Too Overwhelmed to Declutter

too overwhelmed to declutter
© 2014 Christy King
Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century “presents a troubling picture: costly but virtually unused ‘master suites’ . . . stacks and stacks of clutter . . . garages so packed with household overflow that cars have to be parked on the street.”
– Meg Sullivan

Are you too overwhelmed to declutter? Think it’s way too much work? I used to feel that way.

Then I realized there was no law requiring me to spend all my free time decluttering for months until I was done. I could do it at my own pace, still leaving plenty of room in my schedule for fun and relaxation.

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, try it my way: simplify gradually.

1. Bring in Less Stuff.

To make this work, you’ll need to commit yourself to thoughtful acquisition. It doesn’t matter how much you get rid of if you keep getting more.

2. One in, One (or Two) Out.

If you buy something new, get rid of at least one item. Two is better if it’s the type of thing you have too many of already.

For instance, you buy a new t-shirt. If you already had the right number of t-shirts, just make an even exchange. If you had too many t-shirts, find two – or even three – you can donate to a charity or cut up for rags.

3. Use It Up, Wear It Out.

You don’t necessarily have to get rid of all your extra stuff. Let’s say you went a little overboard when laundry detergent was on sale.

You can, if you’d like, give a few bottles to friends or family, but you can also just resolve to use up what you have and not buy any more, no matter how good the sale is, until you’re nearly out.

When you plan your grocery list, see what you already have at home. Have 12 cans of corn? Eat some this week.

The same idea applies to non-consumable items as well. Have too many towels? Keep a reasonable number where you’ll use them, then stash some away. When you wear out the ones you’re using, “shop” from your own stash.

4. Be Mindful as You Go about Your Day.

When you sort through your clothes to decide what to wear, notice if you have any items you don’t like, and immediately set them aside.

As you try to unjam the too-full kitchen gadget drawer, see if there are any gadgets you never use and take those out for donating.

5. Declutter a Little at a Time.

You don’t have to spend a whole afternoon going through your closet. Do one shelf at a time, or perhaps just your slacks or socks.

The same applies to tasks like sorting through your paperwork. Do a couple of files a day, or if your paperwork is just in piles, choose a set time or size of pile (say, an inch or two) in advance and stop when you get there.

I can’t say this makes decluttering fun, but it’s much less awful. As Fly Lady says, “anyone can do anything for only 15 minutes.”


6 thoughts on “Too Overwhelmed to Declutter

    • Thanks, Liz. On the kid subject, we also got a lot of mileage after suggesting before birthdays and holidays that they find toys they didn’t want anymore to “make room” for their gifts and make some other kids happy too.

    • Thanks – and you give me an opportunity to market rescue dogs. Wilma was adopted at age 9 with her long-time companion Mr. Wilson a pug, then 8 years old. They are both super sweet.

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