Make house a home

How to start decluttering when overwhelmed

There are three forms of potential clutter in every household:

  1. Ephemera, and bits & bobs which end up in the house with a short shelf life like letters from school, a leaflet, hospital appointment, freebie promotional keyring or badge from a festival. All these items usually only have a short term purpose.
  2. Accessories and furnishings- such as ornaments/nick knacks, books, tins, boxes, chairs.
  3. Worn out items, outdated technology, which are incompatible or are broken.

As a family with 2 children, I find it very hard to keep the house tidy with a constant influx of item 1 and a constant occurrence of item 3. Item 2 creeps up on us all- an accumulation of what we need and what we want or often a bit of both.

Before I can sit down and relax, I only see the amount of work I need to do. I know full well that I should be thinking ‘ah, it’s nice to be home’.

Many of us have tidying up that doesn’t get done because it involves too much thinking and sorting. Asking myself questions like- where shall I put this? Why am I keeping this? What shall I do with it?

How to start decluttering when overwhelmed

How to start decluttering when overwhelmed: one bit at a time

I believe time is more precious than commodities. Spending time with the people we love and spending time doing what we enjoy.

Why should we then feel the need to live in a clutter free environment?

Well, I think it is about headspace and pure practicality.

Clutter, muddles the mind and zaps our energy and we have so much stuff. Also, it is easier to keep an organised home clean.

We tend to be more productive and positive in a clutter-free and organised home.

Creating a clutter-free home is a big task. It is therefore best to break it up into bite sized chunks.

Each of these suggested decluttering stages see immediate results and you can hold back on any big decisions.

The priority is to get the main living spaces into an organised, easily maintainable state.

It takes everyone in the household to be able to declutter your home but this is only possible when there is an urgency and a common goal e.g. moving house.

So, to avoid conflict, it is best to get on with it yourself because you are the one who wants it to happen. It is true however, that it is not all your mess so why should you have to sort it ALL out? Well, you are not going to sort it, you are just going to put it in a box for now.


So, firstly put all 1. & 3. items in a box. Don’t include legal documents, utility bills, passports and anything that need immediate attention. These need to be kept in a special place.

I recommend using clear plastic storage boxes with lids. The box will protect as it is airtight and strong. Also, everyone can see at a glance what it contains. I guarantee you though that if you choose to leave the boxes in storage for a while, no-one will ask for anything that is in them. Most items are either unusable or their function has expired. Don’t throw anything away at this stage.

Whilst boxing up, you will have to resist the temptation to sort through everything in detail.

I also recommend you prioritise all the surfaces. Contents of cupboards and drawers can be sorted later when you have the inclination.

I would try and box up the clutter throughout the whole house in one go if you can. This part of the process is surprisingly quick. You will feel so much better for doing it.


Next step to how to start decluttering when overwhelmed:

Deal with the nick knacks/ornaments, furniture, pictures etc.

It is fundamental that you create a relaxing, enjoyable environment. This is your home where you are surrounded by your favourite things. A home can be organised, clean and still comfort you when you enter it- I describe it as a home with soul.

This part of the process is about understanding which furnishings still have a function for you. Remember our needs and tastes change over time.

I find it hard to let go of items which remind me of a memory. That memory and the item will most certainly be connected to a person. This is where the issues arise. If you can’t, then don’t. Put it in a box for a while and come back to it. Nine times out of ten when I have done this I feel ready to move an item on.

Hopefully my article on the curated home will help you to achieve a home you will love spending time in.