Last week I was asked twice by people in totally different circumstances, how a person can begin to declutter, when they feel overwhelmed both by their “stuff” and their emotions, as well as the very thought of tackling the task.

The most challenging step when decluttering is the first – beginning. But once you can begin, you’ll be surprised at how much obvious trash you can eliminate, and what a “dent” that can make. Just beginning and making that first “dent” will give you a sense of relief and accomplishment that can encourage you to continue.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” So, as the Chinese Philosophy Lao-Tzo says, begin gradually, with a single step. Some days you will do better than others, you may even miss a day and that’s OK. But everyday be proud that you have made the decision to begin. Gradually you will be able to achieve your goal.

Decide what your goal is! Do you want to create a safe, happy, stress free environment for you and your loved ones to live in and enjoy? Do you need to create a more efficient home office? Do you need to organize closets or bedrooms to create a smoother day to day life for the whole family?

What you need to accomplish in order to live and/or work in your home, alone or with those you love, creates your goal. Having a goal shaped by your life values and reinforced by your intentions will give power to your actions. Your goal will become your greater good and when you struggle with decisions you can check your answer in relationship to achieving it.

• Make an appointment on your calendar every day, or every week to declutter. If daily set a timer for 15 – 30 mins, then stop. If weekly, set a timer for an hour or so, and then stop.
• Create 4 or 5 bags/boxes: trash; donate/give away; put away; sell; look-at-later; not sure.
• Pick one area – a drawer or counter corner, table top or closet in one room. Stay focused only on that area. If working in a closet, work only on like items say - shoes or blouses each session.
• Do not try to read or take things from an area to put them away, simply place them in the box or bag designated “put away” or “look-at-later.”
• Try using the “3 second rule” and the “handle only once” rule. Make quick decisions and don’t second guess yourself once you have decided. Your initial intuition is usually right and the more you declutter the more you will exercise your intuition.
• When your timer goes off - immediately take trash outside and throw it away, and immediately put your “donate” items in the truck of your car to drop off as soon as possible.
• “Put away” items in that bag. If there is no home for an item, either remove something to make space for it, or rethink whether you really need it. (See ELININATION tips at the end of the post.)
• Now pat yourself on the back!! Be proud - you made a start… take a walk, call a friend, relax.

• Does it fit? Have you or husband or kids outgrown it, or lost weight since you bought it?
• Does it work? If it’s been broken for months, chances are you’re not going to fix it and haven’t missed using it.
• Do I love? Sometimes we hang onto gifts because we feel guilty about getting rid of them.
• Does it have a home? If not, can I get rid of something else to give it a home?
• Do I need it? How many of this item can you realistically use?
• Is it in good shape or tatty? Sometimes we have favorites and simply wear them out!
• When did I last wear or use it? If you have used or worn it in 6 months chances are you won’t unless it’s gown or piece of emergency equipment.
• Can a friend help me? Setting a time for a friend to help is a commitment that is more difficult to break.
• If you or no one in your home is using it – donate it so that someone else can!
• Got large household items? Consider a rent/lend it to a neighbor program.

• Going forward find out what kind of organizer you are, like with like, color with color, size with size - this can make it easier for you to stay organized.
• Spend 15 minutes every day picking up and putting away – 4 things in the morning and 4 things in the evening.
• If you get it out – put it away, that goes for the kids and your husband too!

Starting slowly like this, in small "time" increments, will help to eliminate the possibility of overwhelm and frustration. Setting short appointments for yourself everyday will create a good habit for the future to have a regular, quick, decluttering sessions. Making decisions about what to do with “stuff” will gradually become easier, as you realize that you can throw away, donate and recycle items without any repercussions, and the worst case scenario is that you can always replace it if and when you need it.

Author's Bio: 

Dorothy Breininger is America’s Most Innovative Professional Organizer; her newest book is called, Stuff Your Face or Face Your Stuff!

Dorothy is a member and lecturer for the National Association of Professional Organizers and Institute for Challenging Disorganization.

She is an organizing expert on A&E Television’s Emmy-nominated weekly TV series, “Hoarders,” and also appears on the Today Show, the Dr. Phil Show, the VIEW, QVC and PBS in addition to being featured in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and O Magazine.

Dorothy co-authored five organizing books, produced an award-winning documentary, “Saving Our Parents”, and is a high-energy, sought-after national speaker who inspires her audiences to produce results and take immediate action.

Dorothy is the past United States Small Business Association Award Winner and 3 time recipient of NAPO-LA’s “Most Innovative Organizer Award”.