How to Declutter Your Home in Five Minutes a Day

Friday, June 21, 2024

Blog/Creating Order/How to Declutter Your Home in Five Minutes a Day

I know, five minutes doesn’t seem like all that much time. At least not enough to be significant. But the secret power of five-minute decluttering tasks is that they are ridiculously easy to do. While you can balk at a three-hour session, or even an hourlong decluttering session, how can you say no to a mere one-twelfth of an hour?

Below, you’ll find a couple of ways to approach five-minute decluttering. Think of this as the alternative to not decluttering at all. Or as the no-time, no-energy option that can get you started … or keep you going when you want to get organized but (insert life-related reason here.

First, know that it’s all about clearing unnecessary items from a Little Space instead of looking at an entire room. Multiple Little Spaces over multiple days add up to a significant difference. Second, plan on maintaining order in the spaces you’ve already decluttered so you don’t have to face the stuff returning. Maintenance takes much less time than starting at the beginning.

And, of course, if you find yourself with an extra five minutes during the day (maybe while on hold for a phone call), you can sneak in another session. If you find yourself with fifteen minutes, you could string together three five-minute tasks, perhaps three shelves or that drawer that you can no longer shut.

How Much Work Can You Accomplish with Five Minutes of Decluttering?

Whether you have five minutes or five hours, what you can accomplish when decluttering depends upon a few things…

How much stuff you have. Whether there are ten items in a drawer or one hundred what is there, is there. You might need a few sessions of sifting through the contents of that drawer before you have a more manageable number of items so that you can empty the drawer.

How much time do you have. You aren’t going to be able to empty an entire cabinet in your kitchen in five minutes. You can declutter one shelf. While knowing you have just five minutes to work can be an incentive to work quickly, you can only get so much done … so be kind to yourself.

How quickly you can make decisions. If you are going to mull over whether a paper clip is too bent to keep (don’t laugh, I’ve seen it happen), then it’s going to take longer to sort through a Little Space. You may zip through your sock drawer, but the drawer of kitchen utensils goes more slowly because one of your goals to is make more home cooked meals and you need to figure out what utensils you’ll really use.

​And remember, while five minutes isn’t much time, it’s better than zero minutes or the good intentions to put in time over the weekend. Five minutes a day, every day of the year adds up to 30 hours…or two and a half hours each month. You can even use this mini method to supplement the occasional longer sessions you can fit in.

How to See Progress when You Just Have a Few Minutes to Declutter

If you have only 5-minutes to declutter, you’ll want to select Little Spaces that aren’t overpacked. Or just know that you’ll return to that spot for as many five-minute sessions as it will take.

Make consistent progress by returning to the same room each day until you’ve had an opportunity to sort through every space here. If you work in your bedroom one day and the kitchen the next, you might feel as if nothing is getting done.

​Have available a box for donations, a bag for trash, and a bin or laundry basket for things that belong in another room. Another benefit to working in the same room until you’re done … these decluttering tools will be available where you need them when you need them.

You can set a timer for five minutes and declutter your home a bit every day so you can live a less cluttered life.

How to Declutter a Space in a Few Minutes

When all you can manage is five minutes, fantastic, take advantage of those few minutes. However, you can do two or more 5-minute decluttering tasks in a day when you have the chance to move your progress along faster.

  • Set your timer.
  • Pull items from the Little Space. Wipe the space with a cleaning cloth.
  • Quickly sort through the items.
  • Group similar items together (or items that get used together) to create a sense of order.
  • Use shelf or drawer organizers only if they will make it easier for you to Retrieve and Return items. Focus on function over aesthetics.
  • Return items that you are keeping here.
  • If something can be donated, pop it into a box labeled for donation.
  • Toss items that are trash.
  • Put items that belong elsewhere in the bin or laundry basket you’ve designated for this purpose. When it is full, your five-minute task for another day could be bringing items to where they belong.

How to Declutter an Overcrowded Space when Time Is Limited

If the shelf or drawer you want to organize is over packed, instead of emptying it, sort and shift items from the top, removing trash, things to donate, and things that belong elsewhere. When there is less stuff in the drawer (this could take a few five-minute sessions), then you can empty the space and see what you may have missed.

One. Focus on removing trash. You don’t have to remove everything from the Little Space. At this stage, you can shift items to the side as you only look for trash.

Even if you don’t think you’ve eliminated all the trash, you can then shift your focus onto items that you won’t, don’t, and can’t use or display. Get rid of these items (in the trash or in a donation box, whichever is appropriate). If you don’t like an item, that’s another good reason to remove it.

Two. Repeat the previous step until there is less stuff in the space. (If you are doing something like decluttering a closet, the contents of one clothes hanger could be your Little Space.

Three. You can then either empty a space and sort similar items together to create some order or you can sort items into shoeboxes, baskets, or other small containers just so you can better see what you have in the space.

The items don’t have to stay in these containers which are just being used so you can understand what you are keeping in this space.

Four. If this isn’t the best space for some items, decide where you’ll keep them so you can find them when you want them … and have an easy time putting them away so they don’t clutter your home.

30 5-Minute Decluttering Projects

With focused decluttering sessions, I encourage you to think in Little Spaces. A Little Space is a natural container – a shelf, a drawer, a small bin or bag, or the surface of a piece of furniture (like an end table).

You can also divide a bigger area into Little Spaces. For example, you could divide the dining table into six or eight sections. Or you could see that the area contains different types of items … clothing, mail, magazines, craft supplies, gift wrapping supplies … and focus on one Little Category (mail on the dining table) during your decluttering session.

