9 Effective Decluttering Tips When You are Overwhelmed

Clutter… it’s not a four-letter word, but it should be! When your home gets cluttered and untidy it can affect every aspect of your life. From being late to work because you couldn’t find your keys, to feeling constantly stressed and overwhelmed. Not fun!

These decluttering tips are designed to take you from feeling out of control and overwhelmed to being a decluttering diva!

They are all simple, fast, and most importantly of all… effectively!

You don’t have to live in a cluttered home. Let me help you take back control of your space.

No Time… No Energy

Being surrounded by clutter and untidiness all day is draining. It taxes our patience and nerves. You end up feeling more stressed and tired, which means you have less energy to tidy up, which means things get more cluttered, which means you’re more stressed and tired, which means… well, you get the idea! It’s a vicious cycle of clutter, blame, and stress.

When you are feeling completely overwhelmed you don’t want to start with decluttering an entire room. That’s just too much pressure and too much work! Most people struggle with decluttering their homes because they try to take on too much at once.

You might feel like you SHOULD be able to tackle your whole home at once, just like you see on the TV shows. But you need to give yourself some grace! Decluttering is like a journey and everyone needs to go at their own pace.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!

Decluttering Tips

I worked as a Professional Organizer for many years and I saw it time and time again with my clients. They desperately wanted a tidy home, they were just so overwhelmed by the clutter that they didn’t know where to start.

The decluttering tips below are some of the strategies I used with my clients and they are also techniques that I use in MY OWN HOME! Yep, even as a Professional Organizer, my home doesn’t magically stay organized. I have to work at it too!

So let’s get started…

1. Start Small

With this first decluttering tip we are going to start small… I mean REALLY small!

You’re already feel tired and overwhelmed by the clutter, let’s not add stressed into the mix by putting too much pressure on yourself.

Try starting with just five minutes a day. Pick an area, set a timer and see how much you can get done in just five minutes.

It’s up to you which area you pick, but I recommend you start with somewhere that you can make a bit of an impact. Maybe pick a drawer or a cabinet that you can quickly make a difference. Seeing some success the first time you have a declutter session will give you motivation to do it again.

Over time you can build up to longer sessions or more cluttered areas. But don’t push yourself too soon. It’s far better to keep doing 5 minutes a day, rather than try to do too much at once and get burned out.

2. One a Day

This is similar to starting with just 5 minutes of decluttering a day… but even easier! All you need to do is find one item every day that you can toss or donate!

That’s it! I know it might not sound like much, but if you find that it adds up quickly.

You could even challenge yourself and do one item on the first day, two items on the second day, three items on the third day, and so on! If you continue this for 10 days, you would have 55 items in the trash or ready to donate at the end of it! Seriously! That’s a lot of stuff!

I like to have a cardboard box in the garage that I can quickly throw things for donation. Once the box gets full, I put it in the truck of my car and drop it off at the donation center.

3. Fill ’em Up

This is probably my favorite decluttering tip as it forces me to ‘hunt’ for things to get rid of.

I grab a box (I love using old Amazon boxes!) or large trash bag and race around my home as quickly as I can trying to fill the box or bag!

You can even have one box (for donation) and one bag (for trash) and try to fill them both up!

Decluttering tips with a donation box

This is a great game to play with kids or even your spouse (especially if you’re a bit competitive!). Set a timer and see who can fill their box or bag up with the most things before the time runs out. Ice cream for the winner!

4. Dump Them

This is another timer based decluttering tip (I find those work the best because it doesn’t feel overwhelming and is over quickly!).

Spend just 10 minutes going through your closet or dresser and grab anything that you haven’t worn for a year, doesn’t fit you, or… well… just looks horrible on you! No-one needs to be reminded of their past fashion mistakes every day they look in their closet!

If you can’t remember if you have worn it within the last year… then you probably haven’t!

There’s something called the 80/20 rule, which basically says that we use 20% of our belongs 80% of the time, but rarely use the rest. This is particularly true with clothes.

I bet you have a few items that you wear over and over again (hello, yoga pants!), but other things you barely wear. Why are you letting these things take up valuable space in your home?

OK, I know there are some things that you will need to keep even if you don’t wear them often, like formal outfits. But make sure they are outfits that you love, won’t go out of fashion quickly, and still fit!

5. Give Me Five

Yet another decluttering game (can you tell I like to games to make boring tasks more fun?!) and this one is called the 5-5-5 game. Although it could be the 2-2-2 game, or the 10-10-10 game… whatever you want! You’re the game master!

This time you are going to search your home for five things that you can trash, five things to donate, and five things to put away!

