11 Delightful Pros Share Best Cues for When It’s Time to Declutter

There are tons of cues that shout, “It’s time to declutter!” However, sometimes life gets so busy that you don’t see or feel the indicators. You can quickly become clutter blind and ignore the signs. The challenge, however, is when clutter creates overwhelm, procrastination, lack of direction, or anxiety.

For me, physical clutter is less problematic than mind clutter. When I notice myself aimlessly wandering from room to room and lacking focus, I know it’s time to declutter my thoughts. Depending on the situation, I might take a walk in nature, which helps me feel grounded and clear. Or, I might pull out my journal and free write to release the thoughts swirling around in my head. As a verbal processor, another helpful strategy is talking aloud with a trusted friend or loved one who is an excellent listener.

Does any of this sound familiar? If so, you’re going to love what comes next. There is power and relief in noticing, reflecting, and taking action as you’re about to learn.

I invited a stellar group of colleagues to share some of their personal discoveries with you. They explain their decluttering cues and the actions they take to get uncluttered. These generous friends include Julie Bestry, Christine Li, Seana Turner, Leslie Josel, Diane Quintana, Marcy Stoudt, Ellen Delap, Jonda Beattie, Geralin Thomas, Janet Barclay, and Yota Schneider. I asked them to respond to and elaborate on this prompt-

How do you know when to declutter your things, thoughts, space, or schedule?

Their diverse responses encompass various decluttering cues, from feeling tired to mentally blocked. My deepest gratitude goes to this inspiring group for sharing their time, hearts, and wisdom with us.



11 Pros Share Best Cues for When It’s Time to Declutter

1. Feel Pressured

“My catalyst for decluttering is pressure. I might recognize it as stress, inconvenience, irritation, or even physical friction.

If I lack buffer time between tasks, too many lower priority items squeeze against higher priority obligations, leaving no room to breathe, think, or re-set. When items in my desk, bathroom, or kitchen drawers lack margin to move smoothly or for me to retrieve them easily, the friction is a trigger to declutter. A closet packed so tightly that clothes rub against one another, causing wrinkles, means there's too much pressure in my space.

Sorting and reducing relieves the pressure!”

Julie Bestry, CPO® – Certified Professional Organizer, Author, Blogger, Speaker



2. Feel Fatigued

“I know I need to declutter when I am feeling drained or fatigued. It’s a bodily response informing me that there are too many things going on or too much to focus on accurately and well. When I have that realization, I do my best to spring into decluttering mode so that I free myself up for smooth action again.” 

Christine Li, Ph.D.Procrastination Coach, Clinical Psychologist, Make Time for Success podcast Host



3. Feel Over-Scheduled

“I am quick to declutter my spaces, but I have a tendency to over-program my schedule. I know I am in trouble when I have no chance during the week to ‘catch my breath.’ While any given day may be heavy-laden, if looking at the week ahead leaves me feeling anxious about my ability to meet my commitments or anticipating insufficient sleep, I know I’ve taken on too much. 

For me, the ‘fix’ is to intentionally block out some white space’ each week, including one day of rest and at least an hour each day to relax.”

Seana Turner – Professional Organizer, Blogger, Speaker



4. Feel Mentally Blocked

“We all define clutter differently. For me, clutter isn’t about my physical stuff, as my environment is well organized and consistently edited. However, my clutter is mental blockage, time robbers, emotional demands, and digital or electronic dependency. And the list goes on and on! In essence, it’s anything taking up viable space – in my head and life. So as soon as I can’t see what direction I’m heading as too much ‘clutter’ is blocking the view, it’s time to brain dump on paper. Clear my head and edit! That’s my no-fail method for feeling less overwhelmed and staying on my path.”

Leslie Josel – ADHD Student Coach, Author, Speaker



5. Feel Overrun

“I know it’s time to declutter a space or things when I have a hard time putting something away. I declutter my thoughts by doing a brain dump – writing everything down on paper that I’m thinking about. My schedule has become a problem because I have not created boundaries for my time and make appointments even when I know my time would be better served by focusing on my own work. I decided to change this habit. Recently, I set aside two mornings a week to work for myself and will no longer make any appointments during those times.” 

