Overwhelmed by Clutter? Make a Declutter Plan!

Overwhelmed by Clutter? Make a Declutter Plan!

, by Maeve Reidy, 11 min reading time

As with a lot of things, taking the first steps of decluttering can be hard!  

The thought of decluttering your whole house might feel overwhelming. Or maybe you just don’t know how to tackle all the “stuff” without bouncing from one spot to the next, but never feeling like you’re making progress anywhere!

The good news is, once you get started decluttering, it becomes a lot easier to keep going ...

cluttered drawer

Step 1:

Discover your “Why”

It sounds obvious but knowing your “why” for wanting to declutter is important ... it’s what will keep you motivated, dedicated and on track to continue decluttering, even when it feels hard.

Get clear with yourself about why you want to declutter. What do you want to achieve? What matters the most to you? What do you want to gain by living more simply and minimally?

Do you want to spend less time cleaning the house? Have more time for a hobby, activity, job or your family? Create a more peaceful, calming home? Take action to reduce stress caused by your home and the stuff you own? Or perhaps you’re moving to a smaller place that doesn’t have the space for all your clutter?

What’s your Vision?

How does your space currently make you feel?

Without a clear vision of how you want your home to look, feel and function, it’s easy to get sidetracked or lose momentum as you’re decluttering.

There’s no way around it – decluttering your home takes work. Physical, mental and emotional work. It's very easy to let this pull you off track, distract you and even make you feel like giving up!

But having a clear “why” and a clear vision for what you want to achieve by decluttering is a great way to help you stay on track, reminding you why you’re putting the work in, and how it will pay off in the end.

Step 2:

Make a Decluttering Plan

First, a Decluttering plan means you’ll always know exactly what needs to be done next. And you’ll never waste your decluttering time and energy trying to figure out where and what to work on.

Secondly, taking some time to figure out a few of the logistics before you start decluttering, means you won’t get derailed by unexpected questions and roadblocks that come up while you’re in the midst of decluttering. That way you can spend your time clearing the clutter instead of getting sidetracked on these issues while you’re decluttering.

How to do it

The first thing to do is decide how you’re going to Declutter.

Will you declutter room by room? For example, declutter your kitchen, then your bedroom, then the living room, etc.?

Or will you declutter like-categories of items together? Decluttering all your books at once, then all your clothes, then all paperwork, etc.?

How will you dispose of your “stuff”?

Not knowing how you’ll get rid of the stuff you’re decluttering can be one of the biggest roadblocks when it comes to decluttering. If you don’t know what to do with the stuff you’re getting rid of, it can mean the stuff will sit in your house, continuing to cause clutter. Or even worse, get spread back out in the house and undo all of your hard work!

Taking some time to figure out ahead of time what you’ll do with the stuff you’re decluttering is one of the key ways to ensure decluttering success.

Rubbish & Recycling: Can you add it to your regular household bin and recycling collection? Will you need to take it to the dump or recycling centre? Or will you need to rent a skip?

Donations: Decide where you want to donate your “stuff”. A local charity shop? Or perhaps a homeless shelter? Wherever you decide, whatever you do, don’t mistake stuff that really should be binned as “donation-worthy”. The idea of donating is that the item in question is still in working order so that somebody gets the opportunity to use it themselves. Those who require the assistance of a charity are just as human as you, and don’t deserve your broken crockery or ripped and stained clothing or un-sit-able-on sofa! Choose where you will donate to. Plan exactly how often you’ll make donation drop-offs. Will you drop off donations weekly, fortnightly, monthly etc.? Then hold yourself accountable to those times and add them to your calendar (with reminders!)

Selling: If you’re planning on selling some of your belonging, decide where you’ll sell it. Then decide how long you will let unsold items sit before lowering the price and/or donating the items. Selling the stuff you’re decluttering can be a good way to make some extra money, but it can also slow down your decluttering progress. Selling items can take a lot of time (taking pictures, posting items for sale, corresponding with buyers, setting up meetups, accounting for people who don’t show up, having to relist it for sale, etc.). Holding on to stuff while you’re waiting for it to sell it means your space isn’t cleared as quickly. And there’s always the danger of changing your mind, and the “sell” pile being moved back into the house. It is important to decide for yourself if trying to sell items is worth the time and energy it will take, or if you’d rather clear the clutter quicker.

When to Declutter

This can be difficult to decide, especially if you find the whole process overwhelming, but deciding when, and how long you’ll be decluttering is important. Do you want to declutter for shorter periods more often? Maybe aiming for 10 minutes of decluttering a day. Or do longer periods of decluttering less often? Planning to declutter for an hour once a week, or one Saturday morning a month, etc.?

Or some combination of the two?

The key to making sure it happens is getting specific about when you plan to declutter. Then scheduling your decluttering times in your calendar, holding yourself accountable and making sure it gets done. Treat your decluttering times like any other appointment. Decluttering is really easy to put off if you don’t make time for it. So schedule it, then make sure you follow through!

