What to Do About Declutter Burnout

What to Do About Declutter Burnout
Once we decide to live minimally we want our home to be decluttered… yesterday. Wouldn’t it be great if it had been done yesterday? But that’s not the case. Instead, we have to start today.
And then it happens:
In a mad rush, one entire room (or two) got decluttered and we started on the next. But this one has more stuff and now it’s everywhere.
It’s like the clutter monster puked.
On top of us.
And what if someone stops by? It’s visible.
It would take hours to hide it all away and make the house presentable.
Looking around the room, there isn’t a starting point. There is only stuff. It’s overwhelming. Exhausted before you even start, it feels like clutter will surround you for all time.
It will just be sitting there. Always. Staring back at you. Mocking you.


Many times we will start decluttering and accomplish so much in our home that when we come to the bigger areas or large amounts memorabilia we get discouraged and overwhelmed, partly because we’ve already worked so hard. It’s out of the “fun” stage and begins to require more thought as you consider each item.
You may feel like if you quit now, it will be forever looming over you and in the back of your mind. The peace that has begun to permeate the rest of your home will be stalled.


So, what to do?
I have a good friend, who, thankfully, was willing to help me out. She came and sat in my basement and asked me the hard questions:
“Do you use that?”
“Are you ever going to use that?”
“Why do you even have that??
“Um, seriously?
There were times when I thought perhaps I shouldn’t have asked her to come and I would be so irritated I would never speak to her again. Well, at least for a month or two…
But after we were done I was so grateful that someone was willing to just be with me and help me process. I got rid of so much more than I would have if I worked at it alone.

Here are some methods to help you keep going, even when you never want to sort anything ever again:

  • Take a two week break. Set an appointment for yourself. Write it on your calendar, set a reminder on your phone. Plan to spend 30 minutes on that day decluttering.
  • Determine to work. Persistence will pay off. When the day of the decluttering appointment comes, force yourself (if necessary) to walk over to that area, set the timer and start working.
  • Promise yourself a reward. “After I declutter one drawer, I am going to sit and read my book for an entire hour!”
  • If you need more of a push, schedule a few  hours with an honest friend to come and ask you the “hard questions” about your stuff.
  • Consider hiring a professional organizer. Do an interview first, make sure the professional organizer is able to help you get rid of items, not just creatively rearrange.

More suggestions from Facebook

  • Ask a friend or 2 to come over and make a party of it! Pick friends who are honest and not collectors. [Avoid the friend who can think of 20 different crafts to make out of that rusting thingamajig.] ~Myra S.
  • Focus on just one room at a time, so as you complete each space you have a visual of your accomplishment. ~Minette L.
  • Pick an “easy” drawer/closet/area, where yo know there are items that will be easy to toss. ~Minette L.
  • Set a timer! Knowing you only have to work for a few minutes makes the task “do-able”. ~ Gerri H.
  • Take before and after pictures. It’s motivating to see what can be accomplished. ~Sue S.
  • I had some decorative shelving that was cluttered with decorations. Early in my journey, I cleaned them up and now use them to “display” my coffee cups. Whenever I feel burnt out, I look at those shelves and remember how they used to look and it makes me feel energized again. ~ Erin C.
  • Get nice organizational tools. Sometimes a space still feels cluttered because the few remaining items are stored poorly, so think about practical organization. ~ Jennifer R.
  • Decluttering can be overwhelming. Take a break. Enjoy your new space. Really look at and appreciate your space. Take a mental inventory of how much stuff is gone. ~Ann L.
  • Anytime I feel overwhelmed with something I take a break and go do something I enjoy doing. This gives me a break from feeling overwhelmed and then I can return to the task at hand with a clear and peaceful mind.~ Sage M.
  • Change of scenery! Like burnout at work, you may need to leave the situation for a while. Take a weekend away if you can (a must if you’re cleaning out mom and dad’s estate) or even go for a walk. Flex those tense muscles, get some sunlight. Letting your mind wander, as it does during a leisurely walk, is also a good way to work through the emotional elements of decluttering – which is sometimes the most exhausting part. ~ Jennifer R.
Thank you all!

Join the conversation on  my facebook decluttering group and my fan page.

About Rachel Jones

Hi there! I’m Rachel Jones, and I founded Nourishing Minimalism in 2012 at the beginning of my minimalist journey. If you're looking for encouragement in your journey, I go live in my FREE Facebook Groups every weekday- feel free to join me there: Nourishing Minimalism Facebook Group


  1. Julie on September 10, 2014 at 10:17 am

    OK, Miss Rachel…You got me back into the game with this one. I’m a Mom of ten, we homeschool, we’re self employed, on a little farm, on a special diet, trying to sell our house…in short, life is complicated. I spent the summer ‘going minimalist’ as we called it, then crashed.
    This was just the encouragement I needed to realize that I was on the right track to start with, I just need to rest, regroup and hit it again.
    Thank you, My Dear.

    • Rachel on September 10, 2014 at 12:06 pm

      Oh you are busy!! Glad I was able to encourage you. 😉

  2. Jessie on October 21, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    Thank you! I just ha baby number 4 a couple weeks ago an I’ve been in the middle of decluttering for a year! (Its taken that long to get hubby motivated!) And now I’m wondering how I’m gonna finish! Now I don’t feel so bad just taking a break!

  3. Marie-Helene on June 22, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    Lol! Just love the image of the clutter monster puking on us. Been there so many times! So often that if it hadn’t been for the animals, I would have prayed for the house to burn down so I wouldn’t hat’ve to sort through it myself. I will tackle this monster once I get back from vacation. Thanks for your encouragement.

  4. Kristen on April 16, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    Just in the middle of this very thing! Spent a few weeks decluttering, and now I have to figure out furniture to house the stuff we are keeping??! Hit a spot of discouragement today about it all. But really, I need to seriously celebrate what I’ve accomplished in the past month! Thanks for the encouragement and the suggestions!

  5. Carolyn Smith on November 19, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    Yup, needed this! We have moved twice already this year, and probably moving again this next MONTh…andI’m pregnant w baby #3! I want to get rid of sooo much more, especially because we are likely moving in w family, but I’m burnt out….I’m gonna set an alarm for next week and start to sort thru the stuff that was dumped after our last move and hasn’t been touched since.
    Thanks for your words if encouragement!!

  6. Becki Goddard Nagel on August 17, 2017 at 11:13 pm

    Thank you, this helps.

  7. kat russell on September 30, 2018 at 6:23 pm

    Change is incremental. Do a little at a time and celebrate your many successes.

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