4 Action Tips for How To Declutter When Overwhelmed

Wondering how — or if it’s even possible — to declutter when overwhelmed? Hey, I get it! As an overwhelmed overthinker, I’ve spent many a day staring at a messy room, feeling paralyzed, not even able to take that very first step.

Eventually, I learned some ways for how to start decluttering when overwhelmed — and even more declutter tips for the rest of the process. 

If you’re feeling like the clutter will never leave, here are 4 simple tips to overcome that hurdle and reduce the overwhelm so you can begin taking action to gain control over the stuff… 

Tips to declutter when overwhelmed text on white background over image of simple white living room with grey and leather furniture.

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The Catch-22 of Wanting to Declutter While Overwhelmed

So, you know there are numerous benefits from having a home that’s decluttered and simplified. And you WANT to declutter. Yet, everything around you is so overwhelming that you can’t even decide how or where to start.

We’ve all been there with feeling completely overwhelmed. And when that happens, it’s common for us to feel less than harmonious in our homes because we can SEE they’re cluttered and unruly. 

We really WANT to declutter to calm that feeling of overwhelm. But the truth is that while you may have the sudden motivation to declutter, it can often increase the overwhelm because there’s so.much.stuff. 

Why does it feel impossible to start a declutter when overwhelmed?

  • It feels like too much of a task
  • You feel even more overwhelmed
  • The effort feels like more than you can handle 
  • You don’t know where to start

However, knowing the steps to take when you feel this way can help you feel calmer in your mind and overcome the overwhelming feeling. A tidy house means a tidy mind, right? 

Whether your drawers are bursting at the seams, your rooms are crowded with stuff, or it’s day-to-day items like laundry piles getting you down, there are things you can do to ease the decluttering process and feel calmer. 

Before you begin DOING anything, you’ll want to read my posts about how to transform your decluttering mindset for success and do 3 ‘pre-decluttering’ tasks when you’re overwhelmed by clutter

For this post, I want to share 4 simple action tips for decluttering when overwhelmed. Think of it as helping you to find the calm in the storm. 

How To Tackle Overwhelming Clutter

When you feel overwhelmed, every single little thing can feel too much to handle. But we know that getting rid of clutter in our home can counteract those feelings. So… knowing how to start can help you to move forward. 

The main thing to remember is that even a little progress can make a big difference in our outlook. 

1. Decide when and for how long to declutter each day 

Woman sitting on floor feeling overwhelmed by cluttered house.

Think of a time that is manageable for you. When is your energy the highest? When do you usually have at least a few uninterrupted minutes to do some quick and easy decluttering work every day?

Also, decide how long you will work. I recommend ten minutes a day, but you could go shorter if you’re feeling too overwhelmed right now. The main point is that you are committing to a certain amount of time when decluttering will be your only focus. 

Write this down in your planner or set a reminder on your phone. This way you won’t ‘forget’ as the days go by in your busy life.

When your decluttering time block arrives each day, set a timer and then work quickly. Whether you choose to attack a room or an area like a drawer, once your time is set go for it and declutter what you can. 

2. Start with trash 

Focus on one thing at a time. Decluttering means having fewer things. But what do you do with those things? Many people recycle, gift to others or charity, or sell on to make some money. However, doing all of these things at once can be overwhelming. 

So start with one objective — getting rid of trash and broken items. Not only will this immediately make your home feel neater, but it will also give you great ‘decluttering practice’ without having to make heavy decisions. 

Take a black garbage bag around your home and get rid of anything lying around that is actually trash. Don’t dig through piles, just declutter the easily-accessible items.

Need ideas for what can go? Grab this list of 62 things to declutter.

Let’s be real… if you have clutter, some of it is trash. This could be unwanted paper or cardboard. It may be glass, or even old clothes and materials that you know can’t be donated or sold. 

Recycling is great, but not available to everyone. And even if you have recycling, they may not accept everything you would expect. For example, our local recycling program no longer accepts glass of any kind. 

