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It is true that clutter causes stress. In fact, I shared in a previous post some studies that prove that clutter & stress are linked.  Clutter also affects your life and your family, but there are solutions that can clear your home of unwanted clutter and clear YOUR MIND of unwanted stress. Read on to see what works and how to start decluttering now.

A white room with a night stand with a plant and lamp sitting on it with text below it.

How Clutter Affects Your Life

Do you know who gets lost in this mix of cleaning & decluttering every day? Our family. Us. We are so busy trying to keep the house clean that we are losing sight of what really matters. We spend hours and hours trying to clean, find things that we’ve misplaced and just organize our stuff that we miss out on times with our family.

Clutter and Stress – You Aren’t Alone

I was listening to a re-run of The Oprah Show on the radio the other day. and she was interviewing a husband and wife with five children, talking about how they were stressed – as parents, as a married couple, as homeowners, and just in general, because their children seemed to be acting entitled and no one was appreciative of all of the “stuff” that they had (clutter = stress. It’s a proven fact).

The mother of the house felt like all she did was work to buy them things and then she couldn’t even keep up with what they had because, even though her home wasn’t messy, it felt cluttered, like they had ‘too much stuff’… So, Oprah asked this family to give something up for one week.

The family picked to give up two things:

  1. TV
  2. Toys.

The parents said that they had more toys than any child should have, which I’m sure so many of us can relate to. They had them in closets, toy boxes, in bins, etc… The sad part is that I think that is very common. This could have been me.

The One Week Experiment

For one week, the parents let each of their three children pick five toys to keep… 15 toys in total. Oprah’s crew came into the house and documented the whole thing. The kids cried when they told them about giving up these things. They were sad, upset, angry, and just plain mad. They did a little yelling, a little crying, and a lot of pouting. (Again, very common.)

The Result

After one week, the mother was interviewed, and she said that they didn’t even play with the five toys that they were allowed to pick. They each played with 1-2 toys because they would rather play pretend, play a board game, or play outside.

The kids were interviewed and talked about how much they loved the week without TV or many toys because they spent more time together, as a family.  

Mom & Dad said that they also loved it because they weren’t so busy trying to keep up with the house, put toys away, or buy new things. Instead of spending time on “stuff,” (organizing it, putting it away, cleaning it)… they had “time” to spend on their family.

a black and white photo of a family of five walking in a field

When You Need A Clutter Overhaul

I wasn’t planning on getting rid of a handful of things. No, I was planning a MAJOR DE-CLUTTERING! I actually made A Whole-Home Declutter Course that walks you through decluttering your home in 7 days. It comes with a Facebook group for additional support and includes my book, Freed from Clutter, for free. The course is a 7-day whole-home series that will help you go through your entire house.

Think About What Actually Needs Decluttering

All of my ‘clutter’ was put away in its space, but I was tired of it. I felt like all day long I was just trying to stay on top of keeping it put away and then one day I called my Mom (she often has to hear me vent, but luckily she listens and is always helpful) and just said: “We have too much stuff!”

  • Clothes: I had clothes from high school and college. Yep, but my husband did, too! We just kept them. We didn’t wear them, but “what if those sandals come back into style?” If they come back into style, I will buy new ones. I couldn’t stand it anymore.
  • Toys: What good are 100 toys in one room when your kids don’t play with them? Instead of being a fun place to escape to play, it has become a cluttered mess. Sure, I can throw it all into a toy box and hide the toys in these things, but I can tell you that our kids are not going to play with what they don’t see. They just don’t ever get to the bottom of the toy box, so why was I keeping all the toys?
  • Paper: I had medical records, house records, notes, notes & more notes. I had coloring books for each child… times three. (As in… 12 coloring books! Ridiculous, right?).
three kids and a man biking on a trail

How to Start Decluttering

Here is what I did:  Start small.  Decluttering your life happens a little a time and the decluttering process is no different.  Every day, for one week, I would use any spare time and take a garbage bag to a room. I would open every drawer, closet, door… and I would fill up that garbage bag.   Start with a junk drawer and toss things into a trash bag if you aren’t using it.   (with every broken pencil from that living room junk drawer that you throw away, you will reduce stress).

