Have you ever noticed how time-consuming decluttering can be? Perhaps you’re caught in an endless cycle of decision fatigue and shame about clutter. You need time boxing!

This week, Kathi and Tonya Kubo, fearless leader of Clutter Free Academy on Facebook, continue their series on Clutter Free basics. In this episode, they discuss time boxing, a technique that leads to a decluttered home over time in just 15 minutes a day.

Using time boxing will help you live a sustainable, clutter free life. No more long days of decluttering and exhaustion, no kidding. You’ll also learn how time boxing helps you:

  • Avoid distractions that derail you
  • Involve your whole family in decluttering
  • Stay motivated and moving forward in your clutter free journey.

If you want to hear part 1 of Clutter Free Basics, click here.

Don’t miss next week’s third and final episode of Clutter Free Basics! Subscribe to have Kathi’s podcasts delivered to you every week.

If you want more support on your clutter free journey, check out Clutter Free for Life.

Kathi’s book, Clutter Free Home: Making Room for Your Life will be released next February. You can learn more and pre-order your copy on Amazon today.


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Read along with the podcast!

Clutter Free Academy Podcast #380

Clutter Free Basics: What is Time Boxing?

<<intro music>>

Kathi – Well, hey friends! Welcome to Clutter Free Academy, where our goal is to help you take small doable steps to live every day with less clutter and more life. This is program number two of Clutter Free Basics, and I am here with the Queen of Clutter Free. I know you call me the queen. I call you the queen. What is that called? 

Tonya – It’s the Mutual Admiration Society.

Kathi – That’s right. We’re a matriarchy, ‘cause we’re both women. I love it. Okay, it’s Tonya Kubo, who is our fearless leader over at Clutter Free Academy on Facebook. If you’re not a part of that over there, make sure you do that. If you want to live a clutter free life, if you want to be on the journey that Tonya and I have been on, where we’ve changed our lives through decluttering. We so want to have you there. It was interesting, the other day Tonya, I know you saw this. I was praying one morning and God kept bringing the people of Clutter Free to my brain. I just needed to remind people. You are doing holy work here. Most people stumble blindly through their lives, just buying stuff at Dollar Tree. Can I tell you what makes me crazy right now? 

Tonya – What makes you crazy?

Kathi – These surprise boxes. Okay, now I kind of understand the clothing one. If you need to dress up for work and you want to look great and shopping makes you crazy, and you actually return the things that you don’t love, won’t use and wouldn’t buy, excellent. But these things like: You get a hair straightener! And a bottle of this kind of lotion! It makes me crazy that people are that unintentional. It’s almost like people need presents and surprises. Do you understand the psychology behind this, ‘cause I don’t.

Tonya – Well, I think part of it is, we have this society (and you know, social media is my thing) that watches hours of YouTube channels of people unboxing things that they have bought. So, I think it’s a way to get that feeling of, “Oh, I just get to undo all this stuff!” But then there’s this other idea, aside from “Oh, I got this amazing thing in the mail and I can look at it all.” There’s this other idea that, “This is carefully curated so when I go to the store, I don’t have to make any choices.” 

Kathi – Okay, that I can see where people would be falsely lulled into that idea.

Tonya – Well, and I want to say, for you, there’s clothing ones. There’s one for athletic clothes, and one for kids’ clothes and you know what? If I don’t have to drag my kids to the mall? You can pretty much sell me anything. Some of these beauty ones are interesting, because do you really need 4 different cheek colors? That is so subjective, that it would be very hard to get a box where everything would be useful. I’m going to confess, because I believe in full disclosure, but we just subscribed to one of these boxes. Lily, my nine-year-old…

Kathi – Oh, it’s for your kids!

Tonya – Well, it’s Japanese snack food. It’s edible, is my argument. I can buy into this. It’s not like it’s a bunch of toys or something she saw on YouTube. It’s called Tokyo Treats. 

Kathi – This makes a lot of sense for you, because your family, they are Japan-o-philes. 

Tonya – Yes. My husband is half Japanese and daughters so desperately want to look way more Asian than they do.

Kathi – But your kids love to try new foods, so this part I understand. It’s the sending me a bunch of random…let’s say “stuff” (the word that actually comes to mind is very different). That’s not what the subject of today is about at all, but here’s the thing: I imagine that’s the stuff you’re going to be decluttering in eighteen months. You did not pick it. It is not meant for you. What it is, is somebody else’s overstocks that they’re trying to get rid of. I have a hard time with it. Now, I would love to hear from listeners if they’re saying, “Kathi, here’s the part that you don’t understand.” I’m sure there are parts I don’t understand. I remember somebody sent me one of these as a gift, and it was just a bunch of cheap junk. It was out of my house in just a couple of days. I appreciated the thought, but I didn’t appreciate the stuff. Don’t think I’m a horrible person. All of this comes down to time for me. Time and money, but today, I want to talk about time. Time is such an important aspect of decluttering. One of the things that we talked about: What’s the worst sentence in the world? “I’m going to declutter my kitchen today.” There’s not stop and start to it. It’s all day. To me, that sounds like, “From nine in the morning to five at night, my job is to declutter this kitchen.” Now, if you’re getting paid to do that at somebody else’s house? Good on you. I’m talking about myself. So, unless you’re moving, or remodeling, that kind of situation, I’m want to warn you off of that kind of sentence.  You wanted to say something, I can tell, Tonya.

Tonya – I did. I think that it’s very evolved of you to say, “Nine AM to five PM.” We get new members in Clutter Free Academy, and my heart breaks for them, because they will publicly declare, because we Clutter-y people love to self-declare and self-shame. Whatever we can do to punish ourselves, we seem to be gravitating towards that. But they’ll come in and they’re just like, “I got up at 5 am, and I’m going to go tackle my kitchen. I’m not going to bed until it’s done.” And I know, because I used to live that life, that they are talking about 5 am to 2 am. They’re lucky if they give themselves a bathroom break.

