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Decluttering? 10 Easy Steps to Get Started and Stay Motivated

By Rita Wilkins February 17, 2023 Lifestyle

Do you know what is the # 1 challenge people face when decluttering their home? Getting started.

How about the # 2 challenge people face when decluttering their home? Well, that would be staying motivated.

Congratulations if you found the courage to take those first steps to start decluttering your home so that:

  • Your kids won’t have to clean out your home when you’re gone.
  • You can prepare for a new life and starting over when you retire.
  • You can finally start to enjoy a simpler life with less stuff and less clutter.

Think of it this way:

  • You were successful at starting your decluttering journey because you took the time to create a vision for the life you want after you’ve decluttered.
  • You also took the time to create a decluttering plan, and a timeline to accomplish your goals.
  • You already started to see the fruits of your efforts in the areas you’ve decluttered.

You were on a roll! WERE on a roll… past tense!

Losing Motivation

What happened to your motivation and that strong, seemingly unstoppable drive to declutter your home once and for all?

Why are you suddenly resisting, procrastinating, and finding every imaginable excuse not to dedicate your time to decluttering?

Why did your “can do” mindset revert back to the old “can’t do” way of thinking?

What you may not have anticipated or planned for was the possibility that at some point you might hit roadblocks, lose momentum, and experience bouts of self-doubt.

Having tried and failed many times before, you truly believed that this time you could do it!

And the fact of the matter is, you did accomplish quite a bit of your decluttering… you are half way there!

But when self-doubt and negative self-talk started, you got overwhelmed again at the daunting task you still had ahead of you. Even the best laid plans and aspirations of a clutter-free home now seem like a distant dream.

The Messy Middle

If this has happened to you, know that you are not alone. As a matter fact, I would venture to say it happens to all of us at one time or another because the “messy middle” is where the going gets tough.

We’re human.

We lose that initial excitement, enthusiasm, and drive to reach the finish line.

We stop telling ourselves we can, and instead, begin telling ourselves, “We can’t,” “It’s too hard,” “It’s impossible” – and then, we quit.

When you think about it, this same mind game of “can” and “can’t” applies to just about anything else in life, we try to accomplish, be it losing weight, learning a new skill, or training for a marathon.

Getting Stuck Happens to All of Us

It’s not unusual to take one step forward, and then two steps back. So how DO you pick yourself up and dust yourself off, so you can start all over again?

Why WOULD you stop now if you are already halfway there… or even a tenth of the way there?

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “If you believe you can, you’re halfway there!”

The first step to achieving a goal is to start believing you can succeed. So, if you are truly committed to accomplishing your decluttering goals, and if you truly want to re-ignite that fire, your drive, and determination to succeed, follow these 10 simple steps.

10 Simple Steps to Get Started and Stay Motivated on Your Decluttering Journey

1. Deeply Connect with Why You Want to Declutter

What is the main reason you want to declutter your home? This reason goes deep to your core… it can even make you cry.


  • You don’t want to leave your kids with the enormous emotional task of cleaning out your stuff when you pass away like you had to go through when your parents died.
  • You dream of a new “lighter” lifestyle when you retire, one that won’t weigh you down, one that lets you experience a freedom you haven’t known in years… and one that gives you more flexibility, mobility, and much less responsibility.

2. Recommit to Your Vision for Life After Decluttering

Take time to create a vision board that paints a vivid picture of what your life will be like once you are free of clutter.

Be specific. Put it in a place where you see it each morning, let it inspire you, get you excited about the new lifestyle you will have.


  • More time, energy, and freedom to start checking off adventures on your bucket list with your spouse, your significant other, or your girlfriends.
  • Weekly play dates with your grandchildren while they are still young enough to enjoy being with you.

3. Acknowledge You Got Off Track

Admit that you’ve lost enthusiasm, but you don’t want it to impact your decluttering goals. Identify one or two things that might have contributed to getting off track.


  • Emotional impact of decluttering family photos.
  • Physical exhaustion, trying to do it yourself.
  • Negative feedback from family and friends.

4. Celebrate Your Wins Both Big and Small

Acknowledge yourself for the progress you’ve made even if it feels like a drop in the bucket. Reminding yourself of those “wins” will inspire you and motivate you to get started once again.

Take time to recall what worked before, why you were able to accomplish your goal of decluttering in at least a few of the areas before you got stuck.


Was there a specific decluttering method that you were able to fit into your daily routine? For example, the burst method that might have allowed you to accomplish 15 to 30 minutes of decluttering each day.

If you’re looking for decluttering advice, subscribe to Rita’s YouTube Channel where she shares tips and best decluttering practices!

5. Identify When You Started to Lose Interest in Decluttering and When You Began to Get Off Track



People in your life who discouraged you and did not support you in achieving your decluttering goals.

Emotional Triggers

Things that triggered strong emotion and memories, both good and bad, that took you out of the game (family photos, love letters, deceased spouse’s clothing).


Devices or technology that took your attention away from decluttering, causing you to lose focus, stole time from the task at hand, and negatively impacted your momentum and productivity (social media, the Internet, phone calls).

6. Have a Step-By-Step Plan in Place for Overcoming Obstacles and Setbacks When They Occur

Create a plan that includes the following:

  • Review your vision board and goals daily.
  • Remind yourself of why decluttering matters so much to you.
  • Reduce overwhelm by calling a friend who supports you, take a weekend off from decluttering.
  • Start by decluttering a small but high impact area that bothers you the most.
  • Embrace imperfection. Decluttering is messy, not perfect.
  • Alternate decluttering methods. (Burst method, category, method, room by room method.)
  • Track weekly progress, take “before” and “after” pictures.
  • Score quick wins. (One shelf, one drawer, one closet.)

