Declutter Help for When You Are Overwhelmed

Declutter help for the overwhelmed

I’ve dug today’s post out of the archives for those that might be new here or for those that simply may need a refresher.  Decluttering is a big and necessary part of the organizing PROCESS.  In fact it’s essential because organized clutter is still clutter.  Not only is it important to purge out the stuff in our lives that we don’t use or love BUT let’s not forget about the stuff we simply don’t have the room to store.  You can read more on that here.

Vase full of colourful flowers on glass table with sofa at Cafe

Here’s the thing:  Your piles of stuff and mountains of clutter aren’t going to go away on their own. 

As much as we’d like it all to disappear overnight while we sleep, it’s not going to magically happen.  Unless of course you happen to have an in with a clutter fairy. In that case, just sit back, relax and watch it all vanish before your very eyes.  For the rest of us unlucky souls, it’s going to take a little more work.  However, it’s the very thought of all that work involved that can stop us dead in our tracks.

purge pile

Let’s face it…when the stuff gets to be too much, the thought of starting can simply be too overwhelming.  Hopefully these 5 declutter help tactics, that you can implement today, will help you push past the barrier of overwhelm and make some lasting changes to your home and your peace of mind.

Let’s begin!

1.  Set a Daily Goal

Goals are a terrific way to hold yourself accountable.  Determine a reasonable amount of stuff you can purge each day based on the time you have available.  You might want to start small and work your way up.  Whatever number you decide on, whether it be one item or ten, don’t go to bed that evening until you’ve added that number of items to your donation station.

2.  Set Up a Donation Station

This can be as simple as adding a cardboard box to your closet like I have.  The idea here is to find somewhere to collect your purge pile each day.  At the end of the week, cart that box off to the thrift store so you aren’t tempted to take some of your stuff back out.  Set yourself up for success!  I wrote more about this in a post titled How to Make Weekly Household Purges Happen.

donation box

3.  Start with the Easy Stuff

Don’t overthink this process.  Start with those items that are no-brainers.  Broken toys, items that need mending but are still sitting there two years later, clothes that are too small, things you hate to dust, etc and work your way up to the harder items that will require more thought.  Set a timer to help you stay on track.  Here is more information on how to do a speed purge.

You’ll be surprised that as you take this journey and build your way up to some of those harder pieces, it won’t be as difficult as you originally thought.  By this time you’ll be into a regular purging routine and will be rejoicing at how much lighter you feel.  Hang on to that feeling!

4.  Ask Yourself Some Simple Questions

As you go through each item and find yourself waffling over something, quickly ask yourself these basic questions:

  1. When was the last time I used it?  If it’s been over a year, get rid of it!
  2. Do I love it?
  3. Do I have the room to store it without it affecting my efficiency and stress levels?
  4. Am I willing to give up something else to make room for it?
  5. Can I imagine myself or anyone else in my family ever loving it or using it in the foreseeable future?  Be honest!

More information can be found here: How to Use Declutter Questions to Help You Make Purging Decisions

5.  Let Go of the Guilt

With every purge pile comes a small (or large) amount of guilt.  We beat ourselves up over the money spent and maybe even the unfulfilled dreams we had attached to it.  What’s done is done.  Those unfilled dreams you are hanging onto are keeping you from living right now in the present.

Instead of feeling guilty, decide instead to learn something from the experience.  Use what you have learned to make more conscious decisions the next time you go shopping or say yes to a kind friend wanting to unload her stuff on you.  Don’t get hung up on the past but instead look to your future.  What do you see?  Chaos and clutter or sanity and order?  Only you can decide and make it happen. Read more at How to Combat Clutter Excuses.

So what are you waiting for?  Go declutter something!!

Related Posts:

Face the Facts to Help You Declutter

How to Track Drop-Off Donations for Tax Purposes

Are We Complicating Life More Than We Need To?

Filed under: Clutter Control, Organizing Basics, Purging


23 Responses to Declutter Help for When You Are Overwhelmed

  1. 1
    MelanieL says

    Thanks for the refresher! I consider myself a ruthless declutterer but I still get hung up at times. For me it’s the freeing feeling of having open spaces that keeps me from letting it get out of control.

  2. 2
    carolyn cleveland says

    Freeing my home of clutter and getting more organized I feel will make everything simpler and easier. I am especially looking forward to a better thought process. Cobwebs are cobwebs no matter where they are. To me that’s what clutter is. Thanks a million.

  3. 3
    Nikki Browning says

    I found this very helpful. I myself, love to organize things but since I have a full schedule of high school, homework, chores, appointments, and most of all OCD I find that my clutter gets severely out of control and my OCD drives me crazy every time I look at it. So I have vowed to myself that today I will declutterize my room! Wish me luck!

  4. 4
    Teina Heavy Runner says

    My home is a small 2-bedroom Condo which is shared with my daughter and (much of the time) her teenage daughter. Space, as you might imagine, is limited and clutter is an ongoing problem. My bedroom is a multi-use room that includes office and workshop. Consequently, I am constantly trying to reduce clutter. The suggestions I see here will, I know, be helpful. Thank you!

    • 4.1
      Laura says

      You are so welcome, so happy I could help!

