Decluttering with Limited Time and Energy

One of my goals with this blog is to make a more minimalist lifestyle accessible to other folks like me who work full-time and don't have unlimited stores of time or energy to declutter. Decluttering, while it does take a lot of time and effort to complete, generally has such a tremendous physical and mental payoff that it's worth doing.

So how does one get started decluttering with limited time and energy? Here are tips that have proven to be the most useful to me:
  • Disengage emotionally from clutter objects. This is hard at first but gets easier. We've probably all had at least a few garments in the closet that we were saving in case we lost/gained weight, or a stack of birthday cards from years gone by. Practice this emotional disengagement by asking the item "Why are you here when I can't use you?" It may seem harsh compared to the generally upbeat "Thank you for serving me in the past" connection that other methods of minimalism/decluttering have, but sometimes when you feel like there's no time or energy to tackle clutter, emotionally disengaging can be useful. 
  • Set a timer. This is particularly useful if you feel like you have limited time. Setting a timer for 10 minutes can have a big impact if you start the timer with sharp focus. To me personally, 5 minutes never feels like enough, but 10-20 minutes is more than enough time to make a dent in any pile of clutter. Just don't let anything else distract you.
  • Work while you wait. This tip goes along with the "set a timer" tip above. I like to cook and bake at home, which of course involves waiting for food to get hot enough. Instead of zoning out on my phone or computer, I'll set the kitchen timer for how long it'll be until food is ready, and use the waiting time to tackle clutter.
  • Declutter before your usual wind-down time. I find it most useful to use the first 15-20 minutes after I get home from work to get rid of any clutter that has accumulated. This way, when I sit down to try to relax, I don't have a pile of mail to worry about or a collection of dirty tea and coffee mugs staring me down.
  • Get your family/roommates involved. If you live with other people, ask for help in decluttering any shared space. It's generally not a good idea to move or throw away anyone else's items, so if someone else's things are in the way, ask them kindly to help you organize. They'll benefit from a decluttered space, too!
  • Don't let perfection be the enemy of good enough. Getting a home to "maintenance level" takes a lot of work when you're just starting out as a minimalist. It took me many evenings after work and a lot of weekends to get my home to the point where it might only take an hour to completely declutter after a stressful work week. Clutter will always accumulate when you're busy, but once you make a habit (like setting timers) to tackle clutter in any free time, it will become more manageable. Don't let a temporary re-accumulation of clutter deter you. It happens to every minimalist whether they want to admit it or not.
A decluttered home can feel like a lofty, pie-in-the-sky ideal when you work full time and have to carefully balance work and life. However, it is possible to declutter if you go easy on yourself and accept the fact that a minimalist lifestyle--or simply a decluttered home--will take time to achieve. All it takes is time and patience with your surroundings and yourself.