Conquering Clutter and Other Cumbersome Tasks

Can we talk about the elephant in your room?

The reason we don’t talk about the elephant in the room is because his presence is overwhelming. Think about the size of the biggest room in your home. Now put an elephant in it. You see what I mean?

The reason you avoid this elephant is because he is so big! You’re not lazy or chicken. You are totally realistic. You know he won’t move on his own. You can’t move him yourself and you don’t have a crane to lift him out against his will. Getting a crane? Well, that’s more hassle than it’s actually worth.

So instead, you do nothing. You avoid him. You live in every room but that one. You move out and let someone else worry about the elephant.

You know we’re not really talking about an elephant, don’t you?

Clutter is your elephant. The clutter I am referring to is physical mess. The advice I am going to give could easily be applied to any difficult or cumbersome task you are avoiding in your life. I chose clutter, for this post, because so many of us have it. But you could apply this theory to almost any difficult task.

Why Can’t I Just Get Rid of It?

When it comes to tackling clutter:

  • you think that you can’t…
  • you’re sure it’s too hard…
  • you don’t know where to start…
  • you believe the effort is not worth the benefit…

And that would be all well and good, but in the real world – the clutter still bugs you. It gnaws at your self-respect. It saps your sense of self-efficacy. It smacks you in the face with shame and disappointment.

Plus, it makes it hard to find things you need and get important things done. You may be ignoring clutter, but you aren’t forgetting it. That elephant – he’s pooping all over your carpet and the stench is filling your nostrils, whether you avoid him or not.

But it’s a just a bit of junk! Why can’t I deal with it?

I don’t blame you for thinking it’s too hard. It LOOKS hard. (Seriously, stop and look at it right now. How high does that mountain look?)

But it’s not hard. Someone just needs to show you how easy it can be. (Note that easy doesn’t mean effortless, it just means simple or not difficult to do.)

In short, moving the elephant is easy when you know how to move him.

So now I’m going to give you eight techniques to make decluttering easier for you, but the first is the most important.

1. Change How You See the Elephant

We all know the parable of the blind men and the elephant (if you don’t click here… I am decluttering my word count).

I would like you to approach your clutter like the blind men approaching the elephant. Instead of seeing the clutter, see the parts of it. It’s not a giant a pachyderm… it’s a tail here, some legs there, a couple of ears, a head, a trunk, a torso, etc.

If you want to get really mystical, you can think about the fact that, esoterically, the elephant/clutter is just a bunch of atoms with empty space inside. You hear that? Empty. Your clutter is empty inside. The inside of your clutter, at the atomic level, is empty – aka – not cluttered.


My point is:

Even if you are a big-picture person, this is a good time to narrow your focus. You don’t have get rid of all the clutter. You just have to start with one small pile. Then, move on to another small pile, and then another one, and so on. (I am referring to clutter in this case, not the elephant. Stay-away-from-the-elephant’s-pile for goodness sake!)

2. Make the Elephant Smaller

Some people like to get the hard part over with first. That approach might make sense in some situations, but not here. Get rid of all the easy stuff first, and the task before you will suddenly become a lot smaller. I recommend clearing the garbage and anything that can be recycled first. Click here for some ideas of how you make recycling unused materials more convenient.

3. Aim for Good Enough

We ADDers often get hyperfocused on one element of a task then lose the whole point of why we started in the first place. I recently helped someone who needed to declutter her home. She had spent an entire afternoon cleaning her bathroom to near perfection. Yet she had not one single dish on which to eat. A bathroom should be relatively clean, but it needs not be spotless when clean dishes are the dodo bird of your home.

You can’t get to “great” without passing through “good enough” first. Sometimes, good enough is a worthwhile destination in its own rite.

4. Get A Body Double

A body double is someone who helps you stay focussed and get things done by sitting with you while doing a task. They are a great way to distract you from getting distracted. I had a client who didn’t have access to a body double at the time that she needed one, so she used her dog instead. He was almost always at her heels anyway.

The dog didn’t “crack the whip” but his presence did serve as a visual reminder that she was in her office to de-clutter and nothing else.

Another useful option is to work in tandem with someone else. Someone who has a task that they need to get started on – an “Action Buddy” of sorts. The way this would work? You would speak to each other before embarking on the task, identify your goals for the next 15 minutes or so, then agree to call back and check in with each other. This check in creates brief bursts of focus and builds in accountability.

Of course, you can have multiple check-ins if you so choose.

5. The Only Do-It-Now is De-Cluttering

You know what’s going to happen when you start decluttering? You’re going to come across something you should have done last week/last year/last century and decide that now is the time to finally get it done.

No, it’s not. If it’s been okay undone up until now (your world hasn’t crashed around you, has it?), it’ll be okay left undone until you are finished de-cluttering.

Make yourself a couple of boxes to hold the important/urgent stuff for you to do later, and another box for the important/not urgent. This is one instance where its okay to put things off.

6. Start in One Corner

Don’t think about decluttering in one go. Aim to declutter one room at a time, or even one part of a room. If you commit to a regular decluttering schedule, it will all get done eventually. “Before pictures” can serve as a good visual reminder of just how far you have come, as it will be tempting to focus only on what you have left to do.

7. Run, Baby, Run

Most ADDers are sprinters, not long-distance runners. Use that to your advantage. Set the timer for a short period, then blitz it. Clean like mad and start tossing out junk like a Kardashian’s husband. When the timer goes off, you’re done. If you feel like tossing out more, then go for it. But you’ll have an easier time convincing yourself to get started if you know you don’t have to commit to a marathon.

For an example of Interval Timer Cleaning, check out this blog.

8. Get Started. Come On! Get Going! NOW!

Getting started is one of the biggest problems people face when de-cluttering or tackling any difficult task. How do you eliminate this problem?

You get started. Presto! It’s not a problem anymore.

I’m not being facetious. Getting started is really only a matter of deciding to get started. If it doesn’t seem that easy, maybe you haven’t changed your view of the elephant yet.


So there you have eight simple techniques to conquer chaos, clutter and other cumbersome tasks such as moving the elephant out of your living room. I understand why clutter has overwhelmed you in the past, and it’s important to know that you are not alone with that overwhelm. You can manage this elephant and get him back to the circus where he belongs. Start with these eight techniques.

As an aside, I should tell you that I did have six more to write about, but I am growing weary (bored) of this elephant, and I suspect you are too. So for now, I will end it at eight.

Besides, you need to stop reading and start getting busy. You know what you need to do. Its not an elephant, or a mountain, or even your clutter we are really talking about. It’s your self-respect and peace-of-mind that you’re after.

So go get ‘em.


If you want more resources on cleaning and de-cluttering, these blogs are way better than mine on this topic: 

Have an amazing day 🙂