How to Start Decluttering When Overwhelmed & Prepping for Travel

how to declutter when overwhelmed
This is literally what my current bf's (Tamás's) shed looked like before he got rid of everything and started travelling

We had to move apartments recently (yes in the middle of the pandemic and yes, it's the second time we've moved in the past few months - both times because the landlord wanted to sell 'their' property #perksofrenting, but that's another rant for another day). Everyone was like omg how are you going to manage it? Are you okay? Do you need help? Which was nice, but I was like 'mate, all my possessions fit into three bags, moving is easy, if you're interested I can tell you how/why' xx

how to declutter when overwhelmed
my and Tamás's entire worldly possessions when we set out travelling (still way to much)

Hence this blog post! Many of you have told me that you want to weasel YOUR way out of the rat race and travel the world but you don't know where to start, and at the moment everything seems pointless, because, pandemic. To the ones of you that have oodles of free time on your hands I recommend you start with decluttering and dehoarding (and I also recommend you find remote ways to help people, but again, another rant for another day).

Decluttering is generally overwhelming for most, especially when everything seems pointless. But whilst I may not be an expert on how to have a normal job or a normal life, I do know a thing or two about decluttering: I come from a long line of hoarders and spent an unusually large chunk of my childhood 'helping' random relatives go through their treasures'n'trash. I moved out of home at 18 and started hoarding myself, of course, and even when I started travelling with just a couple of bags and a Tanbay:

how start decluttering when overwhelmed2013 fresh out of uni on my way to Australia with my now-ex

... even then, I still managed to hoard little things: bits of paper, bits of tissue and of course hoards of digital photos... now, after 8 years of travelling, I sorted it out. Long story short, I am experienced and I got you fam, let's get started:

How to Start Decluttering When Overwhelmed

Step #1. Accept the fact that you are (probably) a hoarder

You are a hoarder. The first step is admitting it. Compared to our greatgreatgreagreatgreat etc ancestors we are all hoarders. Unless you're walking around with just the clothes on your back and a knife in your pocket, you're a hoarder. #sorrynotsorry (okay, okay, I'll allow a hard-drive too, see point #3)

You may not be sitting on a house full of stuff but maybe you're sitting on a bank full of cash? Well, #redistrubteyourwealth Maybe you're not sitting on a bank full of cash but you have several apartments, flats, houses and property not in use by anyone at the moment (I can personally only sleep in one bedroom at the time and can only use one kitchen at the time, I have no idea how mill/billionaires manage to pull this off with multiple homes, must be magic...#redistrubteyourpropertytoo) And maybe you don't hoard money or real estate but you might have a room full of stuff that 'will be worth something at some point'... hoarding is a wide spectrum and I'm just trying to get through to all of you. It's okay to be a hoarder - once you admit it, it's much easier to work on it (and help others in the process of unlearning hoarding).

Get to the root of the problem, if you can get the (luxury of) time to yourself, lie back, relax and think about childhood moments: what did you see or hear that encouraged you to keep everything you'll (n)ever need? Maybe you're parents or grandparents don't seem like hoarders cause they had bigger homes than mine, but remember: anyone who has more than the clothes on their back and the knife (and the hard-drive) in their pocket is a hoarder.

Understanding why you are a hoarder isn't something that can be done in a day, but it's imperative you get the root and yank it out. Put in the time with this and the rest will be a breeze. I really recommend a good therapist (to everyone all the time), but I appreciate this isn't something that's accessible to everyone. There are many forms of therapy - take a page out of Adriene's book and find what feels good for you :)

Step #2. Binge on Marie Kondo

Marie Kondo is a queen, and once you get down to tidying, decluttering and sorting things out, she makes the process fun and therapeutic. For me at least anyway, maybe you're different. Even if you're not done with step #1 that's okay, she guides you through the trauma connections in a much softer way than I would. Here is a useful video from her (I think her whole series is on Netflix):

Other than Marie Kondo's famous "does it spark joy?", I recommend some other mantras that you can repeat to yourself whilst tidying like:

My possessions don't posses me
I am happy to be gaining space
I make way for new life

Step #3. Digitise!

