How to Prioritize Decluttering Projects


We all know I have issues, right?


Yesterday, I expressed frustration over the past crazy month and how my over-committing-motormouth caused life to get crazy which naturally means the house gets scary.

Whenever the house starts spiraling out of control, my Slob Brain does this strange thing.  As the panicky HOW-did-this-happen-AGAIN feeling overtakes me, I feel a physical need to declutter. It’s like an itch in a weird place that you just have to scratch, but can’t right then.  Y’know, because it’s in a weird place.

It almost sounds like I’m some kind of a neat-freak, right?  Don’t worry.  Here’s where the Slob Brain Irrationality kicks in.  I naturally believe that the only way to cure this Declutter Fever is to tackle something big.

Like purging a storage unit.

Or re-arranging the office.

Or finally organizing the cabinet that I haven’t opened in over a year.

Or some other such project that will take hours upon hours to complete (or not-actually-complete), and that no guest in my home would even notice.  Since their mind will be consumed with how they’re going to find a place to sit that isn’t covered with unfolded laundry or Barbie shoes . . . .

One of the main things that I’ve learned through this deslobification process is how to prioritize decluttering projects.  The way my brain naturally wants to prioritize, isn’t the best way.

Instead, I prioritize by visibility.  Since I can’t depend on my Slob Vision for this, I ask myself – what do people see?  (Assuming I let them in the front door.)

Turns out, the first thing that people see is also usually the easy stuff.  And that’s one of my rules anyway.

Last week, in an attempt to catch up from a crazy week, I tackled the one of the parts of my kitchen counter that tends to get ignored.  When I’m barely hanging on by just keeping the kitchen cleaned, I stop to the right of the stove and that section stays a jumbled mess.

It took me a very few minutes to:

  • Stick a pretty glass dish that never gets used there, but was destined for breakage, into the dishwasher to go into the only-bring-it-out-for-special-occasions cabinet.
  • Decide that a container I’ve had for years, but which has never been successful for storage, needed to go in my Donate Spot.  That decision was made easier by the fact that I opened it to find it contained two paper napkins.  And I’m just really not in need of counter-space-taking long-term napkin storage right now.
  • Throw out the almost-gone bag of dried cherries, and almost full bag of dried apricots.  Perhaps they would still be okay to eat, but no one is eating them.
  • Straighten up, wipe down, and generally make the space look much better.


And guess what?  That itch?  This small but visible project totally scratched it. It won’t be gone until I can catch up on the Whole House Recovery, but the panicky feeling subsided.

If you’re reading through email, click on over and see the webisode!

Be sure to check out my decluttering page for things I’ve learned about how to declutter!

I’m linking this up to!


How to Prioritize Decluttering Projects using the Visibility Rule at




  1. 1

    You are so funny! And it’s amazing that I find the very things you describe are the things I do myself. That “itch to do something major “you describe…. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten myself in that same situation, when all I really needed to do (at the moment anyway) was clean up the visible messes. Thanks for sharing your journey. You are helping me (and I’m sure many others) discover a better way to manage our homes!

  2. 2

    I get the same feeling! I get aggravated at the messes. Yet, they don’t get the vibe and clean up themselves. Ha! I cleaned the kids’ toy room yesterday (which happens to be the first thing you see when you enter my front door. Yikes!) Feeling a lot better. 🙂

  3. 3

    LOL! exactly. I know that feeling. I stand in door too and see what people see. I do daycare so do this alot. I dont want my daycare parents to think what is she thinking lol. I had most of my parents for a long time so I am more relaxed and know oh they know how I am lol

  4. 4

    Oh my goodness – I thought it was just me!!!! Whenever I get that “overwhelmed” feeling I do the most ridiculous cleaning/decluttering!!! The stuff that noone will ever,ever notice. Thanks for sharing!!!!

  5. 5
    hsmominmo says:

    Excellent post/webisode!!!

    ” I naturally believe that the only way to cure this Declutter Fever is to tackle something big.
    Like purging a storage unit.
    Or re-arranging the office.
    Or finally organizing the cabinet that I haven’t opened in over a year.
    Or some other such project that will take hours upon hours…”

    this is EXACTLY how my brain works. crazy, huh? Tackling a hotspot in order to ‘scratch the itch’ is wonderful advice – thanks for the motivation!

    the counter to the right of the stove? that’s where the junk collects in my kitchen too. scheduling a daily ‘HotSpot Clearing’ has been very helpful.

  6. 6
    Sarah Moya says:

    Yeahhhhh!! I am not alone. I rationalize the same way and then start that big project, which ends up NOT getting finished and makes my life worse than before. I just found you today and totally love your vlogs!!

    • 7

      Oh Sarah, you are most DEFinitely not alone!

