The Decluttering Quick-Start Guide, Part 2

I hope you're feeling a lift in your spirits since you've decluttered at least one of your personal spaces.  If you feel ready, declutter another personal space, or choose one of the following shared spaces for your next decluttering task.

Remember – maintenance is key.  But don't worry, because none of these tidying tasks should take more than a few minutes.  As you create new habits for yourself, you'll find that your daily life becomes smoother and more peaceful.  You'll feel calmer and more in control as you deal with the clutter that's been weighing you down.

uncluttered living room

6 quick ways to simplify shared spaces

1.  Declutter a pile of paper.

Look for a pile where it doesn't belong, such as the kitchen counter or the dining table.  Quickly sort through and handle everything once.

  • Catalogs, coupon circulars, and junk mail should be recycled immediately.
  • Bills go to a designated spot on your desk.
  • Papers that need to be kept (insurance or tax documents, for example) should be filed now.
  • Invites or appointment reminders should be put on your calendar now.  Recycle the notices.
  • Magazines should be put in a designated place.  Consider whether you actually make time to read them or if you should cancel your subscriptions.
  • Children's school work should go into a designated file or box.  Once a week, choose the best and recycle the rest.  Every month or two, choose the best from that saved pile and recycle the others.  At the end of the school year you'll have a handful of top-notch items to store permanently in a keepsake box.*
  • "Real" mail, such as greeting card or a letter, should be savored, but unless it's a marriage proposal or a letter from your grown child thanking you for being such an awesome parent (yay!), display it on a bulletin board for no longer than a week.  Then recycle it.

Now that you've taken care of the pile, promise yourself to handle the incoming mail and other papers every day.  This habit will take only a few minutes, and then no more piles!

* This blog is reader-supported.  If you buy through my links, I may earn a small commission.

2.  Clear off the top of your dining or coffee table.

You may have already done this with your dresser, so you know how quickly this one task can change the look of an entire room.  Take five minutes to clear away everything, toss it or put it away, and dust or polish the wood.  Replace no more than two items, such as a plant, a fruit bowl, a flat basket for magazines and remotes, or a favorite decorative item.  Whenever you use the table, return it to this state afterwards.

3.  Put away the toys.

If you have children, you know that toys can migrate all over the house (ditto family members' hobby supplies).  Take a few minutes with your child before bedtime and make sure that all toys get put away.  If this task seems overwhelming, consider the benefits of owning fewer toys.  Meanwhile, help your children learn the importance of putting things away once they've finished with them (and practice this skill yourself).

4.  Pare down your dishes and cookware.

Many people have accumulated far more plates, bowls, cups, gadgets, and things like omelet pans and cutting boards than they ever use.  Realistically, how many does your family need?  How many will actually fit into the dishwasher at one time?  You probably have plenty of duplicates.  Find all of those extras, and declutter them today.  

Keep the dishes and cooking tools you like the best, and use them regularly.  If you love holiday china, consider keeping only the dinner plates, or just the Santa mugs.  Once you've streamlined the number of kitchen items, your cupboards and shelves will be less crowded, and your counters will be easier to keep clean and ready for use.

5.  Tackle one junk drawer or closet.

Set a timer for five minutes, and dare yourself to remove everything and only return what you actually use.  You may be surprised how quickly you can make decisions when challenged, and you might discover that you don't need so many junk drawers and crowded closets after all.

6.  Clear out your car.

Our vehicles accumulate a lot of clutter, such as mail, empty water bottles, receipts, coins, CDs or DVDs, toys, even trash.  Use two bags, one for garbage and one for things that need to be put away somewhere else.  If you have an extra minute or two, use a damp cloth to wipe down the dash, steering wheel, and cup holders, or a hand-held vacuum to give the floors and mats a quick clean.  You'll appreciate the difference the next time you go for a drive. 

Find Part 3 right here.

Updated March 2023


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