How to Start Decluttering When You Feel Overwhelmed | Decluttering Tips for the Overthinker


The average American household has 300,00 items. Most of which we don’t use, need, or even look at on a daily basis. If you’re here, it’s because you know this is a problem – we have too much stuff. But where in the world do you start?

Welcome to decluttering for overthinkers 101. These 7 decluttering tips will guide you through how to start decluttering when you feel overwhelmed, how to finally free yourself from the burden of clutter, and put systems in place so you never have to start from scratch again.

Decluttering for overthinkers

As an overthinker myself – and a baby minimalist – I’m finally exiting my decluttering era. And I’ve learned a lot about decluttering when overwhelmed. Each of these decluttering tips for a clutter-free home are easily implemented and were gamechanging for me.

If you find it helps, I also recommend setting up a nice environment to declutter. Your home might be a mess, but if you can throw on music or an audiobook that you enjoy, it can help your mind relax – and also be just distracted enough that there’s less space to stress.

where to start?

If you’re not sure where to begin – as in, literally, where do I start and what do I get rid of – I got you. In addition to these 7 decluttering tips for decluttering when overwhelmed, I also have a printable checklist of 100 things to declutter. You can follow this as closely or loosely as you’d like, but use it as a guide to go through your home, digital spaces, and see what’s worth keeping (and what’s not).

Download the free checklist here.

How to Start Decluttering When Feeling Overwhelmed

1. One Area at a Time

I will die on this hill for the rest of my life. If you try to declutter, organize, or unpack your entire home at once, you will get overwhelmed and you will give up. Working one area at a time allows you to create motivation, actually see the progress you’re making, and creates natural break points.

Pick one spot in your house – just one spot. It doesn’t even need to be a room, it can literally be a drawer in your kitchen or that scary cupboard in your bathroom that always feels like it’s about to explode. Declutter just that spot, and then call it. That’s your job for today.

By decluttering one area at a time, you’re able to be more thorough, take breaks when you need to, and it’s a lot less intimidating.

2. Use the 20/20 Rule

The 20/20 rule was created by The Minimalists and is an overthinker’s dream. It follows this simple principle:

If you’re not sure if you should keep something, ask yourself this – can I replace this in 20 minutes or less for $20 or less?

If the answer is yes, just get rid of it. 

Of course, the goal of decluttering is not to have to repurchase items – but if you keep everything that you might maybe someday want, you’ll end up with more than you could possibly use. Replacing a couple of items down the road is a small price to pay for the peace, space, and flexibility of simple living.

3. Project 333 for Wardrobe Decluttering

When it’s time to tackle the closet, I can’t recommend Project 333 enough. Rather than going through all of your clothes (talk about overwhelming, am I right), start with developing a 3-month, 33-piece capsule wardrobe. For 3 months, wear only the 33 clothing items and accessories that you selected in the beginning (excluding undergarments, socks, and pajamas), and bag up/box up everything else.

After three months, revisit the clothes you’ve boxed up. You’ve now gone 3 months without wearing them. In my experience, this really puts into perspective what’s truly valuable – some clothes you’ll miss and be excited to wear again -and what isn’t. Odds are, there are a lot of pieces you probably forgot existed. These are the ones it’s likely time to say goodbye to.

4. Choose Your Timing Wisely

The average adult makes about 35,000 choices a day. A day!! And in recent years, we’re learning more and more about something called decision fatigue. Essentially – making decisions is exhausting.

It wears out your brain, a lot. And decluttering, while healthy, necessary, and sometimes fun – is non-stop decision making.

There’s a reason you hit a point where you feel like you just can’t think anymore. You can’t. Your ability to make good decisions decreases as you feel more and more tired, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

There are two really important takeaways from this:

1. If you can, try to declutter in the morning. The earlier in the day it is, the less decisions you’ve already made, the fresher your mind.

2. If you feel like you can’t make good decisions anymore, you probably can’t. Take a break and revisit the decluttering process tomorrow. Decision fatigue is real, and it’s not something you can or should try to just push through.

Essentially, choose your timing wisely. Give yourself grace and remember that the whole point is to create a life you don’t need a break from (something it’s hard to do if you’re miserable the whole time).

5. Don’t Skip Out on Visual Clutter

Not all clutter hides in cupboards or closets. Many of us decor hoarders (I’m the problem, it’s me) can create an environment that feels cluttered simply because it has too much going on. Minimalism as an aesthetic is a trend, to be sure, but it’s also something worth seriously considering adopting. Not that you need to live in a room of white walls with one chair and a spoon – but the principle of only keeping what adds more value than it takes away is huge.

Visual clutter can be things like art that doesn’t go together, mismatched decor pieces and colours or patterns that just don’t look right. It might be having too much on the walls, shelves, or couch, so much that you don’t actually appreciate what’s there because there’s too much to look at.

If you’re easily overwhelmed, you’re likely more susceptible to this. Clear out your spaces and see what a difference it makes to have less. Keep out only the things you really love – the pieces that make you smile just to see them.

6. If You Can’t Decide, Just Move On

I’m a very decisive person – except when I feel overwhelmed. If I have to make a decision, I’m clueless. Decluttering is no exception. Be it decision fatigue, complex emotions, or something else entirely, if you’re really struggling to make a decision about an item in your home – just move on. Leave it, come back to it later, and spend your time doing something more productive, like resting your mind.

7. Move Your Body

This applies to feeling overwhelmed at any point, but specifically with decluttering – if you feel overwhelmed or stuck in your head, you need to get out of it. Move your body. This is one of the best and most tried and true habits I’ve ever had.

Zach and I have a rule that if one of us is feeling anxious/depressed/overwhelmed, it is the other person’s job to get them to go for a walk. The overwhelmed one never wants to, but we are always grateful afterwards. Because it WORKS.

Take a break, go to the gym, get some steps in, do jumping jacks – literally anything to get the blood pumping. This is of course not a cure for mental illness, but in a moment of feeling off, it goes a long, long way.

Decluttering is a big task, and there’s no hiding that. But it’s a habit, one you build over time, of getting rid of things that you no longer use. And it’s so worth it. You don’t need to do it all at once, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but by slowly working to clear out your home, you’re creating more space in your mind and life for great things to grow.

For more on decluttering, minimalism, and intentional living, check out the blog here.

Explore Next


Comments Off on How to Start Decluttering When You Feel Overwhelmed | Decluttering Tips for the Overthinker

View on Instagram


Follow Along

About me