10 Tips When You’re Overwhelmed With Clutter


I answered the buzzing of my cell phone with, “Hello, this is Rachel.”

The voice said, “I got your name and number from Thelma at the thrift store and she said you could help me.”

“Oh really? How can I help you?” I asked.

She told me her daughter was a germaphobe and a neat freak and she had a 6 week old baby and she was coming home from San Francisco in a couple of weeks. Then she paused and when she resumed, her soft little voice said,

“And I’m a hoarder. And Thelma said you would for sure know what to do.”

So I set a time to stop by her house and come up with a game plan to find room for her daughter to sleep and to put up a little baby crib.

She was the first client I had who asked for help in that way.

And though it was a lot of hard work, as we worked through the psychology and ultimate placement of each item, I felt so much joy and accomplishment to I see her eyes fill with light and hope fill her heart as she began to realize that her “Mt. Everest” could truly be climbed one step at a time.

The jobs that I have had of this type, did not include time for the Konmari method of sorting and cleaning. There absolutely was not time to sort each and every item as we sat on the floor and nuzzled it to our cheeks and asked ourselves if it brought us joy. Now I’m sure there is a time and place for that exercise. It just hasn’t been the method that worked for my clients and me at the time.

In the list below, I have shared how to quickly ditch the overwhelm and help you see light at the end of the tunnel.

10 Tips When You’re Overwhelmed With Clutter

1. Determine why you are overwhelmed with clutter. If you are dealing with clutter, you are dealing with more stuff than you have room for, or more stuff than you have time for, or more stuff than you have energy for, OR all of the above.

2. Ask someone you can trust to help you. If clutter is eating you alive in your own home, don’t despair.  There are ways to deal with it and you can ask a trusted friend to help you or do it for you. The client who called me and asked me to help her with her stuff, said she needed to confess that she was a “hoarder”.  I didn’t know her before I arrived at her home, but just giving her hope in the midst of her situation gave her new perspective.  You can find that hope also if you are feeling overwhelmed.

3. Realize your home has “prime real estate”. In your home there are areas  of “prime real estate”, such as the area right by the door where you or your family enter your home, the chairs that you sit in, the bed you sleep on, your kitchen counter tops and your bathroom counter tops.

4.Work quickly without sorting.  Just scoop it and move it! Tackle the areas of “prime real estate” first and quickly, by scooping any clutter you may have into a laundry basket or box, (DON’T, I REPEAT, DON’T sort through it, just put it in the box) and it’s ok to leave it sitting right there by the door, or by your chair, or by your bed, or at the end of your counter top. Now clearly, if it is a cereal bowl of milk and soggy cereal put it in the sink or dishwasher.  And obvious trash, yeah, throw that way. But try this…like ‘green eggs and ham”…you just might like this approach! Try it and be amazed!!! Amaze yourself with just how much better you feel with those spaces cleared and everything contained in one place if you need it.  Try it! Let me know how good it feels!

5. Once a space is cleared, keep it clear. The next time you feel the urge to lay something on the chair, or counter top, just put it in the box instead. Except cereal bowls with milk and soggy cereal…yep, the sink and obvious trash…the trash can, but  do your best to keep those areas of “prime real estate” clear, even if the rest of the room is cluttered and messy. Just seeing clear space in a room, has a calming effect.

6.Choose an out of the way place for stuff. When I am working on a whole house or a complete room, I choose an out of the way place, or area to put anything that may be causing clutter so the rest of the room has a semblance of order.   Once again, resist the urge to sort (that comes later).  You are working quickly… “like Kate Middleton is coming over and your house is a mess quickly”… Some out of the way places could be behind a sofa.  In one of our houses, I set the sofa at an angle across the corner of the room, and when it was time to put the toys away, they went into that corner behind the sofa.  It just felt better at the end of the day to not be staring at toys all over the living space. You could put boxes behind a sofa or chair that sits in a corner and then drape a table cloth over it so that it has a cohesive look.  One of my friends once put her extra stuff in her spare bathtub and pulled the shower curtain closed.

7.Don’t feel bad for choosing a quick approach. How many times have you pulled EVERYTHING out of your closet or the kitchen cabinets or dresser drawers to sort and organize and before you knew it you were out of time and stuff was strung everywhere. Remember these are quick fixes leading toward a long term solution.  If you follow Dave Ramsey, you know that he says to tackle the debt first, that you can pay off the most quickly.  Somehow just paying of that debt quickly energizes you for the long haul of kicking debt to the curb.  That concept applies here.  Tackle the “prime real estate” areas of your home first and quickly and then come back and deal with each space as you have time or energy.

8. Realize this will energize you for the larger task ahead. Once you’ve quickly worked your way through your house collecting stuff into boxes or baskets, you will begin to see your home through new eyes.  You will feel new creative energy.

9. Don’t get hung up on feeling like you also need to clean as you scoop things into boxes. Keep in mind that you, your family and your guests will notice clutter before they notice whether or not you dusted or cleaned.

10. Celebrate your success, no matter how small.  Sit down with a cup of coffee, or glass of frosty lemonade and enjoy the open spaces you have created, even if it’s just your chair and the rest of the room is messy.

I think I’ll head home and grab that box of stuff I’ve been intending to donate to the thrift store…and see what else I can grab on my way out the door.

What are your favorite tips for clearing the clutter?

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  1. Rachel, what great tips! I sometimes help friends declutter and this is a good way to get things done fast, I’ll have to pass your ideas around! This is a nice ministry to help others with.

    1. Katherine, what I have found if you work quickly to clear space so they see results, it is easier to tackle the nity gritty later.

  2. All good suggestions and when you finish you feel lighter and you can breathe easier. Have fun sorting, cleaning, feeling lighter and breathing !

  3. Thanks, Rachel! You’ve done it again! Thanks for the wonderful ideas and encouraging words!

    1. Esther, eeeekk!!! I know what you mean. After I wrote that post, I just wanted to start throwing stuff away! So all my spaces are empty. Not really tho! Haha

  4. I hope your client is able to go forward with what she learned from you. Don’t you know it took a lot of nerve for her to call for help. I’m proud of her for doing that and glad you could help her.

    1. Yes,Stacey, I’ve thought about how hard it would have been to call and then let someone in…a complete stranger to help her.

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