21 Decluttering Tips That Will Help When Nothing Else Works

If you want to declutter your home, but you keep getting stuck, then give these minimalist decluttering tips a try. These ideas will help you declutter, even if nothing else works.

As a former shopaholic turned minimalist, I know that decluttering can feel overwhelming. It’s easy to start motivated, but when you have a LOT of stuff to deal with, it wears you down, and before you know it, you’re stuck. 

If this sounds familiar, then rest assured you’re not alone. I’ve been there too, and I promise these decluttering tips will help.

"21 Decluttering Tips That Will Help When Nothing Else Works" in a white box with a close up of woman holding a stack of folded sweaters in the background

Benefits of Decluttering (Know Your Why)

First, let’s take a moment to talk about the benefits of decluttering. It’s important because the more clarity you have about why you’re decluttering, the easier it will be to keep going. 

A decluttered home is a tidy home

It isn’t rocket science. When there’s less stuff in your home, it’s easier to keep it clean. Vacuuming, dusting, laundry—it’s all easier to do with less clutter. My minimalist cleaning routine rarely takes me longer than 30 minutes a day to complete. 

Decluttering saves you time, money and energy

I’ve already mentioned that you spend less time cleaning, but it’s so more than that. You also save time because you’re not wasting it looking for lost items or double handling things. That five minutes you spend looking for your keys might not feel like much, but all those little minutes add up. 

Clutter also costs you money, whether you realise it or not. You pay for cleaning supplies, organising supplies (how much have you spent on storage tubs and baskets in the past?) and don’t forget that your time has value. Every minute that you spend dealing with your stuff is money down the drain. 

Finally, it’s so important to realise that clutter steals your energy. As Barbara Hemphill famously wrote, “Clutter is postponed decisions.” 

Think about what that means for your life? Can you ever truly relax if you live surrounded by clutter? Even if you don’t realise it, it’s always on your mind, and it will drain you. 

Decluttering teaches you about intentional living

Finally, one of the most surprising ways that decluttering improves your life is that it teaches you about intentional living

Every time you declutter something, you have to think intentionally about its place in your home: Why do I own this? How is it adding value to my life? Why should I keep it? 

You’ll repeat this process hundreds (if not thousands) of times while decluttering your home … and you know what?

I can almost guarantee that it will change how you think about everything—your schedule, your spending, your relationships and more. Before you know it, what started as “decluttering a few things” leads to a complete lifestyle change

“Why is Decluttering So Hard?”

Now that you’re feeling motivated to declutter let’s talk about some of the challenges you might face. (I don’t bring this up to discourage you! But the more you know about why you’re struggling, the easier it is to get unstuck.) 

First, decluttering is hard because it takes a lot of time and energy—especially when you have a lot of stuff. (I was a shopaholic for more than a decade, so trust me, I know exactly how it feels!) Even if decluttering was easy to do, you’d still need to go through everything. 

But … decluttering’s not easy, is it? 

Instead, it’s draining and emotionally challenging. The unspoken reality is that you’re not just decluttering old books and excess coffee mugs. You’re also decluttering your hopes, dreams and perhaps even your sense of self. 

You have to deal with challenging emotions, like shame and guilt, and you have to do it over and over. It’s absolutely exhausting. 

On top of the emotional challenges, there’s a layer of confusion. Where to begin? What to keep? What to do with my unwanted stuff? Questions like these can have us feeling like giving up before we’ve even started. 

The good news is that knowledge is power. If you know why you keep getting stuck, then you can tackle the root of the problem and finally move forward. 

A close up of a woman holding a stack of folded sweaters

21 Tips for Decluttering Your Home + Life

When you’re ready, these simple decluttering tips will help you make progress—even if you’ve tried everything before. 

1. Work on your mindset first

Before you start decluttering, spend some time getting in the right mindset. Remember, decluttering is physical and emotional work. Getting your head in the game is half the work. Here are a few things to think about:

  • Get clear about what matters to you — The more you know about what matters to YOU, the easier it will be to make decisions about what does (or doesn’t belong) in your life. 
  • Work on your self-worth — When you don’t feel “good enough”, it’s common to use stuff as a way of self-soothing. Work on loving yourself, and your clutter will lose power over you. 
  • Know who you are and what you believe in — The things you own say a lot about what you believe about yourself. If you’re confused about who you are, then your home will reflect this. 

