by Susan McCarthy
Decluttering your home can feel overwhelming…but that may be because you’re viewing this as one huge task on your to do list. But, really, decluttering your home is a complex project with many steps. Creating a decluttering plan can help you see where you are (or could get) stuck.
Breaking down a complex project like decluttering your home can help you better see what you are trying to accomplish. And if you get stuck, you’ll be able to tell if you’re procrastinating the drudgery of the work or if you feel stuck because you don’t know how to move forward.
You may be thinking that breaking out all the steps of a house decluttering plan will make this project seem even more intimidating. But consider that it’s easier to find time for a small task, like cleaning out a drawer, than a bigger project, like decluttering your kitchen.
And which are you more likely to procrastinate, “declutter drawer” or “declutter kitchen?”
Create a Step-by-Step Decluttering Plan
Breaking the large project of decluttering your home into smaller pieces helps you better see what needs to be done. So, first off, list all the rooms and spaces in your home. (Spaces could be anything from the entryway to a hallway to the garage or attic.)
Now each room or space could be its own full-day or complete weekend task. Can you see yourself clearing your schedule for that many full days so that you’ll only focus on decluttering during those days?
You may be saying that you’re retired and have little else to do or that you’ll work more quickly than I’m suggesting (perhaps completing two rooms a day).
But maybe when the day rolls around to declutter your garage you realize you don’t have the physical energy or mental focus to give to the project. After all, the larger the project, the more daunting it will seem. And the more likely you’ll be to procrastinate.
Your next action? Take your list of rooms and spaces and break each space down into its simplest parts. This helps you better see what needs to be done.
So, for example, in a room, you might list each piece of furniture as a space to be decluttered. You could look for even smaller, more doable steps by seeing a piece of furniture as a collection of individual drawers or shelves.
You could also see the top as its own space. The same with underneath, behind, next to, and maybe even the space in front of that piece of furniture. If you have things stored in all these spaces, then these are all the steps that you’d need to take to declutter the room.
If you are decluttering a large space, like your attic, you could define spaces to declutter as areas along a particular wall.
Your House Decluttering Plan Checklist
By breaking a room into these smallest steps possible, you are creating a checklist. This checklist can help you track what you’re accomplishing. These Little Spaces can also show you that if you only have 10-to-20-minutes that you can still complete a step toward decluttering your house.
The checklist that you’ve created can also highlight other factors that will get in your way.
Decluttering is boring or tedious. Sure, looking at dramatic before and after pictures of decluttered rooms is inspiring. But the work involved in each step to get you there isn’t particularly exciting. Another advantage to creating a checklist of Little Spaces is that you can see the beginning and end of each of these small tasks.
You can cut through the boring qualities of each small task by –
Each time you complete a task on your checklist, you get to cross it off, which creates a sense of accomplishment. Some days you may even have the time to work on several of these smaller tasks. And each one is a win.
As you see all those Little Spaces crossed off the checklists you’ve made for each room, you’ll see the progress you’re making. On the other hand, if you tell yourself that you’ll declutter an entire room in one day…and you don’t finish…then you’ll be discouraged and feel as if nothing is getting done.
Which scenario is more encouraging?
When a Decluttering Project Seems Complicated
Some decluttering projects, like sorting through boxes and filing cabinets full of paper can also seem complex. Your brain freezes because you feel like you need more information but as you stare at those filing cabinets, you can’t even think of the questions you have.
Again, grab pen and paper so you can set your decluttering plan on paper. Sometimes, just making your thoughts visual helps you see what you’re caught on. You could list each file drawer or name each pile of papers, or even list each category of papers you need to go through. (For example, old utility bills, journals, school papers, etc.)
Next, list the actions you need to take. Yes, get really specific. In the example of sorting through your papers, one action could be, “withdraw one file folder from the top file drawer.” Since you might not think of all the steps in order, you could write out each action on a sticky note or slip of paper. This way, you can rearrange the actions.
Then, start with any action on your list and ask what needs to happen immediately before and after that step. Add those action steps onto new sticky notes. Working out of order might help you see additional actions you need to take.
As you break out the necessary action steps, when you come to something that you don’t know how to do, make a note that you need to learn how to do something, look up information online, ask someone a question, etc.
As you lay out the notes with all the actions you need to take, you may start to see actions that can be grouped together. For example, instead of dealing with shredding the contents of each file folder individually, ‘shredding’ becomes its own category. Here you could note what you’ll shred versus dropping straight into a recycling bin.
You can put all these steps onto a piece of paper, and you have a checklist.
An extra benefit of listing out information that you (at least initially) need to research or ask someone about is that you’ll know you need to take these actions. These won’t feel like detours that require extra time and are sending you off course.
You won’t feel frustrated that a project is taking longer than expected. And what felt complicated will be broken down into a series of smaller, simpler steps.
Doing or Delegating Decluttering Tasks
Just as you can find different aspects of decluttering your home intimidating, so can other members of your family. When you talk about decluttering and organizing your family room, others in your house might be wondering what this means.
All those checklists you’re creating, breaking down the Little Spaces to declutter and action steps to take result in an easy decluttering plan. You’ll see what you need to do. If you attach your plan to attainable goals, then you have a great chance of seeing your home as a peaceful space instead of a chaotic one…within the year (or even less time).
The more clearly you can see what needs to be done, the easier it will be to communicate these actions to someone else in your home. Telling your ten-year-old that you’ll be decluttering their toys may have them thinking that they’ll be left with nothing.
Talking about sorting through puzzles and donating the puzzles they’ve already done will feel less overwhelming and intimidating.
With your decluttering plan checklist of simple actions, consider –
Create a Decluttering Plan that Breaks Down this Large and Complex Project
No, you don’t need to hunt online for a free decluttering checklist…you can create your own personalized plan that’s geared to your home. The time it takes you to plan what needs to get done isn’t wasted time.
Instead, it can help you see how to make this large project more manageable by considering the smaller components that can be worked on without a large investment of time. Instead of waiting for some week or weekend that’s magically free of other tasks and events, you’ll be able to take advantage of 15-to-30-minutes and get things accomplished.
You can break down decluttering your home by –
Remember, creating a decluttering checklist allows you to track your progress and acknowledge what you are accomplishing throughout the process.
More Resources to Help You Plan How to Declutter Your Home
Hi, I'm Susan
I'm a former teacher who became a professional organizer (and not because I'm a natural-born neatnik). I live with my husband and fluffy cat on a river in Massachusetts. I crochet, make handmade cards, and love reading young adult novels. Learn more about my decluttering journey here.