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What NOT to do When You Are Overwhelmed by Clutter


If the idea of letting paramedics into your overwhelmingly cluttered home in case of a life or death emergency would cause you to pause just for a moment and wonder whether it might be better just to die, you are not alone. What to do? I’ll get to that in a bit. First, I want to tell you what NOT to do.

  1. Don’t stop taking care of yourself.
    You may feel you should be punished for letting things get this out of hand. But you are going to need your strength. So, go to bed at a decent hour; eat good food; drink your water; and get out for a bit of fresh air and exercise.
  2. Don’t waste time blaming yourself or others.
    It just saps energy.
  3. Don’t despair!
    Even if you have no idea how to deal with your physical space, you can learn all you need to know.
  4. Don’t think you are the only person in this situation.
    There are many, many people who don’t know how to wash dishes, or use a broom.
  5. Don’t shop to make yourself feel better.
    Don’t bring home more stuff.
  6. Don’t try to do everything at once!
    This is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t crash and burn. Stop for at least 15 minutes every hour that you work.
  7. Don’t start worrying about recycling, having garage sales, and getting your stuff to the correct recipient.
    If you get it out of your house, you have done a good thing. Later, when things are in order, you can go back to being green.  our house is not a landfill, either!
  8. Don’t yell at your spouse or children.
    If your house is really cluttered, there are extenuating circumstances that make it very difficult for people to do anything.
  9. Don’t hire a housecleaning service to help you.
    A housecleaning service might be useful AFTER you declutter.

Where to begin? Whatever you do is better than doing nothing. If you are living with piles of stuff on the floor, you can stop vacuuming for a while, and use your energy to get rid of items rather than actually clean. It will be much easier to clean when there is less stuff to clean around. Keep washing dishes and laundry, however. The first thing to do is to go shine your sink. Yes, I got this straight from  That will be your motivator, and your visual sign that things are going to get a lot better. Set your timer for 5-15 minutes at a time, and start getting rid of clutter. If it’s trash, throw it away. (Don’t worry about recycling everything right now.) If it is something in good condition that someone else could use, put it in a bag or box to take to Goodwill. (Don’t worry about having a garage sale, or giving it to just the right person.) When that box or bag is full, take it out to your car immediately, and the next time you are out, drop it off. Get it out of your house as fast as possible. If you make a mistake and give away something you later wish you had, you will most likely be able to buy another one. I don’t think you’re going to accidentally throw away priceless antiques or gold jewelry! A little bit done every day is better than waiting until you can do everything perfectly. If you don’t use it or love it, get it out of your house. Once the majority of clutter is gone, it will be so much easier for you to clean and keep up with things.