2. Begin with the end in mind

Before you start decluttering, take a few minutes to think about the result you want to achieve. What will your space look like when you’re done, and how will it make you feel?

This vision will help you make decisions about what to keep, and it will also help you stay motivated. It’s a mindset shift—instead of focusing on what you’re giving up, your attention is on the home and life you’re creating for yourself. 

3. Decide ahead of time what to do with your unwanted stuff

Decluttering is overwhelming because you have SO many decisions to make. Reduce decision fatigue by thinking about what you’re going to do with your things before you begin. 

Will you donate it? Or sell it? And if so, how and where? 

Make that decision once before you begin, and it’s one less thing you have to think about. Plus, planning ahead of time encourages you to make more responsible decisions and increases the likelihood that you’ll actually follow through with the job. 

4. Clarify your fears around letting go

When people get stuck decluttering, it’s often because they have fears like:

  • What if I need this again later?
  • What if it’s worth something?
  • What if my children want this someday?

If you struggle with similar fears, tackle them head-on. What’s the worst-case scenario? What WILL happen if you need it again someday? How will you react? Be as specific as possible—the details will help you feel less afraid and empower you to make confident decisions.

5. Set reasonable expectations

Another reason people struggle with decluttering is that they have unrealistic expectations. This isn’t a personal criticism—I struggled with the exact same thing when I was decluttering my home and life. 

I know how hard it is when there’s an ocean between where you are and where you want to be. You want to see overnight results, and when you don’t, you feel discouraged. 

But here’s the thing … the odds are it took you years to accumulate all your stuff, and it’s probably going to take a while to declutter too! So set realistic expectations for yourself. 

Think about how much time you realistically have available for decluttering and set small goals. Then when you achieve them, you’ll feel good about the progress you’ve made instead of feeling like you’re falling behind. 

6. Use “rules” to help you declutter 

As I’ve already mentioned, decision fatigue is a real thing. When we have a lot of decisions to make, our brains get tired, and we end up feeling “stuck”. 

One way to reduce the number of decisions is to create your own rules for decluttering. Ask yourself what broad generalisations can you make about what you will or won’t keep.

For example, I know that I never get around to dry-cleaning my clothes, so when I decluttered my closet, I made a rule that I wasn’t going to keep anything that was dry-clean-only. 

This made my life so much easier—I decided what to declutter once, and then I didn’t have to think too much about individual items. It saved me time and helped me make better decisions about what to keep

7. Ask, “How does this add value to my life?” 

Marie Kondo famously encouraged us all to ask, “Does this spark joy?” but this question never resonated with me. Of course, if it works for you, then that’s great! But if you’re in the same boat, try out this question instead:

How does this item add value to my life? 

I believe that everything in my home has to earn its right to be there, and this question helps me walk the talk. If something doesn’t add value to my life, it doesn’t belong in my life. (This goes for everything, not just physical clutter!)

8. Don’t spend more than 5 minutes on one item

One simple tip that helps me when I’m decluttering is never spending more than five minutes deciding on a single item. 

I know that if I do, I’m likely to end up down a rabbit hole of nostalgia, shame or distraction—and this is how I get stuck. I lose my motivation for decluttering, and the next thing I know, a few hours have passed and I’ve done nothing.

If this sounds at all familiar, then try this: set a timer for five minutes, and if you can’t decide in that time, put it aside and move on. I think you’ll find you get a lot more done that way! 

9. Try using a “maybe” pile

Those items you can’t decide about what to do about? Put them in a “maybe” pile for now. I know this goes against a lot of popular decluttering advice, but here are my thoughts on the situation. 

If you can’t declutter something in five minutes, there’s likely some deeper underlying issue that you need to tackle—guilt, shame, fear, loss of identity, etc. And I’ve learned that to declutter your stuff, you often have to declutter something deeper first. 

