It doesn't matter what day of the year that you start. These focused decluttering tasks take just 15 minutes a day. Not only will you have less clutter next year at this time, you'll also develop consistent practices that will help you become an organized person.
by Susan McCarthy
Did you start the year with a trash bag in hand and big plans for decluttering and organizing your home?
Realizing that a quarter of the year has gone by and that you’re not quite a quarter of the way through decluttering your home can be, how shall we say it, discouraging.
Decluttering is likely to take much more time than you anticipated. Making decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of isn’t as straightforward as you thought it would be.
In retrospect, on some days, you kept everything and simply rearranged it.
You feel frustrated. Maybe even frozen because you don’t know what your next action should be and if it will make a meaningful difference in your home.
Declutter in 15 Minutes a Day
How easy would it be for you to block off a seven or eight hour a day each month to devote to decluttering? This might seem like a totally doable goal, but in reality, it’s difficult to pull off.
And so, while an entire day of decluttering seems like it would be ideal, it can be a challenge to schedule it and then accomplish everything you’d like to in that time.
On the other hand, doing a small decluttering task 15 minutes a day, every day of the year, adds up to over 90 hours of effort in the year. That’s roughly the equivalent of that full day of decluttering once a month.
And while seven or eight productive hours of decluttering in a day can be a challenge, a 15-minute decluttering task is something you can pull off…even on a busy day.
365 Days of Decluttering
Below you’ll find an item to declutter every day of the year. It doesn’t matter if the date on the calendar reads January 1, April 1, or October 13.
You’ll declutter more than 365 items during the year. The item of the day may inspire you to declutter 10, 12, or 52 pens, CDs, tee shirts, socks, etc.
There isn’t a theme of the month. By moving around to different locations in your home each day, you’ll keep your perspective fresh.
This isn’t a comprehensive plan for tackling everything in your home, which would be much more systematic. You’ll declutter a lot of stuff from a lot of categories over the course of a year.
How to Find the Time to Declutter
Remember, fifteen minutes is better than zero minutes, which may be what you are currently clocking in each day. Doing a little bit of decluttering everyday will add up.
And, there may be days that you get caught up in a task and spend an extra five minutes going through gym tee shirts and you empty half a drawer – which is so worth a fraction of your day.
Don’t think that you should add time to each day’s task or force yourself to do a little extra. Overdoing can kill your momentum.
Those ten-to-fifteen minutes are meant to be an insignificant amount of time. You worked late? Had a dentist appointment? Forgot you need to do laundry? You have a lot of things on your mind.
Decluttering shouldn’t stress you out – remember, you don’t have to declutter you are choosing to declutter so to improve your home and your life.
How to Gain 15 Minutes a Day So You Have Time to Declutter
What If You Miss a Day…or a Week?
No problem. Life happens. Skip over that day’s task to save it for a day when you have more time or when another day’s task doesn’t apply to you.
However, if this was just an average crazy-busy day, (you weren’t trapped in the doctor’s office for three hours, you weren’t in a car accident, you didn’t end up in the hospital), then do something so you don’t lose momentum. Yes, decluttering one thing a day counts as progress!
And if you’re not at home while on a business trip or on vacation, start up where you left off. Don’t worry about trying to catch up right away.
Someday a meeting, class, or event you were going to will get cancelled and you’ll decide to declutter for 30 minutes. Another day you’ll feel particularly energetic, and you’ll do a little extra decluttering on that day as well.
What If You Want to Do More?
Of course! You may decide to spend two hours every Sunday afternoon decluttering your basement or garage. Maybe you spend a weekend on a closet makeover.
Still, do the mini task of the day. Remember, consistent effort doesn’t just help to declutter your home…it helps to create the mindset of an organized person.
What Do I Do with the Stuff I’m Decluttering?
If an item is a strange color (or smell), worn out, stained, damaged, or otherwise icky, toss it in the trash (or recycling bin, if appropriate). Check with your town or trash company for guidance on hazardous waste.
Stuff that’s in good condition, but you really don’t need, can get donated to a charity or sold or given to someone who wants the item. The biggest limit on how you can get rid of stuff is time.
Decide where you’ll donate items or how you’ll sell them, right now, so there’s no question about where that box of items is going or when you’ll have a yard sale.
Prepare for a Yard Sale
If you want to have a yard sale at some point, set up boxes in your basement or garage that you can easily access.
When you decide you want to sell something, take it to these boxes. If you want to develop some order, have a kitchen box, a clothing box, etc.
Please don’t make a pile of loose stuff in your closet or in the corner of the room. You want to move the item clearly from the “clutter” category to the “yard sale” category.
Prepare to Donate Items
If you want to donate an item, have a box (this one could be in the corner of a room, or a closet, or even in the trunk of your car) to put the item in.
Don’t worry about sorting items. If it could be damaged, wrap some newspaper or paper towel around the item. When the box is filled (not overfilled), take it to the thrift store you’ve already identified.
You could bring in extra pens to work or send them to school with your kid, so they can give them to their teacher. Books and current magazines can be left in the break room at work (maybe with a “free” note attached). Don’t just dump stuff, be thoughtful.
Prepare to Sell Online
If you want to sell items online, do it the day you decide you want to sell the item or make this your weekend task. Try to avoid having more than ten items piled up waiting to be sold because it will be harder to motivate yourself to sit down and handle this task.
Also, set a time limit … if the item hasn’t sold in two weeks or a month, whether you’ve posted it for sale or not, out it goes.
Other Actions that Will Help You Get Organized
One. If a task can be completed in one-minute then do it when you notice it needs to be done. Wipe that smudge of butter on the counter now. Toss the junk mail as you walk in the door.
Two. Every day, aside from the task of the day, get in the habit of a 10-minute tidy-up. By that, I mean that you walk around your home looking for items that are out of place and move the items you’ve touched that day to their appropriate place.
For example, put your dirty coffee mug in the dishwasher or sink. Toss or file the mail. Put the day’s newspapers in the recycling bin. Don’t spend more than 10 minutes on this task
This isn’t meant to be cleaning or organizing. If your home is disorganized, this action will feel like a drop in the ocean. You are forming a habit.
Get everyone over the age of three who lives in your home to do this. Set a timer. Blast some music. Try to do this at the same time every evening.
Three. Use up what you have…don’t buy anything…and follow the one in/one out rule. If you have bottles of shampoo, unread books, craft supplies you haven’t even pulled from their package, focus on using this stuff. Which means – don’t buy anything.
Yeah, yeah, the sole is peeling off your sneakers and you don’t have another pair in your closet? Buy a pair of sneakers. You don’t need sneakers, but you happen to see a pair of aquamarine-color sneakers on sale? Don’t buy them. Think about all the money you will save!
If you do buy something (and I’m not talking about food or grooming products or other things that will get used up), get rid of a similar item.
This is not your task for the day. This is a habit to develop for the rest of your life. Bought a new book? Get rid of an old one. One in/one out means that new items create a zero-impact on your belongings.
365 Ways to Declutter Stuff from Your Home
Obviously, you don’t need to get rid of every item on this list. Just because you see the word “socks” doesn’t mean you need to get rid of all your socks…just the ones with holes, no match, or that aren’t comfortable, whatever the reason.
You can use decluttering to limit what you have so that possessions fit in the storage spaces you have available.
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.