If clutter in your home or office is piling up to the point where it’s overwhelming to even think about how to declutter or where to start: know that you are not alone. Life can be so busy that it’s difficult to keep things in order and each of us faces organizational challenges throughout our life. As a Personal and Professional Coach and Instructor, the first question about organization that most people ask me is the same: How do I get started? The answer is simple no matter what you are trying to organize—take one thing at a time. When decluttering and organizing your home or office, it’s important to ask three questions about the items you have: Do I love this? Do I need it? Is it worth the space that it occupies?
How to Declutter: The Best Way to Get Started
Step 1. Take a Deep Breath
Breathing exercises are simple and effective ways to reduce stress. They can be done anywhere, anytime: when you’re feeling overwhelmed by the clutter in your home or office, take a moment to breathe deeply and slowly. Try inhaling through the nose for four seconds, holding it for four seconds, then exhaling through the mouth for eight seconds. Repeat this cycle three times before going on with your day’s activities. You can also try visualization techniques like taking a walk in nature or imagining yourself somewhere peaceful and relaxing (like the beach or the mountains). You could even begin by visualizing how clean your space will be once it is decluttered.
Step 2. Answer These Three Questions Before You Begin
The process of how to declutter your home or office can feel like an insurmountable task. But establishing why you want to declutter and giving yourself an expected outcome before you start can make the entire process less overwhelming. Organizational Expert Barbara Hemphill, Founder of the Productive Environment Institute, has been helping people with decluttering and organization for over forty years. She’s had clients who have spent thousands of dollars on previous organizational services only to be back where they started not long after.
“People don’t have a system to maintain the organizing.” -Barbara Hemphill
Barbara says that without a system in place, it is difficult to stay organized after you do declutter. She recommends that before you begin, you answer these three questions:
- What are you getting organized for?
- Why do I want to get organized?
- What does the outcome of your organization look like?
Decluttering is not a one-size-fits-all process. What one person deems necessary to keep may not be true for someone else. By answering these questions and defining what “done” looks like, you are establishing your own goals, which will not only make the organization process more efficient but will also help you maintain a cleaner space long-term.
Watch the full interview with Barbara Hemphill with more organizational tips and suggestions:
Step 3. Start Small and Answer Three Questions About Each Item
By starting small and going through one item at a time, you can make the process a little easier on yourself. Marie Kondo, whose popular Netflix show taught viewers about her Konmari organizational method, recommends breaking items into categories.
Her popular organizational book The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up encourages readers to only keep items that “spark joy” and also outlines steps for how to declutter each room in your house one at a time so that “it’s easier on yourself physically AND mentally when trying not just get rid but actually organize everything properly instead.”
Separating your decluttering sessions into categories like clothes and papers, is an effortless way to chunk down decluttering and make it feel less overwhelming.
To start, gather all the items in question and place them in a pile on your floor or table. Next, start with the first item and ask yourself these three questions:
- Do I love it? If not, let it go!
- Does this item serve any purpose or bring me happiness? If so, keep it!
- Is there space for this item where I want to put it (in my closet or on my desk)? If not—and if you don’t have any plans for where else you might use it—let go of it!
Don’t Forget: Be Kind to Yourself
The fact that you are trying is enough. You are not a failure, a slob, or lazy, and you should not feel bad for being overwhelmed by clutter. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed, and it’s important to remember that your situation is not hopeless—you can take steps today to get rid of some clutter and make your home safer and cleaner.
As you do declutter, make sure to create a pile of goods that can be donated. If you’re finding it especially hard to get rid of things you don’t need, it can make you feel good to know that your items will find a new home.
Put Things Into Perspective
Realize that you can’t do it all at once. You don’t have to.
The first step is admitting to yourself that you can’t get everything done in one big swoop, and then accepting and embracing that fact. It’s an enormous relief to realize that you don’t have to feel guilty about not being able to clean out your entire closet all at once—and, in fact, it’d be better for your mental health if you didn’t try!
Give Yourself Permission to Make More Messes
You can make a mess. You can leave things out. You can put things away in a different place and then come back to them later, which may or may not involve moving them again. And you can take things out of the house entirely.
The thing is, when we are overwhelmed by clutter, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of believing that making a mess will make us feel even more overwhelmed than we already are. But letting go of this belief will help you create space for everything else, including peace and happiness!
Plus by establishing a system and expected outcome before you start, this will help you to stay more organized long-term.
Resist the Urge to Buy More Storage Containers
Resist the urge to buy more storage containers. If you’re like me, it’s tempting to think that if we just had the right container for everything in our lives, we’d be able to find what we were looking for instantly and everything would be labeled perfectly. This is not true! It won’t solve your problem.
Instead of spending money on more containers, try using what you’ve got (even if they’re ugly) or finding creative ways around them. For example: use a basket instead of a bin; use an empty box as a place to set things while sorting other boxes; use an old gift box as a Christmas present holder; etc., etc.
If you must invest in something new, look for cheap options at thrift stores or dollar stores rather than expensive solutions from specialty retailers (eBay is another great option).
Find a System That Works For You
There are a lot of systems out there, and they all have their pros and cons. You may find it easier to implement a system you’ve seen someone else do before, or you might prefer to come up with your own unique method. Whatever you choose, make sure that you define what done looks like for yourself. If you aren’t happy with a certain process or method you’ve seen or tried, then don’t use it! Some of us are more sentimental than others and no matter what you choose to keep or get rid of, no matter how you fold your clothes or use storage bins, just make sure that what you choose to do is something that works for you.
Decluttering may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be when you have a system that works for you.
Tips To Get Started Decluttering Today
It’s so easy to make excuses for why you can’t declutter. You’re feeling overwhelmed, and that is totally normal! But before you give up on the idea entirely, know that there are ways around this feeling. As someone who has been helping people get more organized for thirty years, I’ve developed some tips that can help get you started on your way to an organized home:
- Don’t worry about how much stuff you have or how long it will take—just start somewhere!
- Don’t be afraid of making mistakes along the way. Those mistakes are part of learning what works for your space. The important thing is getting started with the process because once it starts rolling, it’ll feel great seeing all that extra space opening up.
- Focus on what makes sense for you long-term by asking yourself questions like “What do I use on a daily basis?” or “What do I want more room for?” Once these questions are answered, they’ll help guide which items need to stay (and help you get rid of the ones that don’t).
How to Declutter FAQs
How to declutter when you’re overwhelmed?
When feeling overwhelmed by clutter, the key is to prioritize and focus on organization. Start by taking a deep breath and follow a step-by-step process to declutter effectively.
How can I effectively declutter and organize my space?
To declutter effectively, prioritize items using a system of categorization. Start small and ask yourself three important questions about each item: Do I need it? Does it contribute to my happiness? Is it worth the space it occupies?
What is the importance of prioritization during the decluttering process?
Prioritization plays a crucial role in decluttering. By identifying what is truly important and necessary, you can let go of items that no longer serve a purpose. This helps create a more organized and functional space.
How can I create an organized system for my belongings?
Creating an organized system involves finding a method that works for you. Explore different organizational approaches, such as the Konmari method, and adapt them to suit your preferences and lifestyle. Define what “done” looks like for yourself to maintain organization in the long term.
How do I maintain organization after decluttering?
After decluttering, it’s essential to establish habits that promote organization. Practice prioritization regularly, set boundaries for what you bring into your space, and assign a specific place for each item. This will help you maintain a clutter-free environment.
What are some tips for effective decluttering and organization?
To achieve effective decluttering and organization, start somewhere, even if it feels overwhelming. Break the process into manageable tasks, focus on what makes sense for your needs and daily life, and be kind to yourself throughout the journey.
How does decluttering contribute to a sense of calm and well-being?
Decluttering creates a physical and mental space that promotes calm and well-being. It reduces visual distractions, creates a sense of order, and allows you to prioritize what truly matters. It can positively impact your overall quality of life.
How can I incorporate prioritization into my decluttering process?
Prioritization is essential during decluttering. Start by identifying your priorities and goals for each space. Determine which items are most important to you and align with your values. This will help you make informed decisions about what to keep, donate, or discard during the decluttering process.
What are some practical tips for maintaining organization after decluttering?
After decluttering, organization is key to maintaining a clutter-free space. Establish daily habits such as tidying up, returning items to their designated places, and practicing regular purging sessions. Additionally, consider implementing storage solutions that support organization, such as labeled bins or shelves, to help sustain an organized environment.
Can decluttering and organization positively impact my mental well-being?
Absolutely! Decluttering and organization have been shown to have a positive impact on mental well-being. Clearing physical clutter can lead to a clearer mind, reduced stress, and increased focus and productivity. Creating an organized environment promotes a sense of calm and harmony, allowing you to better prioritize and enjoy your surroundings.
Remember, decluttering and organization are ongoing processes, and it’s important to adapt strategies that work best for you and your lifestyle. By incorporating prioritization, maintaining organization, and recognizing the mental benefits, you can experience the transformative power of decluttering in your life.
Even if You Feel Overwhelmed, Don’t Give Up!
I know firsthand how hard decluttering is. But don’t give up! There are so many benefits to living with less stuff and knowing that it will be easy to organize whenever you need it:
- You’ll be able to find what you need.
- Your home will look better and more organized.
- Everything will feel more comfortable and welcoming for guests or colleagues.
So start small: grab one item from the pile of clutter in your room or office…and ask yourself if it’s worth keeping around or not. If not? Donate it! Then move on to another thing until all your stuff is organized. And remember: being kind to yourself as well as giving permission for messes will only make things easier for you. Whatever you do, take it one small step at a time and make sure you establish a system that works for you.
If you’d like access to tools and courses that will help you get more organized and align your priorities with your daily life, join The 7 Minute Life University today for just $29.97 per month.