May 27, 2016 · 4 minute read

By: Colleen Valles

I started decluttering my house in earnest about a year ago. I dutifully followed the prescribed suggestions and order in Marie Kondo’s book The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, which I found to be extremely helpful and well worth the effort.

In the time since completing her steps in the proper order, I’ve been decluttering here and there, always keeping a bag ready to catch the things we want to donate or sell.

But lately, that bag has been empty.

I’ve gotten stuck in the decluttering process. And the thing is, I know I’m not done. We’re downsizing from 976 square feet to less than 300. I need to get rid of some stuff. Lots of stuff. That leaves me with the question:

What do you do when inspiration flees?

How do you move forward with something when you don’t know how to continue?

Think of it as having writer’s block or staring at a blank canvas. Sometimes a spark comes, and you get into the flow, creating with no problem.

But sometimes you stare at the blank page or canvas, and that’s how it remains — blank.

The same goes for decluttering your space. Sometimes you know what you should get rid of, or you know which area to tackle. Other times, you look around your house and think, I don’t know what I need and love, and I don’t know where to start. It can be overwhelming, just like a blank page.

For writers, there’s something known as “butt in chair.” It’s the idea that you have to show up for the work every day, sit your butt in the chair, and do the work, just like any other job. Easier said than done, right?

It’s valuable, though, to think of it as a job, and also to try a few other strategies. I have three things I’m trying to do to help me move past this road block and on to more decluttering.

Remembering the why

Why do you want to declutter? For all of us, I think the answer is to create room in our lives for the things we love to do. If you’re not dealing with your stuff - maintaining it, cleaning it, organizing it - you have more time to focus on creating.

For me, moving into a tiny house also gives my family a very specific reason: All our stuff won’t fit. We have to downsize.

It’s really great if you have a deadline or a specific non-negotiable reason like moving, but these don’t come along often. What you do have as a creative person is an imagination. What would you do if you were downsizing because you were going to move? If you’re having trouble getting started, try imagining what you would get rid of. Or take the drastic view: what would you save in a fire? Start there. Everything else is subject to disposal.

Take it easy

If you’re not feeling the inspiration, start someplace simple. Don’t force yourself to make the big, tough decisions without warming up to it first. Go for an easy win with piles on counters, or items in the bathroom or in a junk drawer. Don’t start with the tough stuff like mementoes and heirlooms. You won’t get anywhere, and you’ll still be in a rut.

I started by clearing off the counters. Everywhere there was a pile (and I’m a piler, so they were everywhere), I gathered that stuff up and put it in one big pile on the kitchen table. Then I sat down and went through it, dividing everything into piles for filing, shredding, recycling, and action. And then, I filed, shredded, recycled and took action.

It wasn’t exciting, but the clear counters I had after were exciting, and those piles weren’t stressing me out anymore.

Just get started

This is the equivalent of the butt-in-chair method. Just start somewhere, anywhere. As with writing, painting and other creative endeavors, once you get going, you’ll find the creativity flows. As we all know, creativity is a muscle that needs to be exercised, and isn’t just something you wait around for.

The same is true of clearing your space and your time. Just get started, and you’ll get into a groove. Exercise your decluttering muscle, whether it’s for your physical space or your calendar, and you’ll find it’ll get easier. The results of your work, no matter how small, will spur you to continue. This is where I am right now. I’ve just gotten started by clearing the counters, and now I’m inspired to keep going.

How do you keep going when you’re feeling stuck?


Colleen Valles
I'm Colleen, a writer, mother, knitter, pet mama and tiny house enthusiast who truly believes that everybody should slow down and simplify to make room for the things that are most important in their lives. I'm on a journey to do just that, to be able to spend more time with family and friends, riding my bike and working in the garden. Sign up to get awesome content right in your inbox, or follow me on social media.