it out, then display it somewhere in the room you’re working on. It works best if you put it in a highly visible spot.
Every time you feel the frustration and overwhelm creeping in, or you feel like you’re getting nowhere, hold your ‘before’ picture up and check out the difference. You’ll be able to see all of the progress you’ve already made.
You can also take progress photos as you finish up with each decluttering session. These photos help document your decluttering progress much like they would while losing weight.
You see yourself every day, so you don’t really notice the changes but somebody who hasn’t seen you in a few months notices the differences immediately.
The only way you see the changes is by looking at the scale and paying attention to how your clothes fit. With your cluttered mess, the pictures act as the scale and the clothes.
Take your pictures, then get started.
Those posts you read all told you to create a plan. They said to list your spaces and schedule the times you’re going to declutter but it’s impossible to create a plan when you can’t see past the mess.
I’m going to tell you to just start! Right now (after you’re done reading this post of course), get up and start decluttering the room that’s bothering you the most. If you can’t decide which one bothers you the most, then start in the living room.
Seriously, just get up and start. It doesn’t matter if you have five minutes or thirty minutes, just start.
Now that you have the when (which is NOW), what about the ‘where to start’? I know I said the room that’s bothering you the most, but you’re still wondering where in that room should you start.
I’ll give you the breakdown of what works best for me.
Start With the Garbage
Grab a garbage bag and pick up any obvious garbage in the room. The obvious garbage is the stuff that doesn’t require a decision.
The paper plate and napkin your son used for his afterschool pizza are obvious garbage along with his empty soda can. These are things that you don’t even have to think about. You can tell with one glance that they are garbage.
If that broken universal remote causes you to hesitate because you think you can fix it, then leave it for now. You want to keep moving and quickly and just clear out all of the obvious garbage.
Once that’s done, and before you move on to the next step, take another picture. Compare it to your starting picture and pat yourself on the back for the progress you’ve already made!
Declutter Stuff that Doesn’t Belong
Once the garbage is gone, start decluttering things that belong in a different room.
Large baskets will make this task a little easier and quicker. Place one basket for each ‘other room’ at the edge of the room you’re working on.
As you pick up the things that don’t belong in the current room, put them in the basket for the room they do belong in. Work through the room in a logical pattern.
Once you’re done, move the basket to the room that stuff belongs in. If it drives you crazy to just move the basket of stuff because you feel like you’re just moving clutter around, go ahead and sort through it.
Just remember, if you’re dealing with the clutter in the basket from another room, you’re not dealing with the clutter in the room you started with.
Here’s the sequence I follow to declutter each room.
I start with my floors because nothing annoys me more quickly than tripping over something in my home.
Remove all the things that don’t belong on the floor in your room. Pick up all of the shoes, backpacks, cat toys, and other random objects that would pose a trip hazard.
Place each item in the baskets or move it to its regular home.
If you haven’t been taking pictures in between each step, it’s time for a progress picture now!
Declutter Flat Surfaces
Move to the flat surfaces next. Flat surfaces are highly visible and can make your home look extremely messy even if it isn’t.
Flat surfaces include countertops, tables, buffets, nightstands, and desks. Just clear the top flat surfaces right now, you’ll get to the storage areas later.
Remember you’re only worrying about the stuff that doesn’t actually belong in the current room.
On to the furniture and piles of jackets, throw blankets, and laundry. Pick up anything that doesn’t belong and put it into the appropriate basket.
Remove any pillows that don’t belong. Check between and under your cushions, but don’t worry about dust bunnies and couch lint right now because you’re only decluttering.
Remove any furniture that doesn’t belong. This is where I’m constantly putting away tv trays or ottomans that belong in a different room.
Declutter Cupboards, Cabinets, and Drawers
Depending on the size of your home and rooms, this step can get overwhelming. Work on each cupboard, cabinet, or drawer one at a time.
Make sure to declutter inside of any storage type furniture including ottomans, hutches, and tables.
Declutter Stuff That Does Belong
Now it’s time for the hard part. It’s time to make some difficult decisions and go through the stuff that’s left in the room.
Follow the previous pattern of floors (area rugs included), flat surfaces, furniture, cupboards, cabinets, and drawers.
Decide which items you’re going to keep in the room. If you’re having trouble deciding to keep or toss, ask yourself the following questions;
How long has it been since I used this item? If you can’t remember, it’s been too long and you need to get rid of it.
Are you keeping this item just because it was a gift or keepsake? If yes, consider taking a picture for a memory book and getting rid of the actual item.
Are you likely to buy this item if you saw it in the store for the first time today? If not, maybe it’s time to get rid of it.
Don’t forget to check the 14 Places Most People Forget to Declutter.
- How To Declutter Your Kitchen
- Quickly Declutter Your Living Room
- How To Declutter Your Bathroom
- What To Do With Clutter Once You’ve Decluttered
Tips and Hacks for Where to Start Decluttering
Think in Smaller Chunks
You don’t have time to declutter the entire house, and thinking about it overwhelms you and keeps you from doing anything. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you’re not going to declutter your entire house in a day. Think about decluttering a certain part of a certain room as one session. That makes it achievable.
Declutter any Time You Can
If you’re cooking dinner, declutter the cooking utensil drawer while you’re waiting for the roast to brown. Watching tv? Declutter the coffee table drawer.
Declutter in Stages
Decluttering is an ongoing process. If you have trouble making decisions, declutter in stages. Do an initial declutter that removes the easy stuff that you don’t struggle with. Once that’s done, work through the entire space again and deal with the items that require tougher decisions.
Conclusion: Where to Start Decluttering
Now that you know where to start decluttering and how to logically work through the process, please give us some inspiration and keep us up to date on all of your decluttering wins in the comments below.