finding the time to declutter

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Running a little late with posting today: the internet was disconnected and I spent yesterday enjoying a local rainforest with the little fella and my mum who is up visiting for the week (and it was her birthday yesterday too) instead of writing.

Decluttering an entire house can be a big job and on top of the usual commitments like work, childcare and the day to day tasks of running a household, it’s a job easily pushed aside.

But decluttering regularly is important for your health and wellbeing, so it is a task that is just as important as cleaning the toilet or doing the dishes.

Here are a few tips to find the time to declutter and make the process easier.

You don’t have to go at it all or nothing.

The conventional advice on decluttering your home is to set aside a weekend to declutter the entire house, all at once. If that works for you, then do it that way. However, doing a little each day or week is just as effective.

Rather than tackling your whole house, or even a whole room, break the decluttering process down into small, manageable chucks: a single drawer, half a cupboard, one shelf. A little each day still gets the job done whilst fitting in with your schedule.

Create a declutter checklist

If you intend to declutter a little each day, it is useful to have a decluttering checklist to keep track of what you’ve done and what still needs decluttering.

Here’s an example of a checklist for our bedroom:

Before you begin decluttering each room, go through and work out what needs decluttering, breaking the room down into the smallest units (a single drawer or shelf) and draw up a checklist to keep track of the process.

Before you begin: organise your workflow.

Before you tackle the sorting and the decluttering, gather your supplies and think about your workflow.

You will need bags or boxes (for the garbage, for sale if you intend to sell stuff, for charity, and for things that need relocating to other rooms or need storing), cleaning supplies to wipe down shelves or dust drawers and possibly pen and labels.

You will also need to consider where you are going to temporarily store these bags or boxes while you declutter. We have several boxes in our hallway at the moment with things we intend to sell at the garage sale. When the charity bags get full, we store those in the car, ready to be dropped off.

Fit decluttering in with your usual chores.

If finding time to declutter seems impossible, try fitting it in with your usual chores. For instance, while you’re putting the laundry away, go through the drawer and pull out anything that doesn’t get worn. Do the same while your stacking the cutlery or putting something away in the cupboard.

Again, you will need to (temporarily) store a spare box or bag to put these things in (unless they are rubbish) and once this box becomes full you can take it to the charity store.

Delegate and involve the family.

Time and time again you will be told to declutter without the kids. I disagree for several reasons.

Firstly, it may not be practical. If you care for young children full time, then you often have to involve them to get anything done.

Secondly, foreign stuff in drawers is like exiting treasure for children. Remove dangerous or breakable items then let them explore and discover this new stuff as you declutter. It takes longer, yes, and stuff can get spread all over the place, but it’s free entertainment (without the TV on) and you can declutter one drawer while they explore another.

Thirdly, I think it’s a matter of respect to involve (older) children when decluttering their stuff. You wouldn’t throw your husband’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVD collection out when he was at work (even though he hasn’t watched it in the eight years you’ve known him…) because it’s his DVD collection. It’s just as important for children to have a say in the decluttering process of their own possessions.

On the up side, you can delegate tasks to partners and older children, reducing your workload and making the decluttering process quicker.

Embrace the mess, it’s part of the process.

I wish I had taken photos, but maybe it’s just as well I didn’t. I decluttered my quilting stash by pulling everything out of the wardrobe and dumping it all on the floor. And then I wasn’t sure how to organise the fabric scraps, crochet twine, wool scraps and batting so it stayed on the floor for two whole weeks and between the little fella and the cat, the pile got spread from one wall to another and beyond. Mess is part of the process and mess is ok.

Most of us are busy and decluttering is a task that can easily be put off and put off until we are drowning in stuff. By making decluttering a priority and doing a little each day, it doesn’t take long to clear our your home of excess clutter.


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  1. I’m doing the big decutter too, with a very well organised non-judgemental friend, she is a HUGE help and she has motivated me today – 3 large cupboards done, 1 child’s bedroom fully done and part of the toy room, all done today. It would have normally done my head in big time. She is a blessing

  2. I have a really, really hard time imagining your quilting stuff on the floor for 2 weeks! But if you say so…

    Any tips on selling semi-valuable items eg clothes? I have some formal dresses etc that might pull $20-50. Doesn’t seem to be much point putting them up on ebay and paying listing fees but I’m not sure where else to try. Can’t do the garage sale thing, although attending a car boot sale is feasible.

    My small moment of declutter was finally putting the wedding dress up for sale on idogowns…although it hasn’t sold yet!

  3. I purchased my wedding dress on eBay so I guess they must sell, but I have had no luck selling my formal dresses on eBay. I think timing is important (just before year 12 graduation, for instance).

    The other option is local classifieds, ours are free for items under $500, or local community notice boards. I am selling (or trying to sell) my wedding dress and formal dresses at our garage sale.

    And yes, the quilting stuff really was on the floor for two weeks – my cleaning standards are certainly a lot more lax now I have a toddler! :)

  4. @ Louise, having a friend help is a great idea! They don’t suffer the same emotional attatchment as we do. My mother helped sort through and declutter baby clothes – she was a lot more rutheless than I would have been :)

  5. I felt kind of relaxed when I read your bit about the quilting stuff being left on the floor. Coz when I declutter that sort of thing happens all the time, I’m so glad someone else can admit it too. :)

  6. :) I think mess is part of the process. I used to be quite the neat freak. Not so much anymore. It’s quite liberating really.

  7. interesting topic – what to do with a wedding dress…….mine is somewhere……..if l was a sewing expert l would try to make little fairy dresses out of it for my 2 nieces. I don’t have kids of my own so can’t really keep it to pass down to them.

    I really must find out where it is.

    Melissa when are you having your garage sale? we are having one soon and would like to get some feedback from others.

  8. We are planning to have our garage sale by the end of September (if we get off our butts and get organised). I want to write about or experience shortly after. From a buyer’s perspective, here’s what I’ve found going to garage sales:

    * people never clean there stuff first, I’m sure it would sell better if it’s been cleaned.

    *price everything, there’s stuff I haven’t bought because there’s been no price on it.

    *Stuff sells better on tables or neatly hung, rather than in boxes on the floor

    * You have to be careful that you separate the stuff in your garage that you’re not selling from what people can buy

    * Professional buyers turn up hours before the advertised opening time, so it’s a good idea to keep your garage door shut while you get organised in the morning (if you don’t want them early, that is).

  9. great points, thanks Melissa. Interestingly l passed a garage sale on the weekend and popped in……….everything was in plastic bins on the ground……and
    NO PRICES ?!? on anything. I wasn’t buying, but just the same not impressed with the zero pricing.