This can take time, and that’s OK. Put your “maybe” pile aside and give yourself permission to work through it one item at a time. It might take a while but remember, not everyone can declutter an entire home in a weekend. Don’t feel bad if you need time to let go. 

10. Talk about your decluttering struggles

If you’re struggling to declutter a particular item, then I highly encourage you to talk about the challenges you’re experiencing.

Why? Because clutter thrives in secrecy. The more you try and hide it, the more power it has over you. It’s a bit like the monster that lives under your child’s bed … it’s scary in the dark, but the fear goes away when you turn on the light. 

Do the same with your clutter. “Turn on the light” by talking about it with friends or even by exploring your feelings in a journal. I think you might be surprised by how an honest conversation can completely change the way you feel—and in turn, empower you to move forward.

11. Have fun with your decluttering

Decluttering can be tricky, but this doesn’t mean we can’t have fun with it. Put on a favourite playlist, light a scented candle, and dim the lights. Spend a few minutes thinking about why you’re decluttering, and get excited about the life you’re creating. 

You could even try experimenting with a decluttering challenge. Make it a game by playing “decluttering bingo”, or use a decluttering checklist and have fun ticking things off the list! 

12. Name your tradeoffs 

It’s not always immediately apparent, but everything we own costs time, money and energy. We usually don’t notice it—what’s one more t-shirt or one more picture frame? But bit by bit, the little things add up to a drain on our lives. 

So how can we avoid it? By calling out and naming the tradeoffs. 

For example, if you’re thinking about what to do with a sewing machine that you rarely use, tell yourself —“If I keep this, I’m giving up a space that I could use for a reading nook. I’ll need to spend time cleaning when I could be taking a long bath. I’ll need to spend $50 on supplies, which is equivalent to three hours of work.”

You might decide it’s worth it, or you might not. Either way, by naming the tradeoffs, you’re making an intentional and informed decision.  

Decluttering and Organising Tips

13. Everything has its place

When I’m decluttering, I don’t keep anything unless I know exactly where it will live. At times, this can be challenging, but it forces me to be intentional about what I hang onto. After all, if I don’t know exactly where I’ll keep something, I’m probably not clear why I’m keeping it. 

14. Maintain clutter-free surfaces

Did you ever notice that clutter begets more clutter? (Just like spending leads to more spending—what’s a few more dollars, right?)

But the good news is that the reverse is also true. Try selecting one or two large surfaces and commit to keeping them clutter-free. You’ll feel more inclined to declutter the rest of your house because you’re enjoying your space, and the rest of your clutter starts to feel out of place. 

15. Don’t overfill your storage

You probably have storage containers where you keep things like off-season clothes or sewing supplies. If so, here’s a minimalist tip: always keep less than you think you can fit. 

In other words, don’t overfill your storage. Just because you can physically cram something in doesn’t mean you should. Jam-packed storage tubs and drawers are visually unappealing, and what’s worse—you can’t find anything without taking everything out. 

No one wants to do this, so you just avoid using your storage systems, which means you buy more stuff, and the clutter cycle begins all over again. So leave space; your systems will work and you’ll stay organised. 

Decluttering Tips for Clothes

I’m including a few specific tips on how to declutter clothes because I know this can be especially challenging for many women.

16. Know that you can admire a style without wearing it

If you have clothes you love but never wear, it might be because you don’t love them on YOU. For example, I love vintage tea dresses, and I used to have a huge collection!. But realistically, I never wore them because there are other styles I prefer. Once you realise this, you’ll find it easier to declutter your closet.

17. Realise that letting go can be an act of self-kindness

How do you feel when you look in your closet? Do you ashamed because there are things you no longer fit? Or maybe you feel guilty because you’ve spent a lot of money on things you’ve never worn

I know it’s tempting to keep things “just in case”, but keep in mind that clutter in your closet has an emotional cost. Instead of obsessing over money that you spent in the past, try obsessing over your wellbeing. Give yourself the gift of letting go. 

18. Figure out your style

The easiest way to declutter your closet is to get crystal clear about your personal style. The more you know exactly what you love wearing, the easier it is to see what doesn’t belong. 

