How to get started when I’m overwhelmed and have zero motivation

When the state of your home makes you feel overwhelmed, and you have zero motivation to do anything about it, but you know that if you could change the state of your home, everyone who lives there would feel better.

What do you do?

First take one step to decrease the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Look around right where you are at – do you see something you can throw away? A piece of junk mail? An empty tissue box? The wrapper from candy?

Grab it and throw it in the trash!!

Don’t keep reading – Toss that in the trash before going any farther.

There. Now you’ve started.

That’s the most challenging part – and it’s already behind you! You have taken a step to decrease the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Then, take the next step.

The next step is going to be just as easy. Pick one thing and do it.

I don’t care if it’s throwing something else away or washing a dish or two.

The point is just like the first step: to take action.

This is how we motivate ourselves.

It would be nice if motivation would visit us – perhaps gently coming to us just as a lovely spring breeze flutters through our hair.

But that’s not how motivation works.

If we want to feel motivated, we have to start the action.

Once a heavy ball starts rolling down the hill, it will keep going, gaining speed and momentum, but it has to be pushed in the beginning. And we’re the ones that have to push it. We have to push ourselves.

Action = Dopamine = Motivation = Productivity

When we take action, no matter how small, it gives us a boost of dopamine. This is a chemical in our brains that makes us feel good.

On a smaller scale, we can do a load of dishes in our sink and see an empty sink (Action). That makes us feel better about life (Dopamine). And we think, “That wasn’t too bad. I could tidy up this counter as well” (Motivation). Followed by a boost of cleaning and decluttering (Productivity).

I’ve found that if I start the day with an action, I am more likely to have a productive day and thus feel better.

When I accomplish something – even something small, as long as I can visually see a difference, I feel good! It’s a dopamine hit when I look at the fridge that has recently been cleared of magnets or when I look at the sink and see it empty and sparkling.

Create a change in scenery

I noticed recently that any type of reorganization or rearranging of furniture makes me feel optimistic.

I’m in the middle of moving kids’ bedrooms around as our kids mature and need change. For years, I’ve stored the microwave in the basement (it’s something we use once or twice a week), and it took up so much counter space I didn’t feel it justified the space it took with the amount we used it – so in the basement it went!

But for the next two weeks, as I clear out the basement to make a bedroom, I decided to bring it upstairs until I have pantry space.

To make it fit, I sorted the bread/snack basket and put it in the cupboard, so I had room for the microwave on the counter.

Just seeing the space tidy and different makes me feel optimistic about the current decluttering and organization task we’re dealing with.

Even though there is a very large pile of donations that has been sitting in the living room and growing over the last 3 days, that neat and tidy space in my kitchen made it feel like everything is going to be ok.

It’s very similar to putting a pretty bouquet of flowers on a table.

Do the dishes

Yes, I’ve said it before. And I’ll keep saying forever – because I KNOW how much of a difference it makes when we do the dishes.

Even if you have been sick and you’re worn down – just wash one.

One dish ahead of yesterday is a good thing.

I don’t know where it came from, but most of us think we have to wash ALL the dishes at once, and we have to “do it right.”

No, you don’t.

You just have to do it.

It doesn’t matter if you wash one dish or 10 dishes – that’s still taking action and moving forward. It’s the beginning of pulling yourself out of this hole.

AND doing a little bit at a time every single day will eventually get all the dishes caught up.

When we have a tidy sink area, the rest of the house seems a bit more manageable.

And really, that’s the goal: to make the house feel manageable.

Gamify whatever you can

Got a friend who struggles with the same thing? Text them and ask them to race.

See who can load the dishwasher the fastest or who can find 20 things to throw away.

Join my Yearly Decluttering Challenge and declutter the same amount of this as the year (2,024 things in 2024)

Join a group of friends playing The Minimalist Game. In my Facebook Group we have people doing this together every month! For many, this is what motivates them to keep going and working towards their decluttering goal.

Download a productivity app like Epic Win, Flora, Habitica, Habit Rabbit, To-Do Adventure, The Legend of Pomodoro, Empire, Sweepy, Chorsee and Nipto (I haven’t tested all of these – our family really likes Nipto).

Come up with a motto that spurs you on

My motto: Make it stupid-easy.

I want to make my house stupid-easy to take care of.

For me, this means that I need to reduce my possessions to such a small amount that it would feel silly for me to procrastinate.

That’s what minimalism has done for me.

I can’t say “I don’t want to do the laundry, it would take forever!” Because I only have a week’s worth of clothes – it literally takes me 4 minutes to fold them and put them away.

Ask yourself a ridiculous question

Years ago I stored everything I could in our basement. It was very much an unfinished dungeon, so I didn’t care how bad it looked. I kept things because I didn’t want to make a decision, or I thought they would be useful at some point, even stuff I wasn’t sure what to do with but felt I should keep.

There was barely a pathway through all the miscellaneous stuff.

Until we had a horrible toilet overflow and sewage cascaded over ALL the things.

My questions went from “What am I willing to get rid of?” to “Am I willing to clean POOP off of this??”

Talk about a mindset shift!!

Sometimes, to get things in the right perspective, we need to think about the worst-case scenarios.

I had poopy water over all that “just in case” stuff I’d been saving for who knows what. Would it be worth the effort and gross factor to clean it just so I can continue to store it?

Um, no.

It’s not “What can I get rid of?” it’s “What do I want in my life?”

If we think of decluttering as a “poor me, I am forcing myself to live without things,” we’re not going to want to part with any of it!

But when we value our time, energy, and space and consider what things we enjoy enough that it justifies taking some of our time, energy, and space, we’re going to be pickier.

And we should be picky!

I don’t want to spend 5 minutes of every day moving piles of paper on the kitchen counters just so I have room to cook. If I do that every day for 40 years – that’s 1,216 HOURS of my life shuffling junk mail!

That stops now.

My time is far more valuable to me than that!

Those coupons go in the recycling bin faster than a toupee in a hurricane.

How about you?

As you look around at your possessions, what do you value enough that you are willing to keep it in your life?

Here are 3 solid actions that you can take today to pull you out of a state of overwhelm and motivate you to gain control over your home.

About Rachel Jones

Hi there! I’m Rachel Jones, and I founded Nourishing Minimalism in 2012 at the beginning of my minimalist journey after I'd been doing a yearly decluttering challenge for 4 years and started to see a change in my home. If you're looking for encouragement in your journey, please join our FREE Facebook Group: Nourishing Minimalism Facebook Group

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