How to Start Decluttering When You Feel Overwhelmed by too Much Stuff

Is your home full of clutter? Are you so frustrated by the mess that you don’t know what to do? Here are some tips to help you start decluttering when you’re overwhelmed by all of your stuff.

Clutter can be paralyzing and cost you in ways you never imagined. You’re well aware that it’s taking over the spaces in your home, but do you realize how it’s affecting your health and well-being?

Clutter causes stress, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, and even depression. Studies have shown that visual clutter can actually decrease your working memory.1

Think about that. No wonder you can’t find your keys! Besides having so much stuff in the way, the mere sight of all that clutter is clouding your memory.

It makes a lot of sense, but at the same time, that’s just crazy! It’s time to clear that clutter, and rescue your home, health, and well-being!

Why do I have such a hard time getting rid of stuff?

Getting rid of stuff is difficult for many reasons. People associate dollar values and sentimental attachments to their things. They also fear they might need it at some future date.

Getting rid of things might not ever be easy, but there are some things you can do to overcome the roadblocks that prevent you from decluttering.

What is the first step to decluttering?

The first step to decluttering is deciding where to start. That decision can be complicated and overwhelming all on its own, but it doesn’t need to be. You can start right where you are.

overwhelmed woman surrounded by clutter

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Tips to Help you Start Decluttering Even When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

You’ve done the research, watched every show, and even read a few blogs. You’ve pinned every idea you could find on Pinterest, but you still can’t start decluttering.

Here are some great ways to conquer the overwhelm and get started.

Declutter Something Right Now

Just do it! Start! That sounds so cliché, and I’m sure you’ve read it before, but just try it.

You’re here searching ‘How to Start Decluttering’, right? This is me telling you how!

Every time the word ‘clutter’ enters your mind, get up and spend 5 minutes decluttering. What are you waiting for? Do it right now!

Put the phone down and scan the flat surfaces in front of you. The minute your mind stops on an item that qualifies as clutter, get up and throw it away or put it in a ‘Donations’ box.

Don’t worry, I won’t go anywhere. You can pick up reading right where you left off. I’ll even put an attention-getting sentence right after this one so you know where you were!


Great Job! You just pushed the overwhelm aside and started decluttering in less than 5 minutes. See how easy that was?

Here are some more ideas to help you start decluttering.


decluttering mistakes printable guide

Join thousands of VIPs for cleaning, decluttering, and organizing tips sent straight to your inbox. As a welcome gift, we’ll send you this FREE printable Decluttering Mistakes Guide that tells you exactly what NOT to do when decluttering.

Get Rid of Visual Clutter to Relieve Some of Your Stress and Frustration

Start with visual clutter for a quick win. Visual clutter is frustrating and stress-inducing. It’s in your face and serves as a constant reminder of unfinished business.

Quick note: Spouses and children do NOT count as visual clutter!!! But Nice Try!!!

Visual clutter typically accumulates on your flat surfaces such as counters, tables, furniture, and floors. Once the first few pieces pile up, the rest just follows suit.

For example, look at the clutter on your kitchen counter and take note of how it makes you feel. Jot down the first words that come to your mind.

Now get up and declutter those counters. Sort through the stuff and get rid of anything that qualifies as clutter. The clutter-free countertops will instantly relieve some of your stress and frustration.

Even if you cheated and piled all the clutter in a laundry basket to stash in the closet, the visual impact was immediate. You likely felt a little sense of relief looking at the uncluttered counter.

By the way, I do NOT recommend the ‘hide it in a laundry basket’ method as part of a regular decluttering strategy. All you did was shift it to a different spot and you’ll still have to deal with it eventually.

Start by Declutter Easy Stuff Like Trash and Recycling to Build Momentum

Start with the easy stuff so you experience success and realize it’s ok to let things go.

Scan your room for any empty cardboard boxes, broken remotes, used paper plates and napkins, empty soda bottles, worn-out clothing, empty perfume bottles, etc. Throw them in the trash or recycle bin.

