Decluttering is hard. In fact, it can be almost painful.
Ask my family, and they might even tell you it’s traumatic. Kidding…well, kind of.
If you aren’t ready to start decluttering, or maybe your family isn’t ready to start decluttering, then try easing into it slowly.
Go ahead, stick a big toe in the water. It might be cold at first, but you’ll warm up to the idea. Soon enough, you’ll be ready to completely jump in.
Remember… it took you a lifetime to accumulate all the excess. It’s OK if it takes you a while to get rid of it.
Here are 11 simple tasks to help you ease into decluttering:
If you want to start with decluttering, create a very simple goal for your time.
1 – Create a very simple goal
It’s so easy to walk into a disastrous room and say, “YES! Today I will clean out this entire room!”
It’s just as easy to quit after you empty one box or clear one shelf and think, “OMG, what did I get myself into?!”
Start with a very simple goal. Pick one single area to conquer…over the course of several days or even a week.
It’s easy to get caught up in a challenge, but sometimes we need to conquer something simple so the harder stuff seems doable.
2 – Start decluttering in 5-minute increments
It may not seem possible, but you can declutter in five-minute increments. Will you get an entire room cleaned out using five-minute increments? Nope. At least not for a bit.
Decluttering doesn’t have to be earth-shattering.
Declutter for five minutes while you wait on dinner to cook, while your kids bathe, or on every commercial break for your favorite TV show.
3 – Pick a spot that drives you nuts
When you are just starting out with decluttering, it’s OK to be a little bit selfish in where you start.
Pick a spot in your home that will give you great satisfaction, and go after it! It doesn’t have to be complicated.
Maybe start with the pile of shoes by the front door. Maybe tackle the pile of magazines on the coffee table.
If you have a dumping ground of items, set a 15-minute timer and chip away at it every day for a week.
If you start with a spot that drives you nuts, the satisfaction of finishing that area will be so much more pleasurable.
Side note: It is recommended you start with your stuff. Nothing starts a fight like starting your decluttering efforts with someone else’s belongings. Shared spaces are totally game though!
4 – Fill just one bag
My entire decluttering and simple living journey started by filling just one bag full of clothes. I knew I needed to simplify my life, and filling a single grocery bag with clothes I hated seemed easy enough.
If you need to start decluttering, go grab a single grocery bag and start with it.
Look for clothes with tags on them, clothes that are worn out, or clothes that you don’t like.
Fill a bag with five books you will never read, and let the guilt go with them!
Related post: How to Clean Out Your Closet Without Regret
5 – Clear one shelf
Sometimes we approach our clutter with the wrong plan. If you are staring at a closet or a bookshelf literally overflowing with stuff, start with a single shelf.
If the shelf is too big or too messy, start with half the shelf.
If half a shelf is too much, start with a single category of items.
You don’t have to clear out an entire closet in one afternoon. You can clear all the summer tops from one shelf in your closet in an hour. Start small.
6 – Ignore the hard stuff (for now)
If you are decluttering your home, whatever you do, don’t start with your memorabilia and other sentimental items. You will fail.
Save your photographs, special belongings from lost loved ones, and saved childhood items for another day.
Decluttering takes practice, especially if you are at new at it. You need to build up those decluttering muscles before you take on the heavy stuff!
7 – Don’t bother involving your family (yet)
If you want to be successful with decluttering, you need to start with your own stuff.
Yes, your kid’s room may be a disaster. Yes, your spouse’s stuff may be overtaking your desk.
No matter how tempting it is to start with other people’s stuff, DO NOT DO IT. (Sorry, sometimes yelling is necessary. You’ll thank me later!)
Your family needs to see you letting go of your excess before allowing you to help them let go of their stuff.
Once you learn how to work through your own emotions related to your own clutter, you will be in a much better spot to help your family when it’s their turn.
Related post: Why is decluttering so hard?
8 – Declutter your bedroom first
If you aren’t sure where to start with your decluttering efforts, start decluttering in your bedroom.
You spend so many hours in your bedroom. Yes, many of those hours are sleeping. However, your bedroom is the first view you have in the morning and the last view at night.
Treat yourself to the calmness of a decluttered bedroom. While you are at it, make your bed every morning too!
It will set the tone for your whole day and give you a retreat at the end of every night.
9 – Make it easy
When decluttering, make the effort easy.
If you have very young kids, declutter their items while they sleep. (I have no shame.)
If your kids are older, bribe them and allow them to keep the funds from any of their stuff they sell.
Invite a friend over if it’s really bad or if you need an unbiased opinion.
Cut corners when making dinner. Order a pizza every Friday night for your weekly decluttering session.
Skip a few cleaning tasks that week to declutter instead.
Whatever you do, make decluttering easy on yourself. You can’t do it all. It’s a balance. Give yourself a little grace.
10 – Create a “homework box”
Even if you start with the “easy” stuff, you are going to run into some roadblocks. When this happens, create and use a “homework box”.
The homework box is where you put things you simply can’t manage to emotionally handle right now.
Your homework box might hold photographs, old papers, baby clothes, old books. You name it. There’s no limit to what you can put in the homework box.
However, there is a limit to how many homework boxes you should have. Create ONE. That’s all.
If your homework box is full, it’s time to deal with it before moving on. If you aren’t ready, go declutter an easier area. (See all the suggestions above.)
11 – Reward yourself
So often we set these crazy impossible goals for ourselves, and then, once we accomplish the impossible, we do nothing.
Don’t do nothing. If you set a goal to tackle your closet, give yourself a reward when you are done.