5 top tips to start decluttering when you don’t know where to begin

I hear you. You are fed up of your home being cluttered, chaotic and stressful. You want to sort it out once and for all but you are screaming at me right now saying “Emma, where do I start!”

The short answer is to just start. But that isn’t very helpful is it. You know that much.

It is the trick though, we get into our heads whenever we find something hard, we over plan, over think and then decide it is too hard and what is the point of trying. It won’t work.

So, I am going to list my 5 top tips to start decluttering when you don’t know where to begin. To help you get over your blocks and go back to basics. No 4 step methods, no plans, no storage hacks, no organising for your personality or all the other things you can do once you have the confidence that you CAN do it. We need to stop overcomplicating things.

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  1. Commit to a room

Whether it is your room of doom, or where you may be able to get a quick win, stop fluttering from one place to another. You want to see a difference right? You want to feel like you are making progress? Stop tackling the whole house in one go! By sticking in one room, you will notice a difference quicker. Plus, once you start making decisions about what you are decluttering, it is likely that you will be doing so with lots of similar items instead of having to split your focus. I know we always have tons of things on the go but trust me, it makes a huge difference.

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2. Set yourself a daily target

Whether it is one item a day, my declutter challenge or setting a timer, setting small, realistic targets will help with consistency, motivation and the feeling of success that you can do it. So let’s break down some of these ideas.

One item a day – Commit to decluttering one item a day. Just one. It will take less than a minute. No more “I don’t have time excuses”. You will be amazed how quickly this adds up.

My declutter challenge – I run this sometimes on my social media. It is great to have a bit of fun if you do want to make a big difference quickly. Over the course of a month, you declutter one more item than you did the day before. On the 1st of the month you declutter 1 item, on the 2nd you declutter two items all the way up to 31st where you declutter 31 items from your home. In total, that means you will have decluttered almost 500 items from your home in one month without thinking too hard about it. If you follow me on Instagram, ideas for each day are saved in my highlights.

Set a timer – This probably needs very little explanation. Set a timer for 15/20 or 30 mins, whatever you feel you have time for and see how much you can declutter before your time is up. Great if you are motivated by competing with yourself.

The bag challenge – Again, as simple as the others. Grab 3 carrier bags and see how quickly you can fill them up. One bag is for rubbish, one is for recycling and one is for donation/selling. Told you, simple.

To be fair the trick to all of it, is to keep it as straight forward as possible so you have less reason to get out of it.

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3. Decide on your exit strategy

What will you do with all the stuff? It isn’t like it magically disappears. You have to do something with all the stuff you don’t want anymore. The question is, do you donate, sell or pop in the bin.

No matter what you decide, the key is to plan before you start, put anything in place that you need to e.g. charity bags so that bags of stuff don’t end up in your boot, garage or in the corner of the room you have just decluttered.

I will add though that although selling may be your ideal exit strategy, it does take the longest to do and you have to be committed to see it through with a plan B in case something doesn’t sell. This may be absolutely fine for you but you do have to be honest with yourself if you will actually do it. If you would like some more inspiration to save your items from landfill, you can check out my previous blog here.

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4. Distraction and motivation

So this could be two tips but I only have 5 so I am cheating and adding them together.

Distraction is easy – stick on a playlist, podcast or audiobook so that you can zone out and get into your groove as they say. It isn’t cheating if you are enjoying yourself. I often have a playlist of all my favourite songs on the go when I am decluttering and I love decluttering.

Motivation though can be more difficult. One way to keep going is to set yourself a mini treat when you achieve your goal. Perhaps it is a glass of wine if you tackle your daily challenge or maybe a day out of a new decorative item that you have had your eye on once the room is completely clutter free. Yes, this is how we bribe children but it works for us too.

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5. Don’t get ahead of yourself

Don’t buy storage, don’t worry about zones, categories and flows just yet, just stick to decluttering. It is easy to think you need to buy all the baskets, start colour coordinating your books and folding your clothes like Marie Kondo but you just need to focus on getting over the starting block first. Right now your home being organised in every corner of your home feels a long way off. One phase at a time, we will get you there.

The idea is that by reducing the amount in the space you choose, by taking action in one space consistently, you start to see results from your hard work. Sure, I can tell you that a plan is key and zones help you maintain a space but that is of no help if you can’t even see the floor for example. By working out those things, it is all just theory and can make you feel even more overwhelmed than you were before.

Bite size, manageable chunks make sure that as you start to get decision fatigue (the term I call the point when your brain can’t make any more decisions if you need to keep something or declutter it). If you end up at this point, it feels overwhelming all over again and then you are less likely to go back to it.

So what happens next? You have cleared the space, got rid of what you can and are feeling amazing about what you have achieved?

Whatever you do, do not buy storage just yet. Leave that until last.

  1. Create a plan – how you want to use the space, how you want it to feel etc
  2. Declutter again – now your confidence is soaring, give everything a quick check over that you are happy with what is left
  3. Start putting things into zones and then categories within that and finding homes that make sense for how you use the space
  4. Add storage as you feel it is necessary. Either re-use what you have or now shop as you know what you really need.

If this still feels a little too much, you can get in touch to ask away. If I can help you start your journey in any way, I will. No one can create a home that works for them overnight but I am on a mission to get you on the right path.

P.S. If you would like to know how organised your home is and my personalised advice to get your home onto the next phase, you can take the quiz here. Go on, we all love a good quiz.

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