by Susan Caplan McCarthy
When we think of decluttering, we imagine large, multi-hour (perhaps multiple day-long) tasks. Just the thought of decluttering becomes so overwhelming that we exhaust ourselves just imagining starting on the task.
The following six techniques help you focus your mind and your energy on the task by making it more manageable.
1. Do Unscheduled Decluttering
Can’t find something? Clear your way to it. For example, you can’t find something in your closet or purse. Dump out your purse and clean out the clutter as you look for what you were trying to find. As for your closet, grab two bags – one for things that will be thrown away and another for things that can be donated.
Work through the items in your closet until you locate the thing you were trying to find. If you have time to finish the job, great; if not, take the trash to bin and put the donation bag in your car or with the pile awaiting pickup by a charity.
2. Straighten Up Throughout the Day.
When you stand up from your desk, bring your dirty mug to the sink instead of waiting for the end-of-the-day clean-up. Pick up as you go along to save things getting out of hand.
3. Focus for Five Minutes
Set a timer for five minutes and file papers, put away laundry, empty the dishwasher, or declutter a room. Because you know the timer will go off shortly, you work and make decisions much faster.
4. Set a Micro-Goal
If you are dreading going through the pile of mail, a micro-goal would be sorting through the stack and tossing the catalogs. Basically, for a micro-goal you want to break a project down so that you can do it in one chunk of time (that isn’t so long that you risk distraction).
5. Avoid Micro-Focus
Micro-goals are good for you; micro-focus, not so much. Let’s say your goal is to declutter a shelving unit in your living room. As you go through stuff, you find a box of photos and you start looking at them. Before you know it, an hour has gone by and you haven’t finished decluttering the shelving unit.
If you know you slip into micro-focus, set the timer for every ten minutes. When it goes off and you are resetting it for the next ten-minute round, ask yourself, “Am I working on the project I’m supposed to be working on?”
6.Assign a Time Limit
Instead of assigning a task, set a time limit. So, instead of saying that you are going to clean the garage today, establish that you’ll work in the garage from 9 a.m. until noon. Then, stop. If you don’t think you’ll stop, ask someone to call you or stop by or set an alarm.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the idea of decluttering. By establishing time limits, straightening throughout the day, and even doing some decluttering when the mood or circumstances arise, can help make your decluttering efforts more productive.
I help people focus on what's important to them by guiding them through clearing clutter and distractions from their lives. I teach decluttering and organizing skills through articles; books; courses; speaking engagements; as well as virtual coaching sessions.