Decluttering for the Overwhelmed – Even Baby Steps Will Get You There 

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Time for some decluttering! Somehow in the last week or two my house got away on me. This morning I looked around and was so exasperated that things were such a mess that I wanted to just move into a studio apartment by myself (well O.K., with my dog) and go totally minimal. Just the bare necessities for comfort and nothing extra. Because man, I’m tired of picking up stuff and sorting through mail and trying to keep on top of all the stuff that comes into this house.

You know how it is, maybe I’ll use that coupon. Let’s keep this business card out because maybe we’ll give this contractor a call about the new bathroom. Really why should my husband put away his laptop when he might want to use it tonight when we’re watching TV. Why put away the dog brush when I’ll need to brush her again tomorrow anyway.  I might work on that quilting project (despite the fact I haven’t in over 2 months — tonight could be the night) so I better leave that out, too.  And then I suddenly look around and think “geez Louise why do we live in such a pig sty?” (No offense meant to any pigs who may be living in a tidier space than we are right now!) 

 Ever have that happen? The interesting thing is that for days, dare I say weeks even, I didn’t really notice that all this stuff was “out” rather than put away. It didn’t really bother me as far as I can tell, but it must have been there in the back of my mind a little bit because of my strong reaction to it this morning.  

We all have it…

Clutter is a part of our lives. It can build up slowly, little by little before we realize we’ve been stepping around a pile of magazines, or toys, or craft supplies or _________, for weeks. We can get so used to clutter that sometimes we hardly notice it.  

Having company coming is great at getting me to realize that things may have gotten away on me. Then comes the big overhaul and cleaning. Guests are just such a great motivator around here for us to get projects wrapped up and the clutter gone. 

But you don’t have to wait for a “big motivator” to start decluttering your home. You don’t have to block out a whole weekend or even a whole Saturday. That works great for some people but looking at the big picture with your house and trying to get everything organized at once can be so overwhelming for some of us that we just don’t even bother to start.  

But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can start, today, with only 10 minutes if you want to.  Sometimes taking baby steps is the best way to go. Not only does it make the process less stressful and more manageable it can also help you stay de-cluttered and better organized for a longer time. Why is that?  

Decluttering Works Better If You Go Slower

Doing the “big clear-out” does leave you with a clean slate, and that’s great. But it’s a little bit like crash dieting. It may take off the weight for a while but it won’t necessarily stay off. Your house might be clutter free for a little while, but you know more “stuff” is coming into your house. It’s inevitable. If you don’t create the right habits to keep your house simplified and clutter free then that clutter will just build back up over time. And you might be surprised just how quickly all that clutter can get reestablished! Then you have to start all over again. So if you only have the energy to do a little bit of decluttering at a time, don’t worry. Those baby steps can really make a difference and may put you in a better -position to keep your house clutter-free in the long run.  

If you read my post on Becoming an Exercise Enthusiast (link) you may remember a book I mentioned by Stephen Guise called Mini Habits. His system is basically starting really super small (and I mean tiny) with setting goals and then once you’ve gotten that goal ingrained as a habit, setting a slightly bigger goal. This mini habit idea works with decluttering as well.  

Here’s how to do it: 

First

Pick one area of your home that most irritates you because it’s always the most cluttered. Now I’m not talking something like the garage or the basement or anything that big. Let’s break it down into a much smaller more manageable task.

It might be the kitchen “junk drawer” or catchall drawer. Whatever you call it, we all pretty much have one. It might be the 2 square feet of counter space that everyone drops their stuff on when they first get home (and not everyone bothers to pick up again). Or it might be the passenger seat of your car if you have a long commute. Maybe it’s your home office desk. That can still be pretty big so you might want to narrow that down to just one drawer of your desk or just the top surface. It might even be the living room coffee table or the dining room table. Or the bathroom countertop Or the linen closet (again, too big for our purposes so just pick one or two shelves). Figure out whatever part of your home that gathers clutter like a magnet and drives you crazy.   

Think about it a little bit, make sure your choice is small. No sense trying to “overachieve” here or you might end up more frustrated than successful.  

declutter your drawers

Got a spot? 

Good.

Second

Set the timer on your phone to 10 minutes and just spend 10 minutes going through the stuff in that clutter hot-spot. Throw out anything that needs to be thrown out and gather whatever is in that space that shouldn’t be and put it where it should be. Something need to be donated? Put it in a bag to take out to your trunk for drop off at your local charity. It’s important to get it out of the house so it doesn’t end up adding to the clutter.  

Third

When the timer goes off, even if you’re not finished, give the shelf, drawer or surface a wipe down with a duster, straighten the remaining items and breathe a sigh of relief. There’s one zone of your house that’s clutter-free. Go enjoy your day. 

Like that feeling?

Forth

Schedule your next declutter baby-step. Pick a day and time and mark it on your calendar when you will spend another 10 minutes clearing out another clutter hot-spot. Taking it in 10-minute blocks makes it easy enough that there is very little resistance to doing this on my part. If I said I needed an hour (or two) to go through the whole kitchen and declutter it I could probably come up with a dozen reasons why I didn’t have time for that now. There’s always other stuff that needs to be done.  But if I tell myself I just want to take 10 minutes to clean out the utensil drawer, that’s no big deal. I just go ahead and do it and it’s done.

When you’ve got a clutter hot-spot cleared out do your best to keep it that way by periodically taking “an outsider’s” view of the space. By that I mean pretend you are a guest or stranger coming into your house. Would that linen closet or desk surface look well organized and clutter-free, or is it starting to get cluttered up again? If it needs a touch-up, schedule another 10-minute session to get it back in order.   

Make a start at decluttering and you’ll get there!

Just take it one baby-step at a time and little by little you’ll have the simplified, less cluttered home you desire. Want to go more quickly? Schedule a 10 minute declutter session every day. Don’t feel that motivated? Just pick one day a week for your 10 minute declutter session. You decide the pace you want to go Just keep each 10-minute session declutter goal small enough to ensure your success. Because each little success will help motivate you to keep decluttering your way to a simplified home you love. 

Want more decluttering tips? Take a look at 31 Things to Declutter in 10 Minutes or Less! There’s even a free printable checklist!

Get your FREE printable checklist of 31 things to declutter in 10 minutes or less here!

Interested in decluttering your closet and making the most of the clothes you have? Check out 4 Steps to a Simplified Wardrobe and A Closet Full of Clothes You Love!

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P.S. If you’d like an easy to follow plan to help bring more simplicity to your life, check this out.

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