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Decluttering and organizing a little at a time

Janine-adams This guest post was written by Janine Adams, CPO®

One of the things that tends to hold people back when they think about getting organized is that they look around, see a bunch of clutter and think they need to put aside a whole weekend in order to do the whole project. And they don’t want to get started if they don't think they can finish. The problem, of course, is that it's hard to come by a whole weekend to declutter. 

What I’ve learned as a professional organizer is that chipping away at the clutter 30 minutes at a time can be really rewarding. If you were to spend 30 minutes a day, five days a week on decluttering, you’d have worked 130 hours over the course of a year! Think how much decluttering and organizing you could get a lot done in 130 hours!

You might be thinking that 30 minutes isn’t enough to get anything done. But if you work on one small space at a time, like a drawer, a shelf, or a small part of a room, you can make a big impact.

I do this all the time. I may be a professional organizer, but various spots in my home tend to attract clutter. I’ve created the habit of taking before and after pictures, and using a timer, so I have a lot of evidence of how much you can get done in 30 minutes. For example, here’s the messy utensil drawer in my kitchen. It completely lacked organization.

I emptied the drawer, sorted, weeded and organized it (using Rubbermaid's no-slip interlocking drawer organizers) in 28 minutes. It would have taken me less time if I hadn't involved my husband in the decisions. Here's the after picture:

Here's another example. The area of my office that my back is turned to when I'm working at my computer tends to accumulate clutter. One day, I finally focused on it and only 30 minutes later the space was transformed.

It can clearly use some cord management and vacuuming, but that 30 minutes made a big difference.

Want to see some more photos like this? In the e-course I offer with life coach Shannon Wilkinson, Declutter Happy Hour, we encourage participants to declutter for 15 or 30 minutes a day. We also ask them to send us photos. If you love before-and-after pictures as much as I do, feel free to peruse our Cheers! gallery of successes accomplished in bite-sized chunks.

The key to success when working in these small chunks of time is to build in time for finishing up.  Build 10 minutes or so at the end of the half hour to put things away, put the donations into your car, take out the trash, etc. If you stop when the time is up and you don't put things away, you'll be worse off than when you started.

After you get a little practice, it becomes pretty easy to estimate how much you can get done in a half hour. Give it a try–you might accomplish more than you expect!


Janine Adams is a Certified Professional Organizer® and owner of Peace of Mind Organizing in St. Louis, Missouri.

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5 Responses to Decluttering and organizing a little at a time

  1. n. Gallagher January 15, 2011 at 2:06 pm #

    Reading this sure is a motivator! Thanks!

  2. leona January 10, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

    thanks for the tip ,need some organizing.

  3. Barbara Cartwright January 9, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    Thanks so much for this valuable tip. Even I can do 30 minutes a day and make a real difference in my home.

  4. Ellen Delap April 8, 2010 at 9:54 pm #

    Thanks for sharing in an honest and genuine way. No wonder your clients love you!

  5. Linda Samuels April 8, 2010 at 9:23 pm #

    Wise words of advice from a fabulous organizer. Thank you, Janine!

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