    • 8

      I always used to do this too. I finally started getting things a bit more in order a year and a half ago, then found this blog a year ago. Since finding ASlobComesClean, I am reminded that I’m not alone in this constant struggle and have gleaned many pearls of wisdom. Nony, somehow you are able to explain things in posts that I’ve never seen so clearly…including this one. It makes it much easier to do “the right thing” the next time my slob brain kicks in. Thanks!!

  7. 9

    I’m so glad I found your blog! I am horribly un-organized, and lose things all the time! I am hoping to get some good tips from your blog 🙂

  8. 11

    Fantastic video and you are so right about starting with the visible clutter first. It makes a huge difference to our mental clutter which is so important. Good job!!

  9. 13

    I needed this today! I felt so overwhelmed at how cluttered everything was I just shut down.

  10. 14

    I wish you could know how much this Blog helps me. It is INSANE how much we think alike. Just the other night I was getting totally overwhelmed by my house and lack of money to organize it the way I WANT it organized so I just decided that me and my 5 month pregnant self could just paint the living room, dinning, room, hall way, and entry way (that would require putting a ladder on stairs to climb the 2 stories to paint) tiny bits at a time. Yeah…right…. Because I can’t keep my house clean or keep up on laundry when not pregnant – that now I could some how miraculously paint 1/2 my house. Ugh! So per your advise my goal tomorrow will be to go through the giant stack of mail in my kitchen and pay bills…..that is all!

    • 15

      Sooooo many times I have thought this! I love fresh painted walls (too bad for me!) and always envision myself “painting a little at a time!! It wouldn’t be THAT hard right? Every day during nap, yeah yeah!!”

      I have managed to put this crazy nutjob voice in my head back in her straightjacket every 3 months for 3 years. The last time I painted a room it took 4 adults a week and I still haven’t hung all my daughter’s stuff back up. (1.5 years ago)

  11. 16

    This is so insightful! I sometimes do the same thing, and often end up with a bigger mess than I started with.

  12. 17

    love your blog post. I find myself doing little de cluttering jobs as well. Right now it’s the dining room again in a few minutes. There’s bills in a pile that need dated then put in the bill paying slot on my desk. Last week I didn’t feel good and yesterday a headache again all day when out for a meeting and back home….oh my, things do catch up with us don’t they? Enjoyed your video. Pop over and see the next in series of my paint job! It’s almost finished and I’m so excited about that! Have a good week!

  13. 18
    Kimberly Attridge says:

    I love love your blog, I totally relate. Only one problem….. It increases my urge to start my own blog. Stop me. Please. I am a habitual overcommiter – currently have 8 children, 6 home schooled, spend way too much time couponing and finding deals (successfully at least), love to read and hardly ever do anymore, working on losing weight, desperately need to get organized!!!!! Anyway, my ADD brain enjoys a distraction from cleaning at any time. Any suggestions from anyone to overcome this problem?

  14. 20

    Nony! What a great post. It has been a while since I left any comments for you but I have to say I LOVE your blog and check it daily!

    Loving the webisodes as well! This post really hit home for me. We have been having a lot to deal with at our home from major car troubles, to a burglary attempt!

    Anyway, I haven’t been keeping up with my daily checklist and as a result……we are back to “DISASTERVILLE”!

    Like you…..when I am overwhelmed I tend to think about HUGE projects (like our master closet) and feel defeated and end up doing nothing. So, today ….I plan on following your advise.

    I will tackle what is visible.

    Wish me luck!

  15. 21
    Diane Morgan says:

    Hi Nony I have really been thinking about this post a lot this past week . I wanted to let you know I took it to heart . I was always cleaning or organizing something but it was all the things that werent really visible and then of course wondering why I didnt see any big improvement in my home. So I have been working on the projects that are visible first and then once they are done I can get to the behind the scenes stuff. Thanks so much my house is looking better !!!!!!!!

    • 22

      Diane, thank you so much for coming back to comment! What an encouragement it is to me to know that sharing my struggles can help someone else.

  16. 23

    Thank you so much. I know that itch all too well (which I inherited). 😉 Ha. Physical weakness and illness were part of what God used to teach me to re-pioratize things like that initally. When you can’t do, suddenly it’s what really *needs* to be done that you focus on, or at least it was for me. Now that I’m my health has improved, I don’t want to go back to those old pointless itching sessions, but I still feel them! Your comments and video helped me to put a finger on the thing and understand better how to deal with it! 🙂 Yes! This is good! In fact, having just discovered your blog last night, and having read some posts, today I threw away some useless cake pans I’d been puzzling over thinking I could paint them and use them to decorate my kitchen. You know what? I have some really cool fabrics that would look a lot nicer and, in the long run, be easier to work with! Aaaahhh. I actually get a feeling of satisfaction in throwing things out, or putting them in my donate box and seeing them leave my house. One less THING to have to deal with! (Ok, the sentimental things still are hard, but the great thing is that as you keep working at this it does seem to get somewhat easier.) 🙂

  17. 25

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one having those “crazy feelings” you described! thanks so much for sharing your journey!!

