Since starting Clutter Free Academy, we’ve had many people ask, “Where do I start?”
If you’re part of our Clutter Free Academy group or on your own, here is a beginners’ guide for those looking to jump in and get results quickly:
(This system is based on my book Clutter Free: Quick and Easy Steps for Simplifying Your Space. The entire program is in there, but this will get you started while you order the book on Amazon or wait for it at the library!)
1. Pick a major source of pain. Get mad every time you go into the garage? See red when you try to relax in the living room? Is your office where papers go to die? Whatever area of your home is causing you the most pain, that’s what needs to be addressed first.
2. Start with surfaces. Some people want to dive into grandma’s photo albums that have been sitting in the attic for decades. But I would encourage you to give yourself a goal (Twenty items a day? Thirty?) and deal with the layers. Start with surfaces that are confronting you every day: Your nightstand, kitchen counters, kitchen table, desk. As you get practice with the day to day clutter, you can start to deal with the deeper clutter. You are building your “flinging” muscles!Oh – and when you start – only pick a small area. One counter, one shelf, one drawer. (I know that’s not a surface, but if it’s a drawer you use all the time and it’s so stuffed you can’t open it, and bad words come to mind every time you try, feel free to tackle that drawer.) To stay focused, you can even use blue painter’s tape to put physical boundaries on the area you are working on. This is great for young kids or easily distracted adults.
3. Set up a donation space. I have a bin in my garage where all my donations go. When it’s filled up, I take it to the car and stop at the “donation station” on the way to church on Tuesdays for a meeting. For the first few weeks of flinging, you may have more garbage and recycling than normal. That’s OK! Understand that you may have to pay for past clutter indiscretions, but going forward, you will remember the cost of bringing clutter across the threshold and will resist the urge.
4. Get your tools together. You will need three bags or boxes to sort out your stuff. Label the containers: Other Rooms, Put Away (anything that belongs in that room, but is out of place), and Give Away. We have nifty color-coded bags with handles that are easy to use. You will also need a recycling bag and a garbage bag.
5. Declutter. Get all your containers and bags around you so it’s easy to sort out your area. Set a timer for 15 minutes and start sorting.
6. Deal with the fallout. At the end of the 15 minutes, it’s time to start dealing with the stuff you are not putting back onto/into that same space. Set your timer for 5 minutes and take care of any container or bag that is full (or close to full). If that is all the decluttering you are doing for now, deal with all the containers/bags. Don’t leave a bigger mess than when you started!
7. Stay encouraged with other flingers. You’ll need a cheering section, especially when you’re getting started or “leveling up” (dealing with harder clutter: sentimental things, family items, expensive clothes, etc.). Connect with people who have made the same hard decisions and know your pain. We have a whole Facebook group dedicated to learning the Clutter Free way.
Join us over there for encouragement and motivation. Miracles are happening in that group. Go be a part of it!
Part 2 of the Focus on the Family broadcast on Practical Tips for Getting Organized is up today! It’s as much fun as Day 1. The banter between Jim and Jean Daly just cracked me up and are so relatable. They share the common struggle many of us have when it comes to what to keep and what to get rid of. This can be especially tension inducing when one of the adults is emotionally attached to everything and the other is seemingly attached to nothing. In Part 2 we tackle some of the most frustrating types of clutter on the planet- paper and laundry!
Click here to listen in on part 2. And get your copy of The Get Yourself Organized Project today!
Kathi and Cheri Gregory, co-author of Overwhelmed, get together for this episode for a little discussion regarding the concepts of being overwhelmed and being clutter free. So often we find that our clutter overwhelms us and that being overwhelmed contributes to our clutter. It can be a viscous cycle.
Kathi and Cheri discuss 5 steps to keep from getting overwhelmed as your declutter your home, your heart and your life.
I am thrilled to be on Focus on the Family today and tomorrow discussing tips on getting organized. Back in 2013, Focus on the Family invited me out to speak about the principles in my book, The Get Yourself Organized Project. Jean Daly and I discuss why having an organized home is important as well as share several ways to tackle clutter.
At the original air date of this broadcast, Clutter Free wasn’t yet born which may seem interesting if you’ve ever asked me which of these two book should be read first. I always recommend reading Clutter Free first. Clutter Free helps you identify the reasons why the clutter exists in your life and how to tackle it. The Get Yourself Organized Project was written because I had tried all of the Martha Stewart type strategies and nothing had been effective in organizing my house. I discovered new, and most importantly, doable and easy steps in organizing my stuff and wanted to share it with all of my non-Martha types.
Listen in to Part 1 today to this fun and helpful broadcast that has stood the test of time. And check out The Get Yourself Organized Project if you are ready to organize all the important things in your life.
I started wading through the clutter in January. One week later I was disheartened. There was still a lot to do. I shared my dismay with my brave friend who had come over and worked alongside me for a bit, she said, “It will take a year.” She reminded me this was a process and that it would take more than a weekend to declutter. And here I am today, still working on organizing, decluttering, de-junking my house. I have made some progress and have discovered some surprising clutter.
The piles of toy parts, the box of notes from high school, and the bags of stained baby clothes, I expected. However, I was surprised to discover hidden pockets of clutter of a different variety. These were things I thought I would never misplace or lose track of. I unearthed encouraging words left unsaid, found compliments piled in the corners like stacks of magazines, and discovered a hoard of fun under the couch.
I found a box full of family time that still had the packing tape on it from our last move. Nothing really prepared me for the waves of regret that quickly eroded my pride in the progress I had made. The cost of clutter had not really hit me until that moment; clutter steals and hoards what we are capable of giving to others.
I had not realized that my disheveled closet was hoarding confidence or that the chaotic art room had my children’s creative tendencies squirreled away in half empty crayon boxes and dried up paint bottles. I started to think that maybe we just weren’t as creative, fun or as kind as we used to be, but it was just that the clutter had taken over and obscured these attributes from our hearts and minds. My creative, kind and fun-loving family was there all along.
It was just that we could only see the mess.
It didn’t take me long to realize I could not hold on to the the regret that came along with this discovery. I certainly could not afford to stockpile regret, so out it went and in came a new way of living and loving.
How to clear out the surprising clutter
As we clear the clutter, we discover that our hearts expand to give more generously to those we love most, and isn’t that what we all want? I don’t need the old train table the kids played with years ago or the 20 reusable grocery bags that have taken over my side entryway, I do need every bit of my capacity to encourage my children and to love my husband well.
My words of affirmation and kindness must be said, otherwise they are just as useless as the boxes of VHS tapes in the basement. The fun hoard, along with the dust bunnies and dog toys, needs to come out from under the couch, so that our home can be a place of joy.
Clearing the clutter allows our hearts to be tuned into what is most important — the people we do life with. As I continue to declutter my home I am now more excited about what I will gain. An expanded heart ready to jump into joy, fun and love versus what I will lose.
You can read more from Bethany Howard at bethanyhoward.com. She writes about finding fuel for joy and growth in the details of the daily. Her greatest leadership exercise has been her roles as wife and mom to three. She is a graduate of Leverage: The Speaker Conference.
For years I tried to manage all I had to do on one to-do list. I tried prioritizing that list using various methods, all without success.
The problem with having one list is it’s like trying to force a semi-truck to drive down a country lane next to a bicycle. Or force my size 9 feet into dainty size 6 shoes. Some things just don’t fit. Here’s an example of what my list used to look like:
1. Make orthodontist appointment for Robbie
2. Plan Dylan’s birthday party
3. Deposit check
4. Redesign blog
5. Buy dog food
6. Clean the house
These are all normal things a woman might do. So, what was the problem?
The problem is three of those items aren’t simple tasks. Calling the orthodontist’s office takes one step, and it’s done. Boom. Check that baby off the list! But planning a party, redesigning a blog, and clean the house are made up of multiple tasks. To put them on a to-do list is just asking for failure.
Here’s what I’ve learned: cleaning the house isn’t a task. It’s a project. Projects don’t belong on a to-do list. Only single-step tasks belong there.
Once I realized the mistake I’d been making for years, I tossed my to-do list and started fresh.
Then I did something brave. I did a complete inventory of everything I needed to do. It took days to complete. I decided to include immediate needs and everything I’d been putting off. The small and the big all got listed.
Once I was sure I’d captured everything, I sat down and had a good cry. My life was seriously out of control.
Drying my tears, I reviewed the monstrous list and divided it into two categories: one-step tasks and multi-step projects. That was better. But I wasn’t done yet. I looked at all the projects, and realized some of them were urgent and others weren’t. Then I divided that list into current and future projects.
There was one more step. Since every big project is completed one step at a time, I realized I needed to add tasks to each of my projects. So I got some more paper and started to list all the tasks I could think of for each project.
These lists became the foundation of my project management notebook. And yes, I did put it in a three-ring binder. I know I could have created a digital notebook, but there was something about putting it on paper that made it real for me. Although I still had a lot to do, having it all in one place brought relief.
Now, writing my to-do list for the day is like going to a buffet and picking a piece of chicken here and a scoop of mac and cheese there. I look over my master lists and only put on my to-do list the tasks I can realistically accomplish that day. I might pick a simple task, like make an appointment, then pull another task from a project list.
This system revolutionized my approach to getting work done. It also eliminated a few of my reasons for procrastination, which included forgetting things (now they were in my safe place) and feeling overwhelmed when I looked at a big project on my to-do list.
Now my to-do list might have five items on it, rather than 25. Five is much more manageable. And when I finish those five, I can go back for more from my project management list.
Over the years, this system has actually helped me manage my workload so well that I don’t have to create massive master lists anymore. The process helped me realize I’d taken on too much, and I did some serious editing. But when I get overloaded—and it still does happen—I know to go back and create that master list again.
Heavenly Father, thank You for creating order. Help me bring order to my to-do list and manage my workload more efficiently. I want to bring glory to you in every area of my life. In Jesus name, Amen.
If you need more margin in your life, you might appreciate this recent post on Glynnis’ blog.
Create a master list of everything you need to do – now and in the future. Put it all in one place and then divide it into tasks and projects.