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In this post: We’ve all been there. There’s always so much to do and never enough time or energy to get it done. Here’s where to begin when you’re feeling overwhelmed by your messy home.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the mess that you call home? And after a while, you start to feel the crushing weight of all the mess? If you need a starting point for where to begin when you’re feeling overwhelmed by your messy home, you’re in the right place. 

There’s always so much to do and seemingly never enough time or energy to get it all done. 

Before I discovered the life-changing act of decluttering, I felt like I was constantly cleaning. I was so frustrated about things not having their own place, odd ‘bits and bobs’ scattered over the surfaces in my kitchen, tons of products in my bathroom that just took up space, and throwing everything into the junk drawer (we all have one!) just to get it out of the way and never feeling truly ‘zen’ in my home.

Then I found the Fly Lady. Wayyyyy back when my kids were small. She started me on the right path, and I’ve learned so much since then. 

The Benefits of Decluttering

Decluttering has so many benefits. There’s no better time to start than now!

  • Quicker and easier to clean your home
  • Live in a less stressful environment
  • Be able to find things quickly
  • Have more space
  • Gain clarity and a sense of control over your surroundings
  • Reduce anxiety
  • You will finally LOVE your home!

So how do you tackle what seems like an absolutely mammoth-sized task? The same way you eat an elephant: one bite at a time. (I don’t want to eat an elephant, it’s just an analogy!)

How to Start Decluttering When You’re Overwhelmed

First, Find Some Motivation and Inspiration

There are so many resources to help you get started with decluttering.

  • Play a podcast while you’re doing housework. 
  • Watch Marie Kondo or the Home Edit on Netflix. 
  • Read a book about decluttering and organizing or look at one with pretty pictures. 

These actions can really get you in the motivational mindset of decluttering. You’ll discover so many new ideas from people who have actually done this already and currently live this clutter-free lifestyle. Hopefully, you will come away inspired to tackle your own home!

Podcasts About Decluttering

  • The Minimalists Podcast
  • The Art of Decluttering

Helpful Decluttering and Organizing Books

Give them a shot, they may just be life-changing for you. 

Make a plan

Start with the room that you spend most of your time in. Is that the kitchen? Living room? Office? Wherever it is, we’ll start there.

Why? Once you’ve finished decluttering the busiest room in your home, the sense of well-being you’ll get will be so great that you’ll be driven to get the rest of your home decluttered – fast. Okay, so it’s not always quite as magical as I just made it sound, but think of it like the snowball method of decluttering. Get one room checked off the list and you have the motivation to move on to the next.

Block off some time

Even if it’s just 20 minutes at a time, working in small chunks keeps me on track. When you can really focus on the task at hand without getting distracted, everything moves faster. If you have little ones under foot, this may mean cleaning up a little at a time after they go to bed. You can enlist the help of the kiddos, but sometimes that makes a bigger mess than you started with!

Start with anything time sensitive

If you are feeling overwhelmed by your home, you need to start with the things that have some time sensitivity to them.

This might include things like bills that need to be paid, library books that need to be returned, etc.

Focus on these items first, and then tackle the rest little by little.

Make Sure Clothes and Food are Looked After

Once you have dealt with all of the time-sensitive items, move on to clothes and food.

If you need to go to the grocery store, make a meal plan and head to the store. If you need to order a pizza tonight so you can get caught up, that is okay. Focus on feeding everyone, and making a plan for the rest of the week or month.

Next, it’s time to deal with the clothes.

Take a laundry basket and go through each room of the home to pick up all the dirty clothes. Throughout the day, make small loads and get through that pile of laundry.

Set a timer for just 15 minutes each day

Take some time either at the beginning or end of each day and set a timer for 15 minutes. See how much you can get done during this period, and when the timer is up, stop.

If you didn’t get through everything, that’s okay. Tomorrow is another day, and you can pick up where you left off from there.

Start with one big task each day

After you have done each of the above things, it’s time to decide what you need to handle first.

Choose one big task for each day in the week, or room if you prefer to do it that way. Set aside time to go through and do a good clean of this area or to do this task.

Use the 4-bag hack

Many years ago, I read a blog post titled something like How to Clean Fast When Company is on Their Way Over. I read about the “four bag hack” and adapted it to make it my own. I use totes for belongings we are keeping, a box for belongings we are donating, and one trash bag for trash.

1. Things to go in the trash

Broken things, sentimental items that you’ve been hanging on to for years, expired food, junk mail, clothes that don’t fit anymore  – you get the idea. All things trash go in the – you guessed it – trash bag.

2. Things to recycle

Do your part to save the planet! What can you recycle instead of throwing out? Look around and I’m sure you’ll find something. Then, give yourself a pat on the back for going the extra mile rather than taking the easy option of putting them all in the trash.

3. Things to give to charity

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right? The beauty of giving things to charity is that there might be someone out there who couldn’t normally afford quality clothes, furniture, or books, and because of your donation, they’re able to buy them at a reasonable price.

If you are in need of extra cash, take the items you could donate and sell them instead. This requires a little extra work, but can pay a bill or two if need be – or the cash can go straight into your savings account.

