Help! My house is so cluttered I don’t know where to start! Is it your though when your look at your house?
We live in a society of “more is more,” and it can be challenging to go against the flow. So we tend to buy lots of things, too many things. And then, guilt about letting clutter take over our life comes in, but it’s hard to find time, motivation, or energy to start decluttering.
Stay kind to yourself, clutter is overwhelming by itself. And while doing research (or else you wouldn’t be here) and seeing a lot of videos, your find so much advice that they blur, and you’re left with the same question: where do I start?
Let me ask you something: how do you eat an elephant? Yes, you know the answer: one bite at a time. Like the elephant, you’ll be able to declutter your home with simple steps. Remember: the worst mess can be tackled one step at a time.
The first steps
Change your mindset
Yes, I talk about mindset in a decluttering blog post. Instead of thinking “my house is so cluttered I don’t know where to start”, view the situation as something you’ll be able to improve with a little help.
Get control over what’s coming into your house
Try to go shopping only when you need something and avoid buying things only because they are on sale. And ask yourself if your purchases are based on the life you have now or for a hypothetical future self.
If you have kids, you know they bring lots of stuff into the house, but you can still improve that by implementing a toy rotation to not live in their playground.
Where to start?
Start where you are. If you have googled to find this post, you’re motivated to change how your house looks, so take advantage of it. You don’t need a complex plan to see results.
I was sorting my digital photos a year ago and found some of my kitty, Freya. And when I looked at the background, I found it was so cluttered compared to what it was then. I had forgotten that it hadn’t always been as neat as now.
So, take a before picture. Don’t worry, you don’t need to share it with anyone. But it will be a reminder of how much progress you’ve made. That will be useful when you feel discouraged or overwhelmed.
Also, take pictures at the end of your decluttering sessions to track your progress.
Grab your equipment
Get a garbage bag for the trash and two boxes to sort things you’ll donate or sell. If you didn’t find bins, bags would work but label them not to mistake them. You don’t need more. Particularly you don’t want to buy organizing supplies before knowing what you’ll need.
How to clean a cluttered house
Define your target
Focus on one room at a time. Even better, focus on a cluttered zone at a time. It’s easier to see yourself decluttering that table or this drawer than tackling the whole house. To avoid a bigger mess, do your best to finish one area before moving to the next.
Don’t aim to declutter everything. Instead, remember the elephant and aim to declutter something.
In the same manner, don’t expect to work for hours. It will be easier to sort your stuff in small chunks of time. You can grab a timer, put it on for 15 minutes and declutter as best as you can until it rings.
My last tip, but an important one, is to refrain from organizing while you declutter. You’ll end up organizing clutter you should get rid of or buy organizing supplies you finally won’t need.
Remove the garbage
The next step is pretty simple as there aren’t hard decisions. Take your garbage bag and remove what’s obviously trash. If you hesitate about an item, it stays there for now. You aim to act fast and remove that empty can from your coffee table.
Remove what doesn’t belong in the area
The easiest way for this step is to grab boxes for each room, including the one where you are. Then, at the end of your decluttering session, you’ll put the baskets in their rooms and maybe put away things in them. But emptying the baskets is not your goal for now.
Sort what’s left
When you declutter a shelf or a drawer, remove everything from the space, wipe it, and put back only what you love or use.
Some decisions will be hard. You’ll find items you keep “just in case.” Ask yourself how long you have owned these. They take up space in your home and your mind, and this is your permission to let them go. It can also be problematic with sentimental items. Take attention to the first emotion that comes when you see the thing. It can be an indicator of what you think about the object.
If you can’t decide what to do with something, the last solution is to use a maybe box. This is a box where you put what makes you indecisive. Then, once you’ve finished your decluttering session, put the box somewhere and forget it for one to three months. At the end of this period, if you didn’t use what’s in it, the odds are that you can get rid of it. But if you put seasonal items in the box, you can wait until the season is gone.
Then, you’ll be able to organize what you keep. So don’t do a rush job on that, and take the time to think about how you’ll use your stuff instead of putting them in a random cabinet.
Don’t forget to take a picture and congratulate yourself.
Make a plan for when you don't know where to start because your house is so cluttered
Ask yourself what areas bother you the most. You’ll need to be precise and think more about the kitchen counters on the left or dinner table than the whole room. List these spaces on a piece of paper. Don’t try to be exhaustive and stop when you end with a list of 10 to 15 zones.
Start decluttering with the first space on your list. Chances are it’s the area you’ll be the happiest to have it tidy. Then follow your list.
Progress is made when you do something regularly, and you’ll need to build a habit of decluttering. Unless you have big chunks of time to declutter, you can set aside 15 minutes daily. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but you’d have decluttered for more than 7 hours at the end of the month. Not bad, isn’t it?
Also, consider that you’ll need time to donate or sell what you declutter.
Once you’ve ended your list, pat yourself, you can be proud of yourself. The next step is to write a second list and do the whole process again. Time after time, your house will become tidier.
How to keep your momentum
If you feel discouraged, look at your pictures and see how much progress you’ve made. Bite by bite, you’ll eat your elephant!
Remember that decluttering is a process. Don’t try to be perfect the first time. Instead, aim to sort what’s easier. You’ll probably declutter a second or a third time and be more ruthless. If the idea of decluttering again freaks you out, I promise it will take less effort the second time!
It’s not easy to declutter, but you do a great job. So reward yourself with something you like and won’t add clutter to your house. I tend to buy some good herbal tea as recompense because I love that but find what works best for you!
If it feels like a too lonely task, you can ask for help. Find a supportive friend or family member that won’t judge you and ask them to help you while decluttering. Maybe you’ll help them back later.
How to maintain your house decluttered
When you want to bring something to your home, ask yourself where you’ll put it. Will you have a place for it, or will it stay on your dining table?
You can also create a rule of one in/one out. Each time you bring something to your house, something similar must go.
Like you made a habit of decluttering your house, make one of tidying it up daily or at least weekly. As everything now has a place, you’ll be able to put stuff away more quickly.
Some things, like papers, come into your house whatever you do. Get a nice bin. You’ll put the papers you need to keep in it and recycle the rest. Sort the box regularly to avoid a paper tsunami.
Grab another box that you’ll put near the exit of your house for things you want to donate or sell. But be careful to put it somewhere you won’t see it too much, or you’ll second guess yourself.
Decluttering your whole house won’t be easy, but if you take it one area at a time, soon you’ll see improvements. No home is cluttered past cleaning. You can do it!
Do you still think that your house is so cluttered that you don’t know where to start?
Feel free to share your successes in the comment so I can sheer you!
And if you want help decluttering your closet, look at my other blog post: Decluttering your closet to love your clothes again or my list of things to declutter.