Decluttering when life is tough

by | Jun 21, 2024 | Blog

This blog is about the power of decluttering and organising when you’re going through tough times. I have been chatting with colleague organiser Marine André from En Route To Joy, about how home decluttering and organising can make you feel more in control. And here you can read our views.

Stress and clutter and the benefits of decluttering

If you clicked on the title of this article, chances are that you already know how decluttering and organising can help us when facing obstacles in life. Numerous studies show a correlation between stress and clutter. If you’re interested in reading more about this topic, check out the Journal of Consumer Psychology’s article “Keeping it All Without Being Buried Alive: Understanding Product Retention Tendency.

During “normal” times, it is evident that a clean and organised home has a positive impact on both your physical and mental health. It can enhance your mood, foster creativity, allow your mind to wander, alleviate anxiety, and reduce the risk of accidents.

Why do you think home decluttering and organising are great tools when people go through tough times?


When everything else seems to be falling apart

Every month, I deliver an introduction to decluttering at Maggie’s Royal Free, a charity providing free cancer support and information. Giving back to the community is one of the most rewarding experiences and is an act of generosity that creates a ripple effect of kindness and compassion. It also means that I get to meet incredibly courageous people who are very aware of the legacy they leave behind, sometimes earlier than expected. Decluttering is an incredibly impactful tool that can help you get back in control of your life, especially when everything else seems to be falling apart.

As Colin Scotland states: “By focusing on the things that are within our circle of control, we can take an active role in shaping our life and creating the outcomes that we want. This can help you to feel more empowered and in control of your circumstances.”


Long to do list

For many people, a home that is too full and too messy can cause feelings of stress, anxiety, guilt and irritability. Rather than your home being a place where you can relax and wind down, your home can feel like a long to do list. Everything you see around you reminds you that you could/should be something else, rather than simply plop down on the sofa and have a cup of tea.

Empower yourself

Quite often in life, there are situations that we don’t have much, or any, control over. It is possible, however, to have more control over our homes. By decluttering and organising your home, you’re showing yourself that you’re taking control of something and that can feel empowering.

Tough time will still arise, but these might be easier to handle when:

  • You’re proud of yourself for having created a home that you’re happy with

  • Your home is a place where you can fully relax without feeling guilty

  • You’re feeling in control of something in your life, in this case your home

What about you? How do you deal with tough times? 



With time, I’ve come to understand better what brings joy to me. Of course, I can’t spend all my time doing only what I love (bills still need to be paid and toilets still need to be cleaned!), but I find that knowing what brings me joy helps me reach a happy place more easily when needed.

During tough periods, I shift priorities and put self-care at the top of the never-ending to-do list. I am well aware that I won’t bring my best version to the universe if I’m not well. It’s easier said than done, but it is crucial, and with training, you will be able to break the link between prioritising yourself and guilt/selfishness. Charity begins at home!

The power of giving

It is also essential for me to give (time, a listening ear, money, whatever is needed) to others. I feel that the more I give, the more I receive, and it helps me during tough times. It creates equilibrium and allows me not to think in a self-centred way (which is not self-care). It also means that I am ready to support, coach, and encourage my clients during their tough times.

And of course, maintaining a secure and joyful home is a phenomenal help, so I make sure I apply the KonMari method® that I teach my clients.


Decluttering helps me to focus

When I was at uni, I found it hard to concentrate on my course work when there was mess around me. So prior to sticking my nose in my text books before an exam, I would create some order around me by tidying and organising my room. That helped me to focus, and not get distracted. It also provided me with a sense of achievement (hello reward chemicals!), and that motivated me to get on with studying.

Studying for an exam should perhaps not be compared to “tough times” but it can be stressful, and decluttering and creating order, definitely helped me. I’ve got to admit though, that I sometimes tidied my room, to make me feel that I had done something useful rather than admit that I was actually procrastinating.

Messy parenthood

After I became a mum, I felt that I was often not in charge of my own life anymore. My babies dictated what I did and when. There was also less time for housework and regular tidying. Our house started to stress me out, and I got annoyed with myself and also with my husband (it’s so much easier to blame other people for mess, isn’t it!). But then I read about the KonMari Method®, the home decluttering and organising method developed by Japanese tidying expert Marie Kondo. I applied it to our home, and slowly but surely, I felt that I got control back over my home, and my life.

Decluttering, organising and simplifying

Home decluttering and organising isn’t the solution to all problems, but I do think that it can help in many more ways than people initially think. If you find it difficult to stay on top of your finances, you might find this a lot easier when your paperwork is sorted out and simplified. If you find meal planning and meal prep a struggle, an organised kitchen could make this process a lot smoother. So my advice is, when you’re finding something difficult, consider if decluttering, organising and simplifying could make things easier in some way?

Decluttering isn’t always easy – it can be overwhelming and emotional. Do you have any tips on how to make it a pleasant experience?


Drop the guilt

My first tip is to let go of the guilt. If you reduce your judgement, you will be able to see the challenge at hand more clearly. This will help you break it down into manageable tasks. Approach the journey as an experiment – try, test, and repeat as needed until it brings you joy.

Having an accountability partner like Hester and me can be really helpful as we provide a structured approach. This allows you to make emotional decisions (not just rational ones) and surround yourself with joy.

Start with something easy

My second tip: don’t start with your loft! You already know it needs to be addressed because you’ve postponed all your decisions, potentially allowing it to reach full capacity. However, starting with childhood memories or difficult decisions will only make it more overwhelming. We need to train your mind to make easy decisions first!


One small step at a time

Take it step by step. And remind yourself that tiny steps are ok, because a small step still brings you closer to your goals than not taking any steps at all. The KonMari Method® makes it very easy to break down your decluttering journey into lots of smaller projects. When you follow this method, you start with decluttering and organising your wardrobe. Rather than tackling your whole wardrobe in one go, start with just your sock drawer for example. After that, break down your clothes into subcategories, such as long sleeved tops, short sleeved tops, smart tops, casual tops, jeans, other trousers, etcetera. Whenever you’ve got some time, tackle your wardrobe subcategory by subcategory.

Focus on joy

Decluttering means making lots of decisions. There are ways to make the decision-making a bit easier. Instead of finding items to get rid of, focus on what you’d like to keep. In true Marie Kondo style, ask yourself “Does it spark joy?”. If it does, you keep the item. But if it doesn’t, put the item on the to-go pile. When you pick out items that you really like or use regularly, you’ll end up with a pile of items that haven’t made the cut and these are the items to let go of. It’s almost as if the process decides for you which items to discard.

En Route To Joy and Tidylicious

If you’re interested in finding out more about how you can work with Marine or Hester, please visit our websites:

"We have little control over the world beyond our front door. "

Joanna Thornhill, The New Mindful Home

"Thank you so much. I’m going to sleep now with a grin of satisfaction on my face just thinking of all the tidy clothes in my closet!"

Michèle, Peckham

"Hester is patient but persistent. I was able to get rid of more than I thought I would and it feels great!"

Melanie, Charlton

"I can’t express just how much Hester has helped me so far. It is so much more than decluttering. It also helps so much to let go of the past and move on!"

Rita, Brockley

"I didn’t know I could achieve so much by tidying and storing items in a different yet simple way. The time spent with Hester was both very productive and pleasant. The right comments always came at the right time and the results are amazing. It never felt so easy and effortless to keep my flat tidy, even with a child around."

Maggie, Lewisham