Find The Motivation You Need To Tackle The Clutter

Find The Motivation You Need To Tackle The Clutter
Recently I asked my readers:

How do you stay motivated? What do you do when the house is so messy, it’s overwhelming and one doesn’t know where to start?

The responses have been great! And if you’ve been lacking the motivation needed to declutter your home, here are some terrific suggestions:

  • Break your room into 4 squares. Set a timer for 20 minutes and clean. take a break for 10, then do the next zone.
    I also have 3 baskets: Donate, Doesn’t belong here, and trash. The “doesn’t belong here” basket gets empty as soon as it’s full or I’m finished ~Sarah A.
  • I have it written down on my to do list every day, every single day. 10 mins each day. It goes by fast ~ and sometimes I get going for 10 and don’t want to stop. Other days if 10 mins is too much I just make myself get rid of 3 things and call it a day. ~Janet E.
  • When I’m having a hard time getting started, I set a timer for 10 minutes. I’m allowed to stop after the 10 minutes is up, but I usually don’t anymore. It’s become a great motivator to get cleaning! ~Amanda R.
  • Focus on your “why”. My motivation was to get the house completely “detoxed/de-stressed” before the school year. So I started with my own clothing today. I got rid of a ton of really nice stuff- including like-new jeans. But to me, they were a burden of space and laundry. At any rate- that was my motivation- to simplify prior to the busy of the school year. ~Delayna S
  • I declutter as I clean. If I’m actually fully motivated (hello coffee!) I do zones. Everything that doesn’t belong where I’m cleaning/decluttering goes in a central location (the spare room, a basket, whatever) and when I’m finished with the section I’m working on, I deal with whatever I removed. Trash, donation box, put away elsewhere, etc. ~Ashley B
  • I can’t deal with timers and checklists. I feel like they’re yelling at me and like if I can’t get it all done I’m a failure. And I get this sort of “You’re not the boss of me, stupid checklist” attitude (silly, I know) so I just do it as I can. I have three littles 3 and under so I do what I can. ~Ashley B
  • When motivation seems to be missing, do a quick check, and see if there’s fatigue or other pain or discomfort; it’s important to tend to those. Also, be a gentle shepherd, when you are in charge of children or have the kind of life with many demands or interruptions. You deserve kindness from yourself, as you go. Be a really good boss, of your own time, talents, and energy. Finally, remember, sometimes the cleaning and decluttering is a real boost to mood and energy. If motivation is still evading you, try identifying several areas you are enthusiastic about, and start there. Once you’re in motion, resistance may become less. Don’t just wait until you feel like it: that day may never magically appear; rather act as if you want to get this done, and eventually moods won’t run the show. You will.  ~Jennifer S
  • Some folks need more than a gold star; so be in tune with what you really feel is a reward, for a job well done. For some folks, it’s time off. I figure 100 chores = a day off, to be taken when I’m ready. At first, be lenient; but get more challenging if you can. Some folks can do it all in one swoop, but others have to break it up. Everyone deserves breaks, and for this kind of work, make sure they include rest & water, and if you’re hypoglycemic, some calories that help heal a body. `~Jennifer S 
  • Push yourself to get going, and you’re more likely to keep it up. ~Sara A
  • “Be kind to yourself.” “It’s a journey, not a destination.” Don’t get discouraged if you don’t live up to your own unrealistic expectations. ~Eileen E 
  • My husband and I find motivation while doing “pomodoros” – basically 25 minutes of activity followed by 5 minutes of rest or play. This seems to optimize energy while providing a measurable, expected time for a vent of the pent up energy that accumulates during the work time. ~Rachel H
  • I find motivation to declutter and clean when I am feeling slow and overwhelmed. Another trick is a bag in each room on SUnday mornings (just a small shopping bag) to fill during the day (my rubbish removal day is Monday). I also have three mantras (this is my favourite technique) I use for everything, including my home space, work space and time, studies- everything. The mantras are: “simple luxury”, “understated sophistication”, and “elegant simplicity”. If I feel as though something is off, or am lacking motivation, saying these words to myself whist focusing on the issue/area/space brings back motivation. Example- when I was decluttering my bedroom and walk-in closet, I would look at the space and say “simple luxury”, and the answer on what to remove/display would come. If I struggle with cleaning motivation, I simply say “understated sophistication” or “elegant simplicity” whilst in the space, usually an untidy kitchen or a basket of crumpled washing doesn’t reflect how I want the space to look, and I begin to tidy/clean/declutter until it does. ~Jo L 
  • Everything in my house happens in 15 minutes or less or it doesn’t happen, LOL! I break my tasks down into 15 minute segments…makes even the largest, most overwhelming things seem smaller that way and when you put a series of those 15 minute episodes together in a day and then it’s over, I look back and say OMG, I actually did it! ~Suzi T 
  • My husband and I found ourselves overwhelmed recently when our slow minimalism journey met with the deadline of our upcoming move. There’s no motivation like this kind of deadline- one with inlaws and friends coming to help you pack, and rental reservations costing you money. So like a few others here, we have been managing that overwhelmed feeling by trying to maintain a constant level of productivity supported by short breaks. We set a timer for an hour and give ourselves a reasonable goal – something like, clearing a small area or emptying a dresser. Most of the time, we finish right as the timer goes off. In the cases that we don’t, we keep working past the timer, motivated to complete the small goal. Then we rewarded ourselves with a 10-15 minute break to watch part of a TV show or eat.
    Over the last year +, my motivation has been kept afloat by following this group. There’s nothing like seeing other people’s successes every day to make me keep thinking about minimalism at home, and how I can accomplish this, too.  ~Amelia M
  •  My motivation came and went over the years. It usually peaked when there was a life change. For example, last child moving out of the crib meant I could get rid of a lot of stuff in that area. Another example is last child graduating high school, so I no longer had a need for the cabinet full of items that were used on school projects. 
    My personal ah-ha moment was when I realized my possessions were owning me instead of me owning them. That gave me the motivation to purge and still motivates me, as I now feel so much more in control of my life. Items that made the 1st, 2nd, and yes 3rd purge are now not making the 4th round of purging. I am amazed at how much easier it has become as I continue on this journey. 

    Our home will never be true minimalist; I accepted that isn’t for us. However, it has become more and more a home of calm and serenity. Which has totally helped me in every other area of my life. I let more & more roll off my back. Long-time friends have noticed and commented on my more laid back reaction to stressors. ~Kathy M
  • My motivation is to get to the point that when I get home from work I can just relax in my clean home with no housecleaning to do. ~Evette S
  • I play games with myself. Plain and simple ~ I am a rebel and usually want to do whatever I’m not allowed to do. I make myself take a 2 week vacation every couple of months. During those 2 weeks I’m “not allowed” to declutter. I am allowed to make lists though. I spend my time plotting and planning the next 2 months broken down into 15-20 mins segments. By the time the 2 weeks are up I am so motivated I get thru my list in record time. Then it is time to take another vacation. So far this has worked for me. I completed the 2014 last year and am at 1700 so far this year. I have my garage and basement to go thru yet this year for the 2nd pass. I have no doubt I’ll reach 2015. ~Janet E
  • My main motivation is to ease my anxiety. I started slowly on this journey and began to realize how stressed “stuff” makes me feel. My kids deserve a better mom and decluttering is helping me become that. Also, the chart is so helpful. I find that if I‘m close to the end of a line or another hundred I specifically go around my house looking for that many items. I have completed my first chart but am about to start the second! I get consumables at Amazon and save the boxes to fill back up and donate. ~Tasha S 
  • I definitely start with a plan to stop…..I like it when I have to be somewhere…..and I only have time to get a little done ~Koya S 
  • Being part of this group and seeing what others have accomplished. And being cheered on by others. ~Vicki B 
  •  I work in layers. Just starting somewhere, with what was comfortable and easy. Later, when I go back over that area, I will do a deeper layer. What was hard to let go of yesterday is easier to let go of today, as I am able to see and feel the effects of earlier changes I have already made. I trust the process more deeply each time. Also, 15 minutes is a great motivator for me. I can do anything for 15 minutes, so knowing that I’m just going to spend a short amount of time on something (usually the routine, mundane things) really helps. With the bigger projects, I work only when motivated, and let the inspiration carry me through, visualizing all the time how great I will feel when I am done. ~Melissa H
  • My motivator is company. I usually have some every month and I teach classes in my home. I tend to declutter the week before they come. Not just clean. But make sure the public areas of the home are decluttered and looking good. ~Jean O 
  • What you think is a self-fulfilling prophecy; if you don’t think you are motivated, you won’t be. Also, if you think you don’t have self control or discipline, you won’t have it. ~Rachael D
  • This one thought (The 1-Touch Rule) changed the way I clean and do things! You know how many times I would just step over things or move them from one spot to the next instead of taking that little extra time to put it away ONCE! ~Kalena S
  • I find motivation to declutter by visualizing and affirming in my mind the end results: I will have less stuff to store, organize, dust, try to find, etc. which results in more time to spend on other things I enjoy. The remaining items will be useful, bring joy to look at and be meaningful. I will not be stressed when someone drops by because my house will be vistor ready. When I give things away to the thrift store, it keeps me motivated by the idea that someone else will benefit from what I no longer need or use. I will have more money to save, donate to worthy causes and no debt, because I no longer need stuff added to my closets or physical surroundings. Decluttering years of stuff is a process and takes a lot of time and energy, thus I no longer buy unnecessary stuff. It is motivating for me to keep the end results/benefits in mind or ROI (return of the investment) of the time and energy spent on decluttering. ~ Leanne W
  • My vitamins are my motivation! Lol If I don’t get my vitamins I don’t feel worth a darn. I also use exercise as a motivation. Sometimes it’s simply our frame of mind before we even think about decluttering. But if I can get those 2 in every day, I’m always in the mood to declutter. ~Jeannie S
  • I take a picture of the area, even if it’s a small area like the dining room table full of clutter, and then take a picture after I’ve cleared it off and wiped the table clean. This triggers something to make me see the mess for what it actually is rather than to keep on ignoring it indefinitely. ~Karin W 
  • I love checklists, boxes to tick off, etc. Seeing that gives me such a sense of accomplishment.  ~Jen Y
  • I watch episodes of “Hoarders” on my phone via Netflix while I declutter/clean/organize. I truly have hoarding tendencies so it is a reminder that this will be me if I don’t take action. ~Susan E
  • If I know someone is coming over for a visit, I can tackle a room quickly ~Joseph S
  • I just think about what was and how I felt then and knowing that I don’t want to feel that way again, that’s my motivation. Also, having my son feel proud of where we live. ~Rachael D