Take care of yourself, smile, try to enjoy the journey!

7. Reframe Your Thinking from “Can’t” to “Can”

Identify your negative self-talk patterns: “I can’t. I’ll just fail again. It’s too hard!”

Every time you hear yourself being negative, smack it back down like a “Whack Amole.” Immediately reframe, those negative thoughts into positive and useful thoughts, such as “I can succeed. I will succeed. I want this so badly that it’s worth the hard work.”

Take a deep breath each time you hear something negative. Break the cycle of negative self-talk by being patient with yourself. It takes time. Doing this will eventually become a habit, so you will no longer be controlled by negative thoughts that take you off track.

8. Surround Yourself with People Who Believe in You and Will Support You

Engage a team of people who will be accountability partners, who will support you in good times and in bad, and who will help you stay on track. They will be there to celebrate your wins and help you get back in the game when you face setbacks.

9. Stay in the Moment

Focus on the one thing that you are working on right now. (One drawer, one shelf, one closet.) Complete that task before moving onto the next. Progress begets progress.

10. Have Some Fun While You Are Decluttering

Yes, decluttering is hard work both physically and mentally, but clutter didn’t accumulate overnight, so it’s not going away overnight. It’s a journey that will take time. Discover ways to have fun along the way.


  • Invite a few friends over for a decluttering party. Work for a few hours, then enjoy a nice dinner and wine together. Share funny stories about the process.
  • Have fun watching things disappear from your driveway when you put a large “FREE STUFF” sign next to your discarded items.
  • Play your favorite music, listen to an audiobook, or enjoy a podcast you’ve been waiting to listen to. Learn and have fun while you declutter.

If you have tried to declutter your home, but got off track, and if you’ve lost that energy and motivation to go the distance, don’t give up.

Start believing you can and you’re halfway there!

As challenging as the decluttering journey might be, you will learn so much about yourself along the way, and when you look back, you’ll say it was worth every minute!

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you gotten off track in your decluttering project? What made you lose motivation? Are you ready to get back to it?

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I’ve hit so many books and my girls baby things I saved. One daughter divorced us . Don’t know why. I’m afraid down the road she’ll want sone of there books. But all I hear this generation wants nothing. It’s emotional.
My other daughter is in group hone and probably won’t have kids.

rita wilkins

Shelly, sometimes we have to move on. Perhaps you can save a few items, but if you want to declutter for your own sake it is important to learn how to let go.
Best wishes in your journey!

Rita Wilkins, The Downsizing Designer


Shelly, sometimes the only thing to do with our stuff is to use it to document our journey. How much we tried is worth celebrating. Take photos of those things from the childhood, make notes. The journey will be documented for your children, but not a physical burden. All the best

Cindy Email

During the pandemic, I started moving from a little apartment to another location. As I moved things out of the apartment (but was still living there) I started to notice how much easier it was to breathe in a space that didn’t have a lot of stuff in it. Then I started to like the apartment a whole lot! The place I was moving to was already furnished, so I have been forced to deal with ways to integrate carefully and the courage to give away a lot of things that still have meaning in my life.

Living with less is an intentionall act. Each day you have opportunities to buy and collect more …or not. It sounds like you have discovered the joy of living with less. Keep going
Rita Wilkins, the downsizing designer

Carol Boucher

Thank you, Rita, I’m going to get back to this project very soon. We have done very well but there is more to do. Hard to get rid of my Dad’s memorabilia. He was a wonderful man and accomplished so much. But I can enjoy the memories without having his things. I will keep his watch and pictures of him.


I had no choice but to de-clutter we were moving out of a house that we lived in for 36 years. Still, the process was hard. My husband wanted me to get rid of everything; decorations, small kitchen appliances, and other kitchen stuff I’ve collected and used over the years. Even some photos. I was an emotional wreck. I felt like I was giving away my life, my memories…
I stood my ground and still donated, sold, and threw away what must’ve been half my house/life. I must admit I felt cleansed and renewed. I haven’t unpacked in our new home yet, but I have a feeling I will be cleansing some more when I do.

Carol Boucher

Maria, I can relate! My husband doesn’t feel attached to things as much as I do. Good luck and congratulations on your new home!

rita wilkins

Maria, congratulations for standing your ground. Downsizing and decluttering is emotional and a lot of work, but you are already experiencing the benefits of living with less.
Best wishes on your continued journey!

Rita Wilkins, The Downsizing Designer


I get stuck because the things I have left to release are family treasures collected while living in Alaska in the 1940s. I want to give them a good new home and don’t know where or how to do that.

rita wilkins

Cheri, we often times get attached to things and it is emotional to let go of them. If you want to declutter and downsize, perhaps you could take pictures of them and ask your family members and friends if they want them. If not, you might choose to keep 2 or 3 of them and let the rest go. If they have historical value, you might consider asking local historical museums and colleges if they would like them.
Best luck on your journey!

Rita Wilkins, The Downsizing Designer


Several things: family problems, lack of help from family, depression.

If you would like to declutter in spite of your current circumstances, try one drawer or one shelf. It’s far less overwhelming and you might gain momentum once you experience a few small wins.
Best wishes on your journey
Rita Wilkins, the downsizing designer

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The Author

Rita Wilkins, known as The Downsizing Designer, is a nationally recognized interior design and lifestyle design expert, Tedx speaker and author of Downsize Your Life, Upgrade Your Lifestyle: Secrets to More Time, Money and Freedom. She challenges baby boomer audiences to reimagine, reinvent, redesign their lives to live abundantly with less. Learn more at

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