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Creating a decluttering plan is the first step in taking charge of the overwhelm in your life. The accumulations of things, in our rooms, cars, garages, and even mobile devices, keep us from being able to focus and enjoy life. The stress of too much also doesn’t let us see what we love in our surroundings. You can’t see the forest for the trees. It’s time to change that.
Your clutter didn’t build overnight and taking care of it won’t be a quick fix either. That’s why creating a declutter action plan is important in regaining control over your environment.
By deciding exactly what you’re going to do, and when, you’ll have the confidence for each task and you’ll know that you will achieve the decluttered life you want.
And as you read in How To Declutter Your Life In A Few Minutes A Day and in Decluttering For Busy Moms: What To Do And What To Ignore, decluttering thoughtfully and effectively doesn’t require you to take days off work, or spend long weekends dealing with huge piles of your belongings, to be effective.
I love the Mari Kondo approach when you have serious time to devote to decluttering but that’s not practical for many of us. This plan will use the common sense approach of Kondo and many other experts, but in a way, you can manage while living your busy life.
The Half Hour At A Time approach to decluttering will get you to the finish line in your own available time, without unnecessary stress. It begins with creating your plan.
How to Create Your Easy Declutter Action Plan
1. Set Goals
No matter how big or small your house is, you need to start your decluttering by thinking about the task ahead.
Make a simple map of all the rooms and areas that need extra attention. Don’t forget the hallways and stairs.
Label each area with a level for the clutter. Use a point system (1 for needs a little tidying to 10 is a disaster zone) or a color code. This will help you prioritize what you feel needs to be done first.
2. Plan which rooms you’ll do each month
Or each week if you feel you can devote more time to each space. Just as you schedule goals by breaking them down to smaller goals and tasks, be intentional about the time you’re willing to give to decluttering and plan those rooms carefully.
A bathroom can, most of the time, be easily decluttered in a week’s time by doing one cabinet or drawer at a time. Remember that we’re dealing with clutter, not cleaning. If your bathroom needs a thorough scrubbing, leave it till you have less actual stuff to deal with.
A bedroom could sometimes, depending on your busy schedule and how much it contains, be a month-long project.
Remember, you’re not trying to break any speed records.
You’re going to declutter a manageable space, in the time you have available, then move on to another. Don’t let yourself, or anyone else make you, feel bad that the room you’re working on is a working project. It won’t look perfect until you’re completely done.
3. The exception to doing one room or one space at a time
Staying in one space to complete a room before moving to another one is best. When you’ve completely decluttered your bedroom, you’ll have the satisfaction of seeing your efforts and their result. That will motivate you to go on and declutter the other areas of the house.
But sometimes, you might find yourself with a few minutes free. It might not be enough to do any of the waiting tasks in the room you’re currently in. That’s a time when you can use your 50 Quick decluttering projects you can do in a half hour or less guide to score some quick wins. It doesn’t matter what room or task you choose.
4.Schedule your decluttering sessions
Just as you would schedule a work appointment, kids sports practice, or a social event, take the time to schedule your decluttering time. If all you can manage is a few minutes a day, put that down in your calendar.
Sit down with your calendar and block out your declutter work times. A half hour a few times a week will give you results you can see very quickly.
Only have 15 minutes? Use your 50 Quick decluttering projects you can do in a half hour or less to choose some tasks when you know you’ll have less time.
You may become enthusiastic after seeing how well the decluttering is going and want to do more.
That’s great but remember the half-hour concept.
If you have a bigger block of time available to you on the weekend, continue to look at your decluttering plan as one made up of small tasks. Don’t suddenly take on your entire kitchen.
Imagine taking everything out of your cupboards and then:
Your child gets injured and you have to rush to the emergency room
Your boss calls with an emergency and you have to go into the office
You get some bad news and have to take time to process it
Your emptied cabinets and kitchen mess all over the floors and counters will be waiting for you when you go back into the room. And you may not be able to finish what you started.
One drawer, one cabinet, one surface at a time. When you finish one, you can stop or go on to another. No matter where you end, you’ll have done what you set out to do.
5. If someone will be helping you, coordinate your calendars
If your spouse or kids will be helping (as may be the case in their own rooms or spaces), make sure they are also free when you’re ready to work.
The decisions to keep or get rid of belongings should always belong to the person who owns them.
Your teens will not be happy if you get rid of their ripped or worn clothing without asking. Those may be their favorite or most fashionable.
Your spouse might not agree with your editing decisions in the shared spaces like garage or storage areas.
Even toddlers have marked preferences for certain clothing or toys and you might have a hard time when they’re desperately looking for something before a nap.
6. Keep like things together as you’re sorting and putting away
Organizing and decluttering are two very different things. But, while you’re decluttering is the perfect time to organize belonging you’re keeping.
When sorting tops, place all the sweaters in one area, button-down shirts in another, and t-shirts in a third. Do this with book by sorting in non-fiction categories, novels, children’s books, poetry, etc. When you are finished decluttering, your items will be much easier to place where they should be.
The same goes for office supplies (think how much easier it will be to find staples when you need them if they’re always housed with clips, tape, and every other thing you might conceivably need in that category!
