Decluttering: Inch By Inch

Decluttering: Inch By Inch

Picture of an inchworm on a twig

Inch by inch decluttering. It feels slow, but it works! We’d all like to wave our magic wand and have the decluttering and organizing done instantly, but there are no magic wands. No worries. Like the inchworm who eventually reaches his destination, so will you.

What Holds You Back?

One way to guarantee that your home stays cluttered is never to start. What often holds people back from starting? They’re looking for large chunks of time to do a whole room. Since those time blocks usually come on weekends, holidays, and vacations, waiting to get started on these days is tempting, but not a good idea. Many other activities and responsibilities want to claim these days too. On top of that, who wants to spend 8 hours decluttering after having worked a more-than-full workweek? Not too many people.

What’s The Answer?

Instead of looking for large chunks of time, use smaller blocks. By decluttering 30 minutes a day for five days a week, you’ll declutter 10 hours that month which is enough to finish your entire kitchen. Would it be nice to have it all done in one day? Sure, but by doing a little bit consistently every day, you will have decluttered the kitchen that has been bugging you for years–a good trade-off!

What’s The Catch?

The “catch” is that while following basic organizing principles is always important, it’s even more critical when dealing with just a portion of a room at a time.

young lady holding a butterfly net and catching butterflies

Basic Organizing Principles

Define the room

If you define your kitchen as a room for preparing and eating food, you know you shouldn’t keep your toolbox on the pantry floor.

Define the spaces within the room

Using the kitchen as the example again, very specifically define which cupboards are for food items, glassware, pots & pans, etc., and which drawers are for flatware, potholders, plastic wrap, etc. Write what goes in each drawer or cupboard on masking tape and stick it there. (You can make classier labels later, but location plans may change. For now, masking tape is your best option.) Confirm that where you plan to place things makes sense. Ideally, pots, pans, and potholders live near the range, and dishes, flatware, and glassware live near the dishwasher.


Begin to declutter

Pick one spot in the room and start with the top cupboard. Work your way down and then move to the right. Keep doing this around the room—over time. Declutter everything in that cupboard and leave only the things written on the masking tape. That cupboard may be empty for now because you haven’t reached the place currently storing those items. When you do, move those items into the empty cupboard.

Set a limit on your decluttering time

Two great methods are:

Spend 20 minutes decluttering an area and 10 minutes putting away what you’ve pulled out. The items you pulled out will be either returned to where you pulled them from, placed in their new home (in the kitchen or elsewhere if they don’t belong in the kitchen), discarded, or donated. It’s critical that what you take out is put away within this decluttering session to avoid creating an even bigger mess.

Declutter a whole cupboard or drawer at one time. You can work on one cupboard shelf or portion of a drawer at a time. Again, it’s critical that whatever you take out is put away within this decluttering session.

Set a limit on how many days each week you declutter

You want momentum AND sustainability. Typically, decluttering at least 3 days per week but not more than 5 will do that for you.

Is removing clutter and creating organized, peaceful spaces worth 30 minutes a day? Most people think so.

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