Yep, we’re even doing a bit of tidying up in this game!

If you’re struggling to find things to trash, I like to start with either my desk area (junk mail!) or my bathroom (am I the only one with empty bottles of shampoo in the shower?).

Just be sure to put the trash outside and the donation items in your donation box or in your car, so they don’t sit on the counter for days!

6. Fresh Eyes

This decluttering tip can be tricky, but it’s actually one of the most effective when you don’t know where to start.

You are going to walk into your home (yes, go outside and then walk in through the front door… don’t worry about what the neighbors will say!), standing at the doorway, look around your home.

What is the first thing that jumps out at you? Is it the pile of shoes next to the front door? Or the stack of unopened mail on the counter? Whatever it is that you notice first… that’s where you’re going to start!

Once you’ve got that area tidied up, then go to the front door again and repeat the exercise! And once the area you can see from the front door is tidy, move onto your living room doorway, bedroom doorway, or kitchen doorway!

Oh, and don’t think you have to do this all at once. Maybe just do one area each day until you’ve got a room tidy, and then move onto the next room.

Check out my post all about visual clutter that explains more about this technique and why it’s sooooo effective!

If you don’t feel like you can be objective, then ask a friend or family member to walk into your room and do it for you! What’s the first thing they notice? Tell them to be honest with you! Kids are great at doing this! #nofilter!

7. The Big Reveal

I recently used this very trick when I was decluttering my bathroom cabinet. I try to keep it organized, but over time it gets messier and messier (how does that happen?!). It had got so bad that I knew I needed to clean it out, but I just didn’t want to!

So I told my sister that I was going to clear out the cabinet and I sent her a ‘before’ photo. I then told her that I would send an ‘after’ picture by the end of the day! No pressure!

Decluttering tips - Before photo
Decluttering tips - After photo

If you really want to go all-in, you could even post your ‘before’ photo on Facebook or Instagram and say that people can check back later to see the ‘after’ photo!

Who knows, maybe you’ll inspire some of your friend’s to do the same?

8. Counter Action

Counters are clutter hot spots. I don’t care if it’s the kitchen, the bathroom, or just any random horizontal surface (yep, the top of your dresser!), they seem to be clutter magnets.

Decluttering these hot spots and keeping them clear will go a long way to making your home look neat and tidy.

Check out my full post with a step-by-step guide for how to declutter your kitchen counters and keep them organized!

The key with keeping counters tidy is to make sure you have a routine for keeping them clear. Every night before I go to bed, I check my kitchen counters and grab anything that needs to be put away. That way, I wake up to nice clean counters.

Do I do this EVERY single night? Hell, no! Wine Wednesday is hit or miss! But I do it most nights, and that helps keep everything under control.

And it’s so much easier to cook, unload groceries, or do crafts with the kids when the counters are clear, so that’s a big motivating factor for me.

9. Make a Station

This is a pretty unusual decluttering tip, but I find that it’s super effective. It saves time, energy, and space… great, right?!

I like to have ‘stations’ around my home. Not train stations (that would just be weird), but stations for every day activities.

Maybe it’s the teacher in me, that got used to having ‘center’ around the classroom dedicated to particular tasks, but I do the same at home too.

The most obvious (and arguably the most useful) is a coffee and tea station. The last thing you want to be doing in the morning is walking around and around your kitchen gathering all you need for that life-giving cup of Joe. Instead, if you have all your coffee supplies in one place (cups, coffee, sugar, spoons, coffee maker, filters etc.) then it’s so much quicker and easier to get your first caffeine hit of the day.

This method also cuts down on clutter because it keeps your essential items organized right where you need them (so they don’t get left out or moved around the house).

Other ‘station’ ideas are:

  • Dining Station – silverware, placemats, napkins, salt & pepper shakers, baby bibs… anything else you might need during dinner.
  • Homework Station – pens, pencils, calculator, scissors, markers, paper… all the things the kids will need to do their homework without asking you twenty times when their pencil box is!
  • Crafting Station (for kids or adults!) – wool, paper, fabric, thread, colored pens, scissors… well, pretty much anything you need to do your favorite crafts.
  • Self-Care Station – favorite books, music, candles, journal… anything that you use to treat yourself. If I was President, I would make this mandatory for every home!
  • Entertainment Station – TV, game console, DVDs, books, board games… all the things you need to kick back, relax, and enjoy some family time.
  • Pet Station – pet food, bowls, medication, leashes, brushes… all the things you need to take care of your furbabies.

These are just some of my ideas of stations, but I bet you can think of some more to fit your lifestyle.