7. Have everything you need on-hand
Decluttering, like cleaning and organizing, requires a few supplies. You don’t need to rush out and buy storage bins or boxes. In fact, you may find yourself with several empty ones by the time you’re done with the house.
You’ll need a box or two, a good supply of large trash bags, and your favorite cleaning products.
For what it’s worth, I find it simpler to work on the floor, whether it’s for the contents of a drawer, cabinet or clothing. I just place things I’m going to throw away directly into a garbage bag, make a pile for donations and another for things that I’m keeping and that need to be put away.
If you might be selling some of the items you choose not to keep, a SELL box is useful. Most things I plan to donate go into trash bags too.
Use the opportunity to quickly dust and clean the area you’ve just decluttered. I buy several rolls of shelf paper before starting any decluttering and quickly line drawers or shelves before putting away the things I’ve chosen to keep. It’s not strictly necessary in the decluttering process but why not leave it cleaner than you found it?
8. Remember the 80/20 rule when evaluating what to keep
Mari Kondo recommends asking yourself “Does this spark joy?” as you hold each item in your hand before deciding whether to keep it or not. But there is another important thing to consider when looking at your things.
The fancy name for the 80/20 rule is the Pareto Principle. It’s usually applied to how we spend our time and prioritize our time.
80% of the results we get come from 20% of our activity.
This is always an eye-opening concept. We get caught up with so many things to do in our home and in our work, but most of it – 80% of it – earns us very little result. It’s the 20% of effective work that earns us the biggest result.
For example, in a typical office workday, you might arrive, respond to emails, check phone messages, go to a 2-hour meeting with your team, meet a prospective client for a lunch meeting, write some emails to production, spend two hour locked in your office to complete a report for a client, and have a late afternoon strategy meeting with another department.
When you look back at that day, you’ll probably be able to identify the important results from your day’s activity. It might be a sale you made at your lunch, or it might be the report you finished, which triggered a payment to the company. It’s easy to see which activities didn’t earn any results.
The 80/20 rule tends to be true for all of our belongings. We only wear about 20% of our clothing regularly. We use the same makeup, toiletries, shoes, while our shelves and drawers are packed with the 80% we don’t use.
When it comes to decluttering and the 80/20 rule, you need to ask yourself questions as you make each decision to keep or get rid of an item.
- What 20% of my belongings in this category do I use, or wear, regularly? Why?
- If I had to pack in an emergency and could only take a small suitcase of the items in this category, what would instantly make the cut. What wouldn’t?
Your goal is to keep only the 20% that truly serves you and the life you want to live.
9. Decide on the final destination for your decluttered items
- If you recycle, this will be the smallest of your discards. Used makeup, wipes, and other non-recyclables can go straight to your trash container.
- If you have recycling pickup, you can put anything recyclable into that container. Plastics, glass, paper. If you don’t have your recycling picked up, put all the items in a bag to take to a drop-off station.
- Electronics need to be recycled differently due to potential harm to the environment. There are ewaste pickups regularly scheduled in most communities. You can find a local one by just googling “electronic waste near me.”
- Many of your gently used clothing and goods can help others. It’s satisfying to know that the things that don’t bring you joy or serve the life you want, can be so valuable to others. Check out local charities & shelters and give to the ones that mean something to you. You can also advertise your items on freecycle.org, a “nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns and neighborhoods. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills.”
- Consignment shops – if you have valuable items – designer clothing, jewelry, and good furniture, you may make some money by placing them in a local consignment store. The terms vary but the store usually keeps a set percentage of the sale and displays and manages it for you.
- Online ads – craigslist.com is a good way for many people to sell all kinds of things. You place an ad and craigslist “cloaks” your information with a generated craigslist email for interested parties to respond to.
- Garage Sale: Many people do very well with garage sales. Check neighborhood or HOA rules first. Schedule your garage sale for when you know you’ll be completely done so that all your saleable clutter can be put out all at once. Warmer weather is always a big boost for garage sales and if other people in your neighborhood are planning one of their own, try to schedule it for the same days. Believe it or not, you’ll both do better because multiple garage sales on the same block draw many more people who then stroll from one to the other.
10. Make time to remove things from the room when you’re finished
Even when you only work a half hour at a time, don’t just beam at the work you’ve done, close the drawer or cabinet, and walk away.
Take the time to immediately remove the items you aren’t keeping.
If you’ve filled a trash bag, take it straight to your recycling or trash area.
If you have items to sell, take them to the designated places in your house where these things can be temporarily held. Place an ad to get them moved out quickly, or schedule a garage sale for when you plan to be completely done with your decluttering.
If you’re planning to donate items, put them in your car and deliver them the very next time you go out.
Make sure that everything you’ve decided against keeping is bagged or boxed so that other members of the family won’t rummage through them and declare that “this is too good to give away!” and put them back into your newly cleaned spaces.
Ready to get started?
Would you like some quick wins? Download my free 50 Quick Decluttering Projects You Can Do In A Half Hour Or Less and see results beginning today!
Check out all the posts in the Decluttering series: