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How To Get Organized When You Are Too Overwhelmed to Start

I interviewed 17 Organizing experts How they got organized when they were too overwhelmed to start Their solutions are ones that you may use to manage your home as well. These helpful hints can come in handy no matter where you are in your organizing journey. Check out their responses, You might find some that you’d want to follow.

1. Becky, Clean Mama

Just do SOMETHING. Anything. Choose one thing to organize or set your timer for 5 minutes and sort through something that you’ve been putting off. Every day do one little thing and pretty soon the overwhelm will slowly disappear and you’ll see that with just a little bit everyday you CAN still accomplish something.

2. Laura at I’m an Organizing Junkie

Setting a daily goal and set up a donation station are just two of the things to do in order to get organized and to no longer feel overwhelmed. Letting go of guilt is among the things to do on this list.

3. Lisa, Organize 365

I found myself in a home I no longer recognized. I sat down and made a long list of every single thing that needed to be done in my house. When I went to chunk it down into manageable tasks that I can complete in a day, I had 40 different days worth of activities.

What I needed to be doing was making more income for a family and taking care of sick family members. But I had lived in chaos for so long that I had lost sight of myself in my home. So I did what made no sense at all and took 40 days to focus completely on getting my home organized.

Today, I have helped thousands of women do the same thing every year only – we take the 40 school weeks of the year as opposed to the 40 crazy days that I did!

For so many of us, our days are filled to overflowing and with real needs and demands on our time. The only way I was able to finally get organized and then start a business to organize others was by stopping everything and prioritizing the time to organize my own house.

For women who are not able to do what I did, I offer them this first step. Set your timer for 15 minutes a day and your only task is defined as many things as you can to either throw away or donate until you can no longer fill one trash bag a day.

We spend so much time accumulating things into our houses, but rarely do we take the same amount of time to collect and eliminate the things we no longer need. Often people can spend just 40 days filling up one trash bag a day getting rid of the things that no longer fit, are broken, or would be more beneficial to someone else.

4. Sarah, Sarah Titus

“I’ve always been an organized person. I LOVE to organize and have everything have its own special place inside my home. But, if I were in the position of being too overwhelmed to start, I’d take one room at a time. One section at a time and just spend 15 minutes a day organizing. Set the timer and see how far you can get. This REALLY helps. ”

Read also: Seven Reasons Why People Struggle to Declutter

5. Mary, Mary Organizes

When you feel overwhelmed thinking about becoming organized, I think it is important to remember that being organized is a spectrum, and that you don’t start out on the “you’ve got it all together” side of the spectrum. That side is a bit of an illusion anyway.

If you are overwhelmed right now, get out a piece of paper and look around the room and try to notice what is going on. If there is a basket of un-folded laundry, write on your paper “fold laundry and put away”. If there are dishes to take to the kitchen, write “take dirty dishes to the sink”. Then, keep looking for more things going on. Once you have 3 things written down, get up and do those three things, then sit back down again and write down 3 more things. Repeat until you and the room feel calmer, and you’ve just moved a bit further along on the being organized spectrum.

That first move, the start, is always the hardest, so make it the easiest of things to do. You’ll notice that as you start moving by doing the easy things, the harder tasks come naturally.

6. Anna

For as long as I can remember I’ve been an organized person, it’s just the way my brain works. However there are lots of times when life gets crazy and I can’t stay on top of things as well as I’d like to. When things get a little unorganized or overwhelming, I stop, evaluate the situation, determine what needs to be done and then I start somewhere.

My best advice would to not let the clutter and organization be in control, you are in charge, and I promise it’s not as scary as it seems, you just have to start somewhere. Tackle a little bit at a time, walk away, reward yourself with some chocolate, then come back and tackle another little bit. All the little bits add up really quickly and before you know it you’ll have an organized space that you’re proud of!

