If you’re frustrated by all the clutter in your home but feel too overwhelmed to start getting rid of it, there’s hope! You just need to find the motivation to declutter. Here are my favorite strategies to start cleaning up even if you don’t have much time.
Starting. It’s so overwhelming!
It is so time-consuming.
When you start, things look worse before they get better.
These were just a few of the comments I received when I polled my email subscribers to find out their biggest pain when it comes to decluttering and organizing.
It was very clear that finding the motivation to declutter is a huge struggle. You’d think that seeing piles of stuff on “the chair” (we all have that chair that collects homeless items!), counters, etc. would be enough to make us want to clean up.
Getting motivated to clean when you’re overwhelmed by the mess can feel nearly impossible, especially if you suffer from anxiety or depression.
You can’t see me, but I’m raising my hand.
Clutter aggravates my anxiety more than anything else and also prevents me from cleaning up, causing quite the vicious cycle.
Even if you don’t live with depression or anxiety, sometimes it feels like society is conspiring against you.
Television Impacts Your Motivation to Declutter
Think about the plot of pretty much every home makeover show ever:
- A family lives in a dysfunctional home that doesn’t work for them because it’s too messy, poorly decorated, or falling apart.
- Handsome brothers, a blissfully married couple, or a serene Japanese woman come to the home bringing power tools, beautiful furniture, and a knack for folding fitted sheets.
- One hour later, with seemingly very little effort by the homeowners, the house looks perfect!
What we don’t see is the messy middle – I mean the really ugly stuff, like arguing, exhaustion, frustration, and piles everywhere.
When we watch amazing makeovers (and I watch plenty), our brains are tricked into thinking that these transformations take very little time, money, or effort. But really, the opposite is true.
My friend’s ex-husband was featured on “House Hunters: Renovation”, and when he told me what really happened leading up to and during the project, it was clear that his makeover was not stress-free!
The messy middle is a HUGE deterrent when it comes to accomplishing our home goals. Why would we want to put ourselves through that? Knowing that Chip & Joanna or Marie Kondo can’t come to our house and take us from “before” to “after” in one episode is pretty de-motivating.
So how can we find the motivation to declutter and organize? Here are some tactics that work for me.
Schedule a Playdate or Party
When I dropped my daughter off at a friend’s house for a playdate recently, the other mom was frantically picking up her mudroom. And when her son came to play a few weeks earlier, I did the same.
Nothing is better at creating urgency than guests coming over – especially if you don’t know them well. It’s a great excuse to declutter your entryway and any room that’s within view of your guests.
Start with Impersonal Spaces
If Marie Kondo had her way, you’d start decluttering your clothes, first. But, I think that’s a big mistake because your wardrobe is an emotional landmine.
There’s the outfit you wore on the first date with your husband, the last sweater your grandma gave you before she passed away, the scarf from your best friend, and the pants that will definitely fit again – someday!
My advice: start with part of your home that you control and doesn’t bring up a bunch of feelings. Declutter your broom closet, under your kitchen sink, or even your purse. These quick wins will inspire you to declutter other, more emotionally charged parts of your home.
Book a Curbside Donation Pick-up
Here in the Boston area, the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization allows you to schedule curbside donation pickups online. Then, they send you an email or postcard to let you know when they’re picking up donations in your neighborhood. For us, it’s once a month, and all I do is leave our donations on the front porch.
Committing to a local charity will encourage you to regularly donate at least one bag of clutter.
Crank up the Tunes
All chores are better if great music is playing in the background. Whether you prefer old school West Coast rap (like my husband), or 90’s British dance music (like me), listening to something while you work puts you in a good mood and makes the time pass faster.
Heck, even listening to an audiobook or podcast will help!
Set Your Timer
Speaking of time, use your phone, egg timer, or microwave’s kitchen timer and give yourself 15 minutes to tackle one small spot in your home. Or, watch normal TV for once and declutter during commercial breaks.
Decluttering is less overwhelming if you break it up into smaller chunks of time.
Hire a Cleaning Service
If you have room in your budget, I highly recommend outsourcing your housecleaning, and not just because someone else will mop your floors.
Because here’s the thing about house cleaners: their job is to clean your house, not pick up clutter.
If they can’t find a surface to clean because there’s so much clutter, they will
- Put your stuff in a random pile
- Put your stuff where they think it belongs so you can’t find it later
- Ask for a raise. I speak from experience!
When I went back to work full-time after the birth of our oldest, my husband and I agreed that a housekeeper would save our marriage, time, and sanity.
Every other Wednesday evening is a whirlwind of picking up toys and recycling papers so our cleaning crew can do their job, and our kids can take responsibility for their own clutter.
Beat Overwhelm – Don’t Let the Clutter Win!
How do you get motivated to declutter? If you have a favorite tip, please drop a note in the comments section below!