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The Lazy Person’s Guide to Decluttering!


January means another blizzard of articles about decluttering. As a rule, these decluttering articles are great for preaching and often rather dismal at offering folks a realist plan of battle if they wanna do it. It’s easy for me to declutter because I like doing it. But what if you don’t like it or don’t know how to find time to do it? Where are the articles that move beyond rubbing your shoulders, distracting you with dreams of well organized spaces or berating you for holding on to that prom dress you’ll never wear again from 1987? The one size all approach to decluttering tends to make it feel inaccessible to many people. If you don’t end up with the well curated collection of stuff that the articles tout as standard results it’s easy to feel as though you’ve failed. Decluttering seem to suggest if you don’t tackle the task with zeal usually reserved for armies marching into battle then you’re just not serious. Frankly, that’s kind of judgey. So how do you declutter if you want to do it but aren’t already a pro? Find out after the jump

Start really, really small. Forget a room or a drawer. Drawers and rooms are notorious for containing items that don’t belong there. While many decluttering articles suggest carrying around a basket to house items you uncover that have a better place elsewhere I’m not exactly sure why. You’re just gonna have yet another box of crap to sort, which is how junk drawers often get started.

Make up your own criteria for what stays/goes. The thing I find most frustrating about decluttering articles is how they narrowly define value and prescribe remedies usually meaning anything deemed worthless by the article’s author are by default worthless items. A lot of anxiety around and therefore avoidance of decluttering stems from people feeling pressured to discard items that only have personal value.

Set a timer.15 minutes a day. That’s it. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish if you carve out small, manageable chunks of time solely devoted to decluttering. Put on some tunes or a film/TV and just have at it. Once the timer rings, STOP. That’s why it’s really important to start small. You can’t declutter a whole room in 15 minutes, but you can sort through junk mail, a jewelry box or a sock drawer. You also can’t get overwhelmed and you can’t get discouraged.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. AnthroK8 permalink
    02/13/2011 7:01 am

    I feel all my decluttering talent stems from the Department of Defense. I mean, if you’re a military family and you don’t keep shit organized, you’re just stuck dealing with a box of empty reel to reel tapes (or whatever) that weren’t unpacked from the previous move… Every three years.

    Maybe that is why I like decluttering. I find it soothing.

    My dad however… there is a reason we call the garage The People’s Republic of Garageistan.

  2. 02/15/2011 12:36 am

    I’m good with the 15 minutes a day, the problem I have is being consistent enough to do this most every day. That 15 minutes won’t make a dent in my mess if I only do it once a week.

    The other thing I have to work on is not spending an equivalent amount of time making more clutter.

  3. 02/15/2011 5:53 pm

    I find my biggest clutter problem is all my paper. Mail, drafts of poems, mail, bills, mail, yeah, who I am I kidding? I suck at managing mail. Need to find a system.

  4. 02/18/2011 8:57 pm

    @Michelle, I’ve had the same problem with mail. One routine I’ve managed to stick with is using a plain manila file folder for everything I get (that needs saving) in a given month. At the end of the month, it goes on a shelf in one of those magazine file boxes. The mess stays relatively contained and I can find things pretty quickly.


  1. I am not my stuff | In other words

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