You’ll likely see a noticeable difference just from getting rid of the garbage and recycling. Seeing the transformation can create a snowball effect and motivate you to keep decluttering.

It also puts you in a ‘decision making’ mindset that’ll be very useful when you get to the sentimental things that are a bit more difficult to let go of.

overwhelmed woman surrounded by clutter

Start with Big Stuff to Make Quick Progress and Extra Space

Begin decluttering by removing large items in order to give yourself some room to move and breathe.

People often leave the bigger items for last because they’re harder to move and get rid of. Removing them first makes a big impact and can make it a lot easier to move about the room.

Big things include empty carboard boxes, furniture you no longer use, broken vacuums, old console televisions, dead appliances, etc.

A big visual impact will motivate you to keep decluttering.

Start Decluttering High Impact Areas First for Big Rewards

Start decluttering high-impact areas first. These are the areas that are likely causing the most frustration and will make the most noticeable difference in your daily life.

High impact areas include but aren’t limited to your entryway, kitchen counters, dining room table, and bathroom counters. They’re the most frequently used rooms in your home, and the most likely to collect excess clutter.

Starting with one of these areas can give you a quick and highly visible transformation. The gratification and satisfaction from starting with one of these hot spots can give you the boost you need to continue through the rest of the home.

Schedule Your Decluttering Sessions

Setting a schedule decluttering time can be very beneficial and motivating.

Whether it’s a quick declutter of refrigerator leftovers or a week-long deep declutter of your entire home, schedule your decluttering session as if it were your day job or a doctor’s appointment.

Put it in your calendar. Assign it a specific start and stop time. Then commit to seeing it through as if you have no choice.

Make it your single most important task for the time period that you schedule it. You can’t cancel it for anything less than a personal emergency.

It sounds a little silly at first but just try it. When you actually prioritize your decluttering sessions, you’ll be a lot more successful in starting and completing them.

Do a Quick Decluttering Task

Start by doing quick decluttering tasks to eliminate the excuse of not having enough time.

You don’t need to declutter your entire home in one session. You don’t even have to finish a room all at once.

A quick decluttering task doesn’t take more than 10 minutes and can be done in the margins of your day or along with other tasks.

Some examples are decluttering the fridge while getting the steak out for dinner, clean out a vanity drawer while brushing your teeth, or declutter the coffee table while watching the news.

Shorter decluttering tasks also help you to systematically declutter an entire room without getting overwhelmed and giving up.

Phone a Friend to Help

Ask a friend to come over and help out. Similar to scheduling, it creates a time-based starting point. Unlike scheduling, it has the added benefit of moral support.

Your friend can offer a different perspective on each item. They can ask questions and offer encouragement to help you let go of things.

A friend can keep you on task and help get things out of sight once you’ve made the decision to let go.

Plus, you can have a nice visit, catch up on all the latest news, and maybe even enjoy a celebratory cocktail or glass of wine when you’re done.

Start Decluttering Even if You’re Overwhelmed

There are Several Ways to Start Decluttering Even When You’re Overwhelmed.

You can ‘live in the moment’ and just do it. Look around you, identify a piece of clutter, and get rid of it. Then keep going. Taking that first step is usually the hardest.

If that advice is too general for you, start decluttering the stuff sitting on your flat surfaces. Getting rid of that visual clutter will help reduce your stress and frustration.

You can also start with the easy stuff including garbage and recycling. You likely don’t have any attachments to it and it is easy to identify.

Another option is to start with the big stuff and make a big impact quickly. Big stuff includes empty boxes, broken furniture or electronics.

Schedule your decluttering session like you would any other appointment. You’ll be more likely to stick to it and follow through.

Start with quick decluttering tasks to eliminate the ‘no time’ excuse. You can fit quick decluttering tasks into other parts of your day.

1 The Conversation Time for a Kondo clean-out? Here’s what clutter does to your brain and body

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