How to Start Decluttering When You’re Overwhelmed

Over the years, you’ve filled your apartment with things you love — and plenty of other junk you don’t. If you feel clutter is overwhelming your space but don’t know where to start, read on. Here are nine tips for how to start decluttering when you’re overwhelmed. 

What is Decluttering? 

Decluttering is different from organizing — and is a great first step before you even attempt to organize or tidy up! Decluttering involves removing excess items you don’t use or want. Decluttering can occur anywhere in your home, including your closet, pantry, bathroom cabinets, or even your garage. Once you’ve gone through and decluttered, you’ll be left with extra storage space and only the items you genuinely need, cherish, or use. 

9 Tips for Decluttering When You’re Overwhelmed 

With the following nine tips, you’ll feel more confident and capable and complete your decluttering process in no time.  

Tip #1: Take a Breath, Find Your Focus 

Before you even get started, take a moment to clear your head and get in the zone. Though you’re overwhelmed, focus on your “why”: are you preparing to move? Want to find your things more efficiently? Running out of closet space? Hone in on your motivation to declutter and think about how great you’ll feel once you’ve decluttered your space. 

Tip #2: Make a Decluttering Plan

Sometimes the most challenging part of decluttering is figuring out how and where to start. Create a decluttering checklist that outlines every space of your apartment that you’ll need to sift through. 

 Some ideas to get you started include:

  • Bathroom — Shower, cabinets, extra linens, cosmetics, toiletries
  • Bedroom — closet, shoes, under the bed, dresser drawers, nightstand drawers
  • Living Room — decor, books, old electronics 
  • Desk/Office — paperwork, cords, office supplies
  • Kitchen —  pantry, medicine cabinet, cups, bowls, plates, silverware, fridge, freezer

Once you create a decluttering checklist, create a decluttering plan and stick to it. Checking off rooms or spaces will make you feel accomplished and help keep you motivated.  

Tip #3: Create a Little Joy in The Process

Decluttering isn’t exactly the most enjoyable way to spend your free time. It may be time for a mood boost if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Blast your favorite tunes, listen to a podcast, or FaceTime a friend while you work. Lighting your favorite scented candles, sipping on something caffeinated, and creating a little positivity can help keep you motivated as you check off your decluttering checklist.  

Tip #4: Look for Multiples, Mismatches, and Unused Items

To declutter, you’ll need to know what you’re looking to toss. As a general rule of thumb, you should eliminate anything you no longer need or use. However, that can be tough! What if you do need to wear that cocktail dress again? 

If you’re overwhelmed by the decision-making aspect of decluttering, focus instead on looking for things that are: half-used,  you have multiples of, mismatched, don’t fit, or that you haven’t used in the past year. 

If all else fails, take a page from Marie Kondo’s book and ask yourself if the item you’re debating on keeping or decluttering brings you joy or provides a necessary function. If it doesn’t, it’s likely that you can let it go for good. This trick is handy if you’re wondering how to declutter your closet or how to be ruthless when decluttering clothes. 

Tip #5: Create Designated Decluttering Piles

Before you get started, consider what you’ll do with the items you’ll be purging from your space. Some things may be trashed, recycled, donated, or even sold. Create designated bags or areas for your soon-to-be discarded items to keep organized as you complete the decluttering process. 

Tip #6: Take it Room By Room 

Looking at the big picture can be extremely overwhelming, especially if you’re in a larger space or have been accumulating things for years and years. Breaking things down into bite-size chunks can help you get the job done faster and feel more accomplished. 

Instead of trying to tackle your whole apartment or space at once, take things room by room. Smaller rooms or areas, such as bathrooms or laundry rooms, can be done quickly. Other spaces, like closets or fully-stocked kitchens, may take a little longer to sort through. 

Tip #7: Take Your Time

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was your stockpile of excess! So, don’t feel like you need to complete your decluttering all in one go. Consider how much time you have to declutter today and choose your focus space or room accordingly. 

Tip #8: Once You Start a Space, Don’t Stop 

Once you begin decluttering a room or specific area, see it through from start to finish. Stopping midway through will leave you stressed and anxious until you can return to it. 

Tip #9: Touch Every Object Just Once 

As you sort through your things, use a one-touch method. For example, if you’re decluttering your closet, go through each clothing item individually and decide whether it should stay or go right then and there. For things you decide to purge, place them in the appropriate pile or bag (donate, sell, trash). 

This method works for everything from old cosmetics to old school papers and can help keep you on track and eliminate unsightly and distracting piles of discarded items. 

Find a Clean Slate with ApartmentSearch

There’s no better way to prep for a move than by clearing the clutter away. Find an apartment that fits your budget and your needs with ApartmentSearch. We’ve got plenty of options and our advanced filters can help you save time and narrow down your options to only apartments that meet your criteria.