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5 Tips for dealing with the feeling

We all feel overwhelmed from time to time.  Maybe we feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff in our homes. Or maybe we feel overwhelmed because we get over-scheduled, over-worked, over-committed and want to get everything done on time and done well.

How do I know this? I fall victim to doing exactly the things I mentioned above. I agree to take on almost everything I’m asked to do. Why do I do that? Well, because I like doing things for other people and I’m really good at getting things done.

Why do you take on everything you do? That’s something to think about.

Recognize the Feeling

The first step to tackling overwhelm is to recognize when you’re becoming over-burdened. Open your eyes and notice when the clutter piles are growing. We can become so accustomed to seeing the stuff in our homes that when the piles grow, we barely notice the change.

Pay attention to your calendar. Is each day full of back to back appointments? Do you have space in your day to take a little walk outside or to have lunch with a friend? When your calendar becomes too full, it’s time to scale back before that overwhelming feeling sets in.

Tackle One Pile

If the clutter piles are growing, tackle one pile at a time. Think about how much time you have available to spend on this task. Set a timer. When the timer goes off stop. Put things in the trash or recycling if that’s where they belong.  If things belong in other rooms, make a small stack to deliver to each different place when the timer goes off. Before you know it you will have fewer piles!

Say No!

Remember (this is something I’m learning how to do) that you do not have to do everything that’s asked of you. No is an acceptable answer – as long as it’s not a work-related task! If you’re asked to bake something and you don’t have time, you can say no. If you’re asked to volunteer for something and your calendar is already full, you can say no.


Look at your to-do list. Is there anything you can delegate to a family member, babysitter, or someone with whom you work? Is there something without a due date that can be pushed back to when you are less fully scheduled?

Let Go of Perfection

While it’s wonderful to get everything done as well as we can do them sometimes, we create an overwhelming feeling when we insist that it be done perfectly. If it’s important to get a task done, evaluate how important it is the task be done perfectly.

There are tasks that must be done in an exact fashion. There are other tasks that can be just done. They don’t have to be perfect, they can be ‘good enough’.

Recognizing when we can let go of perfection helps to keep that feeling of overwhelm at bay because we can get those items checked off our to-do list quickly and allow ourselves to focus on other tasks.  

Schedule Time for Yourself

Set some time aside for yourself each day. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount of time. Even a mere 10 minutes will suffice. You can close your eyes and think about nothing. Just relax.

Even better, set some time aside once a week to do something nice for yourself. I like to go on nice long bike rides and aim to fit one in (weather permitting) every couple of weeks. I also like to sit and work on my sewing or on a jigsaw puzzle, or work in my garden.

What do you like to do? It may help to make yourself a little list. This way when you have the time you won’t be at a loss for what you can do for yourself.

Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer, Residential Organizing Specialist, Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization, ICD Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC, based in Atlanta, Georgia. An accomplished speaker and author of four books she teaches professionals and working parents how to become organized and provides them with strategies and solutions for maintaining order in their busy lives. She specializes in residential and home-office organizing in metropolitan Atlanta and in working with people challenged by ADD, Hoarding, and chronic disorganization.


  • Diane- I have to laugh because I think we have a mind meld going on this week. Thoughts of perfection (as in letting go of it) were in my brain too, as you’ll see in this week’s post. We had 32 people over for Passover, so you can imagine the list of tasks to get ready for our guests. Letting go of perfection helped me lean in, enjoy the process, feel relaxed and NOT overwhelmed as we prepared to welcome our family and friends into our home.

  • Seana Turner says:

    One of the greatest things you can do when experiencing this overwhelm is take action. I had a client call and share her exasperation about the state of her home. We talked and scheduled a consultation. When I arrived, she told me that the simple act of calling her had made her feel so much better… even before we had done anything. A small step gets the ball rolling and you feel so good about having finally done something! Wonderful advice:)

  • I found that I learned over the years that placing things in a “to be filed” bin is good enough. Once a month I go through the bin and file the papers accordingly. Papers will not get me overwhelmed anymore. It’s so important that we are an advocate for ourselves. Thank you for sharing these wonderful tips.

  • Melanie says:

    I love the Power of No. I use it quite often because my family can become overwhelmed easily.

  • I like what Seana said. When you feel overwhelmed the best thing is to take action. I think that is an important part of what we do as organizers. Helping people start to take action and support them moving forward.

  • Wonderful post! It can be very easy to become overwhelmed by too much stuff or by a packed schedule. You bring up some great points about recognizing the overwhelm and taking steps to reduce it.