Monday, 28 April 2014

How To Declutter When You Don't Have Much Time

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I've written a few posts on decluttering, but a reader recently asked if I could share some pointers for people who don't have a lot of time. I think this is a problem which is really common among people who want to become more tidy and organized, and one of the most frequent reasons for never getting started on the decluttering process. So here are my tips for decluttering a home when you have very little free time.

Know It Can Be Done

Before I share my tips, I just want to emphasize that it is possible because I've done it. I managed to turn my relatively cluttered tiny house into an organized haven despite having a toddler and a newborn and a long list of commitments, (and have kept up those habits even after moving to our current, much larger home). You just have to accept that it is not an overnight transformation.

Decluttering When You Feel Overwhelmed

The key to creating a clutter free home is to do little and often. Most people can find 5 to 10 minutes a day to organize part of their home, and if you do this regularly you will make gradual but noticeable progress. Here are some good places to start.

Tackle The Paper Clutter - Paper can account for a lot of clutter, especially if you have school age children. Often, this paper accumulates in random piles around the home such as on the kitchen counter, so the best place to start is by designating one dedicated spot for paperwork. Make sure everyone knows that paper goes in that inbox and nowhere else. Later on, you can worry about sorting, filing and setting up fancy home binders. But for now, just get into the habit of using one place for incoming paper.

Set Up Keep/Donate/Maybe Boxes - If you want to get the most out of your brief bursts of decluttering, set up three boxes (or bags) for sorting through your possessions. One should be for items which are sentimental, useful or beautiful and which you will be keeping - you can take items out of the box and find a "home" for them at a later date. The second box should be for items you don't want or need, and you can take the box to your local charity shop once it is full. Lastly, keep a box for items you aren't sure about. Once you have filled it, stash it in a garage or loft for six months - if you don't need to open the box in those six months, donate that too.

Find A Home For Five Things - Whenever you have a few minutes, force yourself to find a home for five items of clutter (this could be during TV ad breaks, or when you are boiling a kettle). These could be from around the home or from the "Keep" box mentioned above. Think about where would be a logical place to keep each item, and once you have put it somewhere make sure it is always returned to the same spot after use.

Create A List - I love lists, but you can skip this tip if you don't get a kick out of crossing off "done" items. Take ten minutes to go from room to room in your home and write down every area which you want to declutter. The less time you have for decluttering, the more specific you should be. For example, don't just write "declutter sideboard" - write "declutter sideboard: top drawer". Once you have created your master list, refer to it every time you have a free five minutes and make it your goal to cross at least one item off.

Make The Most Of Every Five Minutes - You can do more than you think in five minutes; declutter a countertop, sort out the paperwork which has been dumped on a bookshelf. When you have a free moment pick a very small part of your home and tackle it. Just remove everything which shouldn't be there and leave it looking tidy and organized! It is amazing how combating a tiny area will make you feel more in control of the whole decluttering process. This is where your master list will come in handy, if you have created one.

Create A "To Buy" List - Decluttering little and often only works if you are getting rid of items faster than you are accumulating them, so you need to stop mindless accumulation. Obviously, you still need to buy necessities but anything else you have an urge to buy should be added to a list to review at a later date. Once a month look at this list and assess whether you still want or need the purchase. Often, you will decide that you don't want to make the purchase after all.

Get The Kids On Board - To make real progress, items which have been organized need to be returned to their new home. Otherwise they will just become clutter again! Your kids (and significant other) need to know where things are now kept, and will need to follow the new rules.

Develop Good Organization Habits - Once you are making progress, you can start to refine your organization skills, which will help you to keep clutter at bay. For example, you could set up simple binders for your paperwork. It doesn't have to be too fancy (unless you want it to be). A binder for bills, one for school work and one for personal documents will suffice to start with.

The hardest part of decluttering is getting started! If you take just five minutes to start sorting through your clutter today, you may be living in a much tidier and more organized home in a few short weeks.

And just because I love this quote, here is a printable which I shared in a previous post:

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