Where to start decluttering your house (when it’s an overwhelming mess)
You’ve done endless research about how to start decluttering your house and you feel fired up and ready to go.
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Your level of motivation to declutter your house is through the roof and you’re ready to quit living like a hoarder and finally create the home of your dreams.
After gathering your decluttering supplies (hint: all you need is a few plain cardboard boxes and some of these bags), you’re ready to go.
There’s just one problem.
You have NO idea where to start decluttering your house.
You know what to do and how to declutter… but where do you start? Every room is equally cluttered, so you can’t even start with the most cluttered room (which you shouldn’t do, anyway).
So you’re left standing helplessly in the middle of a cluttered house not knowing what to do next.
And quitting before you have the chance to start seems like the best option. You’ve been living in a cluttered house this long, so what’s a bit longer?
If you’re feeling like this, stop what you’re doing and forget about the clutter in your house for a second. Just breathe.
Clutter has a way of suffocating people and making them feel trapped, overwhelmed, and anxious. Which is the exact reason why we want to get it out of your house, stat.
Clearing clutter: where to start decluttering your house
I’ve tried out many different decluttering methods over the years including different places in the home to start decluttering. The one place I’ve found to start that works the best time and time again for getting decluttering motivation and carrying that motivation throughout the rest of the house is this…
The best place to declutter is the place in your home that bugs you the most.
Because if it bugs you, you’re going to want to get organized. And once you get it decluttered and organized, you’ll feel so good every time you walk past that area that you’ll be motivated to continue the decluttering trend throughout the rest of your house.
It may sound crazy, but it works every. single. time.
Why not just start decluttering in one specific room?
Many decluttering experts will tell you to start decluttering your house in the living room, or the closet, or the entryway, etc.
The problem I’ve found with that approach is that everyone is different, and everyone’s homes are different.
Meaning, Sally’s living room might not be the best place for her to start, because it may be such a cluttered mess that the mere thought of tackling it sends her over the edge of anxiety and overwhelm, and she’s likely to convince herself that decluttering isn’t worth it.
While Sally’s living room may be a massive cluttered mess and definitely NOT a good place for her to start, the living room may be the perfect starting point for the next person, because their living room may not be as cluttered, or they may not feel as overwhelmed at the thought of decluttering the living room.
That’s the great thing about the choose your own starting place decluttering method…
I’m not assuming that I know your house and your clutter habits. I’m telling you that since you know your house and you know whether or not you’d get too overwhelmed with trying to tackle the most cluttered room first, you get to choose where to start.
This is why the area and room that you start decluttering in first will likely be completely different from the next person’s.
And that’s okay.
It’s exactly right, in fact. You need to choose the area of your house that bothers you the most because that “bother” is going to be the driving incentive for you to keep going.
(Don’t panic if you don’t know which area of your house bothers you the most. I’ll show you a way to figure that out in a moment.)
How to start decluttering
The best way to start decluttering your house is to start somewhere that you’ll feel motivated and driven to complete, prioritize it, then to just start.
We make decluttering up to be this big, complicated ordeal… when in reality, it doesn’t have to be complicated at all.
All you need to do to declutter your house is prioritize.
You need to make the choice to prioritize decluttering – because if you don’t, there will always be something else to do first and another reason for it to get pushed to the backburner.
In other words, if you don’t prioritize decluttering, your house will never be what you’re longing for it to be (and it will always be cluttered).
So right here, right now, make a plan to declutter.
This is the best way for how to start decluttering… in 3 simple steps:
- Choose your starting point (the place in your house that bothers you the most, we’ll talk about how to choose your place below)
- Prioritize (set time out of your schedule to spend doing nothing but decluttering)
- Just start
Don’t think of decluttering as something you can only do when you have time to declutter your entire house as once.
Going about decluttering with that approach is just setting yourself up for failure.
If you’re waiting for a chance where you can declutter your entire house in one go you’re going to be a) waiting for a VERY long time to be able to find a timeslot big enough in your schedule to do it all at once, and b) so overwhelmed by the workload that you’ll likely just give up.
The key to decluttering is to do it in manageable steps.
You don’t want to get overwhelmed by decluttering or else you’ll start to make poor decisions (like keeping things you should be getting rid of, and getting rid of things you should be keeping).
Choosing where to start decluttering
So now you know that you need to start decluttering your house in the area (not room) that bothers you the most… but what if you’re bothered by every room? How do you know where to start decluttering when you want to declutter it all – or worse, you’re overwhelmed because it seems like every room is filled with so much clutter.
Take a deep breath.
Now go walk through each area of your house.
Make note of the different rooms and areas inside the rooms. Which area makes you feel especially bothered when you see it cluttered and messy? Continue walking through your house until you’ve found that one area.
One thing to note:
It’s important to keep in mind that you don’t want to just focus on the rooms of your house. You don’t need to tackle an entire room to start with.
If there’s a particular area inside a room that bothers you to see cluttered, start with that area. For example, maybe the office doesn’t bother you as a whole, but the cluttered desk drives you mad.