4. Things you want to keep

If the item you’re keeping doesn’t bring you joy or make you feel fantastic when you’re wearing it, do you really want to keep it? Be ruthless here. The aim of the game is to declutter and get rid of everything that isn’t currently necessary in your life.

Finish the job

That wasn’t so bad, was it? But your job isn’t done just yet!

  1. Put the trash bag… in the trash!
  2. Take the recycling to your local recycling center
  3. Contact charities close to you who would be willing to take or even collect your things, then list the things that are worth selling on eBay (for example)
  4. Find a home for all the things you’re keeping, or put them back where they came from.

Now you can use this exact set of actions on the rest of the rooms in your house. Simply rinse and repeat! Don’t feel like you have to do all of this in one day, but if you do feel like you can – that’s great, go for it!

Quick Decluttering Tips

When you’ve finally finished this task, the next habit you need to get into is not reversing all of your hard work. How can you keep your house clutter free? What systems can you put in place to ensure the clutter doesn’t stack up again?

Keep a small box in each room for clutter 

It will accumulate quicker than you think! You will start looking around like “how did all of this new stuff get in here?” At the end of every week, you can go through this in just a few minutes and figure out where all these things belong.

Invest in the right kind of storage for your space

Once everything has its permanent place, you’ll find it far easier to keep on top of things and you’ll never have to go hunting for something you need.

If you live with other people or have children, show them around and explain where things go now

Getting everyone involved will make this way of living simpler and less of a chore for you all. Especially with kids, making it fun and clear (using pictures or pretty letters) is key to keeping everything in its place. Studies have shown if you repeat an action over the course of two months it will become a habit. I know, I know, two months seems like a long time, but it will have long-term benefits – so stick to it!

If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, remember why you’re doing this in the first place. You’re on a journey to a much simpler, stress-free life where you can reclaim your time to do the things that matter the most to you.  Your home should feel like a sanctuary, not another chore to add to your list. So put your favorite music on, turn up the volume and let’s get to it!

messy bed

Take a deep breath, and take it one simple step at a time. It won’t happen immediately, but slowly your home will feel less overwhelming with each day that you do a little bit at a time.

shannon photo and sig oct 2022

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  1. Thanks Shannon – I needed this today. One step at a time. Sigh! I think another helpful piece of advice is to make an effort to put things back in their place once you are finished with them. 😔

  2. Setting a timer is a great idea! Especially for a small time block when you’re first starting to get decluttered and picked up. AND, it’s amazing to see how much you can get done in just 15 minutes!

  3. Thanks! I am always overwhelmed with the house and endless tasks that come from homeschooling, working from home, and just general life! I love the idea of the 15 minutes a day.

  4. I so agree with getting dressed, putting on makeup and lipstick, it makes me feel better
    But unless I am leaving the house, I usually just brush my hair
    We moved a year ago, actually you! Inspired me to sell our house and buy a new one.
    It was all over within 3 months.
    Anyway, when we were packing, I thought, why dint I wear more of my clothes? I think
    I was rotating maybe a weeks worth of clothes.
    Why have clothes if I don’t wear them? I don’t get dressed up like June Cleaver, Beavers
    Mother to keep house but I do wear my good clothes, pretty things that somehow were
    Put to the back of the closet but really seemed “ too nice” unless I was going out.
    I feel much better, my best self in appearance when I look nice, am dressed nicely and I
    Have sometimes changed into “ housecleaning clothes” for certain jobs.
    I can get depressed but looking my best really does help and there have been times when .i
    Just changed nightgowns when I took my shower..this is a very good point.
    Also some days, I put on some earrings or a necklace that I haven’t worn in awhile.
    Why have it and not wear it? Yes, getting dressed and making the bed is the way my
    Day starts.
    Good post Shannon!

    1. I hear you. Sometimes when you stay home it’s hard to know whether to dress up a bit to feel nice, or to keep it simple because you have cleaning to do. 🙂 I too feel better though when I take the time to get dressed and put on makeup.

  5. These are great simple tips for when you are overwhelmed. When you can allow yourself to start small and work your way up to the bigger tasks I think you will actually surprise yourself and do more than you think you might. Thanks for sharing these ideas.

  6. Shannon, it’s easy to think, “Why bother?” on a day when you aren’t well or only have the time or energy to do some small task. But, as my husband always says, “If you do something every day, it adds up; if you do nothing, it can’t add up!”

    1. It’s SO EASY to say ‘why bother’ when you’re tired and worn out! (And sometimes that’s okay. Rest is good. She says to herself.) But yes, on the regular, little bits add up a lot!

  7. AWWWWWWEEE!!!!! Just what I needed to get on track!!! I tackled the ever dreaded “tupperware cupboard” that everyone riffles the clean stuff into when doing dishes! yikes!!! I ended up donating more than I kept which felt so good. I have been dreading this job for weeks! and it took me all of 30 minutes to do!! I wasted more energy worrying about it than it actually took to do and then I couldnt stop opening cupboards to check it out! Then I made a list of the small jobs I wanted to do each day this week. Your advice gave me the momentum I needed to get moving! Thank you for the help!