In case you missed my post last week about my word of the year, I’ll summarize (though it’s worth the read and you should check it out after you’re done reading this one :)). I’ve decided to be very intentional about how I spend my time. We all get 24 hours every day, I want to be the one to decide how I spend mine. And one of the ways I know I don’t want to spend it is by cleaning up my house all the time.
Are you with me so far? Especially after the chaos of the holidays, that can be one daunting task. One of the best ways I’ve discovered to avoid having to clean all of our stuff all the time is by simply having less stuff. And so project declutter my life began.
If you’re just embarking on this journey, I’ve got some tips for how to begin here. I’ve also got a free decluttering pack you can download and use to help you while you work. It includes a list of questions to ask yourself while you declutter and a cheat sheet to help you when you get stuck.
Sign up here to download it for free!
So, it all sounds great, right? But here’s the problem. When I first began (and heck, sometimes I even still catch myself saying this), I felt like I just didn’t have time to declutter. Big projects were overwhelming and I felt like, if I couldn’t do this thing all the way, why bother doing it at all? I wanted to do it, I just didn’t have time.
But that mindset is what holds us back. If you really want to embrace a large project like decluttering your home, you need to let go of those “perfect condition” ideas you think you need to have in order to take it on. Because in reality, it’s just a form of procrastination. There is always going to be some reason not to do it if you look hard enough. Instead you need to adopt the idea of progress, not perfection. Decluttering, whether a tiny part of a drawer or an entire room, is still decluttering, and at the end of the day, you still wind up with less of what you don’t want (stuff you don’t need/want/use) and more of what you do (space, freedom, time, peace).
If you’re struggling with getting started on a decluttering project because you don’t feel like you have the time to do it, here are my best tips:
How to declutter when you have no time:
1. Take small bites.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Done is better than perfect, and when it comes to decluttering projects, a little bit done is far better than nothing at all. Remember, decluttering gains momentum as you go along.
2. Define your “Why.”
Research has already shown a strong link between clutter and depression. And Psychology Today reports that, “mess causes stress.” According to the article, clutter overstimulates us, distracts us and makes us feel anxious, among other negative effects. So ask yourself: Why is this important to you? Why do you feel like you would be better off with less stuff? Do you want more time for yourself? Do you want to feel less anxious? Do you want to feel like you can commit more of yourself to enjoying time with your kids instead of just picking up after them? Dig deep and find your true reason for why you want to live a life without clutter. Whatever it is, that is your why. Write it down and put it where you can see it. Put it in multiple places, your planner, on your refrigerator, by your bed. Anywhere it might be helpful to see a reminder of the bigger picture. Let that motivate you to get going.
3. Make a commitment to yourself.
Treat your decluttering time the same as you would a doctor appointment or an important meeting. Set a date and time (preferably recurring). Put it on your calendar and don’t schedule anything else during this time. This is a key step in making time to declutter when you feel like you have no time.
4. Work in small chunks.
20 minutes here. 15 minutes there. Get a rhythm going and stick with it for a week or so. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.
5. Be willing to make sacrifices.
Where can you find those 15 minutes? Maybe you need to get up 15 minutes earlier every day for a little while. Maybe you give up 15 minutes of watching a tv show or reading a book. Maybe you stay up an extra 15 minutes later (just be sure to set a timer so you don’t go over and miss out on sleep). Remember that this is not the rest of your life. This is a phase you are choosing to grow through so that you can have more control of your time when you’re done.
6. Who can help?
Find an accountability partner. Enlist your family to help you. Give everyone a zone to work on. If your kids are old enough, have them find some items they are ready to part with. Have your spouse sort through drawers. This isn’t all on you.
Get help with your kids. Got a neighbor, friend, Grandma who could watch them for a few hours so you can work on a bigger chunk of this project? Ask them for help. Swap kid sitting with a friend who is also looking to declutter. Let your kids have a movie afternoon, pop some popcorn and get to work while they watch. This doesn’t make you a bad mom. This makes you a smart mom who knows how best to utilize the resources she has available. And when you’re done, you will have so much more time to play and be involved with your kids.
7. Take breaks.
Maybe one week you get up early every day to work on this, and the next week you take the week off from decluttering. Then you jump back to it the following week. Or maybe it’s an every other day task. Or maybe you spend a whole day each week working in 30-60 minute increments and leave it alone the rest of the time. Work at your own pace and at your own speed. You get to decide how long this takes you and when you’re done. Just don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed.
8. One drawer at a time.
One drawer becomes a dresser, becomes a closet, becomes a room, becomes a floor, becomes a house. If you look at your entire home as your project, it can get overwhelming pretty quickly – and for me, that can even be paralyzing. Instead, just focus on the one small area you are choosing to work in during your set chunk of time. The corner of the play room. A shelf. A drawer. Don’t worry about the rest – you’ll get to that. Just take it one small step at a time.
9. Stash “donate,” “trash,” and “put away” bins in every room of your house.
Then when you find yourself with some spare minutes (while your kids are brushing their teeth and getting ready for bed, for example) you can go through a shelf or a drawer. Every little tiny bit counts.
10. Stop when you need to breathe.
You can always pick it back up at another time. Decluttering can be emotionally, mentally and even sometimes physically draining. It’s ok to stop. The goal is not to add stress to your life. It’s to remove it.
Don’t forget, if you’re just starting out, I’ve got some tips for how to begin here, and you can sign up below to download my free decluttering pack.
Sign up here to download it for free!
Now that you have some ideas for how to make time to declutter, what else might be holding you back? I’d love to hear from you. Or, got some tried and true tips of your own? Share them below – I’d love to hear how you make time for projects like decluttering.
I’m cheering for you!