Read also: Things You Can Do This Weekend to Declutter Your Life

7. Crystal, My Blissful Space

This question comes at a perfect time because this week has been stressful and overwhelming as I have faced piles of “to-do’s” and several busy weeks ahead to plan for. As I looked at my planner and all the full evenings coming up, and sat and stared at the piles of things I was trying to work on that were on the coffee table, the desk, and even the floor, the feeling of overwhelm caused “productivity paralysis” (a term I just made up this week ;)).

There was so much to do that the mere thought was exhausting and made it tough to do any of it. But when that happens, either with myself or a client, my advice is to just START. Beginning is half the battle, and once you get started, you’ll likely find that the motivation and momentum picks up and will keep you going. Following these steps will make it more manageable and less overwhelming:

1) Prioritize what needs done first.

For other projects that you want to complete, create a master list so that you remember you need to do them, but file or find a home for the items associated with that project. For example, I need to create a new blog planner and have the forms printed and the binder ready to go. There is also blog training that I want to read through. But I don’t need it all sitting on the floor calling my name and adding to the visual clutter and my stress. I can put the forms in the binder and put the binder in its spot in my desk, then set up the planner and read through the training materials when I have time to do that. Our taxes need done within the week because we have an appointment next weekend, so that needs to be dealt with before the blog planner.

2) Complete quick tasks in order to clear your space and check some things off the list.

Once you know what needs to be done first and the other larger projects are filed away for later, I like to take a few minutes to quickly complete those little to-do’s that don’t take much time, but that are causing piles in my work space. In addition to the tax files that I plan to work on today, I’m staring at receipts that need filed, and a pile of envelopes that need addressed and mailed. In 5-10 minutes I can take care of all of that, so I’d prefer to do it now rather than move the work to another location. As the space starts to clear and you feel the momentum of checking several things off your list, the remaining tasks at hand won’t seem so overwhelming.

3) Now that things aren’t so overwhelming, focus on the main task at hand.

Once you’ve cleared some of the visual clutter, filed away jobs that can be done later, and knocked a couple things off the list, things don’t seem so paralyzingly overwhelming. For me that means focusing on tax prep!

Read also: How to Organize Your Kid’s Paperwork

8. Sara, Time To Organize

The best way to get organized when you’re overwhelmed is to start small. I love the “17 Things Challenge,” which I do in my online JOY (Just Organize Yourself) Challenge: Grab a trash bag and a donation bag, and quickly fill them with 17 things that you can easily part with. Most people can do this in about 15 minutes, and it gives the momentum to keep going. You could focus on one room or space (such as the pantry or entryway closet) or roam throughout the house to find 17 things. Either way, it is a great jump-start to the decluttering process.

9. Natalie, Refined Rooms

The answer is always to break the monster project down into a set of bite-sized tasks. I also like to organize the project “on paper” first before rolling up my sleeves to do the actual work. The basic tools that I use to accomplish both of these objectives (breaking the project down and organizing on paper) include a good ol’ fashioned list, OR a project board. The project board is great for those of us who are visual learners.

10. Julie, Julie Bestry

Have you ever had a bad boyfriend? A bad job? Not a horrible one, but a bad one. But you put up with him or it instead of making a change, but when you finally got rid of the guy or the job, you could kick yourself for not having done it earlier? It’s important to evaluate your surroundings and your lifestyle to see what’s causing you the most annoyance and fix those things first. If you are always late for work or church or Mom’s Day Out or your kids can’t find their backpacks or permission slips, or if you leave the house with an empty tank of gas and no directions to get where you’re going, that’s a bigger deal than ten years’ worth of birthday party photos that haven’t been arranged into scrapbooks or photo albums.

“When it comes to clutter, it’s not the space it takes up in your home, but the dent it puts in your life.” So, start small. When my clients are overwhelmed, they can’t determine WHERE or HOW to start, and I like to point out that just getting started is often the biggest stumbling block. ANY forward progress, no matter how small, is better than none at all, because even small victories yield success, and that momentum and sense of confidence from successfully achieving one organizational task will power you through to the next steps.

