A little uncluttering goes a long way

Organizing and uncluttering may seem like an overwhelming job, but that is only if you think about your entire house or your entire office as a single project. Instead of feeling anxious about the tasks you have set out for yourself, make a realistic plan you can manage. The following are a few tips to help you keep the momentum and not become discouraged:

Slow and steady wins the race. Clear one small space at a time. Organize just one drawer or one shelf per day. Think about looking at the empty spots and making them bigger. Working for just five or 10 minutes a day will help clear the clutter. Walk around a room with a trash bag. Put everything you see that is trash into the bag. Place the bag by the door and take it out the next time you go. Repeat this task with a bag for items you wish to donate to charity.

A detour does not mean you’re losing! There will be setbacks. You may have a day where you’re just too tired or ill to unclutter. Don’t let it stop you — just start again as soon as possible.

Done is better than perfect. It is okay to make mistakes. It is okay for your uncluttering and organizing efforts to be not quite right. Keep the overall goal in mind and you’ll make it to the finish line.

Think (but not too much). If you’re making long, complicated decisions about each item, you’ll never finish uncluttering. Don’t spend more than a few minutes on any particular item. Ask for help if you need to. Just because you can think of many ways to use an item, does not mean you have to keep it or that you will ever use the item in all the ways you imagined. If you haven’t used the object in a year or haven’t even seen it in ages, you can probably live without it.

Take a risk. The people who gain the most are usually the people who are willing to risk the most. Play a game with yourself by asking, “What’s the worst that can happen if I throw this out? And how bad would that really be?” Chances are, the worst is not as bad as you think.

Make it easy. It may seem like a simple idea, but having the trash can or garbage bag easily accessible makes it easy to get rid of trash. Rather than putting garbage down just anywhere, put it in a trash bag. If you need to, put a trashcan, recycle bin, and donation basket in every room. It may take a little longer to collect up the trash bags on garbage day, but each room will be cleaner.

Sort before discarding. By grouping similar items together as you work, you speed up the organizing process. It is hard to get rid of one white shirt but it is a bit easier to get rid of 18 of the 20 white shirts.

Grand Prix! Give yourself a prize each time you’ve successfully reached a goal. Vow to give yourself a treat such as a special dessert or an evening at the movies if you’ve uncluttered 20 minutes per day for a whole week.

9 Comments for “A little uncluttering goes a long way”

  1. posted by Christy King on

    All great tips. I especially like “slow and steady.” I like to tell people that 15 minutes a day equals nearly a full day a month spent on decluttering. It seems like so much more when you think of it that way.

    It’s probably more productive too, because it’s easy to keep at something tedious or stressful for 15 minutes. All day, not so much.

  2. posted by StarWish624 on

    I bring my computer into the room, where I am working, and listen to long lectures, speeches, or movies. Or I bring in my DVD player and watch movies.

  3. posted by Julie on

    This is excellent advice! I would add my one trick to this.

    Using a digital camera device, I take before and after shots of each small area. This shows me in the “before” picture exactly what needs to go. The “after” shot gives me a sense if accomplishment and also plants a picture in my mind of how the area SHOULD look so I won’t let it get cluttered again.

    Taking “before” shots of all cluttered areas provides a to-do list and automatically breaks the clutter down into smaller areas which aren’t so overwhelming.

  4. posted by Michelle on

    Great advice. I’ve found that uncluttering is like a lot of things in life. Once you get the momentum going, you want to keep it going.

  5. posted by Katie on

    I love the “Done is better than perfect” and “Think (but not too much)” suggestions… those can usually be my biggest problems when it comes to uncluttering… trying to figure out EXACTLY where things should go and overthinking things to the point where nothing gets done. I will definitely keep these tips in mind.

  6. posted by JC on

    Slow and steady is a great way to go, but having a set time or a deadline to do a specific task can also help if the opportunity arises. The men are going hunting for two weeks. That is the time I have designated to sort, cull, organize, and clean a significantly large area (25%) of my home that is in desperate need of work. With the men gone, I don’t have large meals to prep and clean-up, school/sports driving, or other family responsibilities to worry about. It’s a week of soup/sandwiches and focused attention in the afternoons/evenings after I get home from work.

    I took before photos with my phone. Even though I am only about 30% finished, I can see progress when I compare the photos of the spaces I do have done. This encourages me to continue even though as a whole the task is quite daunting. I’m still largely in the middle of the “it’s worse before it’s better” phase and seeing progress makes such a difference.

    I agree that having the computer playing music/movies is very helpful, especially when shredding. . .

    Done is so much more important than perfect. I have grouped and tidied the sewing magazines. I don’t have time to go through them individually right now, but they are sorted and ready for when I do have the main area done.

    One thing that has helped immensely is getting the things out of the house right away. Over the last week I’ve taken eight bags of shredding and four bags of other trash to the dump. I’ve also taken four bags and five large totes of other things to their new homes or the second hand shops. If I had waited until the end, I wouldn’t have room to do any work or put things away because I would have been tripping over stuff.

    People change. Acknowledging changing interests and/or circumstances and deciding what you value most at this time in your life can make decisions easier. Do I assign greater value to space or to the childhood collection of dolls that I have neither space to store nor the space/desire to display? Space – I took photos and moved them out for someone else to enjoy. Do I value space or the 4-5 totes of scraps that could become quilts? Space – the totes are gone to a quilter along with some patterns/books I won’t use again. Honestly, do I look my best in black? – a very big NO! Out goes the black fabric that is not getting used and is taking up space. Should I be storing those downhill skis that I haven’t used in 15 years. Um, no.

    Before my mother moved in with us and we gave up 30% of our space to her, space was not really that much of an issue. Now, I have to really determine what stays, and what goes.

  7. posted by mamawkk on

    I seem to save every piece of paper. Receipts, birthday cards, paid bill, etc. My son keeps telling me I do not have to have a paper file. Scan it or take pictures of everything and save it to my hard drive on my computer. I have been doing that. I took one huge bag into work and put it in the shredder. I am taking an hour every weekend to declutter my file cabinet. Makes me feel much better.

  8. posted by Anthony Herbert on

    Does anyone find placing inspirational quotes on the wall helps?

  9. posted by Kate @ The Beautiful Useful Project on

    I love the idea of not looking at a detour as a loss. I get bummed out when I don’t keep up with my cleaning and decluttering schedule. It’s really no big deal. As long as I am back at it again the next day, I’m still making progress.

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