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Clutter Consuming You? Learn How to Start Decluttering When You’re Overwhelmed


by Ivonne Spinoza Posted on May 10, 2022

Clutter got you cornered (literally and figuratively)? In a highly (read: not at all) scientific guess pulled out of this PODS Blog writer’s hat, most people think they have too much stuff. But the process of going through it all is so daunting that it just keeps piling up despite our best intentions. Don’t worry, though; the fact that you’re reading this is already a good sign because it means you want to get to work and tackle that clutter once and for all. Give yourself some credit for that! After all, the first step to solving any problem is recognizing you have one, right?

Now, back to that pile of stuff. We know having a cluttered home feels overwhelming, and not knowing how or where to start decluttering can be even more intimidating. Fear not! Decluttering your home is totally doable, and we’re here to help.

First things first: Don’t beat yourself up if you’re feeling overwhelmed — especially if deep cleaning and organization don’t come naturally to you. They don’t come naturally for a lot of people. So take a few breaths, visualize the organized home of your future, and follow these tips and tricks to learn how to start decluttering when overwhelmed. You’ll be in control of the situation (and of your clutter) in no time!

Once you accomplish what initially seemed impossible, you’ll feel motivated to keep moving. 

Is decluttering even worth it?

The benefits of decluttering are plentiful. Not only is the end result super satisfying, but the perks of a clean and organized space are actually . There’s even a field of study that specializes in this — — which affirms that the space around us transforms us as much as we transform it. In fact, maintaining a healthy space around us positively affects our productivity, creativity, and mental health. Who wouldn’t want that?

So what is the best way to start decluttering?

When it comes to decluttering tips, nothing beats starting your process with an easy task, so you can feel the sweet taste of success quickly! What constitutes an easy task? One that doesn’t involve a lot of emotional labor, so it will be easier for you to part with things.

Once you accomplish what initially seemed impossible, you’ll feel motivated to keep moving. And the best part? Each room will get progressively easier to tackle along the way.

A woman in her pajamas, folding a white face towel on the bathroom counter after decluttering and organizing her bathroom drawers

But where do I start decluttering when overwhelmed? 

Decluttering guru Marie Kondo recommends starting the process with clothes, since these are easier to part with than, say, pictures and other sentimental items. If clothes still seem like a mountain you can’t climb just yet, your bathroom may be an easier place to start.

Why your bathroom? Because it’s usually a small and pretty contained space. The things inside it also tend to be mostly useful products with little sentimentality attached. Get rid of empty bottles, anything expired, and things you have owned for ages but have never gotten around to using. You clearly don’t need them if you haven’t touched them at this point, right? Maybe a friend or family member could get more use out of them, so it doesn’t feel like such a waste.

How can I motivate myself to declutter? 

Okay. It’s time to get down to business. Here are some tips that will get you going — and keep you going! 

  1. Make a vision board
    If you’re a visual person, don’t underestimate the power of a gorgeous Pinterest board to help you picture what you want to accomplish and give you that little motivational oomph to get started. Just be mindful of how much time you’re spending on the app. We all know how to easily get sucked into that rabbit hole. And remember: We have an end goal to achieve!
  1. Start small
    Make a list of the specific areas in your home that you want to declutter. Now, rank and organize them from smallest to biggest, both in size and perceived difficulty (taking into account how much stuff is inside them and how sentimental those things are). Start with the smallest, easiest ones, and you’ll quickly gain momentum that will help you to keep going.
  1. Set clear rules for yourself
    Develop certain rules for your process and stick with them. For example, take everything out of a specific area and organize it into piles by type of item. Then, go through each pile and make clear rules about how you’ll decide what to keep, donate, or store (based on how often you use it, if you actually like it, if you actually need it, and if it’s still in good condition). Follow your rules and complete the whole space before moving to the next one.
  1. Track your progress to stay motivated
    Motivated by visual progress? Consider making a chart to track your progress as you move through your areas. Who said gold stars don’t work just because you’re an adult?
  1. Remember that your trash can be someone else’s treasure
    A common method to help kids let go of old toys they no longer use is to present them with the idea that those toys will make other kids happy if they part with them. Keep this in mind as you declutter, as well, and the task may not seem so daunting.
  1. Set up a system to go along with your plan
    Prepare for decluttering with a PODS portable storage container delivered right to your driveway. Instead of getting buried by piles inside the house, use the storage container as a way to spread out, so you can work more efficiently. It works great as a staging area to go through things and decide what to keep, donate, or store at a secure PODS Storage Center.
An older couple loading boxes into their PODS portable storage container while decluttering their home

Having a hard time letting go of some things?

No problem. Store those things you’re not using but can’t quite get rid of just yet in a PODS container for a few months (or for as long as you need to). 

This will allow you to see if you can live without them and make a more objective decision about whether you want them back in your home and life (or not). You can always pull things out if you need them, but if you find life is a lot less overwhelming without them, go ahead and donate or sell the lot!

Got a taste of the organized life and now can’t get enough of it? Use this decluttering checklist to purge your whole house, and if you still want more, check out the PODS Blog for lots of other projects you can tackle at home.

Ivonne Spinoza is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to the PODS Blog. Her work has appeared in Matador Network, PBS’ Independent Lens, and The Chicago Tribune, among others. When she’s not snuggling her cats, she’s either Kondo-ing someone’s life or fighting jet lag at some airport.

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