  • Clothes: I gathered the clothes that our kids no longer wore (or the ones that still fit, but just sat in the closet).  Channel your inner Marie Kondo (professional organizer).
  • Toys:  I donated toys that they didn’t play with or the ones that were missing a piece or two. I got rid of all of the paper clutter- receipts, medical records, etc… (almost every store, credit card company, bank & doctor’s office keeps a record of those).  Take the rest and organize them into storage solutions that work for you!  Our kids still have toys in their closet and some in our main living space (those toys are hidden!)
  • Paperwork: I decluttered the papers that I had: I threw away old paperwork, cards, crayons, books, office supplies that I wasn’t using. I got rid of all of the paper clutter- receipts, medical records, etc… (almost every store, credit card company, bank & doctor’s office keeps a record of those).
    TIP: I have a whole post on what to do with paper clutter. 
  • Extras:  I gathered things that had multiples, like extra blankets.

I just got rid of ALL of the clutter. It was a big job, but well worth the time and energy spent because I felt so much better when it was completed.   I slowly moved from room to room… laundry room, bathroom (medicine cabinet), etc…

The Hard Part About Decluttering

Here is the hard part for me…I normally like to sell things. I make a lot of money doing this, as you probably know if you’ve read my post: How to be a stay-at-home mom on one income.

Yes, I could have sold it all and made money (& I did consign a lot of stuff the week before I really de-cluttered, so I did make money on big-ticket items, like our train table), but I knew that I probably would never get around to selling all of my things (taking pictures, putting it online, or tagging for a consignment sale, taking the items to be sold, etc…).

I was so blessed to be given hand-me-downs for our daughter from various friends, so I knew that I could easily pay-it-forward by donating most of the items. Bonus – it’s also a tax write-off if you can donate it to somewhere like the Good Will or Habitat for Humanity.

pin for how clutter affects your life and decluttering to let things go

How Decluttering Benefits Your Life

There were two big “ah-ha” moments from doing all that decluttering.

  • Kids play more! Personally, I know that our kids would so much rather play with each other or with me over having toys. They would pick to play “spy” or “superhero” rather than sit with their toys all day (or walk around their toys, I should say.) They often choose to play with their DIY creativity kit or even do any of these kid activities that are quick to set up, but let them create and play for an hour!
  • Cutting back on toys cuts back on stress.  Declutter and Stress can now have a whole new meaning… as you get rid of the clutter in a house, no matter how much clutter you may have, the stress begins to go away.
    Cutting back on toys was a huge stress-reliever for me!
  • After we decluttered and got rid of extra things, I felt so much better knowing that the clutter was gone. In fact, my entire family felt better. The “stuff” had been causing me to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, upset and just overall stressed. When it was gone, I felt freed from the clutter.

How to Start decluttering Right NOW!

Here are some simple steps to take that can help you start decluttering your home and your life!

  1. You are welcome to download this chart (and one more) for free & join my free Clutter-Free challenge (click here to join):
    clutter free challenge picture
  2. Join me in this 30-day declutter challenge (join me on social media or via email for decluttering tips!).   We aren’t sharing those perfect Getty Images of homes that seem impossible… we are real families sharing what works!  We are decluttering together… one day at a time.
    Declutter Challenge - 30 days
  3. Put into action your decluttering plan. You dive right in with my step-by-step organizing book, where I will walk you through how to declutter every room in your home. freed from clutter book
  4. Or you can take it further and Enroll in the Whole Home Declutter Course  for just a few dollars more (I’ll send you the Freed From Clutter book for free as a WELCOME gift!)
Whole Home Declutter Course picture

I hope you found this post helpful! To get more parenting tips and family advice, follow Your Modern Family on FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest!

Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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  1. I needed this. In the last couple of months I have started having panic attacks and other health issues. After hospital stays and all sorts of test, my husband and I have decided that it’s me not a medical problem. Funny that when I am away from the house I actually feel better. Maybe it’s time I just let go.

    1. yes- come back tomorrow bc i am going to tell you how I did it. Trust me you will feel SO MUCH BETTER when you do let go of it. It really ties you down emotionally.

    2. I totally feel the same way. The moment I walk into my house, I get depressed and crabby.

  2. This was a great reminder. My husband and I talk about this ALL THE TIME.

    We are considering doing a big talk and giveaway before each birthday and Christmas b/c even the little bit they get just adds up to absurd levels.
    Thanks for this!

