Where To Begin When Overwhelmed & Paralyzed by a Messy House

Have you ever felt paralyzed by a messy house?  Maybe you’re overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.  If you need to get motivated to tidy your home, keep reading for tips on where to begin when you’re overwhelmed by a messy house.

Woman is overwhelmed with to-do list of daily tasks with text where to begin when overwhelmed and paralyzed by a messy home

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Paralyzed & Don’t Know Where to Start

Earlier this year I went to dinner with a friend, a single mom and full-time professional.  She is highly educated, accomplished, and a very capable woman.  Yet, she was overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start or how to get started with home organization and homemaking in general.  Her mind was racing through a multitude of lists and to-dos, pre-occupied with the volume of tasks.  She felt paralyzed.

We started talking about her bookshelf, meal planning, daily to-dos… “Where do I begin? How do I take on all of these tasks?” At the end of dinner, we agreed that we’d start with the bookshelf and I’d come over and help her.

Getting Started

A week later I came to her home under the premise of organizing her bookshelf.  She showed me around her place and we identified all of the areas that could use some decluttering / organization.

Her daughter’s crafts were in several places and seemed to regularly multiply.  There were dolls and toys in the living room (which she didn’t want there).  She had areas like her desk, closet, daughter’s closet, and storage closet that she also wanted to conquer.

We also noted areas that could accommodate additional storage, which helped with decision-making on what to actually do with the residual clutter. This helped her feel at ease that there actually was room to work with.

When you’re overwhelmed and feeling paralyzed…pick any place to start.  You don’t have to be strategic; you really need to just get going.  It’s ok to just pick randomly. We started with the bookshelf.

Seek Inspiration

First, we got inspiration and clarity on where she wanted to go with the space.  We looked at pictures on Instagram and developed her vision for the bookshelf. We browsed stores and texted each other random items that were inspiring. Ideas started to flow.

My friend started to feel a sense of ease, that she had freedom with this project and could have fun!  She acknowledged that making a decision on the color of flower pot for a bookshelf is not life-altering (unless it explodes your bank account)!

The flower pot was not a life-long commitment…treat it as something you love now but if the time comes for you to move it or replace it. It’s OK. In fact, that will happen one day, so there is no pressure to make the ‘perfect’ choice now and forever.

Start with One Thing

Next, we took one book off of the shelf.  Actually, I took a book off the shelf and she watched.  We discussed that book and then began removing the rest.  It always starts with one step…one book and then repeating the same action many times until you complete the task at hand.

We took all of the books off of the shelf, one shelf at a time.  We sorted by color and height.  Some books were organized vertically and others horizontal.  I was only there for a couple of hours and while we made a big dent we didn’t finish. Both of us left with homework and our plan was to meet again in a week or so.

Gain Momentum

We texted a few times and shared ideas, but we never met again to work on the bookshelf. Life is busy, and things don’t often go as planned. Here’s the cool thing… my friend who initially felt stuck, paralyzed, and overwhelmed with a messy house gained momentum after our initial removal of the books.

A few weeks later she sent me a picture of the final product.  She had new accessories, fewer books, and more organization. Her project felt like a fun journey and allowed her to discover what resonated with her as she worked on capturing her vision.

In addition to conquering her bookshelf, she also organized her daughter’s crafts into one space and moved the dolls to her daughter’s room.  All on her own! Even more, her sense of regaining control over ’stuff’ in her life percolated into other aspects of her life, creating more efficiency.

Three months later I received this text:

“I was thinking…. after embarking on ‘getting stuff done’ journey (which started with bookshelf reorg), and snapping out of analysis paralysis/perfectionism, I have found empowerment in seeing my visions materialize and thus feelings of accomplishment followed. I think that is HUGE!!

As you saw yourself- I felt lost and overwhelmed at one point with all the stuff that was disorganized in my life. So, I think your passion about life organization reaches people beyond the material organization, it truly nurtures feelings of healthy empowerment and clarity on next steps in creativity and goals… it creates unstuckness!”

Overwhelmed exhausted woman feeling tired of cleaning in her messy house sitting on the floor with toys and laundry lying around her

The Link Between Clutter and Mindset

Here’s the great part, my friend isn’t the only one who has felt this way after decluttering and getting organized.

Gretchen Rubin in Outer Order, Inner Calm writes:

“In the context of a happy life, a messy desk or a crowded coat closet is a trivial problem – yet getting control of the stuff of life often makes it easier to feel more in control of our lives generally.”

Marie Kondo shares in “The life-changing magic of tidying up,”

“When your room is clean and uncluttered, you have no choice but to examine your inner state.  You can see any issues you have been avoiding and are forced to deal with them.  From the moment you start tidying, you will be compelled to reset your life.  As a result, your life will start to change.”

Quote from Marie Kondo "Tidying is just a tool, not the final destination

HGTV Home renovation stars Kortney & Dave Wilson titled their newest book “Live Happy.”  Guess what…it’s not a psychology book or a self-help book for that matter.  It’s all about the best ways to make your house a home.  They open with this:

“For us, living happy is all about feeling at home.  Not just at home in our house, but at home in ourselves-in our own skin, in our likes and dislikes, and in the choices we made along the way.”

There must be something to this!  It’s apparent that our environment, clutter, and organization are connected to our emotions.  Some call it “Inner Calm” others “Life-changing” while others focus on the vanilla state of being “happy.”


Unlock Things

If you feel paralyzed and overwhelmed, I’m willing to bet it’s not only regarding the state of your home.  There are probably other areas where you feel stuck.  By unlocking one thing, like where to begin when you’re overwhelmed by a messy house, you’ll likely unlock several things.

Benefits of Decluttering

There are many benefits to decluttering, but let’s focus on the emotional side for a minute.  Decluttering can be energizing.  It can help reduce anxiety.  A sense of accomplishment is achieved with each task you complete and your confidence is increased.  Also, because your home is tidy and you can now find things, decluttering can reduce family stress. You regain control and become a manager of your environment.

It’s not about the stuff!

Decluttering and home organization is not about your stuff!!! Sure, you’re dealing with your stuff, but it’s about a mental shift, a positive mindset, being free and unburdened, and clearing out extra clutter from your mind.

Tips on where to begin when you’re overwhelmed by a messy house

1)    Talk to a friend – It’s always helpful to talk with someone, you know.  You can sort out your thoughts, identify your priorities and create a game plan.

2)    Seek Inspiration – Inspiration fuels motivation.  When you can begin with the end in mind, you’re more likely to work harder at accomplishing something…especially if the end goal is tangible.

3)    Start with One Thing –  If you’re overwhelmed, don’t focus on the entire house.  Pick your top priority and start there.  Then, like my friend, just grab one book and repeat.

4)    Gain Momentum – After you have confidence by decluttering and organizing one area, don’t stop there.  Keep going.  Soon, you’ll see that you’ve got this!

The Destination Requires The Journey

The link between chaos and clutter is strong.  The energy you spend may not feel like an investment at the moment, but the outcome of gaining a real sense of control and clarity is invaluable. My friend shared she wouldn’t have arrived at the final mental / emotional destination without going on the journey.

By taking a step to get organized, you’ll reduce overwhelm and create a feeling of “unstuckness.”  You’ll likely see that same mindset replicated in other parts of your life.  Implement these 4 practical steps and get started today!

 

 

 

 

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