  18. 26

    I started the pile of bills… lots of old ones.. .was going to get them all in piles by name and then toss out the old and only keep the new… then put them in my notebook for bills that I made. But didn’t get very far… way to many of them…gave up and did the dishes and supper… great!! Thanks!! Small job and visible… dinner was frozen…defrosted in microwave and then heated in stove… and dishes while waiting…

  19. 27

    I’m about two years or so late to this party! 🙂 However, I stumbled upon this, and I want to thank you. I have a tendency to do (in my mind) all the major things that need to be done. Sometimes we need to do what is in front of us. Thanks so much for that reminder!

  20. 28

    I’m really hoping you’ll blog through this Whole House Recovery process you mentioned!

  21. 29

    I am weeping tears of laughter and recognition!

  22. 30

    O this is so true! I have been doing pretty good at maintaining the “living area” of our house, but I always cringe about my “secret spots”- the laundry room, the garage, the spare bedroom, OUR master bedroom, etc. But I know those projects are too much to tackle during the day with a toddler running around. So today I organized my front closet- took all of 20 minutes (one episode of Curious George lol) and I feel so much better! At least people can hide their purses in their without needing carabiners to scale the mountain of shoes and purses and who knows what else.

  23. 31
    Jennifer says:

    this was me just yesterday!… i have been avoiding decluttering the mail-spot in my kitchen because i was sure that it ALL needed to be filed in my filing cabinet, which needs to be decluttered in and of itself, which is a MAJOR project that… no one will ever see but me. So I spent about 30 minutes going through the old mail… some of which was more than a year old, and only maybe 10% of it were things that needed to go in the filing cabinet. and now i can actually see the top of my dishwasher again. i’m sure you hear this a lot, but reading your blog has inspired me to make real changes that will stick. I used to get so overwhelmed because I couldn’t do it all in one day or even all in one week. but now i realize that this needs to be a process. baby steps!

  24. 32
    unmowngrass says:

    Hmmmph. You just busted my excuses. Complete same way with the big projects. My rationale has always been “but unless the insides of drawers/cupboards/under the bed is tidy, then the house isn’t really tidy. It’s the only way to go if I want the whole house tidy at one time!!!” (ditto for clean – although the fact I see them as different tasks may be part of the slob brain!) Hmmmmph.

  25. 33
    Rose Salazar says:

    I do the same thing. But now i will tackle those 3 visible spots that embarrass me when in-laws pop in.

  26. 34
    Mattie Mae says:

    Kudos to you on tossing food that’s still good, but not being eaten and is just cluttering the counter!

  27. 35
    Nuggethead says:

    You are amazing! Thank you so much for putting this on your website. I love that one amazing small tip: “small visible clutter”. I think I will put it on my vision board, what a small but powerful statement! THANK YOU!!!

    • 36
      Nuggethead says:

      Update : well… in a day I have improved with those small words. I have tackled much “small visible clutter” as well as had a productive and relaxing day. A HUGE thank you once again! Who knew a day like this was possible! (I’m so excited!)

  28. 37

    How do you talk to yourself when the anxious feeling you get isn’t about scratching that itch but shutting down instead which means nothing gets done?

  29. 39

    Isnt that simple! Why include saying shutting doors tidies up. Others might think mentioning something like closing a cabinet door is just silly -who leaves them open anyway. One closes as they go, Surely! Errrr, no. Not me. It’s how you can tell if I have been in the kitchen. Or closet. YOU Nony, get to the core of me. I’m off now to shut the doors. One. Two. Three.++++ thank you.

  30. 40

    I cannot explain how finding and reading your book How to Manage your Home Without Losing your Mind has resonated withme. It was a truly a light bulb going off in my head. You described me to a tee! For so many years I tried…I really really did! I tried Fly Lady. I read every organization and cleaning book I found. I felt like such a failure. Your book opened my eyes and allowed me to know I was not alone! Others have the same issues! Visible clutter…who would have thought??? I can remember as a young housewife expecting company…guess what I focused on? Cleaning and organizing my kitchen drawers…like my guests were going to open the drawers and judge me by how they looked! This has been my mind set for years, then I would stash and dash the “visible” clutter before guests arrived…depressing me even more that I was so disorganized! FINALLY I get it!!!!! Thank you so very much!!!!

  31. 41

    Totally agree about the ‘itch’! I get that too, slightly panicky and claustrophobic when the kitchen is in full ‘nuclear’ phase, or if the living room is basically a huge in tray for post and magazines 😱😱 even if I’m in another room and the kitchen is like this I can’t relax. My OH says I ‘perch’ on the sofa on edge until it’s done. And I would never call myself a neat-freak, definitely in the Slob tribe 😉

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