Kathi – Right! So, here’s the thing: There’s the fallacy of believing, “If I do that, then I don’t have to worry about my kitchen for weeks, or months, or years. If I can just get it perfect, it would stay perfect.” The problem is, humans live in your house. That’s the problem. 

Tonya – Yes! I think this is on our topic. Would I tell people? I try not to have a new member come in and I’m like, “No! You’re doing it wrong!” Even though, I would say that, but mean it from a place of, “Let me save you from yourself.” I encourage gentleness. Please be kind to yourself. That sounds incredibly ambitious. If you have the energy for that, that’s awesome, but I suggest Time Boxing, which I know we’re going to explain in a second, because, my personal experience is, those marathon sessions require weeks to recover from. I had to recover at such a level, that I couldn’t be bothered to put a napkin in the trash. So, after three weeks, the house looked worse than it did before I began.

Kathi – Yes! Don’t you think that in our “before and after” culture, that people want the Instagram photo. This is what it looked like, and this is what it looks like now. I do those photos, don’t get me wrong, because I feel like they’re inspirational, but when I’m going to share in one of our next newsletters, my downstairs closet, the before and after from that, people need to understand, that was over a week. That wasn’t in one day, and that’s just a closet! I’m not talking about a whole room.

Tonya – We see this in our Clutter Free for Life Membership program, where people think that it’s supposed to be a weekend job. A lot of people will join Clutter Free for Life membership once they realize that, in Clutter Free Academy, that they just need a little bit more. They need a little more support. They need a little more accountability, whatever that is. When people hear my talk about when I discovered Clutter Free, Abby was six months old and she just turned five. I’ve been on the journey for a while. I’ve moved a lot, and every time I move, I lose my mind again. Nothing fits to where I think it would, right? So, it does take time and it’s incremental change. I think that one of the beauties of having the podcast; having the blog, is that people can learn to appreciate that incremental change. 

Kathi – Exactly, and in my book, The Clutter Free Home, which releases February 2020, we talk about how each day, (except for one day a week, I want you to have one day when you don’t have to even think about stuff) but every day, I want you to do two things. Fifteen minutes of decluttering and then five minutes of dealing with the stuff. That’s the important part, because here’s what I used to do: I’d declutter, and everything I’d decluttered would be on the kitchen table. My kids would go through it and they would find all the treasures, and nothing left my house. We’re going to talk about the system for decluttering in our next episode, but here’s what I want you to do. We talked about Space Boxing last time. Space boxing is picking one cupboard; one drawer; one bookshelf; one area of your carpet. If you need to mark it off with blue painter’s tape, you can do that. You only declutter that one area. I had somebody ask me, “What if you’re done decluttering before your fifteen minutes?” and I’m like, “Huzzah!” You can start on the next thing, or you can be done. Those are your beautiful, beautiful options. I love them. So, how has Time Boxing helped you, Tonya, to stay on top of things?

Tonya – I believe that work expands to fill the amount of time that you allot to it.

Kathi – Is that The Peter Principle? I can’t remember what it’s called, but I think it’s The Peter Principle. 

Tonya – It’s probably some kind of principle. Somebody said it once, and I was like, “Oh my gosh, that is the motto of my life.” So, by setting a timer, I am much more focused. I don’t let anything interrupt me. If I get a text, or a Facebook notification, my email dings? I’m not stopping that. That can wait for fifteen minutes. The other thing that it has done for me, is that it really does enroll my family. We’ll all do a fifteen minute sprint. The kids get excited and the bell goes off and we do big cheer. We do crazy cheers at my house for the silliest things. It works. 

Kathi – Cheering is beautiful, and by the way, The Peter Principle is rising to the level of your incompetence. I’m sure there’s something very Freudian about what I just did there. It’s so true. You can do anything for fifteen minutes, but if you’ve tried to declutter all day long, or you’ve tried to declutter for a couple of hours, what you’ll notice, is you’ll start to make less decisions the more tired you get. So, for fifteen minutes, you can make big, good decisions. You can even do it for up to an hour. But, after an hour, you are going to have decision fatigue. You’re going to be done making all those decisions and you’re going to start hanging on to things for later. You’re going to start wanting to do things for later. That’s not what I want for you. I want you to have small wins every single day, so this becomes part of your life. That’s so important to us over at Clutter Free Academy, that you experience the wins so you want to keep going.

Tonya – I googled it! It’s The Parkinson’s Law.

Kathi – Thank you! I feel so much better.

Tonya – You were close.

Kathi – I got the ‘p’ right. There we go. So, here’s what I want you to do: Fifteen minutes of focused decluttering. Five minutes of dealing with the things you’ve decluttered, whether that’s trash, or give aways. We’re going to talk about that in our next episode. How do you deal with all the things? So, we’re going to give you some great insight into that. Tonya, thank you so much for helping me shed the light and show the greatness of Space Boxing and Time Boxing. 

Tonya – Thanks for letting me.

Kathi – Absolutely. Friends, thank you for being here. You’ve been listening to Clutter Free Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. Now, go life the clutter free life you were always designed to live.


*see show notes in podcast post above for any mentioned items

Meet Our Guest

Tonya Kubo

Tonya Kubo

Tonya Kubo is the illustrious, fearless leader of Kathi Lipp’s Clutter Free Academy Facebook group. A speaker and writer, Tonya makes her home in the heart of California with her husband, Brian, their two spirited daughters and one very tolerant cat. Visit her at www.tonyakubo.com or  www.GreatMoms.org

Clutter Free Academy Team

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