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How to Conquer Decluttering Overwhelm, According to the Experts

A woman places clothes in a box.

It’s no secret that just the thought of decluttering your home can be overwhelming. If going through all your stuff feels like an impossible mountain to climb, we’ve got some advice from a few experts that will help you out.

With spring cleaning around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about clearing out all of that stuff you’ve accumulated over the last year. If that thought fills you with dread, you probably just need a bit of advice. We asked Devin VonderHaar, founder of The Modern Minimalist, and Jordan Barnes, head of marketing at Sella, for some tips on how to make decluttering less stressful.

Why You Should Declutter Now

A person organizes a drawer.
Kostikova Natalia/Shutterstock.com

While it might be hard to resist postponing your decluttering process, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, VonderHaar and Barnes agreed that putting it off will only make you feel worse.

“Clutter creates stress,” VonderHaar said. “It blocks energy, it kills productivity, it negatively impacts most relationships. In women, the number of items in your home is directly related to cortisol levels, so you can reduce stress instantly and literally by decluttering.”

In addition to the psychological benefits of decluttering, Barnes added that you never feel worse after doing so. She went on to compare it to eating well and exercising. You might not want to do it, but you won’t regret it.

Plus, with services like Sella, you also have an opportunity to make some extra cash by selling items you’re no longer need or want.

How to Get Started

A woman organizes a closet.
New Africa/Shutterstock.com

Just starting the process of decluttering is the hardest part, and that seeming mountain of stuff staring you down doesn’t help. Both VonderHaar and Barnes recommend making that mountain a molehill.

Start small and create a checklist (or use a premade one). Then, choose a task, set a timer for 15-30 minutes, and see how much you can accomplish.

“As you build a positive association with this new habit,” VonderHaar said, “it will become easier to declutter for longer periods of time.”

321Done To-Do List Notepad

Craft your plan of attack.

Barnes agrees that chopping tasks up into more easily digestible decluttering bites is the best way to go about it.

“Don’t try and tackle everything from your closet to your garage in one swoop,” Barnes said. “We often tell our customers to pick an area in their house they often overlook, maybe a storage closet or that dreaded corner of the playroom.”

VonderHaar recommends choosing a space you feel drawn to, and then taking a minute to take a breath. Let go of any expectations you have about the overall results, and just focus on one manageable area, like a sock drawer. Complete that task, and then move all of your focus on to the next.

Which Decluttering Method Should You Use?

A woman puts clothes in a donate basket.

When it comes to decluttering methods, you have several options, but sometimes, simplest is best. Barnes recommends using the popular keep, donate, sell model. For this method, you just create three piles of your stuff that fall under each of the latter categories.

If you’re unsure if an item is truly worth anything, Barnes recommends you search for it or similar pieces on secondhand marketplaces. For items that carry more value, resale sites like Sella—which handles the entire process for you—are particularly handy as you won’t be adding any more work to your plate.

Sterilite Six-Quart Storage Box

Clear storage bins allow you to see what's inside.

VonderHaar advises breaking your items down into categories and subcategories to streamline the process. For example, if you’re planning a clothing declutter, focus on just your coats, and then move on to the next subcategory.

Having an accountability partner, like a family member or friend who also needs to declutter, can also help you stay motivated.

You’ve Decluttered—Now What?

A woman looks at her kitchen cabinets.

You did it! You’ve successfully decluttered your home. But how do you prevent that mess from forming again?

According to VonderHaar, now’s the time to invest in any storage accessories. You might want to browse the internet for some organizational inspiration. Pinterest and Instagram are great places to start, but VonderHaar still recommends sticking to one space at a time to avoid becoming overwhelmed once again.

Barnes is a big proponent of the one in, one out method. To implement it, each time you buy something new, you should view it as replacing an item in that particular collection of items, so one must go.

INDRESSME XXXLarge Cotton Rope Basket

Your donation bin doesn't have to be boring.

Once the stuff you’re keeping is back in place, it’s time to implement some new systems to help you keep things organized. VonderHaar recommends weekly clearouts of drawers and commonly cluttered areas.

She also advises having a donation bin constantly available in a garage or other out-of-the-way place to help limit clutter. Oh, and all those brand mailing lists you’re on? VonderHaar says they’re a no-go. News about sales and new products is just a major temptation to clutter everything up again. No thanks!

If your closet, junk drawer, or garage is exploding with stuff, there’s no need to feel overwhelmed. Armed with these tips from decluttering experts, you’ll soon have a process in place and be well on your way to a clutter-free home.

Shea Simmons Shea Simmons
Shea Simmons is the Editor In Chief of LifeSavvy. Previously, she worked as a freelance writer with a focus on beauty and lifestyle content. Her work has appeared in Bustle, Allure, and Hello Giggles. Read Full Bio »
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