When I finally get through to people that I don't have a lot of stuff they are generally impressed 'wow i could never do that' etc. But to that I say 'hey, I'm just lucky to live in the digital age (and to have been born on this side of the digital divide, not the other)'. I'm also lucky enough to remember the pre-digital age. Sit back kids and let me tell you about the '90s: the peak of consumerism, some might say. Walking into someone's house and seeing bookshelves upon bookshelves of books and DVDs (or even videos) neatly alphabetised (or not). What a sight.

Nowadays, believe it or not, you can get that all on a tiny-weeny hard drive. Light. Easy to take with you. A Tardis of memories and entertainment, if you will. You no longer need hoards of books*, dvds, physical photos, calendars, address books, all of it can be online.

*"but i love having a hard copy" I do too... whenever I get to a new place I borrow books from friends or check out the charity shops. For everything else there's a kindle (or, preferably, your own non-Bezos funding version). When I leave, I return the borrowed books, take them back to the charity shops or hide them in random places (like under the sink) where hopefully someone might find and benefit from them, learning something about the world and/or themselves.

Step #4. Go 'zero waste'!

... and boycott any perishable goods that come in plastic wrapping! Good for the environment, also good for your home: no more hoards of plastic bags, cheap plastic single-use tupperware, throwaway plastic bottles, etc...

Step #5. treat yrself (+others) when it comes to what's left

You've managed to cut back to near nothing (no doubt with the help of more helpful things than this blog post, soz). You've given away the possessions that possessed you to humans and non-humans who will enjoy them more. You've got the clothes on your back, the knife (and the hard-drive) in your pocket. You've come so far (or you will at some point) so congratulations, I'm proud of you! Now it's time to treat yourself (and others) when it comes to what you purchase from now on. Because you don't want to fall back into old habits: 1. Do a Marie Kondo each time: ask with each purchase 'does this bring me joy'?

2. Be smart with your purchases: you're gonna save so much money now you're not buying random stuff you don't need, you can afford something that's good quality, but also looks good. As a traveller with an obsession of only having three bags I am very enthusiastic when it comes to things that have multiple uses. Like a women's waterproof jacket that's lightweight, packable anddd waterproof. 

3. Treat others too, in the sense of buying your beloveds presents, of course, but also in the sense of not forgetting the people who make the things you buy or the planet that made the things that your things are made from. Like make sure you're going for green products, vegan products, ethical products etc. Partly because it will really limit what you can buy which helps with decluttering, but mostly because you're a good person and you care about others and this world. (And even if you don't believe you're a good person, which I do believe, selfish people should understand that the most selfish thing you can do is be selfless, because if you're not being selfless you're not being holistic and if you're not being holistic you're not helping yourself #justsaying)

Wrap Up: How To Start Decluttering When You're Overwhelmed

Thank You so much for reading this entire ramble / scrolling to the bottom. I really appreciate it and I hope you have a lovely day :) And before I go, let me share one of our recent YT videos with you: I have actually managed to reduce all the stuff I own to one rucksack! And, all your heavy bags can be taken care of by Vertoe. It's a very convenient luggage storage network when it comes to luggage storage. You can check and book with Luggage Storage Miami.

P.S.: If you're interested in an app designed for vegans & wanna support the vegan movement and us and our sister site, veganvstravel as well, feel free to use this link plz to download Abillion. When registering, please use our referral code: TRAVELLINGWEASELS. If you wanna know why we think this is a great app, read here.

Share this:


We overland. We eat plants and fungi. We live outside as much as possible. We are all connected. A female travel blogger overlanding and writing about ecotourism, ethical and sustainable travel, socially conscious travel and housesitting. An online travel magazine since 2015.


    Disqus Comment
    Facebook Comment
comments powered by Disqus