In this post: Overwhelmed by clutter and don’t know the steps to declutter your home? I get it. You’re not alone. Learn 5 simple steps to get rid of clutter.
I see you friend, surrounded by clutter and overwhelmed by the mess. I know how utterly overwhelming it can be to feel like you have no way out.
Five years ago, I gave birth to my first child and I knew something had to change. I have always been a messy person and have struggled immensely with an emotional attachment to clutter.
Dirty dishes covered the counter and filled up the sink. Wet laundry sat forgotten in the washer until it started to stink (and had to be washed again). Dog fur rolled across the floor like tumbleweeds in the Wild West.
But worse than the state of my home was how I felt about it. I thought that my poor home management skills meant that I was lazy and would never amount to anything. I thought there was something wrong with me.
Friend, if you’re reading this while you’re surrounded by clutter, let me tell you one thing:
A messy house doesn’t mean anything about your worth as a human being. A messy house is just that — a house that is messy.
The bad news is that clutter is the result of years or decades of bad habits. But the good news is that habits can change, and I’m here to help you.
I believe that if I could change my decades of hoarders habits and change my home and my life in the process, that you are totally capable of doing the same thing.
In this post, we’ll go over the 5 steps to declutter your home, even if you’re overwhelmed by the chaos.
5 Steps to Declutter Your Home
#1: Cultivate the Dream for Your Home
Ok, ok. I know you’re eager to jump into the strategical steps to declutter your home. But here’s the problem:
When you focus on just getting rid of stuff, it’s easy to quit when decluttering gets tough.
This is something that most decluttering methods completely leave out. Decluttering stinks. It’s a chore, it’s a pain.
I don’t know anyone who jumps out of bed early on Saturday morning eager to declutter their home.
So, that’s why we’re going to first come up with a vision for our homes. Take a moment to close your eyes and imagine your home.
It’s tidy and clean. The kitchen counter is clear of clutter. The toys are arranged neatly in their area. If you needed to find your keys, a new tube of toothpaste or your water bill from last month, you’d know exactly where to look.
With that vision in mind, what would you do with the space? Would you invite friends over for dinner? Or bake cookies with your kids? Maybe you’d start that business you’ve always dreamed about.
What’s your dream?
I know it seems wonky that the first step to decluttering your home is to dream a little, but it’s so important.
Wanting to have a social media worthy home or impress unexpected guests are not good enough reasons. Life is too short to focus on taking steps to declutter your home just to impress other people.
Decluttering Isn’t Just About Getting Rid of Stuff
This is something no one else is talking about: decluttering isn’t just about getting rid of stuff.
Rather than getting rid of clutter just for the sake of getting rid of clutter…we want to focus on removing the blocks in your life.
What are the blocks that keep you from living out your dream for your home? When we go to declutter, we’ll focus on removing those blocks.
#2: Write a Checklist
Once you have your vision for your home, we’re onto the next step to declutter your home: writing a checklist.
Sit down with a big sheet of paper (or a digital document) and write out everything you’d like to do in your home to make your dream possible.
As you write out your decluttering checklist, don’t judge or try to prioritize. Write down all of the ideas so you can get them out of your head.
Based on my own personal experience, there seems to be 3-5 thoughts that take up the majority of my conscious thinking. When I write those down, I make space in my brain for other thoughts to surface.
Let’s say you want to bake cookies with your kids. Every time you want to do that, you first have to spend an hour cleaning up the kitchen. How often do you think you would live out that dream?
Not very often.
Regardless of what the rest of the home looks like, in order to make this dream possible, you’ll have to start with the kitchen. So write out everything you would have to do in the kitchen to make it and easy spot to bake.
#3: Pick One Project
Once you have your braindumped checklist written out, take a look at it. What project do you want to work on first?
Here’s my advice for picking your first decluttering project:
- Pick something that makes the most noticeable difference with the least amount of time.
- Pick something that contains items that are easy for you to sort through.
- Remember that dream you laid out in step #1? Pick a small project that helps you take one step closer to that dream.
I know what you’re thinking: “But I can’t just pick one! The entire house is a mess.”
Trust me, you’ll want to pick one project at a time.
Let’s say you have 1 hour per week to dedicate to decluttering. You’ll see much more progress if you devote 4 hours over the course of a month on one area…than if you spend an hour in 4 areas.
I’m not saying you have to follow through until everything is perfect. Perfection is a myth; it doesn’t exist.
What I am saying is to pick just ONE project to be your focus until you’re satisfied with the results. Then you’ll be able to pick the next thing to work on.
#4: Break It Down…And Then Break It Down Again…And Again
Overwhelm is very common when you’re faced with clearing out years or decades of clutter. I know, because I’ve been there.
One step that helps you decrease overwhelm when you declutter your home is to make each task more manageable.
Let’s break the giant project of cleaning out the office into several smaller, manageable tasks:
- Declutter desk.
- Declutter closet.
- Address unlabeled boxes in the middle of the floor.
- Go through the pile of random items stacked on the chair.
- Break down and recycle empty moving boxes.
Ask yourself, “Does this task take less than 15 minutes to complete?” If the answer is no, break it down more.
The project of decluttering the desk can be broken down like this:
- Sort through papers piled on top:
- Throw out trash.
- Shred private information.
- Create folder with papers to keep.
- Create organization for pens:
- Find a cup to use as a pen holder.
- Gather pens.
- Take a piece of scrap paper and test out pens to see which ones work.
- Throw out pens that don’t work.
- Put working pens into pen holder.
Do you see how breaking down the list can make each item feel less overwhelming? We took this giant project of decluttering the home office and broke it down until each item on the list takes 15 minutes or less to complete.
The idea is to make each decluttering task so small, you can’t convince yourself to skip it.
A giant project like decluttering the whole home office might be something you push off indefinitely, waiting for the perfect time (which will never come 😜).
However, if your task for the day is to grab some scrap paper and test out pens, that’s totally doable…even at the end of a long day.
#5: Take Consistent Steps
If you’re looking for a Type A personality to tell you to whip out your calendar and schedule a time to declutter at the same time every day…I’m not your girl.
It doesn’t matter if you declutter first thing in the morning or at 1 a.m. It just matters that you take small, consistent steps to declutter your home.
You would be surprised by how much you can accomplish by decluttering for 15 minutes every day (or most days) over the course of a month or a year.
You’ll make more progress taking tiny, consistent steps, than if you devote 3 hours on a Saturday to it and abandon before you’re done.
In fact, I believe that you shouldn’t declutter fast because you’re missing out on all the benefits you gain by taking small, consistent steps.
Bonus Step to Declutter Your Home: Focus on Progress, Not Perfection
This last step to declutter your home is not as strategic, but important nonetheless.
Perfection is a myth; it doesn’t exist. Yet is a concept that is so prevalent in our modern day society that we often see social media worthy as the goal. Not only that, we view anything less as failure.
Instead of focusing on meeting an impossible standard, focus on progress. Every little step you take towards the dream you created in step 1 is a reason to celebrate.
Recycled the old magazines that were covering your coffee table? Woohoo, pat yourself on the back.
Broke down the Amazon boxes cluttering up your entryway? Yay, do a little happy dance!
Every step you take towards your goal, no matter how small, is progress and should be celebrated.
Focusing on progress makes you feel good about yourself, which then motivates you to go onto bigger and bigger projects.
You can do this!