  5. 5
    Pat says

    Maybe you could help me. My husband was a ruthless “collector” of many things: toy trains, soldiers, buffalos, bears, rocks, cannons. My husband passed away last year but left me with several guilt statement about how I would “get rid” of all of his stuff as soon as he was gone. I can’t just get rid of. I feel guilty and sad and like a loser but I also don’t have room to store it. This house is so full and I am overwhelmed and guilty to a point that I can’t start. Any ideas? (These collections are filling two full large rooms, floor to ceiling, and a good part of many other rooms.

    • 5.1
      Juliana says

      @Pat I have an idea for you to consider. You could arrange each collection nicely in a room (i.e., living room) and take photos of the collection. (You could also do small group shots to get more detail on a few.) Choose one or two items from the collection to represent the rest of the collection and only keep those. Then sell or donate the rest of the collection (perhaps to a place that would really appreciate those items, so others can enjoy them). You could even display the representations of the collections (i.e., the one or two items and/or the photo(s) per collection) somewhere as a tribute of sorts. My thought behind this is that you can remember what is important to him without feeling guilty about it or letting it overwhelm your living space. Good luck!

      • Klaren says

        I love this idea.

        I have a clutter problem, and are keeping way to many things, for different reasons. So for many years I have been struggeling to be able to release me from stuff that I in my mind have been connecte to.

        Just a small example: my – oh too many – 40+ sunglasses, some even a bit ruined, but still I thought I could fix them or use them when they got into style againg.
        Made myself lay them out over the bed and took a photo of them. Kept about 5 pairs that was nice, and let the rest go.

        So the photoidea can be used on even the smallest collections.

        Now I just have everything else left to unclutter….
        My worst items: CLOTHES and Books.

        Soo in need of inspiration, so I will visit this blog again – think it has some great ideas.

        • Laura Wittman says

          Klaren, you are making progress and that is huge! I’m so proud of you and what you did with your sunglasses and as you continue to practice this technique it will get easier and easier each time. You’ve got this girl, way to go!!

      • Carol Dale says

        The “stuff” is secondary. The guilt is primary. Get out from under that, because no one has the right to make you feel guilty about wanting to run your own life. Say thank you and goodbye to these items, being grateful that they enriched his life and knowing that the next person will be able to appreciate them. Meanwhile, you need the space, both emotionally and physically, to move on. You are paying expensive rent on those items, and they belong(ed) to someone else. Be free. You deserve it.

      • amorette says

        Have read several help articles…
        YOUR Response comment to someone who needed help was the best thing I’ve read all day!

        I know it’s going to help me so much… Thank you thank you thank you!!! Sincerely, 75 yr old.. amorette louise

    • 5.2
      Marlene Welch says

      perhaps if you look at it in a different perspective. He loved his things and enjoyed seeing them. Do you have children grandchildren that would like to have one of his collections? or Would a local orphanage or classroom like some of the rocks. What good is stuff if you do not enjoy them.. They are not your thing, but sharing for someone else that finds them joyful, would create joyful hearts and that would be sharing your husbands love for the better joy of others
      prayers for you as you face this struggle, drawing on strength within is always helpful

  6. 6
    Mary says

    I am 73 years old and have gotten myself in a horrible rut, being a very insecure person, and at times to a point of deep depression i am truly overwhelmed .Dealing with broken ribs which prevent me from doing much of what needs to be done and living with my husband of 51 years who is going through health issues and spinal problems i am just overwhelmed with TOO much stuff i need to get done. I have been told to just hire someone to come in and help but i am too ashamed. I keep a clean neat house but my closets are stuffed, i call myself a neat pack rat.
    I am seeing a counselor seeking help for my problem, but the older i get the more fear full i become.

    • 6.1
      Laura Wittman says

      There is no shame in asking for help Mary. Please consider hiring a Professional Organizer to help you. You can locate one in your area through if you are in the US. They will not judge you.

  7. 7
    Kristyn says

    Thanks for those great tips!! I was wondering if you could;d possibly post some suggestions on Paper Clutter? I have an enormous amount of paperwork I am always battling in my office, and tons more that is stored in a storage closet. I just can’t ever seem to get away from it. My son’s school gives a lot of papers, plus his homework assignments (completed) taxes, insurance policies, bank statements, pay check stubs, recipes. The list goes on and on. Plus I am in school, and sometimes have a hard time throwing away all of those papers I just worked so hard on..

  8. 8
    Sue says

    I’ve just considered some of your suggestions on decluttering. I have horrible ocd and anxiety. I also have guilt associated with all my stuff. The most frustrating guilt comes from my deceased parents’ stuff that I feel guilty about getting rid of from my mom’s crystal vase collection to my father’s furniture that he made enough of to fill everyone’s home. He was a master cabinetmaker and worked with solid wood not pressboard of today. He finally made mom a china cabinet which was his last project and something she always wanted and deeply loved. When I decide to get rid of the stuff and bite my guilt in the butt, my friends guilt me over again by saying oh that’s worth something and that I would be crazy to get rid of it because someone else would appreciate it.
    Also I have an overwhelming shredding problem because I feel safer if I keep the papers in the shred pile in case I need to retrieve for some unknown reason.
    Help! Suggestions?


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