How to Declutter When You're Feeling Overwhelmed

In an ideal world, we would all be serene, clear minded, fresh, and ready to tackle our clutter.  We don’t live in an ideal world of course. Most of us are very busy, juggling several things, and are running a bit ragged out the door with a lukewarm cup of coffee in one hand and our phone in the other. 

In an ideal world, we would all be serene, clear minded, fresh, and ready to tackle our clutter.

We don’t live in an ideal world of course. Most of us are very busy, juggling several things, and are running a bit ragged out the door with a lukewarm cup of coffee in one hand and our phone in the other. 

You know that you need to minimalize your life - you have too much on your plate already - and you want to get started on it.

But then the baby gets sick.

Then the car breaks down AGAIN. 

Then you realize the laundry needs to be folded, the fridge needs to be cleaned out and you haven’t even given a thought as to how you’re going to reduce your paper clutter. 

i get it. We’ve all been there, and we all are busier than ever. 

But I can tell you that it’s because of this that you need to start on your path to becoming a minimalist right now. 

People who are overwhelmed most of the time have an issue with saying no. No to social obligations, to people, to obligations and work, and that puts their lives, their health and their happiness at risk. 

By minimalizing your life, you are going to free yourself up to focus on the important things - your kids, your career, your marriage, your creativity, your health - whatever your priority is. 

The real question is - how can you start being a minimalist today? Here are a few very easy, quick things you can do to get started.


Simply focus on one task at a time. One thing, one item. You don’t need to do anymore than that.  

If you do more? Great! More power to you. But if you don’t, that’s cool too. 

After you finish that one item, you can do the next item. And then the next item.  

Maybe you only do one item a day. For example, maybe today you could throw away the broke umbrella that has been bothering you for a while. And then tomorrow you can take the box of old toys and clothing to be donated. And the day after that, you can sort through your toiletries.  

There’s no set deadline for decluttering (unless you’re moving, but that’s a totally different story). Just keep moving steadily and surely.


I learned about the Pomodoro technique a couple years ago when it started trending, and have found it to be helpful in not only decluttering, but doing laundry, cleaning - anything that you need to work on for an extended period of time.

Despite the fact that it sounds like some sort of exotic Italian fruit, it is a productivity technique that is based around one simple thing: breaking up your work into 25 minute increments.

For example, if you were decluttering your garage, you would set a timer for twenty five minutes. After the timer goes off, you drop what you’re doing and take a break for five minutes. Then you go back and work for another twenty five minutes, and so on.

This works well since it keeps you from getting too bored with the task on hand. You know that as you continue to work on a task you start to lose focus and your mind starts wandering to the point where you are not getting anything done at all. Instead, the Pomodoro technique works by breaking it up into manageable chunks.

You can read more on the Pomodoro technique here


Although we do recommend that starting to declutter should come from you - after all, if you can’t get yourself on board the decluttering effort, it may be hard to convince other people to participate - that doesn’t mean that you can’t ask for help.

Some people, moms especially, are very good at putting everyone else in front of themselves as far as needs and time and energy. And then at the end of the day, they’re exhausted and drained from attending to everyone else’s needs.

Don’t do that. Delegate, or ask for some assistance. It can be having someone bag up items that you’re going to donate or sell or get rid of, someone coming back through and cleaning the areas that you’ve already decluttered, or even just having someone to bounce ideas off whether you should keep or get rid of something.

Let’s not be a martyr when it comes to decluttering. Ask for help and ye shall receive.


Although your eventual goal may be to declutter the entire house, how about if you just pick one room to start off with?

Or maybe just a closet? A cabinet?

A drawer? Or a container of items?

Basic psychology tells us that when we experience easy accomplishments and wins right off the bat, we’re more inclined to continue with our success. Give yourself some easy wins and manageable decluttering to start off with and reward yourself when you finish them.


Whether you’re going to be doing the KonMari method or Swedish Death Cleaning or room by room technique - you’ve got to have a strategy in place.

Maybe you plan out that you are going to tackle paper clutter first, then clothing, then books, then your kids’ rooms. OR maybe you just do it as you go, decluttering based on what draws your attention.

Whatever your strategy, decide on it in your head and stick with it.


Going back to the idea of easy wins, there’s nothing that motivates me more than having a big bag of clutter and clean surfaces. It just feels so danged good to have purged my home of trash, clutter and unnecessary items that have been eating away at me for months, even years.

The good news: once you purge, you’re going to be inclined to keep purging. It’s a wonderful momentum that will help you get motivated and get excited.


Although there are times in life when we need to force oruselves to do things that we don’t like (which is most of the time) there are also some times where we need to be kind to ourselves.
I had someone tell me the other day regarding the golden rule “Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” only to realize that I had not been treating myself very kindly.

Isn’t it funny how we can be so hard and critical of ourselves?

Keep things in perspective, and remind yourself of your successes. Yes, the garage may need to be decluttered, but your kitchen looks fantastic. Or, your home may seem a mess, but you’ve been working hard to set the stage for decluttering by getting everyone on board to start a decluttering challenge.

Give yourself credit and be kind to yourself.


Before you started decluttering, you probably had a motivation to do so.

Maybe it was to gain a better sense of control of your life. Or perhaps it was to have a more presentable home that you could feel proud about and love living in. Or maybe it was to create more calm and a place to relax in.

It’s easy to get lost along the way however. Life is busy, our inspiration and motivation can tap out, and there can be times where we want to give up or don’t know where to take the next step.

That’s where the original vision comes into play.

For instance, one of the reasons why we decluttered our home was to create a space to showcase my ikebana - Japanese floral arrangements - without having a lot of visual clutter or distraction. By returning back to that idea and focusing on that as a priority, we were able to gain confidence and direction when our motivation would start lagging.


Although sometimes I think that people are superhuman at their ability to keep pushing forward in even the worst situations, we must remember that we are human.

It’s okay to be unproductive, even when we were planning to have the garage decluttered.

It’s okay if you get distracted occasionally when you were supposed to be going through old photos.

Above all, the most important thing is to just keep going. One day at a time, one item at a time, and you’ll be there before you know it.

I hope that you’re feeling less overwhelmed

Remember that it’s easy to beat yourself up for not accomplishing as much as you would like or not getting things done as quickly as you would like.

Show yourself some love, take a deep breathe and refocus.

The clutter will still be there - it’s not going anywhere - and you can return to it when you feel up to it.

And remember that if you ever feel overwhelmed again, you can always come back to this post.

Happy decluttering!

Other posts you might be interested in

Being a Minimalist in a Maximalist World

5 Easy Ways to Practice Mindfulness

Minimalism is a Journey - Not a Destination

10 Tips for Decluttering Your Kitchen

Decluttering: Using Evernote to Digitalize Your Papers