I’ve noticed that every time I’m ready to whimper about my ridiculously over-scheduled life, Fate immediately presents me with someone who’s really juggling with all ten fingers and toes and still makes everything work. So, I immediately steal their ideas and make them my own.
Decluttering tends to be enormously satisfying for me–but for many of us, it’s fraught with a million different emotions:
- Guilt: “what if my mother-in-law notices her inspirational plaque is gone from my fridge?”
- Fear: “what if I throw this away and then I need it?”
- Worry: “what if we lose our jobs and we really need these sweaters?”
- Thrift: “it’s positively sinful to throw away something useful–I’ll just hold on to that.”
You have to work through why you’re holding on to something before you can get rid of it. Go through the above emotions when you’re hesitating to see what’s eating at you.
Ready to move on?
Sometimes, just knowing where to start can be overwhelming. I do better when I break it down into small, 15 minute tasks. (Editor’s note: usually about the amount of quiet time I have before one of the kids sets something on fire.) Start with these five and see how you do.
5 Decluttering Tasks, 15 Minutes Each
1. Under the kitchen sink. Seriously, there’s no more unhygienic place. Pull out everything you’re not using to clean daily. Put all those items in a handy carrier to pull out instead of fishing helplessly for the thing you want. If you have children under 5, or children with special needs who still taste-test, keep away from anything poisonous and lock the door. To find a list of non-hazardous cleaners, click here.
2. Your purse or backpack. Mine is a seething avalanche of receipts, grocery lists, binkies (for Zoe, don’t judge me!) crumbs, spare change and absolutely nothing of use. Dump it all out on a clear surface and sort. We’ve had success in our house with “goop baskets” used to drop change, crumpled pieces of paper and all the other Todd and kid-based debris that usually languishes on counter tops.
3. The bathroom vanity. Grab a garbage bag and be ruthless. All those shampoo bottles with 1/4 of an inch of shampoo? Slivers of soap…disgusting old toothbrushes…expired cleaners…all this needs to go. Designate a drawer for each member of the family (if possible) and invest in drawer dividers to organize bathroom swag. Have one drawer or basket designated for mirror wipes, antibacterial cleaner and maybe a handy vac so that everyone is expected to clean up their toothpaste dribbles and makeup splotches before they vacate the bathroom.
4. Your iPod or iPhone. Didn’t expect that one? I keep a pile of books on tape, inspirational speeches and a trillion gigabytes of music on mine. Shuffling between one thing and another is irritating and you’re missing stuff you’d “saved for later.” Get rid of what doesn’t matter to you or inspire you anymore.
5. Junk mail. I included this for me. Since we’re trying to sell our home, I have 3 or 4 handy ottomans and chests that I can sweep everything off every surface and into hiding. Organizationally speaking, this is a very bad idea. I’m sitting down tonight with a portable file with files for all of our basic paperwork thingies, a garbage bag, and an inbox for bills. Everything needing to be filed will be done RIGHT THEN, bills paid and garbage taken out. Stop saving every bit of mail “for later.” Now, I’m stuck in “later” perdition.
I promise. Fifteen minutes per task, and you’re done.