And an easy way to do this is by creating a personal uniform. This doesn’t mean you have to wear the exact same thing every day. Instead, choose a few outfit formulas that feel good, wear them on repeat, and let go of anything that no longer works. 

Decluttering Tips for Hoarders

If you identify as a hoarder, I have three bonus tips for you. 

19. Figure out what makes you feel safe

When people hoard things, it’s often because of a traumatic event from the past. Something happened that disrupted their lives, and it may not make sense to other people, but keeping things restores a sense of safety. 

If you can relate, you may need professional help, and there’s no shame in asking for support. But if that’s not possible for you right now, one exercise that might help is to explore what else makes you feel safe. 

The answer will vary from person to person—it might be a pantry full of tinned food, money in the bank, or perhaps something as simple as a comforting song. The point is that you:

  • Create limits for yourself. Once you define how much you need to feel safe, you can start to feel relaxed about letting go. 
  • Find alternative ways of soothing yourself that don’t involve hoarding stuff. 

20. Set tiny goals but be consistent

As a hoarder, the idea of decluttering probably overwhelms you. Odds are you’re not going to clear an entire room in one afternoon, and that’s OK. 

Instead, set one teeny tiny goal—declutter just one item (even if it’s something small like a paperclip)—and do this every day. It might feel pointless, but for now, know that it’s not about how much you declutter. Instead, you’re teaching your body that it’s safe to declutter. 

You’ll gain confidence and momentum so that you can work up to bigger decluttering projects. 

21. Keep a record of your feelings

Whether you identify as a hoarder or not, self-awareness is one of the most powerful tools in your decluttering toolkit. The more you understand why you’re stuck, why you hoard, and why you’re afraid to let go—the easier it will be to address these root problems. 

The best way to do this is by keeping a log. If you try to declutter and can’t let go of anything, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, be curious. Takes note of any fears or insecurities that arise and write them down. Later, you can reflect and work through these feelings. 

Decluttering Tips for Moving

If you’re planning to move house soon, I wrote a complete guide on how to declutter before a move. But here’s a quick tip!

Start by thinking about what you want your new home to look and feel like. Then as your pack, imagine your shopping for your new home. What do you want to bring? 

Pack these things, and then look at what’s left. Do they serve a purpose? Or is stuff you’re just keeping because you think you have to?

Free Decluttering Guide

If after reading the above tips you still feel stuck, then I recommend downloading Mindful Decluttering, my FREE decluttering guide and workbook.

You’ll get my step-by-step decluttering process, my top troubleshooting tips, as well as a few personal stories to inspire you. Get your free copy by subscribing using the form below:

PRAISE FOR MINDFUL DECLUTTERING

“Hi Jennifer! I just wanted to let you know that even after starting my minimalism journey 9 years ago, I got real value and direction from your Mindful Decluttering e-book. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, you have a wonderful way with words. Love Michelle x’

More Decluttering Tips + Resources

Looking for more tips for decluttering around the home? Check out:

Thank you for reading and I’d love to know—what are your top decluttering tips? Let us know in the comments! x

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2 thoughts on “21 Decluttering Tips That Will Help When Nothing Else Works”

  1. I’ve requested NO physical gifts from friends and family. An experience ( hiking, visiting a museum, movie tickets, a meal out are all good solutions).😎

    Reply
  2. Motivation is a powerful, yet tricky beast. Sometimes it is really easy to get motivated, and you find yourself wrapped up in a whirlwind of excitement. Other times, it is nearly impossible to figure out how to motivate yourself and you’re trapped in a death spiral of procrastination. In the work goal context the psychological factors stimulating the people’s behaviour can be – desire for money,success. I couldn’t start motivating myself for a long time. I just procrastinated things in my life. Consequently, I ruined many of my school days and then I srewed with my job. Thanks to the internet where I found many tips that helped me motivate myself and finally do things I wanted and I had to do.

    1. Chart Your Progress

    2. Post a picture of your goal someplace visible

    3. Get a workout partner or goal buddy

    4. Reward yourself

    8. Give it time, be patient

    Moreover, I found an amazing site that helps you improve yourself and gets you motivated by completing challenges.

    Really interesting site with a great challenges verity—https://makeBetter.me

    Reply

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