  • One shelf, anywhere
  • Bookshelf
  • Stack of magazines or catalogs
  • Cookbooks
  • Any drawer
  • Junk Drawer
  • Sort through the mail.
  • Items dropped on the back or seat of a chair.
  • The area around the kitchen or bathroom sink.
  • A shelf within your medicine cabinet
  • Bedside table 
  • An end table
  • Coffee table
  • Group of craft supplies
  • Group of office supplies (like pens)
  • Toys (focus on a narrow category like wooden puzzles or stuffed bears)
  • Kitchen utensils
  • Shoes
  • Accessories, such as hats, gloves, scarves
  • Necklaces or bracelets or earrings
  • Clothing on 3-5 clothes hangers
  • Cleaning supplies
  • A shelf in the fridge
  • freezer
  • Look for expired pantry items
  • Look for expired medications and first aid supplies
  • Driver's console in car
  • Glove compartment in car
  • Trunk of car
  • Makeup bag
  • One file of old papers

Quick Decluttering Tasks You Can Do When You’re Not at Home

If you’re in a waiting room or standing in line, you can do a declutter of your phone.

  • Unnecessary phone contacts
  • Old text messages
  • Emails
  • Unsubscribe from emails
  • Unnecessary documents
  • Downloads you don't need.
  • Duplicate or similar photos as well as any that just aren't great.
  • Bookmarked pages you no longer need.
  • Unused apps

The 5-Minute Daily Tidying Routine to Keep Clutter Away

This method works best if you’ve already decluttered and organized a room. For maintenance, this keeps the clutter from coming back by making certain that things aren’t being set down and ignored. Remember, sometimes clutter is an item that can be tossed or recycled (junk mail) and other times clutter is something that needs to be put away.

In case you’re wondering how effective a 5-minute daily decluttering routine can be, remember, every little bit is better than nothing. To get the most benefits from a 5-minute routine, you will need to know where things belong…and make those determinations quickly.

If you find yourself holding an item with no clue where it belongs, you’re wasting valuable seconds. In this case, you’ll need to make the time to determine where this item belongs and give it a home. Maybe you haven’t decluttered the room where this item belongs. Or it’s something new to your home and you just haven’t thought where to store it.

Want a quick answer to this dilemma of where something belongs? The answer is … where would you go looking for this when you need it? If you need that roll of gift wrap, are you going to look for it in your closet or in the corner of your home office?

Since this is a daily routine, focus on the rooms where you and your family have spent time during the day. So, focus on visible, living areas like the kitchen, bedrooms, family room, and bathrooms. And, yes, get the family involved! Even really young kids can pick up toys for five minutes.

Have some fun and do a two or three song tidying session.

​The steps for this routine to maintain order:

  • Set a timer.
  • Focus on clearing trash and recyclables.
  • Remove items that were set down on flat surfaces (including the floor).
  • Put away anything that needs to be returned where it belongs.
  • Work quickly. This isn’t time for cleaning dirt. Nor is this particular technique meant for decluttering a space of any size.
  • Make this routine a habit.
  • Set a schedule. Decide when you’ll do this. You could set a specific time, like 8a; or you could link this five-minute routine to something else you do all the time, for example, after I turn on the dishwasher, I’ll _____.
  • Set reminder in your phone … at least until you find yourself doing this automatically.
  • Set your timer for five minutes so you work quickly and don’t get distracted by minutia. Don’t push yourself to do more than five minutes. If you want to, great! If you don’t want to, don’t. And that’s great too. If you tell yourself that you’re going to declutter for five minutes and then consistently push yourself to work for 30 minutes, guess what. You’ll skip these sessions because they’ll feel draining or unpleasant.

No Time To Declutter?

Some days, even five minutes can seem undoable. In this case, declutter one item a day. Why, if life is crazy busy should you bother with a single item? It’s not just about reducing the quantity of items in your home. Decluttering one item a day becomes a placeholder in your mind…you are creating the mindset of someone who is taking control of their house.

​Want to add some oomph to that single item? After you toss it in the trash or your donation box, tell yourself something like, “Good job!” “That’s my decluttering for the day!” “Progress!” or some other cheering message. According to Dr BJ Fogg in his book, Tiny Habits, this tiny celebration helps your brain understand that this was a positive action … one you will want to repeat in the future.

Takeaways for Quick Decluttering

Remember that a mere five minutes a day will add up to two and a half hours a month or thirty hours in a year. Whether this is the only time you can give to decluttering your home, or this will supplement occasional longer sessions, these few minutes do add up … without burdening your current schedule.

  • Treat this decluttering time as a habit and plan when you will get it done. Schedule a time and then set a notification on your digital calendar to remind you to do this task. Or link your 5-minute declutter to another task you know you already do.
  • Choose what room you’ll return to until you are done. Have available a trash bag, donation box, and bin for items that belong elsewhere in your home or that you aren’t keeping.
  • Work in Little Spaces. If there is a lot of stuff, you may need to return to that spot for multiple five-minute sessions. 
  • Maintain order with a five-minute decluttering routine that keeps the clutter from returning.

If you don’t have the time or energy to declutter, this can be all the decluttering you do in a day. If you have more to give to getting organized, you can schedule a string of five-minute tasks together or sprinkle them throughout your day. You can also use those five minutes to tidy a space. Even if you can’t get to everything, five minutes will give you more results than zero minutes.

Woman looking at her watch because she only has five minutes to declutter to achieve a less cluttered life.
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Hi, I'm Susan McCarthy

Professional Organizer

After years of organizing ... and wondering why I was never organized ... I realized I needed to declutter. But that wasn't the entire solution. I also needed habits so I could stay organized. Wondering why the clutter keeps returning? Let me show you how to become organized. 

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