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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 created a FREE Facebook Group - feel free to join me there: Nourishing Minimalism Facebook Group and I share videos each week on YouTube


  1. Jennifer on 08/27/2015 at 4:52 pm

    Glad to hear someone else uses “Hoarders” as motivation! My poor husband knows a clean-out is coming when he sees “Hoarders” and DIY shows in the Netflix queue.

  2. Torrie on 09/06/2015 at 1:26 am

    I did a post on this very thing awhile back, and when I’m feeling in need of some motivation, I look at the list, find one strategy I’m willing to do (many of which other readers mentioned too!), and get going.

  3. jenn on 09/10/2015 at 10:30 am

    As a response to your “How do you stay motivated?” question: I think about how others would change their opinions of me if I died and they had to come clean my house!! LOL. Sadly, sometimes that line of thinking doesn’t even help me! :/ 🙁

    • Melody on 08/05/2018 at 8:39 pm

      I can relate to what you said so much. I didn’t used to have motivation problems. But trying to dig out of combining two households and adding more animals is tough.

  4. Carolyn B on 12/22/2016 at 10:58 am

    I too use Hoarders episodes to motivate Me. A more positive motivator is simply reading minimalism or decluttering blogs.

  5. Dana on 09/21/2017 at 3:20 pm

    I have to have clear goals and buzz words. For example if I go to the kitchen and it’s chaos, (in a week, I’ve taught my children ) I say ” surfaces!!! And the littles go to the surfaces in there and start to put things in their place. So helpful! I’ve only conquered the kitchen so far so beyond that I dunno!!!❤️

    • Rachel Jones on 09/27/2017 at 2:01 pm

      Oh I love that!! Awesome idea Dana!

    • Scott on 03/11/2018 at 7:54 am

      “Toys in the kitchen alert” is my phrase for that, LOL. Works a treat. Now if I could just get the kids to de-toy, haha.
      Thanks Rachel for posting this. Great insight here. I’ve logged my favorites in my note app for continual motivation.

  6. Karen on 03/24/2018 at 7:32 pm

    Thank you for sharing. I’m in “that place” today, and will try some of these ideas. One thing that has helped me when I feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start is to stand in the messy space with my eyes closed. Then, when I open them, the first thing I see (i.e., the first “problem” i notice) gets put away, thrown away. I can usually continue at that point. Hope this helps someone as you all have helped me!

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