Diane N. Quintana, ICD Master Trainer, CPO-CD®, CPO® – Certified Professional Organizer, Author, Blogger



6. Feel Visually Distracted

“As a person who leans into my strength of being a highly visual person, what I see helps me know it is time to declutter. Visual clutter looks to me like there are too many items that do not fit in the designated space for them, such as clothes that do not fit into my primary closet. As I look at my paper calendar crowded with back-to-back tasks or appointments crowding the week, I see that it is time to say no more to projects. Once I see that cue, right away I take time to let go of stuff and add it to my donate bag. For my calendar, I move appointments a week out and have a prepared statement to decline requests for new projects.”

Ellen Delap, CPO® – Certified Professional Organizer

“You can quickly become clutter blind and ignore the signs.”
— Linda Samuels, CPO-CD®, CVPO

7. Feel Overwhelmed

“Want one solution to help you declutter anything from papers on your desk to putting away laundry to your email inbox? It's setting a timer and monotasking. When I'm out of time and feel overwhelmed, I simplify my thoughts and say a mantra: I can do anything in 15 minutes.

To put this in practice, pick one task, end a meeting early, set a timer, and be amazed at what you can accomplish by monotasking for 15 minutes.” 

Marcy Stoudt – CEO of Revel Coach, Founder of The Executive Mom Nest


8. Feel Encumbered

“Out of sight- out of mind, or is it? I store archival papers in my attic. That means at least once a year, I climb a ladder to the attic and schlep up tax papers and anything else I feel I should keep but deem archival. The plan is that when I take up new files, old ones can be gotten rid of. You can guess how well that worked. 

This past year the weight of 7 years of not decluttering those papers haunted me. It felt so wonderful to finally get all that weight off my head!” 

Jonda S. Beattie, M.Ed – Professional Organizer, Author, Speaker

9. Feel Inspired

“To remain as clutter-free as possible, I follow calendar prompts for inspiration. For example, June is National Safety Month, and I add it to my calendar. This alerts me to update first aid supplies, our hurricane prep kit, and my vital documents file. In June, the second week is National E-mail Week, which cues me to declutter my email and delete or merge duplicate contacts. The second week in June is also Small Business Week. My calendar prompts me to inventory and organize Metropolitan Organizing’s office bookshelves and office supplies.

Personally, this system feels less overwhelming than trying to do everything at once or whenever I think of them.”

Geralin Thomas – Career Coach for Professional Organizers



10. Feel Confined

“I usually know it’s time to declutter when I can’t find space to store something new or when it’s too much work to do something I enjoy because of what’s involved in gathering the items I need. 

Most recently, I was feeling closed in at my desk and realized that I was tired of looking at the file organizer on my desk, which is always in my line of sight. I removed some books I no longer refer to from my bookcase, freeing up space for the organizer and making my desk a little more open.”

Janet Barclay – Certified Care Plan Specialist, Digital Business Consultant, Website Caregiver



11. Feel Rushed

“My state of mind tends to be reflected in everything I do and how I do it. My space, schedule, and thoughts are constantly informing one another. When clutter of any kind enters my life, eventually, there will be signs pointing to the need for change. I may wake up at night with my to-do list running through my head and a feeling of overwhelm pressing down to my chest. I get clumsy, anxious, irritable, or indifferent. I skip the daily rituals that support my sense of well-being and peace of mind and rush from one thing to the next. That is when I know it’s time to simplify and downsize so I can create the space I need to taste the sweetness of my life’s moments.”

Yota Schneider – Life Coach, Retreat Facilitator, Blogger


As you read this, did you increase your clutter awareness? Which decluttering cues resonated with you? What helps you move forward? I’d love to hear your thoughts. I invite you to join the conversation.

If you are struggling and want a decluttering partner, I’m here to help. I love supporting my clients with decluttering their things, thoughts, time, and space. Create the calm you deserve. Contact me at linda@ohsoorganized.com, 914-271-5643, or click here.

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