Where to Start Decluttering When Everything Is a Mess

Want to get your home organized but don’t know where to start decluttering? Here is a simple plan to get you started when your home is an overwhelming mess.

woman sitting between mess and thinking with text overlay - where to start decluttering

Clutter can be overwhelming.

But the thought of trying to clear out that clutter can be even more overwhelming. It can impossible to decide which is the right room, space, drawer, or closet to start with.

Then you just ignore the mess. And then the clutter and mess just grow. Before you know it, it turns into an endless cycle.

But you know you need to declutter and this is why you are here. So, let’s do this.

Step 1: Pick One Area

  • Start by picking out one space/area.

Maybe it is your junk drawer, maybe it is that shelf in your coat closet, maybe it is the medicine cabinet in your bathroom, or maybe it is that catchall corner in your bedroom.

It literally does not matter which space you pick out. It can be big or small.

I do recommend picking something small so you can get through it quickly enough and feel that sense of achievement.

One of the best places to start is usually the bathroom (or a drawer or cabinet in the bathroom) because:

  • you don’t usually have sentimental items in there
  • it is really easy to sort through things that are expired to be thrown out
  • it’s small enough.

Step 2: Decide When

  • Decide how long you are going to spend organizing it.

One of the main reasons for clutter is not having or dedicating time to organize. Time is the most elusive thing.

Just like with picking the space to declutter, it is key to start with a small amount of time – maybe it is 5 minutes or maybe it is 15 minutes. For the first time, I recommend keeping it at 10 minutes or under.

10 minutes are easy to find. You can simply cut down on your TV time or wake up 10 minutes earlier or go to bed 10 minutes later.

Step 3: Set an Alarm

There is something about the urgency that just makes our brain work faster and more efficiently. I am a huge fan of setting alarms.

  • Set an alarm for 10 minutes and try to get as much done as possible.

Once the alarm goes off you can give yourself permission to walk away or clean up before you walk away. However, I promise you that if you keep an eye on the alarm you will have finished the task before the alarm goes off.

Step 4: Start Decluttering

Decluttering is a simple 3 step process:

  1. Dump it all out
  2. Sort what you need and don’t
  3. Put it back in an organized manner

However, it is never really that simple. It does have an emotional component as well because you have to decide what to keep and what to throw/give away.

woman sorting wardrobe into boxes and decluttering

Ask yourself and answer these questions honestly:

  • Do I use it regularly?
  • Do I use it seasonally?
  • Do I ever use it?
  • What is the cost of replacing it? It is worth the clutter?

If the answer to the first two questions is yes then you should keep it. But if you have not used it in a long time or if you’re not sure if you would ever use it again it should be in the throw/giveaway pile. This is where the fourth question comes in what would it cost to replace it if you ever needed it again?

Let’s take an example – maybe you have a $15 platter from target that you’ve never used but you might do it one day. If you do need it five years down the line, you could always go and buy one. Would it be worth it for you to store that platter and have it take up space in your home and mind for five years just to save $15?

Now if it was your grandma’s platter, then that’s a different story.

Step 5: Organize It

Once you have sorted through all the things and decided what you want to keep, it is time to put it back.

The most important thing here is to put things back and give them a home. The main reason for clutter is when things don’t have a home.

neatly organized bathroom shelves

Everything needs to have a specific home.

  • Group like items together.
  • Decide exactly where they would be the easiest to use.
  • Use organizers if you need to – you can buy these or DIY them or even repurpose items.

And you are DONE decluttering that one space.

Step 6: Turn It Into a Routine

Once you finish one space, you will be amazed at how awesome and light you feel. It is time to turn it into a routine so you can do it every day or week.

  • Every day pick one space to organize for 10 minutes.

You will see the magic of organization slowly unfold.

It is all about keeping it simple and quick and taking it one step at a time.

  • As you get better at it, you can increase the time or the number of spaces.

Once you finish organizing a space you can always come back to it once a month or a quarter just to make sure it is still functioning the best.

And if you don’t feel like completely re-organizing space, there are simple little tasks that you can take care of that will give you that sense of progress and achievement.

Step 7: Get the Decluttering Checklist

Make sure to grab the complete decluttering checklist which takes you through room by room. It is great to have on hand so you can quickly cross things off as you go.

Examples of Quick-Win Decluttering Tasks

  • Laundry – Put away the laundry that has been waiting
  • Empty out the dishwasher and reload it to clear the sink
  • Quick walk around the room to pick up and put things back.

There is so much that you can do to begin organizing when your home is an overwhelming mess. If you just break down what needs to be done into little tasks and beat the overwhelm!


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Anika Gandhi is on a mission to declutter and organize all the things around her and is here to inspire and encourage you to do the same!

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