For me, it was the countertops. I couldn’t stand to see my kitchen and bathroom counters cluttered and messy, so that was the best place for me to start.
4 Beneficial Reasons to Declutter the Area that Bothers You the Most, first
1. It gives you the freedom to choose
Rather than me telling you where to start decluttering your house, you get to choose. Having the freedom to choose where you start decluttering will give you more ownership over your results.
Instead of tediously decluttering the bedroom for no reason besides “because that’s where she told me to start”, you’ll find yourself enjoying the decluttering process more when you start somewhere that you choose. Especially when it’s somewhere that you really can’t stand to see messy.
2. You won’t feel as bad for throwing things away or donating
Since this is your area and you truly want to make it look good, you won’t be as hesitant to get rid of useless belongings. You’ll be more convinced than ever that you really don’t need the things that have been stored in that room for months without being used, and you’ll be motivated to get rid of them because it’s up to you to make this area look especially good.
3. You’ll feel accomplished once it’s done
Once you’ve finished decluttering your area, you’ll get an incredible sense of accomplishment every time you walk past that spot. Because that’s your spot. You worked hard to get rid of the clutter and organize it nicely, and it helps that you really like it when that particular area is neat and tidy.
4. It’ll give you motivation to declutter the rest of your house
Because you feel so good about how tidy and organized that particular area is, you’ll feel motivated to make the rest of your house look that good.
If you start decluttering somewhere in your house that you don’t particularly care about, just because a decluttering expert told you to start there, you won’t necessarily feel the same level of accomplishment when you’re finished, and you’ll likely have a much less enjoyable time.
How to declutter fast
“How can I declutter my house quickly?”
You’ve narrowed down where to start decluttering your house, now it’s time to learn how to declutter that area.
The following steps will help you learn how to declutter each room in your house with a step-by-step guide so that you can declutter your house as quickly as possible.
(Keep in mind that speed isn’t what we’re after, you want results. To get the best decluttering results you need to be precise and thorough, otherwise you’ll just end up having to declutter again in a month. So take your time, but don’t take so long that you prolong the entire process and cause more harm than good.)
Here are the step-by-step directions to declutter the main area in your house that bothers you the most, then use these steps to continue to declutter the rest of the rooms in your house.
If you get stuck wondering, “how do you declutter a room and a whole house?” here’s the easiest and most effective way to do it…
How to declutter your house
1. Dump everything
Take everything from the specific area that you are decluttering and dump it in a giant pile on the ground. Don’t worry about organizing the pile or sorting through it.
Right now all you want to do is take everything from where it is and put it in a pile on the floor.
Decluttering experts suggest that taking things away from where they live in your home and putting them in a different area – in this case, on the floor – helps you see everything for what it is and helps you have an easier time addressing whether or not to keep something.
For this step, don’t pay much attention to the things you’re grabbing and putting on the floor. Simply take everything – EVERYTHING – from this area and put it all together in a pile.
2. Get rid of the garbage
After you’ve gotten everything to the floor, sort through the giant pile of things and throw any trash straight into your garbage bags (I recommend these ones as they won’t break easily). Throw out any broken items, too.
3. Sort like items together
Next, sort through the pile of your belongings and put like items in groups together.
For example, if I were decluttering the items from my office desk, I would put papers/notepads in a pile, pens/pencils/markers/highlighters in a pile, scissors in a pile, cords in a pile, etc.
Doing this allows you to see how many of the same – or similar – items you have, and will make decluttering much easier.
Now it’s time to sort through each pile of stuff and decide what stuff you’re going to keep, and what stuff it’s time to get rid of.
If you come to an item that makes you feel stuck, you don’t know whether to keep it or get rid of it, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I use this on a regular basis?
- Does this item make my life easier?
- Do I like it?
- Do I own something else that can serve the same purpose?
- If it broke, would I go out and buy a new one?
Decluttering questions to make decluttering easier…
Do I use this on a regular basis?
If you answered yes, ask yourself if you own anything else that can be used for the same purpose. If yes, get rid of one of the items. If you don’t have anything else, keep it. If you answered no, ask yourself if it’s something you need. If yes, keep it. If no, get rid of it.
Does this item make my life easier?
If you answered yes, and you don’t have anything else that can be used for the same purpose, keep it. If no, ask yourself if it’s something you need and use regularly. If yes, keep it. If you answered no, toss it.
Do I like it?
If you answered yes, do you use it enough to justify keeping it? Yes, keep. No, toss. If you answered no, is it a necessity? No, toss. Yes, keep.
Do I own something else that can serve the same purpose?
If you answered yes, toss one or the other. If you answered no, is it something you need? If no, toss. If yes, keep.
If it broke, would I go out and buy a new one?
If you answered yes, is it a necessity? Yes, keep. No, toss. If you answered no, ask yourself why you feel like you need to keep it and make your final decision truthfully.
Want the flowchart that goes along with decluttering questions to make decluttering a breeze? You can grab the whole packet here.
