How to Begin Major Decluttering Projects

Mount St Helens area - major decluttering projects

“There are plenty of major decluttering projects in the office, bedrooms, closets, cabinets, etc, but hey, those take longer than 5 minutes, right? So I vacuumed. That’s all.”

– Dana White

Do you feel overwhelmed by the major decluttering projects you’ve planned?

I’ve been there. We had way too much stuff. And now we don’t.

We had a house, a 1.5 car garage and a shed, all filled with stuff. But it’s done. By the end, we’d gotten rid of about half of what we owned.

So what’s the trick to tackling major decluttering projects?

For us, the most important thing was working gradually. It’s totally overwhelming to think of decluttering your house (or even just the garage).

If you break the project down into discrete tasks, it’s not so scary. Focus on one small thing at a time.

Unless you have a deadline (like an upcoming move), don’t rush. Declutter slowly, but steadily.

If it’s your garage that’s a disaster, don’t plan to “clean out the garage.” Instead, plan to clean out “the tools in the garage” or “the sports gear in the garage.” Choose a new project each day or week until you’re done.

Alternatively, choose a set time, say 15 minutes, and grab everything you can that can go in the trash, recycle bin or donation box. This is a great way to start an area that you know has lots of stuff you’re ready to get rid of.

“In the scope of a happy life, a messy desk or an overstuffed coat closet is a trivial thing, yet I find – and I hear from other people that they agree – that getting rid of clutter gives a disproportionate boost to happiness.”

– Gretchen Rubin

To help motivate yourself to continue, I recommend starting any major decluttering project with the biggest items. Think how fast you’ll see an improvement in your garage if you sell the canoe.

Sorting out your screwdrivers is important too, but is unlikely to make much of an impact when you walk in the garage.

Also, focus on stopping the influx. If you don’t, it’s going to take a lot longer to see results. If, for example, you have huge piles of paper to sort through, first reduce the number of documents coming in.

Cut down on junk mail. Enroll in digital bank and credit card statements. Quickly review mail when it arrives instead of letting it pile up, so you can toss junk mail right away.

Finally, reward yourself when you’re done with any significant segment of your project. Perhaps you earn one cookie any time you finish a shelf or a beer any time you finish a whole wall of shelves.

Still not convinced? Just get up now and do one thing. Often, the hardest part of any project is that first step.

How do you handle major decluttering projects?

4 thoughts on “How to Begin Major Decluttering Projects

  1. When I did my big decluttering purge it began innocently enough, It was a beautiful day and yet I was inside dusting the bookcase and all the books. In the process I was looking for something to read and found that the books I’d saved thinking one day I would read them again I still remembered the story line and ending some I had read ten years prior. It was time to get rid of the books. Once that was done the book case was too large for the few books I kept so I sold it. That felt good so I kept going not having any idea where this process was leading to.

    Your advice is good and similar to what I did after the books. I’d tell anyone who asked to start with something that bugs them whether it’s a stuffed kitchen cabinet or a dresser, just fix that one thing it will feel so good when completed they will have the urge to keep going.

  2. Motivation is important. If you don’t have a good WHY the task will be harder. We are getting ready to move into a smaller space. Not wanting to pay the movers to haul stuff we don’t even want that isn’t going to fit anyway is a good motivator. Not wanting your kids to go through your stuff when you die is another good motivator–do you really want them reading letters from your old boyfriends?

I'd love for you to share your ideas and experiences.