Can five minutes really make a difference when decluttering?
When you first start out decluttering, it can be extremely overwhelming. Even starting small, with just one drawer, or with just one corner of a room can seem daunting.
If you are fighting disability, anxiety, depression, or raising toddlers, even ten minutes of decluttering can seem impossible.
Sometimes, the best way to get started with decluttering is to take micro-bites. These are tiny, tiny steps you can do right now when you have no time, no energy, or no desire to do more. These micro-bites are five-minute tasks, that while small and insignificant appearing on their own, can start a snowball of change in your home.
Related Post: Declutter to Drastically Reduce Anxiety and Stress
Decluttering tasks you can do in 5 minutes:
1. Designate an ongoing giveaway bag/box
When you declutter a room, you will likely have a few boxes and garbage bags going. That’s not what I’m talking about creating here.
For this assignment, take a moment to find a bag/box to put in a storage closet, and as you come across items in your home to give away, put them in this designated bag/box.
I have one of those GIANT blue bags from Ikea. Works great.
If we give ourselves an area to put items to give away, we are constantly in the mindset of decluttering, rather than thinking, “I might do that someday.”
Once your bag or box gets full, you have it ready to go to the donation center at a moment’s notice.
If you want some ideas on how to get rid of your clutter, check out this post for the best Strategies for Getting Rid of Your Stuff After Decluttering.
2. Create a homework box
I always recommend decluttering your sentimental stuff last. It’s too hard, especially when you haven’t built up your decluttering muscles. Decluttering takes practice to build that skill.
Even if you intend to declutter the easy stuff first, you might come across an old memory you aren’t ready to deal with yet. This is why I want you to create a “homework box.”
A homework box is a simple cardboard box, Rubbermaid container, or something similar that will house the papers, photographs, or other memories you aren’t ready to tackle yet.
It’s also small enough to signal you aren’t ready for an area if every single item ends up in this box!
Generally, I like to have a client finish an area/room, then come back to their “homework box” when done. At that point, there’s progress that’s been made, and doing the hard stuff seems less daunting.
Related Post: Get Help With Sentimental Clutter
3. Commit to making a list before going to the store
Commit to spending five minutes to make a list of items you need BEFORE you go to the store. Even if you are only getting two items, still make a list.
This simple act of making a list will be a visual reminder that you really don’t need that on-sale item when at the store.
Related Post: Try a No Shopping Challenge
4. Search for any expired medications
You don’t have to clean out your entire medicine cabinet to make an impact. Instead, commit to five minutes and only search for expired medications. Either throw them out or dispose of them as recommended.
This quick decluttering task doesn’t take much thought, and it can create some much-needed space in your cabinet.
5. Search for any expired make-up
Another easy decluttering task that doesn’t take up much time is to tackle your make-up. Most of us know what make-up we wear on a daily basis and what make-up we reserve for special occasions.
However, other pieces build up over time. Maybe it is a freebie you got but will never use, or make-up you used years ago, but has long been forgotten.
Don’t spend more than five minutes here. Look for what you don’t ever use, dispose of it, and move on!
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6. Throw out old condiments
Now head to your fridge for another super fast and easy decluttering task. Tackling the entire fridge can sometimes be an overwhelming task, so let’s go for far faster and easier.
Look in the fridge door and into the far depths of your fridge shelves. You are looking for those really old condiments that are expired, you didn’t really like, or maybe have turned into a science experiment.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat expired mustard, but that Teriyaki sauce that’s been hiding back there since three years ago, it should go.
Related Post: 6 Simple Steps to Start Decluttering Your Kitchen
7. Create a spot for incoming mail
You don’t have to solve your mail clutter problem in one day. Instead, tackle it in small pieces. Spend five minutes today thinking of the perfect spot for incoming mail.
I’m not talking about creating an entire family command center.
Instead, go find a paper folder (you know those $0.10 ones sold during back to school sales) and place it on the counter. Boom! You have a spot for incoming mail.
Now, you are forced, every time you bring in mail, to at least think about it briefly before you put it in there.
Recycle the junk mail, and then put the mail you can’t handle right that second, in the folder to do later this week.
Related post: A Stupid Simple Mail Organization System
8. Make a rule against the dumping ground
This is another super-fast decluttering task you can do that doesn’t require you to throw anything out!
We all have the dreaded “dumping ground“. This is where we throw our mail when we walk into the door, dump our keys, and set down everything that’s in our arms, to only be frantically sorted through tomorrow when we are late running out the door.
Instead of tackling your dumping ground when feeling overwhelmed or short on time, simply make a rule to eliminate it.
Tell everyone in your household, going forward, the dumping ground is off-limits.
If they need to set things down when they walk in the door, that’s fine, but as soon as their hands are free, stuff needs to be put away. That space is forever off limits!
Related Post: The Flat Surface Clutter Rule
9. Find a more permanent spot for an item in your junk drawer
Even tackling the junk drawer can seem daunting at times.
