Overwhelmed By Clutter? These 5 Steps Will Help

These days, it’s easy to get bogged down by all that you have to do.

Life is so busy that you get home from work, throw off your coat, change out of your clothes and head to the kitchen to start dinner.  After a week or two of this, combined with events and errands – you’ll have a pile of bills, clothes and clutter all over the house to deal with.

And that doesn’t include the things you’ve been holding on for all these years either or the stuff that’s piled up after the frenzy of the holidays.

Here are a few tips to help you navigate your way through the clutter:

1.  Your own personal timeline

The thing I’ve learned about clutter is that you will eventually reach a threshold, where you can’t take it anymore and you’ve got to get rid of it – or else.  People have different thresholds, so one person might throw out a birthday card as soon as they’ve read it, while others will keep each and every item they receive.  Understanding that there may be things that you can get rid of before others is a good place to start.

2.  A place to begin

If you’re under a lot of clutter, it can be so overwhelming that you might not know where to begin.  The problem is that you’re seeing it as one big thing to tackle, whereas if you break it up into just looking at and assessing one thing at a time, you’ll get rid of that feeling of being immobilized.  Just deal with one item whether it’s clothes, paper or decorative pieces.  Assess whether you want to keep it, store it or donate it and move to the next item.  Once you’ve done a few, you’ll get into the momentum and before you know it, you’ll have a box of things that you’ve decided to get rid of or pass on!

3. There’s too much

I have a friend who has a basement full of 30-40 years of stuff – everything from elementary school notes and books to comics and magazines that he may want to sell one day.  He says that he wants to get rid of stuff, but he’s clearly stuck.

I say that if you have so much that you don’t know where anything is anyway, just put everything into file boxes and pile the boxes neatly along one wall.  Visually it will so much less overwhelming, don’t you think?  Then, take down ONE BOX AT A TIME and follow step 2 – ONE PIECE AT A TIME – and eventually you’ll get through the contents of each box and the contents of the room!  You’re almost there!

4. Deciding what to keep

What makes getting rid of stuff difficult comes down to 2 things: Sentimental value and that fear that you might need it someday.

First of all, so much can be stored on your computer and found on the internet that many papers and magazines that you are holding onto can be accessed online.  Secondly, I find that if I start to consider getting rid of something, it puts it in the back of my mind and by a certain point, I am absolutely ready to pass it on – it’s a process, not necessarily a rash decision, which helps.  And I think it’s okay to donate items that have been given to you but that you can’t use or don’t want.  Imagine if we kept everything people gave us?

5. Allow yourself room to change and grow

The great thing about getting rid of clutter is that it makes space for new things and experiences.  Maybe after clearing out that middle room, you finally have the space to create your dream workspace.  Perhaps it will transform you into a person that cares more about experiences than things and you’ll become a minimalist.

I am immensely grateful to have rid myself of old stuff.  What’s so revolutionary is that the stuff I’ve kept means so very much and now stands out because it’s out where I can see and enjoy it.  I have made room for other things in my life, like entertaining and cooking for friends, neighbours and family.  And funnily enough, the girl who, as a teenager couldn’t close her bedroom door because of all the clothes, magazines and papers in the way, now has a place that people remark on how clean and tidy it is (And there’s nothing stuffed into the closets before they arrive either).  It’s not perfect by any means, but I don’t want perfect.

I am so grateful to live an uncluttered life.  And if I can do it, so can you!

Stephanie Dickison is the author of the recent book, The 30-Second Commute: A Non-Fiction Comedy About Writing & Working From Home, which covers her career as book, music and restaurant critic.  She has been a journalist for over a decade and now spends much of her time writing about travel, food, beauty, style and celebrities for various publications and websites.

When she’s not writing, she’s eating, cooking, organizing, filing, making lists in sumptuous notebooks (you must use your beautiful journals) and colour-coding her ever evolving calendar.

She is one of the few writers still using technology AND paper.  But at least her paper is organized into pretty file folders…