Don’t give up! Your best advice for a friend about to quit decluttering

The path out of clutter can feel like driving on a dark country road in deep fog and with one headlight.

It’s not always clear. It’s not easy. It’s lined with bumps and turns, and at the end of the day, you’re exhausted.

If a friend or loved one has been taking on the overwhelming and emotionally taxing challenge of decluttering years of build-up, it’s no surprise that they might want to throw in the towel.

Luckily, when you know that removing clutter can be a life-changing experience, a little heart-to-heart can keep them on the right path.

If you need some help finding the right words, here is what 21 people in our community would say to a friend who is about to give up on decluttering.

Don't give up! All the best advice for a friend about to quit decluttering


How to help a friend who is about to give up on decluttering

Take a step back…

Get away from the clutter….sit in a tidy room…. have a cuppa or chocolate….acknowledge the great work you’ve done…..then break down your goals into smaller tasks…..maybe room by room or get rid of something that’s really annoying you first….

-Naomi Fitzgerald

Break it down even smaller: a foot square section of a room. One small drawer. Your sink, ten inches on either side. Smaller if you have to!

Throw or donate 2 things today. Do a vision board, in your mind if you have to, of what you want in life. I want to find the shoes I need today without climbing over boxes. I want to play with my kid without worrying they will get hurt on the stuff on the floor… whatever works.

If you can, call someone. Please help me clear off my desk/sewing area/ bathroom floor. And don’t give up on you, don’t hate yourself, maybe you never learned, maybe you need a little extra help, maybe even a talk with a professional… If you are unhappy, reach out. Please.

-Sylvia Shea Lapinski

Don’t think of the project as ‘decluttering’ – that can be overwhelming

The method that has worked best for me is creating ‘Designated empty spaces’ (DES). Don’t think of the project as ‘decluttering’ – that can be overwhelming, just find a surface you would like to have available for it’s intended purpose – my first was a comfy chair that I loved but always seemed to have a pile of something on it. I made it a DES. I could use it short-term as a work surface, to fold laundry, for example, but whatever was on it had to be gone at the end of the day, preferably sooner.

Having that one clear space encouraged me to create another – a tiny piece of floor between the chair and a side table that usually had snacks or dishes or mail or…you get it. I made it a DES, so if I set a plate there, I had to take it to the kitchen when I got up, because it couldn’t stay in the DES.

Things are gradually making their way to wherever they are supposed to ‘live’, or in reasonable proximity to, instead of wherever they happen to land. Clearing the space that is the next DES is the ‘decluttering’ part, but it’s done in such small doses, with a very visible result, that it doesn’t feel as burdensome. And as one wise person said – it didn’t get buried overnight. It won’t get emptied that fast either.

-Kathy Reynolds

It’s ok to take a scheduled break with a scheduled return to task.

Decluttering, like weight loss, is a lifelong journey and when you return to task, make sure you’re setting yourself up for success with realistic goals and a great support system.

-Darlene Dubrow

Just get started is all.

Tiny steps at first. You’ll see how much better you feel. This gives you much-needed affirmation, as well as motivation. 😁

-Ellen Fulmer

Give yourself a break, do something you think is fun and relax a little bit.

Then get back to it do one box at a time or even 10 items at a time. It took me 2 years but it’s done.

-Mary Nordling

It’s OK to take a break from something that can be quite stressful, especially if there is a lot of decluttering to do.

Try to keep up with the mail, make the bed, hang up the clothes, wash the dishes and clear the counters after meals. In other words try to maintain a status quo for a bit, then gradually get back to the more challenging tasks.

Talk to a good friend about what is really bothering you, because it might not totally be about decluttering.

-MaryLu Lee

Don’t give up.

Just tackle it one small task at a time. . . or do 10 minutes and stop, take a break and restart. You can’t do it all at once. Like that old saying, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. That’s how decluttering works, too. One bite at a time.

-Will Saunders

If you must, just take a determined amount of time off…

Pre-determined… then get started again.

