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Whole House Detox: Where do I start?

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How do you decide where to start? 


Ask a “Decider.”  But I’ve gotten ahead of myself.  Let’s start at the beginning.

When you’re contemplating tackling a whole house of clutter and unfinished projects–after dealing with the feeling in the pit of your stomach–you might ask (whine/wail) where do I start?   Even if you’re just cleaning up one messy room, the question remains….where do I start?

I used to start by turning on the TV and digging in to a pint of Häagen-Dazs ice cream with a big kitchen spoon. The thought of decluttering even one room was just too big. Thirty years later I’ve released about three-fourths of my resistance to getting started. Every year or two now, I look forward to tackling my whole house. “Look forward” may be a little too strongly stated.

Humans tend to complicate things.  We’re so smart, we sometimes use all that brain power to overwhelm ourselves with so many options (and high standards) that we become immobilized. What do we do with this overwhelm and confusion? We pick up the remote control, or we troll Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.  Or we grab a big kitchen spoon and eat ice cream.

Let’s not do that this time.  Let’s bite the bullet and start somewhere.  But where?  In a minute I’ll tell you where I started and why…but first a few ideas to get you started if you’re in this freeze-frame pickle.

Six ways to decide where to start the clean out…Pick one!

  1. Get the lay of the land.  Make a list of possibilities and rate the level of difficulty or resistance of decluttering that space.
  2. Start with the easiest room (or shelf  or closet).
  3. Start with the hardest room (love a challenge?)
  4. Start where there’s the most urgency:  during tax time, tackle office paperwork; before a party, get the main living areas in order; before a house guest arrives, spiff up the guest bedroom.
  5. Go where your energy takes you.  Do what’s most satisfying.
  6. Ask someone who is decisive.  That’s what I did!Sylvia

I asked my friend Sylvia. She’s 5 and very decisive. Doesn’t her picture tell it all? It’s fun to ask her questions and see how she goes about deciding. She’s fast! And I’m slow.

When I presented her with a list of options for starting my Whole House Detox project, without hesitation she said start with the back porch.  Why Sylvie? Because you said it was messy. And she’s right. It WAS messy.

I liked her decision because the back porch is very small and it would be a quick win.  A dusty, dirty win, but a quick win or so I thought.   I estimated it would take a half day to complete…but life happens and it took part of 3 days, 4 if I’m really honest.  When things calm down a bit, I’ll tell you about all the sidetracks I’ve had since I decided to do this project.  Maybe that’s the universe’s way of seeing if I’m really serious about doing this.  I am!

My next post will give you all the gory details about cleaning out the back porch.  I’ll share before and after pictures too.

Do you have trouble deciding where to start and what to get rid of?  Share your story at the comment link below and we’ll see if we can help!  If you’re a great decider like Sylvia, share your secrets.

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  1. Sidney says:

    Dear Cheryl,
    Love your honesty. I need a whole house detox. This is the longest that we have lived in one house(12 1/2 years). Usually my detox comes with a move. I have made several starts in the past few years working on a closet, cabinet, bookshelf, etc. Doing something every day but have never completed the house. I’m ready. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Brooke Feder says:

    Way to go Cheryl!

  3. Cheryl Miller says:

    Sidney – it will be great to have you along on this project. Keep us posted on your progress.

    Thanks Brooke – it’s where my joy is right now.

  4. Alice says:

    Good on ya Cheryl. I like your Quick Decider, Sylvie (adorable)…wish I had her help in choosing which birthday plate pattern , etc. to buy for the birthday party I just threw yesterday for my 92 year young mom. I couldn’t decide and drove myself crazy since none where exactly what i I wanted…so i bought them all!!!!!! Figured “I’ll decide later” and finally did when I had to open my car trunk and bring the stuff in to set up) In the end I decided on a pink theme with “Happy birthday” on the plates like I wanted in the first place but couldn’t find at the dollar store. I am DETERMINED to return what I didn’t use tonight. I have it packed in my car, ready to go! No, didn’t have the party at my space, but at the seniors residence activity room. It went well, she loved it, was very surprised and very happy!(since she’s got AD-dementia) And everyone said they had a real good time and I threw a great party (must be true as no one wanted to leave and hung around forever!) I will be counting my returns as part of my space detoxing (cause normally I’d just hang on to it all and make no returns).

  5. Cheryl Miller says:

    Thanks Brooke! It’s fun and interesting

    Hi Alice – Sounds like you threw your mother a very nice party. Congratulations on your decision to return the plates you didn’t use. Revisit the comments here and let us know how the returns/detox went!


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