  3. These are good ideas – we all have so much more stuff than we need…..and it is a constant area for sorting/getting rid of. Thank you for some more motivation. 🙂 Gentle Joy

  4. We got a big tote and went through the toy box and took out ones that we thought they only use if they see it (more like when a friend comes over and sees it). After 3 months, if they don’t ask for it, it goes to Goodwill, with no guilt on my part.

  5. We started to do this over Christmas break and then got right back in the hustle and bustle of life again and stopped. It needs to be done. I need to make the time. We have too much stuff. I don’t even want to buy things anymore because we just don’t need anything. If only I knew 10 years ago what I know now…the kids and my husband and I can live with less. We don’t need it all. Thanks for the reminder. Visiting from the Ladies Only Blog Share.

    1. I know- I think I could declutter every month & still have more stuff at home! 🙂

  6. Just started reading your thirty day plan today, and I am encouraged. Yesterday, the first step was difficult for me. I realized that I have a strong emotional attachment to “stuff”, holding on to things that I don’t even wear or use anymore. My silly reasoning-“maybe one day…I will sell it all and make thousands of dollars.” HA! The reality: that one day is never going to happen! Small, daily goals, like baby steps, help me feel accomplished and confident. So today, just ONE bag of “stuff”. Even I can do that! Thank you!!

    1. My dad always says Inch by inch… its a cinch! Yard by yard… its hard. So good job today!!

  7. fantastic post!!! I really need this as my kids have way too many toys. Mainly because my mum buy them loads for christmas!! at least 10-15 each!!! The house is full of toys!!! Pinned

  8. The hardest part is getting rid of the toys. My son has autism. He rarely plays with toys. We have years worth of toys we hoped would entice him, that are barely (no kidding) used. It’s heartbreaking. If I get rid of them I’m afraid I’ll feel like a rotten mother, but he seriously doesn’t touch them.

    1. OH, that is so hard, but try to do what you need to do because clutter can physically weigh you down, causing you to be more stressed & thats not good for him at all. I see your point, though… ugh- hard one!
      PS- I work with autistic children, as well, and I know how hard it can be not to feel like you are reaching him, so my prayers are with you.

  9. So excited I found this pinned! We are getting ready to move and I have been feeling so overwhelmed with the “stuff” we have accumulated over the past 9 years. Our last permanent home was for 8 years and when we moved across country last year movers packed us up and moved us- so I didn’t have that much time to go through everything prior to the move. After renting this past year, we are finally going to move into our new home and as I box things up I am working hard on “letting go” of the stuff. My anxiety over the past year or so has been really bad, and I am almost positive it is because of feeling so confined in our space. We are choosing to have a yard sale so we can update some things like our bedding, curtains, etc. that haven’t been updated in 10 years.

    1. Great idea! Yep- whatever doesn’t sell, just donate it. You will feel SO much better afterwards, I promise!! 🙂

  10. I have been decluttering lately, and I feel so much better! I emptied my Kid’s entire closet and donated tons of toys to our local church which was having a yard sale. Now I can actually hang their clothes in their closet 🙂 I think everyone is happier with less clutter 🙂

  11. This is awesome and great encouragement. I tend to be like you and just kind of hang onto stuff although we’ve started having a yard sale the last 6 years and that motivates me to purge since I love making money off things.

    I think the thing that you said that struck me the most is how you just decided to donate the stuff since it would be too much time and hassle to try to sell it all. I’ve been seriously considering going through the house ruthlessly and just getting rid of stuff because I am learning that the less we have, the happier we often are! But it is so hard for me to think of just donating the stuff! Crazy, but true. And hearing that you did that and felt good about in the end even though you were like me and like to make money off things was good. Just might be the push I need! So thank!

  12. We moved recently and decluttering was the best and the hardest part of the whole process. We had to get rid of tons of old stuff and it wasn’t the easiest purging in our lives. But we did it and I now feel so free with about 25 percent of our stuff left. This moving was not only changing of our location, but changing our thinking. Greets!

  13. I missed day one. Is there a link to it you can share with me? Also, is there a way to follow this series so I don’t miss another day? 🙂

  14. This is very helpful. Thank you. I have 6 month old twins and have tried to keep things minimal because we live in a small home. In a lot of ways we have saved space by opting for one of larger items but since they are a boy & girl they have a lot of gender specific items as well. I have felt so overwhelmed by all the stuff I have for them. And items they have outgrown. I will be starting my decluttering tomorrow! I am so moved by this and can’t wait to feel this weight lifted. Thanks for the this and gentle shove to get this started!!!!