Inside: Strategies for quick and easy clutter removal. Learn to push past overwhelm and accomplish your goals (no matter how big).

With your head in your hands, you cry out “How can I ever clean up all this mess?” 

You survey the mess. Closets packed to the brim. Kitchen cabinets with stuff spilling out — plastic containers, expired boxes of cereal, and countless small appliances you never use. 

You see surfaces covered with paper, coloring books and toys. 

Clutter covers Every. Conceivable. Spot.

What do you do when you have so much clutter removal awaiting you, the thought overwhelms you into a pint of ice cream?

Where this messy lady started clutter removal

I am a natural-born messy person. 

When I was in high school, my bedroom had one lone path across the cluttered floor to the bed, where I often slept with a pile of clean clothes. 

In college, the pile of stuff that lived next to my bed was so wide I resorted to jumping across to get in and out of bed. 

In early marriage, a pile of stuff camped at the foot of the bed. Dirty dishes covered the kitchen counter. We never had room to sit and eat at the kitchen table.

Flash forward to today, four years into my decluttering journey. My house is by no means perfect. 

Here's how to remove clutter when even the thought is overwhelming.

I’m writing this post at the kitchen table, where an unfinished art project lives, along with a finished Frozen puzzle and some random items dumped out of a bag after our day trip a few days ago. 

But every night at dinner, there’s room for us to sit down and eat as a family. There’s space for puzzles, finger paint and playdough.

We can sit at the couch, our bedroom floor is relatively clean, and the playroom is clear except for a few toys left out on the play table. If I need to pay a bill, I know exactly where checks, envelopes and stamps are.

Messy moms make the best moms

I have a theory that messy moms make the best moms. 

Those are the moms who don’t stress if the kids decide to build a city out of cardboard boxes. They happily encourage their kids jump in puddles, and they surely wouldn’t let a little housework keep them from a beautiful day at the park.

However, there’s a down side.

You’re overwhelmed and stressed out. You feel like if you have to pick up one more LEGO, you just might scream.

You’re not alone.

Like you, I avoid cleaning to the point that everything is chaos. 

It’s no fun spending all your time looking for things or wasting money on buying a duplicate because you can’t find the one you just bought.

Clutter removal when you’re overwhelmed

Here are some simple ideas for getting the clutter ball rolling when you have so much mess you don’t know where to start with clutter removal.

Judgmental Cat wondering why you haven't finished decluttering. Don't judge me, Judgmental Cat!

1. Don’t judge.

A messy house isn’t a sign of laziness or carelessness. A messy house is just that: a messy house.

Don’t judge yourself or internalize. The state of your home says nothing about how hard you work or how deeply you love your family.

As you go through this process, you’ll be tempted to reprimand. “Why did I buy this?” “Oh shoot, why didn’t I return that?” “MY mess was the reason my son’s favorite toy from five years ago went missing.”

Judging yourself will only slow down the progress and make you want to quit before you even get started.

2. This isn’t permanent.

Oh, how I wish someone would’ve told me this when I started. Four years ago, I felt doomed to live in a mess for the rest of my life. I thought I’d never see the end of it.

This is just not the truth.

Was your home was cluttered when you moved in? Probably not.

Just as you accumulate clutter little by little, you can remove clutter one step at a time.

baby chick

3. Start small.

Look for quick wins — a small, easy-to-complete project that gives you the most progress in the least amount of time.

Throwing out expired cosmetics? Yes. Going through a whole attic of mementos? Noooo.

Let’s imagine you have the gumption to heave a massive boulder down the hill, you manly man, you. 

It takes a monumental amount of force to get the boulder to move even a fraction of an inch. You may even put in a ton of force without seeing any change.

But slowly, the boulder starts to move. And the force of gravity starts to pull.

By the time the boulder reaches the bottom of the hill, it’s moving so fast, the villagers only have time to grab their children and their cows before the boulder swooshes by.

The point is, when you pick a project that is so easy to do, you get an immediate sense of accomplishment.

You take that energy and use it to accomplish a slightly bigger task. And then an even bigger task.

Before you know it, you’ll be a force so strong, your kids barely have time to rescue their favorite “treasures” before you come rolling through like a massive decluttering boulder.

Related: Julie over at Filling the Jars gives a great list of things you can get rid of right now.

4. Make a list.

Instead of diving head first into the clutter, step back and make a list of what you need to do. This will help you prioritize.

Creating a list helps you pick out the quick wins and stay focused.

Related: Create a decluttering checklist that simplifies your life quickly

Learn how to create a decluttering checklist that beats overwhelm and gets quicker results in less time.

5. Just start.

If you’re like me, you spend hours planning and thinking through everything before starting on a project. 

And you know what? More often than not, I never get started. 

Pick one small thing that you can work on right now, and just go do it! The hardest part is getting started.

6. Focus on progress, not perfection.

“Focus on progress, not perfection” is one of the sayings I frequently repeat to myself.

So often, we expect perfection from ourselves and are disappointed with anything less. 

Excited woman looking out at a mountain top vista.

Whether you’re trying to remove clutter, lose weight or start a business, focusing on progress allows for continuously forward motion. 

It stops the negative thoughts from creeping in and instead focuses on gratitude for what we’ve already accomplished. 

When things get tough, visit an area you’ve already decluttered for motivation.

“I remember when old magazines covered this half wall. It looks so good now!”

For me, that’s my master bathroom. It doesn’t have little people in it often, so it stays pretty clean without much intervention.

Whenever I’m ready to throw in the towel, I walk into the master bathroom and breathe a sigh of relief. With it’s clutter free counter and organized drawers, it helps calm me down as well as motivate me to keep going in other areas of the house.

Whether you’ve cleaned out an entire room or a small drawer, be proud of your progress.

Take action

You are smart enough and talented enough to do this. You don’t need specialized tools to complete the job, just your own determination to start. 

Like the Chinese philosopher Laozi said,

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Take that step.

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