Prioritise the Areas to Declutter

And finally, the last step of your decluttering plan is deciding what order you want to tackle decluttering your spaces.

Start by identifying the top 3 highest priority areas to declutter.

Your highest priority areas will be the spaces causing you the most stress, making you feel the most overwhelmed and taking up too much of your time. Are you always late for work because you can never find your jacket/shoes/keys in the hall? Decluttering this area first may make life a little less stressful in your mornings!

Tackling your three highest priority areas first will not only make life a lot easier and less stressful. But it will also free up a significant amount of time that can be used to continue decluttering, making it a lot easier to see the process of decluttering through. After listing your top 3 highest priority spaces, continue ranking all the spaces in your home from highest to lowest priority to declutter.

Don’t get bogged down with the Planning!`

One other thing to remember … it can feel marvellously “productive” (especially if you’ve never made a Decluttering Plan, or even Decluttered in any meaningful way!) to get your “special” notepad, different coloured pens and markers, colour-coded stickers etc while making your Plan … but it is still just a Plan! And plans need to be actioned! So by all means, make a colour-coded map of your house and accompanying chart for each room of your house, but don’t forget to put it into action and actually start decluttering!

Step 3:

Do a Whole House Sweep

Grab a box, bag or even a laundry basket and quickly walk through each space in your home looking for anything and everything you can see that you know should live somewhere else in your home, or that you can get rid of.

It could be rubbish to throw away, soft furnishings or items you don’t love or feel particularly attached to, items you know you don’t use or need, etc.

It will likely be surprising how much stuff you can gather relatively quickly. Often you have things that are either just filling space, but you don’t really love, use or feel attached to. Or there are things that just need to be dealt with and gotten rid of! It can be a quick and stress-free way to build momentum in tackling your clutter!

Step 4:

Clear your Surfaces

Clearing the flat surfaces in your home has a huge visual impact on your space, immediately making your home look and feel tidier, less cluttered and more visually appealing, but also making the surfaces in your home easier to use too.

Seeing the big impact clearing your surfaces can be a great way to stay encouraged and motivated to keep going.

Key surfaces to focus on include the kitchen counters, dining table, fridge front, hallway table, bathroom counters, bedside tables, coffee tables etc. Anywhere clutter tends to collect.

Use a cardboard box or basket to gather everything off one surface at a time. Throw out or recycle any rubbish. Get rid of anything you no longer use, need or love. Then put anything you’re keeping away where it belongs. Find or make a home to keep items that don’t already have one. It’s important that each item you’re keeping has a home to keep it, to avoid it ending up with surface clutter again. This may require some decluttering as you go, to make homes for the items you’re keeping.

Once the surface is clear, work towards keeping it clear, and get in the habit of putting things away instead of leaving them out on your surfaces.

Step 5:

Declutter Somewhere Easy

Continuing to build on your decluttering momentum, motivation and confidence that you’re building, and next tackle decluttering somewhere easy.

An easy space to declutter tends to be a smaller space, where you can start decluttering, finish the job and see the results of your efforts relatively quickly. Try to choose a space that is more utilitarian, so your decluttering decisions can be more logical and less emotional.

Good places to try include spaces like the bathroom, a wardrobe or even a few kitchen cupboards.

Work through the space decluttering. Then celebrate another decluttering success under your belt!

Step 6:

Tackle your Highest Priority Area

Now that you’ve found your Decluttering Groove, it’s time to tackle the highest priority space you identified in Step 2.

Tackling this area will make a big impact on your life, giving you more time, less stress and a huge boost in motivation to keep decluttering when you can immediately see the benefits of your efforts!

Step 7:

Follow your Plan and Keep Going!

Now that you’ve had success decluttering the areas of your home that causes you the most stress, keep following your plan to work through the rest of your spaces.

Work from highest to lowest priority to declutter. Continue scheduling and holding yourself accountable to your decluttering times.

If you’re the type of person that likes to see visible progress, take before and after pictures of your spaces so you can easily see what a difference your decluttering efforts are making. Not only will seeing the changes in your home keep you feeling motivated. But it’s also a great way to track your progress if you’re doing a little decluttering at a time and don’t have an immediate and dramatic before and after to keep you encouraged.


After you’ve finished decluttering all the spaces in your home, take some time to assess how your home looks, feels and functions now.

Does your home align with your vision, your “why” and your decluttering goals?

If it doesn’t, don’t get discouraged. It often takes a few rounds of decluttering to reach your decluttering goals.

Instead, go back through each of your spaces and see if there is more that you are now willing to let go of, after your initial purge.

One of the best ways to feel motivated to let go of more “stuff” is by living in your decluttered spaces and enjoying the benefits firsthand.

Keep going until your home looks, feels and functions in a way that works best for you and your family!

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