The Declutter Your Life Challenge Plan
By Leo Babauta
Assuming you’ve read the Declutter Your Life Challenge Overview, you’ve realized there are multiple things to tackle when it comes to decluttering.
Where to start?
We’re going to start as simply as possible. What’s important here is not getting quick results — you won’t have a vastly decluttered life in a week. Quick results are the opposite of building lifelong habits.
Instead, we’ll focus on the habit, and small steps.
How to Get Started
In this module, we’ll get started with the habits of decluttering. Don’t expect your entire life to be decluttered in one month. But do expect to get the ball rolling, and to start developing the habits you’ll want for a lifetime.
For now, let’s focus on a few things:
- Get started: If you have a mountain of clutter to tackle, it can be overwhelming. We just need to get started, so don’t get discouraged. Small steps, one at a time. Just focus on the first small step. You’ll be amazed at how much progress you’ll make if you take this approach.
- Create habits: Habits are more important than immediate results, because if you try to just declutter everything in one go, you’ll get exhausted and discouraged and stop, and also you won’t have created any habits that will last in the long term. We’re looking at habits for life — if you create the right habits, the clutter will slowly disappear.
- Focus on one area at a time: We discussed the different types of clutter above … but you can’t possibly do all of those at once! So we’ll focus on 1-2 of these per week, get them down, and move on to the next.
Week 1 Plan
This week, we’re going to start slowly. This might be difficult for some of you who want to really move quickly, and if so, that’s your choice. However, I do recommend following this plan, as I think it will make it much more likely you’ll stick to it for longer.
- Set aside some time. You only need 10-15 minutes per day, but you need to decide when you’re going to do it. I suggest the evening, when you’re done with your main work for the day, say 6 or 7pm, but before you’re too tired.
- Pick one spot. You’re only going to do this for 10-15 minutes, so pick a small spot. Even just a portion of your kitchen or living room table, a part of a shelf or countertop. A flat surface. Smaller is better.
- Clear the spot. Take everything off the spot (shelf, counter, etc.) and put it into one pile. You’re going to process through this pile. Clean the newly-cleared spot if it’s dirty.
- Make a decision with one item. Take one item off the top of the pile (don’t pick & choose, just pick the first thing) and make a decision (no postponing decisions on anything, no putting back into the pile). Ask whether you have used the item recently, whether you really need it, whether you love it. If not, trash, recycle, donate or give away. Have a box for these purposes. A Maybe Box if you really need it (put items you can’t decide on in the Maybe box for 6 months, then get rid of them if you never needed them). If you love/use the item, put it back or find a better place for it — this will be its home.
- Quickly repeat this process. Take the next item in the pile, and make a decision. Then the next. Try to do this as quickly as you can, for 10-15 minutes.
- You’re done. If you’re not done with the pile in 10-15 minutes, just put it near the spot for processing tomorrow. It’s not great to have it unsorted, but that will give you motivation to do it tomorrow. Also, choose a smaller spot (just a portion of what you tried to do today) from now on, so you can do a pile in one sitting if possible.
You’ll want to schedule time during the week to drop things off for donation/recycling, and also email family/friends to see if they want anything you don’t need.
Do this every day for Week 1. Report your successes/failures with your accountability group, or in the challenge in the forum, or on Lift, or to your family/friends on Facebook/Twitter/G+/blogs.
This week we’ll continue with our decluttering.
- Continue with the habit from Week 1. You’re going to continue the decluttering habit, but strengthen it with repeated doing of the habit.
- Consider doing other areas. If you were decluttering your home in Week 1, try decluttering your workspace this week.
- Really focus on enjoying the decluttered areas. If you’ve been making progress, you should have a more decluttered life, at least a little bit. This means you have a little more space in your life — even if it’s a small amount of space, enjoy this space. It’s beautiful. Focusing on enjoyment will make it likely you’ll stick to it.
Now let’s expand our decluttering to other areas, while keeping up our physical decluttering.
- Choose another area to start decluttering. You can do email, other digital information, your computer/desktop/files, or your schedule.
- Continue with the physical decluttering process. You want to continue your previous progress, but limit it to 5-10 minutes per day (unless you have a lot of extra time/motivation right now), so you can do 10 minutes of other decluttering.
- Declutter your other area after the physical decluttering. When you’ve done 5-10 minutes of physical decluttering, do 10 minutes of decluttering in your new area. For schedules, that means listing your commitments and getting out of them, saying no to people, removing things from your schedule, and leaving space in between appointments and things you have to do. For email, that means taking one email at a time, making a decision, and getting the email out of your inbox, and repeating so that you get as many things as possible out of your inbox. For other digital stuff, it means getting things off your computer desktop, removing visual distractions and notifications, eliminating newsletters and blogs and social networks if they’re not adding a lot of value for the distraction they bring.
Be sure to focus on enjoying the simplified space you’re creating, and to report your success/failure each day to whoever you’re accountable to.
This week, you’ll continue your physical decluttering while choosing yet another area of your life to declutter.
- Choose another area to declutter. I suggest one of the following: paperwork, email, or incoming digital information (blogs, newsletters, news, etc.).
- Continue with the physical decluttering process. We’re going to really solidify the habit this week, so continue your previous progress, but limit it to 5-10 minutes per day (unless you have a lot of extra time/motivation right now), so you can do 10 minutes of other decluttering.
- Declutter your other area after the physical decluttering. Again, when you’ve done 5-10 minutes of physical decluttering, do 10 minutes of decluttering in your new area.
Once again, be sure to focus on enjoying the simplified space you’re creating, and to report your success/failure each day to whoever you’re accountable to.
Good luck and happy habits everyone!