Don’t get wrapped up in feeling like you have to spend hours properly sorting your trash and recycling. At least to begin with, clearing some space in your home to reduce your overwhelm is much more important. 

The same goes for broken items that ‘would be usable if I got it fixed.’ With everything else you have going on in your life, let go of the item and let go of the guilt. And please, don’t donate broken items. Just let them go with the trash.

Doing this gives you one focus, and it starts the process of removing things from your home for good. 

3. Maintain and move on

Once you’ve tossed the trash, practice maintaining what you’ve done. Build the habits of putting things where they belong, picking up after yourself (this can be a family thing), and not letting those broken or unusable items pile up.

As you’re practicing maintenance, now that the trash is gone, you can go a little further with your decluttering. This is where you have to make a decision… where to start decluttering

Think about this: Which area of your home would have the biggest positive impact on your life if it were clutter-free? Start there, work for 10 minutes a day, and maintain your progress. 

Can’t decide? Try this 30-day declutter challenge calendar, where you’re given a specific place to work each day. 

4. Make it fun

Simple white living room with grey and leather furniture.

Overwhelm and constant decision-making can often lead to negative emotions and feelings. So when you’re decluttering, make the process fun. 

Play your favorite songs, move your body, listen to a podcast or audiobook. Making the process fun means that the hurdle of starting will dwindle away.

How To Get Into the Right Headspace?

Feeling the way you do now is not pleasant. Your heart can race. You can sweat and feel agitated. Or it can affect you by making you feel lethargic and tired. 

Everything can feel like a huge task and having an overwhelming need to change things, such as a declutter, can just add on the pressure. 

Try and get yourself in the right headspace. Many small actions will lead to overall success. Starting is a massive achievement in itself. Moving your body and doing something where you can see positive change will help you. 

You won’t get this project done overnight… and that’s OKAY!

Taking the first step is crucial. But once you do you will start to notice the benefit and positive effect it can have. 

More Decluttering Inspiration

Top 7 Decluttering Mistakes for Overthinkers & How to Avoid Them

How Clutter Causes Stress (And 4 Easy Ways To De-stress By Decluttering) – Organized Motherhood

How to Declutter Your Bedroom in 10 Simple Steps

The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own – Joshua Becker

7 Rules for Decluttering & How to Decide What to Keep

Supplies for Decluttering

Trash bags — Always black. I prefer the flex variety in either 13-gallon or 33-gallon size.

Thick paper or printable sticker paper to label bins, etc.

Markers for labeling — These thick, chisel-tip markers will make your words easy to read.

Empty boxes for donations — If you can’t find what you need from stores or friends, these cardboard moving boxes would work for holding donation items.

Tape — Clear, wide tape on a dispenser always comes in handy when decluttering.

Gloves because clutter can be unexpectedly messy.

For quick cleaning after decluttering, I love this wood floor cleaner and multi-surface cleaner. I use these two products every day.

One Last Thing… 

Always remember that there is no single right way to do this. 

We all handle things in different ways. A step, however small and insignificant it may seem, is a huge step for you. Celebrate the wins as you declutter through your overwhelm… whatever they may be or look like.

You’ve got this!  

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3 thoughts on “4 Action Tips for How To Declutter When Overwhelmed”

  1. Great tips! You are totally right that decluttering will help you feel less overwhelmed, but it is hard to get started when you feel so overwhelmed. These practical tips sound like a great place to start! Pinned so I can reference them later.

  2. Wonderful tips here! Sometimes we just don’t know where to start. . . thanks for providing practical ways to escape that feeling of being overwhelmed.

    Thanks so much for joining the Grace at Home party at Imparting Grace. I’m featuring you this week!

  3. Start with trash! It might seem obvious, but this simple step makes a whole lot of sense. It’s amazing how much stuff we can immediately toss if we choose to!

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