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How To Determine Where To Start Decluttering

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Inside: Are you wondering where to start decluttering? Is your house so cluttered you don’t know where to begin? Find out the exact process you need to determine where to start decluttering when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

You decided to fix yourself a cup of coffee before plunking down on the couch to watch Netflix when all of a sudden your doorbell rings.

You’re starting to freak out. Your heart starts beating as if you’re in the midst of a 5k marathon. Fear strikes. Like a cobra getting ready to attack its prey, you slither towards the dining room window peering out through a small slit in the curtain hoping whoever’s at the door won’t notice.

How to determine where to start decluttering. Are you wondering where to start decluttering? Is your house so cluttered you don't know where to begin? Find out the exact process you need to determine where to start decluttering when you're feeling overwhelmed.
This is an example of clutter

Your house is a cluttered mess and you’re too embarrassed to answer the door in fear the person on the other side will judge you.

You walk away slowly, not making any noise. They knock on the door this time. The fear is rising in your throat and finally, you yell in a crackled voice, “Who is it”?

It’s someone you don’t know. You tell them you’re bathing the baby and can’t come to do the door. 

You finally decided you can’t take all the clutter anymore. You’re tired of panicking anytime someone rings your doorbell, worrying when you finally open the door, they’re going see the piles of clutter, and judge you.

You realize you need help. Instead of asking a friend or family member, you decide to seek out assistance from other moms who are struggling with the same issue. You find a few promising websites, then as fast as you found them, another roadblock appears.

What’s worse than trying to find a website to help you tackle clutter when that site is cluttered with ads, pop-ups, and videos to distract you? 

Not only is that overwhelming, (especially if you have ADD or ADHD), but how can you truly trust the person giving you the advice you’re seeking? I’m not saying their advice isn’t good or doesn’t hold any merit, but heck, if you’re reading something cluttered while trying to learn how to declutter, it doesn’t let the brain switch gears and focus. Instead, it compiles the already existing clutter in your brain.  

These are the same people who tout, you can get your house clutter-free in just a few hours or a week. Anyone who states they have the magic cure for you to declutter your home in a day, a week, or even a month is tripping on acid. 

The truth of the matter is, that clutter doesn’t happen overnight, and clutter doesn’t clean up easily.

You didn’t just wake up one morning and all of a sudden your house was cluttered. The clutter slowly started to build.

The more clutter you have, the longer it’s going to take to tackle.

Recommended Reading: 8 Simple Ways To Stop Clutter In Its Tracks

It may be messy with kids’ toys sprawled all over the place, dishes piled in the kitchen, mail scattered all over the dining room table, or piles of clothes lying all over the place.  

This isn’t “clutter”, that’s just a “disorganized mess”.  

The difference between a disorganized mess, clutter, and being a hoarder

A disorganized mess is typically compiled of items that get a lot of use, can be put away in a jiffy, or thrown out. An example of a disorganized mess would be a pile of mail sitting either on your kitchen counter, dining room table, or any place you would toss it down when you walk into the house.  

The majority of people who think their homes are cluttered are living in a disorganized mess. 

How to determine where to start decluttering this is a disorganized mess
This is an example of a disorganized mess

Clutter is an excess of stuff that takes up space. According to Merriam-Webster, clutter is “to fill or cover with scattered or disordered things that impede movement or reduce effectiveness”. Did you read that? Impedes movement or reduces effectiveness.   

If you can walk through your home or room without it feeling like you’re going through a cornfield, technically, your living space isn’t cluttered; it’s a disorganized mess.

The term clutter makes most people feel like a hoarder, whereas a disorganized mess doesn’t make it seem so bad.

After living in what I call a sterile museum for most of my youth, a little mess is a good thing. It makes you feel alive. Don’t feel bad about having a messy house, especially if you have a family.

Even the neatest people have moments of being messy.

I’m saying this because I don’t ever want you to think you’re a failure for not having a pristine-looking home.

I don’t ever want you to feel guilty for going out to Target or hanging with the other moms at the park instead of cleaning your house.

From this point on, there’s no more feeling guilty. Promise?

If you’re living in a disorganized mess, you’ll still benefit greatly from what I’m going to share.

If you’re living amongst clutter, what I’m about to tell you is a total game-changer.

The number one thing you must do while you’re in the decluttering process 

After you buy something and bring it home, put it away where it belongs, and throw away the packaging. 

The only time you should keep the packaging is if you purchase an item that has an electrical component to it, such as an Instant Pot or countertop microwave.  

You can put the box in your garage for a week, or no more than 30 days.  

Set a reminder on your phone to break down the box and packaging on day 30. The reason for this is simple. Most stores offer a return policy for up to 30-days. If you return the item, you’ll have to do so while it’s in its original box.  

How do I decide what to declutter. Are you wondering where to start decluttering? Is your house so cluttered you don't know where to begin? Find out the exact process you need to determine where to start decluttering when you're feeling overwhelmed.
This is an example of a disorganized mess

Let’s break it down

If you have to move a bunch of empty boxes or a pile of books out of the way to open your dresser drawer in your bedroom; that’s clutter.  

If you have a pile of clothes waiting to be put away sitting on a chair in your bedroom or living room; that’s a disorganized mess.  

Living amongst clutter is not the same as being a hoarder. 

Clutter doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a hoarder. People like to use that word a lot, but being a hoarder is a psychological condition that warrants some sort of medical intervention. 

Hoarding is when a person has an abundance of items saved that will eventually create a toxic environment. The home in essence becomes a threat to the person’s health and well-being. If you’d like to read more about the differences, you’ll want to review the Clutter-Hoarding Scale. It’s truly fascinating.