5. Pack things away in storage
Anything that you don’t use often (think, less than twice a year) but need to keep can get packed away in these bins to get them out of the way, but easily accessible for when you do need them.
There’s no point in working to organize your house and find a place for these items to live if you use them so little. But you need to keep them around, so it’s a good idea to pack them up into bins and store them in the storage room.
You can grab a pack of affordable storage bins, here. (They’re clear, which is super important so you can easily see what’s inside.)
How do you declutter when you’re overwhelmed?
Trying to declutter any area can be difficult when you tend to get easily overwhelmed by the mess.
When you feel overwhelmed by the clutter in your house, start decluttering by tackling the one area that bothers you the most and ignore the rest of your house while you do this.
Don’t anticipate everything else that still needs to be done.
Put your complete focus on the one area you’re tackling right now.
Then, after that area is done, find the next area that bothers you, and tackle that area. Again, ignoring the rest of your house.
The key to how to declutter when you’re overwhelmed is to focus on ONE area and ignore everything else. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get to the rest of your house for a while – that’s not what you’re working on right now.
Right now all you’re working on is this one very specific area.
To help make the process easier, choose one specific area to declutter, then once that area is decluttered take a break for the rest of the day – or couple of days, depending on how long you want the process to take.
Rewarding yourself by taking a break gives you something to work towards and makes the entire decluttering process seem that much more manageable.
When you get overwhelmed, tell yourself this:
You don’t have to do it all. All you have to do is this one area.
How can I get organized at home?
Now that you’ve learned how to declutter your home by following the step-by-step decluttering guide, it’s time to learn some quick and easy home organization habits to keep your house looking good and free from clutter.
Some people wonder, “How can I make my house look less cluttered?”…
The only way to truly make your house look – and be – decluttered is to declutter. However, some people try to skip this step if they think it will be too difficult and try to simply organize the clutter.
Doing this is a terrible, terrible waste of time. Because simply shuffling clutter around or putting it into cute organization containers doesn’t make your house any less cluttered. It’s just moving clutter from here, to there.
So, these organization tips are very useful, however, don’t just use these.
Declutter first, then organize your home with these organization tips:
Organize with bins
Using bins to keep like-items grouped together is one of the most clever home organization tips around. You can get adorable bins that double as home decor, here.
I use a bin just like this one to keep my son’s toys contained in one area but still easy to get at, and I use a smaller bin like this one to keep my measuring cups and spoons contained to one area, and another bin to keep our tea organized and from becoming a mess on the pantry shelves.
You can also use something like this to keep toilet paper stocked on the back of a toilet.
Utilize the back of your door to create even more space in your home. You could do an over-the-door storage bin on your pantry door to create more space on the pantry shelves.
You can store items such as spices, crackers, noodles, and granola bars in your pantry door organizer.
Another area to use these organizers is in the bathroom, to store makeup, hair accessories, deodorant, etc.
If every drawer feels like a junk drawer in your house (even after you’ve decluttered), drawer organizers will keep everything in the drawers from becoming a mess and will help you keep track of where everything is. (Instead of having to spend 10 minutes digging through a drawer searching for your highlighter. 🙂 )
If you do decide to go the route of using drawer organizers, I strongly recommend you use these specific organizers since each drawer is a different size, this way you can decide which containers you put in which drawers (rather than buying something that doesn’t fit).
Fold sheets and store inside pillowcases
This home organization tip will help you keep your linen closet neat, crisp, and organized. Simply fold your sheets as you normally would, then store sheet sets inside the pillowcase that goes along with that set.
(Fold the fitted sheet, flat sheet, and one pillowcase – then place them all neatly inside the second pillowcase for the set and store in the linen closet like that.)
Doing this also makes it easy to grab a set of – matching – sheets instead of having to dig through dozens of sheets to find all the matching pieces.
Store it where it gets used
Rather than dragging the toilet bowl brush across the house from one bathroom to the next on cleaning day, why not double up and keep a brush in each room.
Doing this for other things, such as keeping cleaning rags where they get used, laundry detergent near the washer, etc., will cut down on the amount of stuff that gets left where it doesn’t belong in your house.
A place for everything, and everything in its place
Be sure everything you keep in your house has a designated place. Somewhere that it won’t be in the way and won’t look messy.
Doing this will hugely impact how organized your house looks every day.
Prefer to have someone walk you through organizing every room of your house? This course, The Organized Home, by Hilary is the best course I’ve ever taken that goes over, in detail, how to organized EVERY SINGLE ROOM in your house.
She covers it all, so if you’re struggling to get organized, you need this.
And there you have it… the 6 best home organization tips to use to organize your house AFTER you’ve decluttered your house following the easy decluttering tips laid out above.
Where to start decluttering
The one place that bothers you the most when it’s a mess.
I’d love to know – you came here feeling overwhelmed by your clutter and hopeless. After reading this post about where to start decluttering your house, are you ready to go out and tackle the clutter?
Feel free to share in the comments which area bothers you the most to see messy – the area you’re going to start decluttering first!