• Erica Lucas

Four Decluttering Methods to Try When You Have Too Much Stuff || Decluttering Roadblock #3

Updated: Sep 22

This blog post is part 3 of a five-part series presenting decluttering roadblocks (plus solutions) for guilt, fear of failure, volume, shame, and time.

  1. How to Deal with Decluttering Guilt

  2. How to Declutter When You are Afraid of Failing

  3. Four Decluttering Methods to Try When You Have Too Much Stuff

  4. Stuff + Shame: Finding Gratitude


Maybe your decluttering goal while reading this is to just get your home a little more organized. Maybe you are an aspiring minimalist and stuck on a decluttering project (as am I - working on decluttering my overwhelming supply closet). Maybe one side of your bed is piled with stuff and you sleep on the other side. Maybe your kitchen counters are overloaded with stuff that does not belong in the kitchen but you cannot figure out where to put it (been there, friend).


Before we dive in, I want you to take a virtual hug from me and know that you are not judged here. I continue this blog and my YouTube channel to build a community of kindness and support because I needed that in the beginning (and still do today).


What qualifies as too much stuff?

First of all, if you are reading this and suffer from depression, anxiety, or hoarding disorders, I encourage you to seek help from professionals. You are not alone, and you are facing very common emotions.


If you feel overwhelmed by the idea of sorting through a closet, drawer, pile, or closet, then the amount of items - or volume - may be the problem (along with other emotions that hold you back like fear or guilt).


Why Volume is Difficult to Declutter

  • we do not know where or how to start

  • we do not know where to put items while sorting

  • we may not have space to sort items before decluttering

  • we clear one shelf but lose motivation to finish the entire closet

  • we cannot clean our homes because we have too much stuff


I have faced every one of those hurdles while decluttering. In case you are new here, I have donated thousands of items over the last two years after realizing I had too much stuff to even clean my house anymore. On YouTube, I share videos detailing the struggles and successes of decluttering. You may find this article, 21 Reasons We Have Clutter, helpful.




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How to Declutter When You Have Too Much Stuff

Too much stuff is a tough roadblock to break through but you can do it. Allow me to offer four methods for decluttering when you have too much stuff.

  1. Create a Blank Slate

  2. Work Backwards

  3. Gain Quick Wins

  4. Declutter a Category

Just start. I know that's easier written than done, but that's my best advice. Momentum and motivation can be sparked after starting, even if you feel like you aren't making progress. Starting helps. One drawer leads to two drawers. Two drawers lead to a cabinet.


Method 1: Create a Blank Slate

This method is often suggested in comments in decluttering videos. Clear the space and pull everything out. If you tackling a closet stuffed with items (supplies, your wardrobe, coats and bags), clear it out completely to tackle the mess.

  1. clear the mess entirely

  2. sort the items into categories

  3. evaluate the piles for keep vs declutter

  4. declutter ruthlessly

  5. organize everything that is left


Why this works: clearing a space and starting with a blank slate can help you visualize how you want the space to feel and function. Clearing the mess forces you to deal with everything you took out.


When this does not work: when time is limited. You can still use this method if you can leave the cleared items for an extended period of time.


I tried this method with homeschool supplies in the past but I didn't have the time to finish. I cleared everything to my dining room table thinking it would only take a few hours to reset. After clearing the items to the table from the closet, I faced financial guilt, unexpectedly. The items sat on my table for over a week, preventing us from using the table.


I shared my struggles with that guilt in this video:



decluttering with guilt




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Method 2: Work Backwards

I find this method works best for me because I'm process-oriented. The first step is to envision the completed, organized end result. Thinking about what "done" looks like can act as a guide for the remaining steps.

  1. vision: think about what the done version looks like

  2. action: empty, sort, categorize, and declutter the items

  3. organize: gather everything that is left and return to the shelves

  4. routines: create habits to prevent more stuff from turning into clutter

  5. systems: turn your routines into household systems that help you live with less


Why this works: this method takes a while to complete but it's a permanent solution for decluttering a large amount of stuff.


When this does not work: this method does not work if you buy stuff to replace the items you declutter. This method does not work if your habits, routines, and systems are not maintained. However, good habits, routines, and systems can be restarted when you take time off from them (you are sick, you need rest, you break your leg).


Method 3: Gain Quick Wins

This method works whether you have clutter everywhere or just in one section. Quick decluttering wins help get you going in other areas of your home. Here are five quick wins that might help you tackle other decluttering goals.

  1. create a drop zone

  2. create a launch pad

  3. use a clutter basket

  4. find homes for stuff

  5. declutter

A drop zone is an area in your home where your family members can drop their items when Athey walk in the door. Backpacks, purses, shoes, keys, wallets, and more. Some people designate an area and keep the items there in an organized way using bins, cabinets, and hooks. Some people need an area to corral those items to organize after getting settled back home.


Organizing a launch pad area helps get you out the door a bit easier. An area to organize items or categories that you may need when you head out. The drop zone and launch pad may share a space but a launch pad may also have an area for library book returns, store returns, a decluttering outbox (stuff to donate later), packages to ship, and more.


Using a basket to quickly gather clutter and reset your space can help you begin to clean faster.




Finding homes for items can be arduous process when you have too much stuff. This step takes a long time to find homes for each and every item. However, you can start anytime and build slowly. Find a home for the stuff that commonly lands on the kitchen counter and change where you put the items. Find a home for the items that collect on the dining room table each day. One thing at a time and one day at a time.


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For the times I feel overwhelmed by clutter, I find Method #3 to work very well. Achieving quick decluttering wins makes me feel like I have control over the space around me.


Why this works: this method works because it makes quick work of a messy, targeted area.


When this does not work: this method does not work if you need a long-term solution for a major mess.



Method #4: Declutter a Category

I love this method. It's a great way to declutter and live with less by leaps and bounds.


Pick a category of stuff you have in your home. You may have to gather items from all over your home into one spot before beginning your declutter. This method works well for paper or categories with large amounts of items (like toys, books, etc.).


Evaluate the pile for what you want to keep, and then actively find a home in your home for each kept item. Ruthlessly evaluate each item you didn't choose to keep and declutter accordingly. Rehome, donate, sell, or giveaway.


My hubs and I recently came to grips about the amount of wall hangings we move from home to home (we are military) and unpack every time. Most of the 68 wall hangings we recently decluttered haven't been hung on the walls in years.





Summary

Tackle decluttering projects one day at a time and one item a time. These four methods may help you get organized and think about how a space functions to help you declutter and live with less.



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FTC Disclaimer: Please note that some links may be affiliate links, and I earn a commission from your purchase. These links share products at no extra cost to you. I may receive some products in exchange for my honest review. My opinions are my own and are not influenced by brand, person, or company.


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