I tell clients to look at the kinds of frustrations that get in their way the most often. The first step to getting organized might be as simple as putting teacup hooks or a small bowl inside the front door to hang your keys. Maybe set up a filing tray or a bulletin board where school-age kids can post their paperwork (graded homework, permission slips, etc.) before they get their afternoon snacks. Scheduling a gas-tank fill-up every Tuesday on your way back from work or the gym keeps you from having to worry that you’ll run out of gas and be late to pick up your kids, or stuck somewhere, unable to get to an appointment.

You’ll feel more confident when those little, everyday problems stop cluttering your life. It’s the little stuff that gets you crazy,­ like a paper cut or a buzzing mosquito. Eliminate those, and you’ll have the stamina to move on to the larger things in a more methodical, prioritized way.

11. Toni, A Bowl Full of Lemons

Getting organized is a process. It doesn’t happen in a blink of an eye. The key to organizing your life is to start small. Those small victories feed the fire to continue on. Begin with a junk drawer. The feeling you get after you see the finished space is a glimpse into what you will feel when your entire house is organized.

12 Katie, Organizing Moms

When I’m overwhelmed by clutter, it helps me to set a decluttering limit. I might plan to declutter for just ten minutes, or declutter just 15 items. By setting limits, I know I can make a little bit of progress, but I don’t feel like I’m diving into a never-ending project.

Read also: 10 Essential Habits To Instantly Become A Highly Organized Mom

13. Susan, Organized 31

When I’m overwhelmed is when I find organizing and purging is the most cathartic. The great thing about organizing is that you can see concrete evidence of your labor so it’s very rewarding. Organizing gives you more room in your life to actually enjoy life. When I’m overwhelmed, I find it most helpful to start with a small task – my purse, one pile of papers, one drawer in my dresser, one shelf in the linen closet or one cabinet in the kitchen.

I’m a big believer in breaking tasks down into manageable chunks. I have a 31 Days of 10-Minute Purging Tasks Series running on my blog right now. I’ve also shared Couch Potato organizing tasks, which are organizing tasks you can do in front of your TV while watching your favorite show. Once you’ve seen the results of completing a small manageable organizing tasks, you’ll be encouraged to move on to another organizing task, then another, and another.

14. Jan, Less for More Life

Organizing for me was the second part of what I call “Calming The Chaos.” The first part was simplifying. Before I could think about getting my things into order, I had much to get rid of.

I pitched, purged, and pared down my stuff, little by little and room by room until it was manageable. After that, organizing was actually fun.

15. Morgan, Morganize With Me

I tell myself to “focus!” I start by working on just one thing, the smallest thing first. I turn off any and all distractions and give myself a time frame, usually by setting a timer. I have found that when I can check off boxes, even if they are small, I start to feel better.

16. Courtney, Be More With Less

It really helped me to focus on one thing at a time. Instead of trying to figure everything out, I took one small step and simplified my diet. Once my changes became the “new normal” I had the confidence and momentum for the next change. Instead of getting overwhelmed with how far I had to go, I started small with one thing at a time. Project 333

17. Abby, Just A Girl And Her Blog

When I am overwhelmed with organizing projects, I usually start by making a list of every single project that I need to complete. Then I prioritize, listing the most important projects first, and then going all the way down to the least important. From there, I schedule in time on my calendar to work on the projects. I start with the first one on the list and do as much as I can in the time I have allotted and then just keep plugging away at them during my scheduled times until I’ve completed my list.

And, there you have it. Some of the greatest advice you will receive when it comes to organizing. And the best part is, it is all in one place! I hope you were able to take away from this post some great tips and you found some new bloggers to follow. Leave a comment below and let me know which piece of advice resonated with you the most. I would love to hear from you.



I’m a writer, new mom and foodie. I love sharing what I know while making others feel beautiful. On this blog, I share my healthy lifestyle, simple meals, fitness tips and experiences.

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Kara Bout It