12 Steps: How to start decluttering when overwhelmed
- By: Ashley Saunders
- December 2020
During life, we collect sentimental items, not to mention many more that are functional and help make life easier. Even minimalists are guilt of us. You may want to know how to start decluttering when overwhelmed while restoring peace while evaluating what you have.
Some will try to convince you that a good de-cluttering or spring clean is life-changing, a way to reinvent yourself and your home. Yet, for some, throwing away belongings can trigger the same brain activity as physical pain.
Before you can figure out how to start decluttering when overwhelmed, you have to acknowledge you have a problem with too much stuff. Easy to say, hard to accept! But if you struggle to find items or are constantly having to walk around piles or tripping over things, then you could do with a tidy!
It’s important to recognise what de-cluttering isn’t. You do not need to rid your life of every or almost every material possession you own. Instead, it’s the decision to simplify your life by removing anything that isn’t useful any more.
Here’s how to start decluttering when overwhelmed using science. Allow yourself to create a greater sense of calm and tranquillity.
Why de-clutter your home?
Whether you’re getting ready to move or want to simplify what you have, there are many reasons to de-clutter your home. But you probably wonder how to start decluttering when overwhelmed without causing any more stress.
De-cluttering by its very nature brings clarity as you forced to sort through your belongings and evaluate what you need and don’t. As you get rid of junk or items that are no longer useful, you naturally de-stress and release pent up anxiety. These changes can also help you sleep better.
Why is it difficult?
One of the reasons people don’t de-clutter is that it’s an ongoing process that involves time and discipline. It’s easy to see it as a never-ending process that too much.
Another common reason why deciding to de-clutter your home is hard, is most don’t know where to start. Some will even see every item sentimentally and can’t bring themselves to throwing a single item away.
Popular de-cluttering methods
There’s no single, best method for de-cluttering a home. So it’s worth considering a few different options and finding one that the right fit for you.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll be well aware of Marie Kondo, either from her Netflix series or her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which has sold over 4 million copies!
At the heat of the KonMari method is rather than deciding what to get rid of, you choose what to keep and get rid of the rest. Start by collecting every single item you own in a particular category and putting them in a big pile. For example, pile all of your t-shirt on the bed.
Next, hold, feel, or wear each one and consider how it makes you feel. Ask yourself does it spark joy in my heart? Keep any that do. If it doesn’t, time to get rid of it.
Four box method
As a flexible way for how to start decluttering when overwhelmed, this method works on small piles and whole rooms and doesn’t involve you having to gather one category of item from your entire home.
You’ll need four boxes and label them: Put away, Give away, Throw away, and Undecided. With a pile of items, consider which box each item belongs in and then place it the most suitable box.
After sorting the pile, take the undecided box and sort it again until nothing is left in that box. However, don’t let the undecided box become a problem or the default. Instead be tough with yourself and only use it as a last resort.
Swedish death cleaning
Based on a book by Margareta Magnusson, ‘The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter’, the idea is that you de-clutter your home to save your friends and family having to go through all your personal belongings after you die.
As this process uses a binary choice (yes or no), you’re forced to make a decision what to throw and what to keep. While this is tougher than other methods, it’s does help to decide how to start decluttering when overwhelmed and quickly find peace.
As a very simple concept, this method involves getting rid of one thing every single day for a while. That thing can be one item, one filled box, or one filled bag per day.
If you had to choose only 33 items of clothing and accessories for 3 months, what would you keep? While this method might strike fear into your heart, it’s a superb way to de-clutter your home also.
Also, as you can only have 33 items, you’ll have to become more creative with outfits and be willing to swap or sell then buy new items rather than only adding pieces to your wardrobe.
How to start decluttering when overwhelmed in 12 easy steps
#1 Be brave
It’s fine to be tough on yourself and get rid of plenty of items. Don’t hold on to stuff because you can. Instead, be ruthless and throw or give away as much as possible.
#2 Sell on eBay, Facebook and Gumtree
Turn unwanted items into cash. As long as it’s good condition, someone will probably want it. Use your smartphone to list items on eBay, Facebook and Gumtree. And just think what you spend the cash on!
#3 Reward yourself
Sorting through personal items can be painful, so ensure you include rewards. It could be something as simple as a chocolate bar, a takeaway or even a spa day after de-cluttered your entire home. By rewarding yourself often, you build momentum which will help you to continue.
#4 Start with the easy stuff
The simplest way to build momentum and de-clutter your home is to complete an easy task first. You could start with the shed or garage, especially if you dump unwanted item or junk in these rooms. It gets easier as you tick rooms off.
#5 Minimise your wardrobe
We all have a few pairs of holey socks, trousers that don’t quite fit and a threadbare jumper. It’s time to throw any unusable clothing away and be more creative with what’s left. Also, try one-in-one-out, where you can only replace items, keeping the amount you own to a minimum.
#6 Throw out any half-empty bottles
We start using the replacement washing up liquid, shower gel and make-up before the old one is finished. Be ruthless and throw out any half-used or nearly empty bottles.
#7 Kitchen draws
It’s easy to keep adding more cutlery, gadgets and accessories to the kitchen without realising you barely use any of them! Part of de-cluttering your kitchen is ensuring often-used items are easy to find, and the rest is either stored elsewhere or removed.
#8 Shred old paperwork
It’s easy to let piles of paperwork, receipts and spammy mail that look half-interesting to build up in draws. While it’s out of sight, it’s using valuable space. So invest in a paper shredder and keep your drawers tidy.
#9 Donate items to help others
If you can’t sell things on eBay or would rather get rid of them, then donate to a local charity shop. They will happily receive any items that are in a good shape.
#10 Old technology
You probably have a box or boxes of old smartphones, TV remotes, phone chargers and cables you have no idea why you still have them! It’s worth reducing this vast collection to only the essentials.
#11 Create a tranquil bedroom
It’s easy to let clutter build up in the bedroom. First, get rid of half-empty bottles and pair your wardrobe back, then remove all but the essential items from your bedside table and dressing table.
#12 Keep on keeping on
Sadly, you’ll never complete finish de-cluttering your home. But don’t let that deter you from starting. Instead, see it as an ongoing task that can be done in small batches as and when you feel like it.
Just don’t make the mistake of leaving it too long as you’ll struggle and will have to relearn how to start decluttering when overwhelmed and face starting again.
Have fun when de-cluttering your home
Very few of us enjoy cleaning or de-cluttering if we’re honest. So make it fun to de-clutter your home by taking it a pace that’s suitable for you, encourage yourself with rewards and try to do a little de-cluttering each week.