-Liz King

It’s ok to take breaks. Decluttering is mentally exhausting.

It feels liberating to do and you will be free of many anxieties the more you let go.

-Paula Ottawa

It can be overwhelming. Give yourself a break.

I try to say good job to myself even if I only throw out 1 thing.

-Christine Ann Brosnan

Be gentle on yourself.

Efforts towards a simpler home are hardly ever a ‘one and done’ type scenario.

The same areas will likely need to be revisited more than once.

Things will likely get worse before they get better.

Decluttering is absolutely emotionally and physically taxing, be gentle on yourself.

-Christina L Burnett

Stick with it!

If it’s too overwhelming, start with just going through one box per day and call it good. It is exhausting to declutter because you are also “decluttering” emotionally from all the “things.” Hang in there!
-Rachel Arenas

I’d ask what is it that’s a struggle for you with decluttering?

Listen to their answer and advise, before moving onto your next question.

Take a before photo of 1 space. Ask how you would want it to look like after you have decluttered?

Ask to be their accountability buddy and join the Decluttering School. ❤️

-Iona Keega

Relax. Take a day off.

Think about the next place you would like to reclaim. Make notes, dream about it, and plan it out. Then tomorrow 15 minutes is all you need

-Denise Crews Odum

Do one small section. Stand back. Admire how beautiful it looks.

This will change your perspective and show you it can be done. One small section at a time.

-Deb Trin

JOLT — just one little thing. Everyday.

Some days you may feel like getting rid of more than one.

-Rita Fyfe

If you are sick of starting over, don’t quit.

-Debbie Beckman

Hire a personal organizer!!

I did!! Biggest investment and I got rid of a lot of items I never used.

-La Chikilla

>> Hiring a decluttering coach is great advice to help a friend to not give up on decluttering.

You can do this!

This is really weird but pick 5 things that irk you today because they aren’t in the right spot… put them where they belong… do it again tomorrow and keep on doing it either every day or when you feel like it. You can do this!

-Lori Simpson

Take a break.

You didn’t accumulate all of it in one day; it won’t be gone in one day.

-Sharyn Doutt

How would you support a friend who is about to give up on decluttering?

Sometimes we all need a little support to make it through hard things in life and decluttering is no different!

If you need an extra helping hand in your decluttering journey, we offer a big support system right here at Decluttering School called Organize My Home. This membership is the ultimate support and accountability system.


Join the Organize My Home Membership here >>


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6 thoughts on “Don’t give up! Your best advice for a friend about to quit decluttering”

  1. What Kathy Reynolds says about “designated empty spaces” DES is really helpful to me. It’s practical and reframes decluttering in quite a motivating way.

    • I loved Kathy’s advice as well! For some reason calling it a DES sounds so more doable than saying you need to declutter.

  2. These were really helpful. I’m not doing the current OMH reboot because I’m having health issues and starting PT. But I miss the daily challenges and communication. Still have kept up with my zero spaces but not much else. These comments helped me realize that it’s okay to take some downtime and heal and then dive back in! OMH is a great investment for anyone dealing with the frustration of too much clutter or a dysfunctional household. It’s truly life changing to wake up every morning to a clean sink and not trip on things getting there.

    • At 79 I am so much more agile than most people my age (some of my classmates are even in nursing homes!) and I attribute it to stepping over piles of stuff everywhere I go. If I declutter there will be no more obstacles and my exercise routine will suffer!

      • Love this – then you’ll have clean rooms and hallways… you’ll have go out the door to brave the things to step over all over the place out there – cute neighbor dogs, chipper birdies, a weed or two here or there in the yard… you are infinite!

  3. Decluttering is always in the back of my head. I took the 8 day one then signed up for the 28 day 4 room one. They were both great classes. The workbook is a big help too. It’s a good reference tool.


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Welcome. I’m Sarah!


I’m the creator of Decluttering School (formerly known as Early Bird Mom), lover of organized spaces, encourager to women and mom to four boys. Click here to read more!

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