Feeling overwhelmed when it comes to decluttering? The reason you’re feeling overwhelmed is the clutter itself, not the process of decluttering… trust me. Been there!! Probably be there again next week!!

The key, really, is to just start. But, I know firsthand that sometimes it’s hard to just get started, even if it sounds so simple!

Over the years, I’ve learned a few things that help my very easily overwhelmed mind calm down enough to get started and get stuff done. Which, incidentally, is the antidote to the overwhelm!

So, here they are, my top 5 tips and tricks for beating the shut-down that often comes when the clutter and mess are just a bit too much.


how to declutter when you're feeling overwhelmed

1) Ask yourself this: Which ONE area would make the biggest difference in the overall peace of your home? Start there. 

This is sometimes a hard question to answer when there are so many places you could start. When there isn’t a clear answer, start with your own bedroom. 

Starting with my own room first is sometimes hard to do because I’d rather start at the front door and work my way in so that if someone were to drop in, they’d see an organized house even if behind closed doors it’s a little crazy. But trust me on this!!

Starting with a freshly made bed, tidied up surfaces and floors, laundry folded and put away and any lingering clutter busted in your own room makes way for a peaceful sleep ahead… a room to look forward to! You’re literally giving yourself the gift of peace to look forward to at the end of the day. Starting with tidying and then diving into the nooks and crannies, the drawers and closets and under the bed, etc, will make a HUGE impact.

And maybe it isn’t your bedroom that’s going to make the biggest difference – whatever the area you feel is going to make the biggest impact, be decisive and get to work. It all has to be done anyway – the only way to get it done is to start.


2) Make it easy by being prepared. Tidy up first. You’ll need a trash bag, donation bin/box, return to owner bag, etc.

organized bookshelfIt’s much easier to declutter a tidied room. Make the bed, clear the counters, quickly make piles of the chaos, round up all the trash and laundry – whatever it takes to give you some cleared surfaces to use in your decluttering. Gathering a trash bag, a donation bin or box, a “return to owner” bag, as well as a “put away” basket makes the process easier, too. I really like using laundry baskets and reusable grocery bags for my “return to owner” and “put away” piles.

Having a system in place really takes the guesswork out of it. Every item you touch is going to go into one of those categories – having the bins/baskets/bags in place and ready to go makes the process so much quicker, too! Oh, and don’t just leave things in bins around the house – commit to hauling them out TODAY. The job isn’t done until it’s done and the peace you’ll feel from accomplishing your task start-to-finish today will be HUGE!


3) Come up with a simple goal. You can pick up where you left off tomorrow.

I have the energy to declutter our entire house in one day like once every 5 years. It just isn’t realistic to think that you’ll get it all done at once. So, set a simple goal and pick up where you left off tomorrow. The overwhelm comes from trying to do it all, all at once. Which you can’t do… so stop expecting that of yourself. Instead, write a short list or a specific goal for TODAY. Worry about tomorrow, tomorrow!


4) Pick a drawer, any drawer. Or a shelf. Or a corner.

how to declutter when you're feeling overwhelmed

Similar to the other tips above, picking just one thing to tackle often gets the ball rolling for me. It might be one drawer, one cupboard, one craft bin or one shelf instead of the entire bookcase. Even when it’s hard to get started, picking something specific to do from start to finish usually makes it hard to stop there! It’s so satisfying to say “I’m going to tidy and declutter the silverware drawer,” and then to actually DO IT. Feels good, right?! And those good feels are fuel for the next project. Just remember not to bite off more than you can chew… I tend to get really distracted, so picking one place to work helps focus me.

5) Set a timer.

This is my best trick. I swear by timers and it’s been a great tool to help keep me on task and also to help control the anxiety and overwhelm I often feel when it comes to decluttering. You can do anything for 15 minutes – in fact, you can do SO MUCH more than you think you can. If you’ve never used timers to help keep you on task, give it a try.

15-minute increments seem to work best for me, but maybe you’re feeling especially overwhelmed today, so start with 5 minutes! I like to write a little list of what I’m hoping to accomplish, evaluate the list and write next to each item the amount of time I think I need to accomplish that task. Then, I set the timer and get going on the first one and work my way down the list, setting new timers for each item.

Sometimes a list is too much for me to think about – setting the timer and just getting started is all I can manage. In that case, set it, get to work, and stop when it goes off. Let that be enough for now! Only start the timer over if you really want to keep going. Keep it manageable/bite-sized work sessions so you don’t overwhelm yourself – or your home – with your decluttering process.


So, there you go! 5 tips and tricks to get you through the overwhelm and onto a more decluttered life.

Do you have other tips to share?! Leave them in the comments so we can all learn from each other!

xo, Carly


*Photos from PixaBay.com, a stock photography website.
I’ll be sharing more of my own home soon, along with inspiration from others like this! 🙂 

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