The mental and emotional cost of clutter has been well documented. But knowing that you need to get rid of some “stuff” isn’t quite as simple as doing it – which is why most of us end up putting it off. We’ve broken down the process to make it less daunting.

• Focus on one area at a time, says Heidi Meyer of Cloud 9 Organised. The reason many of us find decluttering so overwhelming is because we aim to get it all done at once. Instead, demarcate one small part of a room – a cupboard, for instance – and get it done before moving onto the next. Trying to do too much at once will backfire, leaving you exhausted and giving you an excuse to put off doing the rest.

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• Seeing your progress is extremely encouraging. Judith Penny of All Sorted Now advises working from one side to the other, top to bottom, starting with the things you can see before you move onto cupboards and drawers.

• Act on your impulses. According to Julia Adam of Oh So Organised, your brain decides within five seconds whether you are going to go ahead with an action – so move while you still feel motivated. Set yourself a deadline so that your intentions don’t fizzle out.

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• One of the greatest stumbling blocks when it comes to decluttering is where to put everything you’ve cleared out. Penny says it’s important to be ruthless: unless you really love it or use it often, it has no place in your home. Set aside four boxes labelled Give Away, Throw Away, Put Away and Store, and sort items accordingly. If you’re having trouble deciding which box something goes into, ask yourself the following: Do I have something better? What’s the worst that can happen if I give it away?

• Create a system. It’s not enough just to throw things away, says Adam – you need to have alternative places to store them. Invest in ottomans, clear containers and shelves so that everything can be packed away.

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• Once you’ve culled the items you no longer want, move swiftly. Unless they are given away or chucked immediately, they have a habit of being reabsorbed into the home.