There are many different degrees of clutter.  

Degree 1: There’s the, “I’m so embarrassed with the piles of stuff lying around the house, I’ll cringe if someone rings my doorbell”. This is what I call, baby clutter. 

Degree 2: You have a good 3-feet of space to walk around in your room, or you have a little less than 1-feet of space between stuff lying on the floor and your bed. 

Degree 3: 3rd degree of clutter – you’re leaning towards the realm of being a hoarder.  

Where do I start to declutter. This is third degree clutter
This is an example of 3rd-degree clutter

How to determine where to start decluttering 

The best way to start decluttering is to focus on one area of one room. While decluttering, you’ll want to take baby steps.  

Step 1: Jot down on a piece of paper, all the overly cluttered rooms.  

Step 2: Decide which room you’re going to tackle first. 

Step 3: Implement the decluttering process, using baby steps. 

Although, I’d like for you to start with whatever area of the home you feel is the most cluttered. 

Peachy tip: If you spread yourself too thin, you’ll get overwhelmed, give up, and won’t try again for another few months. 

This is how you start to declutter a room

Supplies needed: 

  •  Several large plastic bags.
  •  A positive attitude.

If your entire room is a cluttered mess, pick one area that you can get to without tripping or moving things out of the way. Typically this would be the spot closest to the door. You’ll want to keep your focus on a 3-to-5-foot area at a time.  

You’ll want to throw out the following items: 

  •  Old sales flyers
  •  Old magazines
  •  Old receipts
  •  Packaging materials
  •  Anything resembling trash (that includes 85 empty toilet paper rolls for crafts you’ll never do)
  •  Broken items

Remember, you’re only throwing out things in that one focused area (not the entire room).  

The reason for working in one focused area is simple. You’ll see your results pay off quicker by cleaning one section than by attempting to clean the entire room.  

Once you have the trash discarded, look for any empty boxes. You’ll want to break those down and pile them in the garage to either be thrown out with the trash or brought to your local recycling center.  

Still focusing on that one spot, put away or find a home for the items that are left.  

Once that spot is completely clutter-free, you can move on to the next spot in the same room.

When that room is clutter-free (not a disorganized mess, but all the clutter is thrown out or put in its new home), then you can move on to the next room.

How to get your family to declutter
This is an example of a disorganized mess

Here’s the tricky part when it comes to decluttering 

You may have to shift, some items that are in the area you’re cleaning to the disorganized pile in that room.  

Before you do that, look at that item closely and decide if you want to keep it. Ask yourself these questions: 

  •  When was the last time I used this? (If it was over a year ago, throw it out).
  •  Am I holding onto this because I feel a sentimental attachment to it?
  •  Is this something I’ll ever use?
  •  Does this still fit, or is it even in style?
  •  Would I buy this again at full price?
  •  Is this worth taking up space in my house?

When it comes to the sentimental attachment

Sentimental attachment is pretty tricky. There are many different reasons why you have a sentimental attachment to something. 

If it’s a truly sentimental object, then, by all means, keep it, regardless if you’re ever going to use it.  

Does that item bring back a good memory?  

Maybe you’re saving some plastic bags (or something else) from a particular store. You’re doing so because the cashier was the first person who was nice to you in several months. You feel by holding onto those plastic bags it’s keeping the memory alive.  That memory makes you feel good.

One. Write down your memory in your planner, diary, journal, or even your phone. It’s a beautiful memory and one you should cherish.  

Two. Throw the plastic bags out. They’re just plastic bags. If you took those bags and mixed them with another set of look-alike bags, would you know which ones the cashier gave you? Probably not.  

There’s junk you may hold a sentimental attachment to, and there may be viable items you hold a sentimental attachment to. Regardless, junk is junk and needs to be thrown out.  

What’s considered junk?

Anything of a disposable nature.  

  • Plastic bags
  • Magazines (after you read them)
  • Newspapers (does anyone still get those)
  • Paper sales flyers
  • Junk mail (please don’t save a pile to possibly use in a junk journal)
  • Instruction manuals for items you no longer own
  • Warranty cards you never filled out when you purchased your appliances years ago
  • Overflowing garbage can
  • Empty water bottles
  • Wine corks
  • Empty cereal boxes
  • Etc…

Never ask yourself, “Will this bring me joy?”

If it didn’t bring you joy in the first place, you more than likely wouldn’t have bought it. I understand the whole KonMari thing but come on already. If it brings you joy, you would have been using it. If you’re currently using it; don’t throw it out.  

I’m not knocking Marie Kondo, after all, I use her method to fold my socks.  

Bottom line. Regardless if it brings you joy or not, if you forgot you bought it, it’s still in the original packaging with a receipt attached from 4 years ago, or if you haven’t used it in years. Get rid of it! 

Don’t be afraid to throw things out, even if you think you may use them sometime in the future. If it wasn’t an expensive item and one that can easily be replaced, you can always buy one again when you need it, not for “in case you need it someday”.  

Decluttering is a process. It’s not a get-it-done in a day, week, or even month. There are times decluttering one room may take several months, but you know what? That’s okay.  

Just remember, it took time for the clutter to compile.

It’s not like we can call a Genie, watch them cross their arms, and blink the mess away. That would be cool if we could do that, but this is real life, and that’s not gonna happen anytime soon.  

Take your time with decluttering. It’s a process and it’s going to take time.  

You can do it. I have full faith in your abilities.  

Let’s get crack-a-lackin. It’s time for you to start decluttering.  

It’s time for you to pick one small area to begin the decluttering process. Where are you going to start? Share in a comment.

Stay Peachy!

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