Instead of feeling overwhelmed and never starting, do this quick 5-minute decluttering task. Find one single item or category of items in your junk drawer, and find it a forever home.
The junk drawer often becomes the home for orphaned items, and it’s easy to see why. Not sure where something goes? Throw it in there!
It’s good to spend a couple of minutes every few weeks to see if something ended up in there that doesn’t belong.
10. Grab all the random items from your car
Want a super-fast decluttering task? Grab two grocery bags…one for trash and one for random stuff.
Spend 5 minutes picking up your car, and it will feel so much cleaner the next time you take it for a ride.
11. Pick one pair of shoes to give away/sell
Most of us have at least one pair of shoes we don’t love. They either give us blisters, make our feet hurt, or generally don’t match our style any longer.
Pick one pair to recycle, give away, or sell. This task should take less than 5 minutes, and it gets you in the thought process of letting go. It also makes a little more space in your closet!
12. Let go of one piece of clothing that makes you miserable
We often hold on to clothes that make us miserable. Maybe it’s a pair of jeans that make you feel bad about yourself every time you look at them. Or maybe you are holding on to a dress that represents a younger you, but you know you will never wear it again.
Clutter can be heavy. Don’t let it torment you any longer. Go to your closet and pick out one piece of clothing that makes you miserable. Start feeling better from this day forward when you look into your closet!
Related post: 9 Proven Methods to Clean Out Your Closet Without Regret
13. Sign up for Shutterfly and sync your phone photos for mobile upload
Stop stressing out about your cell phone photos being backed up. Spend five minutes today signing up for Shutterfly (if you don’t already have an account). They have unlimited photo storage.
Then, download their app to your phone.
Next, click on “Upload”, then “Automatic” and then go to “Settings”. Under Settings, select “Enable Auto Upload”.
If you have unlimited data on your phone, select “Use Cellular Data”. Otherwise, they should upload while on wi-fi.
If you aren’t sure, you can head over to the app once a week, and then you can confirm they are backed up or delete any pics you don’t care about keeping.
I love this app because there is no limit on storage, and my pics are easy to print. It also keeps a nice timeline of all my photos.
14. Toss your mismatched socks
You know that single sock that has been mismatched for over 6 months?! Yeah, toss it.
It’s been a while, and there’s no way that other match is magically resurfacing this week. Do yourself a favor and toss the mismatched one.
Do you risk finding it’s lost match one day? Yes. Don’t torture yourself any longer. Let it go!
Related post: Declutter Your Socks
15. Ditch a kitchen duplicate
The kitchen seems to be the easiest place for unnecessary duplicates to exist. Find a single duplicate in your kitchen, and let it go.
Maybe you have five wooden spoons, three sets of measuring spoons, or eight square Pyrex dishes. Whatever your duplicate guilty pleasure, find one and give it away. You will feel amazing spending five minutes letting something go.
Related Post: The Secret to Curing Kitchen Counter Clutter
16. Find a single book to give away
Find one book you can give away this week and put it in your give away bag. It can be a textbook, a cookbook, a fictional book, you name it. No rules here. Find one.
My guess is, while you’re looking, you might find a few more!
Related post: Declutter Your Books
17. Clean out your purse
Got an extra five minutes? Clean out your purse.
Throw away any trash, decide how many pens you really need in your purse, and throw out any unnecessary frequent shopper cards that have built up over the years.
18. Go through your drinkware cabinet
I don’t know how it happens. It’s like cups, mugs, and travel drinkware multiply overnight without any help.
Open up your cabinet and set a timer for five minutes. You’ll be amazed at what you accomplish.
Try to pick out 2-3 pieces of drinkware you can part with today. Add them to your give-away bag/box.
19. Set a goal for the week
If you don’t have a goal, you have nothing to work towards. Spend five minutes simply setting a decluttering goal for the week.
What’s the one area you would love to tackle?
Don’t get too crazy and say “the house” or “the garage”. Pick a shelf, a cabinet, or a small space.
20. Schedule a time to declutter for one hour later in the week
Sometimes you need to schedule a plan in order to put it in action. “Someday” never comes if we don’t make a plan.
Take five minutes today to plan an hour later this week to declutter. Write it on your calendar, and treat it like any other appointment you can’t miss.
21. Load your car with the give-aways
Even if you don’t have time to take it right now, spend five minutes loading your car with the items you’ve decided to give away.
Nothing says decluttering accomplishment like getting the stuff out of your house! You will feel so good about getting it out, that the task of dropping it off at the local donation center will seem like nothing once it’s in your car.
You can get a lot of decluttering done in 5 minutes
Remember that give-away bag we created in step 1? As you go through these quick 5-minute decluttering tasks, keep placing your decluttered items in there.
Before you know it, you will have a bagful, and you will be ready to head to the donation center in no time.
You don’t have to have a lot of time to declutter. Sometimes you simply need quick five-minute slots of time for a few quick wins. Those small, tiny habits of decluttering add up over time and can make a huge dent in your mess.