It is no secret that decluttering is one of the most tiring household chores – both physically and mentally, which is why it is so hard to find the motivation to get started.
Whether you are a chronic procrastinator or simply feel overwhelmed at the thought of facing all of your clutter, there are several reasons why you might keep putting the task off – you just need to find the right motivation to inspire you to start.
These are the seven tricks professional organizers use to get motivated to declutter and how they can help to make decluttering fun.
How to get motivated to declutter
One of the best decluttering tips to set yourself up for a successful decluttering session is to ensure you are starting with a positive mindset and energy to carry you through and stave off the desire to give up.
This is how to find that motivation.
1. Start with a small space
'Whether you decide to declutter a home room by room or try a decluttering burst, it pays to start small and work up to the bigger, more overwhelming tasks to maintain motivation and build momentum,' suggests Ashley La Fond, founder of home organization company Of Space + Mind:
‘So often, people feel paralyzed by decluttering because they have no idea where to start. To battle this, choose a small space – like under a sink or a single drawer – and just start there. If you try to tackle too big a space too soon, you’ll end up feeling overwhelmed and stuck, and you’ll get a quarter of the way through and give up.
‘By tackling a single area, you are more likely to stay focussed, allowing you to complete it - leaving you feeling more confident in your abilities. This momentum will carry you forward to tackle a future project.'
Ashley La Fond is the founder of the successful organizing business Of Space and Mind. The professional organizing company makes clients' life 100x more efficient and obviously "organized". From moving and unpacking to organizing your current home, Of Space and Mind can help with everything.
2. Visualize your end goal
While it can seem impossible to imagine your home neat when it is swamped in clutter, visualizing a well-organized space can help you to push through, says Caroline Roberts, professional home organizer and founder of This Simplified Island. ‘Having a strong vision or goal is critical for staying motivated,’ she explains.
If you struggle to visualize your goal, consider listing out the reasons why a more organized home would benefit you, or create a mood board on Pinterest with images of beautifully organized homes and aesthetic organizing tricks to emulate in your own space. Just be sure not to hold yourself to too high a standard and feel guilty if things don't work out exactly. They are just inspirations, after all.
Caroline Roberts is a KonMari consultant and founder of the home organization company The Simplified Island. She and her team help clients declutter their belongings. Then they find the best places for your items so that their family members can find things and put them away. She is also a contributing expert at Homes & Gardens.
3. Give yourself a time limit
If you struggle with long runs of decluttering and organizing, setting yourself a time limit and promising yourself you can stop when it goes off can help to get you through tough chores, says Ashley La Fond, professional organizer.
She recommends setting a timer for 30 minutes and seeing how much you can get done. ‘The pressure of time often keeps people focussed, and it feels less overwhelming if you’re signing up for a specific amount of time. After the timer goes off, you’ll be amazed at how much you can get done and it’ll encourage you to do it again in the future.’
You might even start to fall in love with organizing and committing long-term.
4. Build decluttering into a routine
If you set aside time to clear out your home but find it hard to decide what to declutter, then you could build it into your daily routine instead, recommends Marissa Hagmeyer, home organizer and co-founder of NEAT Method:
‘Every time you open a cupboard or drawer, you are faced with a decision. Because of this, excess belongings often lead to decision fatigue. Channel that idea to simplify your daily routines and create storage spaces that are calming when accessed – rather than overwhelming.’
Whenever you struggle to navigate a storage unit, quickly ask yourself what you haven't used in a long time and see if you can remove it for good.
Ashley Murphy and Marissa Hagmeyer are the organization-obsessed co-founders behind NEAT Method. Started in 2010, NEAT Method is the result of the duo's inspiration to bring a fresh perspective to the industry. Originally servicing the Bay area of San Francisco, NEAT Method began to build a small, passionate group of organizers. Murphy, the CEO, led the team from localized markets to expanding across the US and Canada, while Hagmeyer, COO, advises on designs, builds spreadsheets, and implements efficiencies.
5. Break big tasks up
Another limiting factor when decluttering is feeling swamped when you have to deal with large areas and big collections. Just as you should start in a small area, you should break bigger tasks into multiple smaller ones to make it simpler and maintain your motivation, says Caroline Roberts, professional home organizer.
‘I know that often, when I lack motivation, it's because I'm overwhelmed with a project. I don't know where to start, so I don't start at all,’ she shares. ‘Obviously, this isn't the answer, so I recommend breaking up large projects into bite-sized pieces that I can do in short bursts. I'll put those pieces on my calendar and make them non-negotiable.’
Working in this way can also help you to declutter without making a mess, too – it's a win-win.
6. Schedule it to avoid procrastination
'Procrastination is decluttering's worst enemy,' says Jamie Hord, professional organizer and founder of Horderly. While you can try to build motivation, sometimes the best response is to simply force yourself to get up and give it a go, he recommends:
‘The biggest thing here is to just start and get in that groove – once you start seeing the outcome, decluttering and organizing can become addictive! Play your favorite music and organize during a time of day when you have the most energy. It's also super helpful to schedule time in your calendar to organize so that you don't put it off – and always schedule a little more time than you think.’
Jamie is the co-founder of Horderly, a professional organizing company that brings order to countless homes and offices, from the most cluttered New York City apartments to some of the largest homes nationwide. The team's goal is to make their clients’ lives clutter-free, streamlined, and more functional.
7. Make it a self-care ritual
Decluttering might be essential to keeping your home safe and functional, but it can also be a great mindful activity that promotes wellness at home, reveals Ashley La Fond, professional organizer. To do this, try building decluttering into a ritual.
‘If a task feels daunting or overwhelming, you’re naturally going to shy away from it. But starting is often the hardest part. Create a ritual around decluttering to create a positive association with organizing instead. Combine organizing with something fun – put on a podcast, music, or a show, pick up a fancy coffee, make your favorite snack, or pour yourself a drink.
‘Rituals give us a sense of control,’ says Ashley La Fond. ‘The associations we create with tasks impact not only our attitude but our performance.’
Much like trying to get motivated to clean, not everything works for every person. As a result, it is important to use trial and error and switch up your approach to decluttering to help keep things interesting and keep your energy levels up during this tough task while also considering some mindset shifts to prevent clutter in the first place.
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Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for a year, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.
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