Your home should be a place of warmth and serenity. You may find it difficult to relax when your home is filled with clutter. What can we do about this never-ending battle? Furniture, knickknacks, books, and magazines seem to multiply and metastasize. It can steal your focus and overwhelm as well as agitate and distract. It is one of the potent drivers of the voluntary simplicity or minimalism movement.
I have learned a new process to declutter my home that I thought is worth sharing. It has allowed me to tackle the otherwise overwhelming project in small chunks of time. Essentially it involves setting aside just 10 minutes a day to work on clutter. Within weeks you will find your house to be in order.
I learned about this from SJ Scott and Barrie Davenport’s book, “Declutter Your Mind.” They in turn quoted their other book, “10-Minute Declutter: The Stress-Free Habit of Simplifying Your Home.” See their books if you would like more detail. Here is an outline of the simple process.
1. Set up a staging area.
This is simply a temporary designated space that can be used as a holding area. It could be a small room or a small part of our larger room. You may choose a small staging area within each of the rooms that you want to declutter.
2. Get boxes for the staging area.
You will need a few inexpensive cardboard boxes. They will be for holding items meant for donation, gifts, selling, or storage.
3. Have a timer, notebook, and pen handy.
This is a key step. You will be working in only 10-minute increments. You need the timer to tell you when to stop. You will be amazed at how much you can accomplish in only 10 minutes of focused work. You may want to make notes regarding next steps for storage, donation, or selling items.
4. Set up a schedule.
Schedule a 10-minute block each day. This will need to be a forced habit. Choose the time of day that works best for you. Many find that first thing in the morning with a cup of coffee is a great time.
5. Begin where you spend most of your time.
If you’re not sure where to start, start with where you spend the most time. This may be your kitchen, home office, bedroom, or family room. Once you finish a room you will have a great feeling of satisfaction that will give you momentum and energy to tackle the next area.
6. Determine your system.
To move in only 10-minute increments consider moving from left to right or from top to bottom. This may mean picking a shelf or a drawer in your kitchen for example. In that case you would remove everything from the left side of the shelf, wipe the shelf clean, and replace only the items that are essential. The rest will go in the box to be given away, sold, donated, etc. You can use the same method with a drawer. Dump everything out. Sort all the items. Wipe the drawer clean. Return only the absolute keepers and put the rest in a box.
7. Avoid indecision.
One of the biggest difficulties is getting started. Another is making decisions as you go. Try not to get bogged down in all the pros and cons of keeping or not keeping an item. If you’re not sure, get rid of it. If you are truly ambivalent, you could always put them in a storage box for later. Chances are once you seal up that box you will never need those items again anyway.
8. Work quickly.
Since cleaning and organizing can be extremely boring, distraction become the enemy. Make sure that within this 10 minutes, you’re completely blocked out from responding to texts, email, phone messages etc. Just keep moving and sorting without a great deal of analysis.
9. Tell your family.
The change can be frightening to family members if they are not adequately prepared. Even better would be getting your family involved. Children can be amazingly ruthless sometime to getting rid of old toys and items that they no longer use. Sometimes the adults have more attachment for sentimental reasons, so don’t be afraid to get your children involved. Remind them that since they are no longer using the item it could bring great pleasure and joy to a younger child who is currently without. This noble motivation often works effectively on children.
10. Enjoy the process.
Even the smallest improvement in reduced clutter or increase organization will give you a great sense of satisfaction. You should be proud of how much you achieved in that brief 10-minute block. Give yourself a reward. Snuggle with the dog, play a videogame, sip a hot cup of green tea, or listen to a favorite piece of music. You earned it!
I went through this process in my home office today. My wife was startled by how much better my office left. She couldn’t believe I did all that in 10 minutes. I’m eager to move to other rooms now. I am not much of a minimalist but the release of letting go of some unwanted items is quite freeing. For many of us we can focus our mind and live more in the present if we are less encumbered by our things.
What about you? Do you have a room that could benefit from this process? Have you done something like this before? Do you have an even better tip that you could share? If so, please comment below.