6 Simple Ways to Start Decluttering Even If You Feel Totally Overwhelmed

published Sep 16, 2022
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Let’s face it — decluttering feels so good. But when it comes to actually starting the work, the task can feel pretty daunting. Part of it is because it’s so hard to decide how to start. Or maybe you know exactly what you would tackle if you could muster up the gumption (I see you, pantry!), but looking at it in its current state is demoralizing. 

We get it. Decluttering is such a mental and emotional task, and that kind of baggage makes for a weighty sort of inertia.

Instead of procrastinating, arm yourself with jumpstart strategies so that next time you feel inspired to declutter you can dive right in! Here are some easy ways to kill the excuses, and start decluttering now.

Credit: Getty Images | Jose Luis Pelaez Inc

1. Work from a list.

Some of us do better when someone tells us what to do. Grab a bag and a mega decluttering list, and get to work without even having to think.

2. Try the “one shelf rule.”

This strategy starts with a certain amount of space you want to keep something in, such as a single shelf or a storage bin. The goal: to narrow down your belongings so that they fit in the designated space.

This method sets a parameter on your decluttering project so that it doesn’t feel overwhelming.

3. Subtract the worst.

Rather than trying to select your favorites of a certain type of item, pluck out the worst ones and get rid of those. It’s the opposite of the typical decluttering strategy of trying to keep only the best. 

4. Make yourself accountable.

When someone or something else is looped in to your intention to declutter, it’s a lot harder to let yourself off the hook. A few ways to “trick yourself into decluttering” include telling someone you’re going to do it, timing yourself, or sharing a checklist of to-dos. 

Credit: Sarah Crowley/Apartment Therapy

5. Silence the guilt.

One of the biggest reasons it’s tricky to get rid of things is that we tend to feel guilty for breaking “rules.” Get ahead of the nagging thoughts.

For example, you can toss these type of excuses straight out the window: You might say to yourself, “I can’t get rid of that because I spent good money on it,” “I might need it someday,” or “Someone special gave that to me.” These aren’t exactly good reasons to hang on to something that you don’t even like or use. 

6. Realize that keeping things comes at a cost.

Keeping things rather than letting them go is not a benign action. Instead, every single thing that you keep costs you time and energy. So, make sure it’s worth it. 

How do you motivate yourself to declutter? Tell us your strategies in the comments below.