The Lazy Person's Guide to Eliminating Clutter | Giftie Etcetera: The Lazy Person's Guide to Eliminating Clutter

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Lazy Person's Guide to Eliminating Clutter

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You're going to pretend that the pile of mess pictured below was staged for this blog post, okay?

You are so sweet to do that. After all, a person who blogs about order in your life would not have parts of her home that look like that, right?

clutter, mess, organizing

She would. Awkward. 

Even the empty bag of Oreos is mine. The magazines? They belong to my local library. The orange peel? Mine. The toys? My kids' new toys from Christmas.

Yes, Christmas was two weeks ago. Sigh.

But with a few easy steps, we can tackle this pile of clutter together.

(Full disclosure - I generally only put aside 15 minutes a day for this. I call it my 15 minute quick clean, which involves decluttering, cleaning, and any household tasks other than laundry, dishes, and cooking.)


This might seem like the most obvious step. But I'm going to add a couple of caveats.

First, throw away trash before you do anything else because it's the easiest way to start quickly and accomplish a lot.

Second, if it's not easy, make a decision pile.

I am not a procrastinator by nature, but sometimes whether or not something is trash is a fuzzy subject. 

Do not let decisions derail your progress.


There are some things that need to be put away and have a home. Go ahead and "save" them.

(Saving stuff is a colloquialism in my neck of the woods.)

TIP: If the stuff belongs to others, especially school-aged children, put it on their chair seat at the dinner table and give them until dinnertime to put it away properly.

Confession time.

I only do that chair trick sometimes. It just depends. 

If I am cleaning for company, I might not want the stuff sitting at the table until dinner. 

If the kid had baseball and piano practice, chores, and final exams, maybe I just take care of it as a form of grace. (After all, I give myself grace when clutter happens.)

But I do make them save their own stuff at least half of the time, so they learn responsibility and how to declutter their own piles. I offer encourage, guidance, rewards (they can earn electronics time if they do chores without grumbling), and consequences (no dinner until it's done).

Except for the chair trick, do not let the clutter linger by putting it nearby. Put the items away where they belong.

I going to repeat myself now.

If you don't know where it belongs, make a decision pile. 

This pile should be separate from the trash pile.


There are probably some issues that threaten to stall your progress.


Baby starts crying? See to his needs. Change a diaper. Put him in a sling. Return to the pile as soon as possible, but give yourself grace if it doesn't happen.


If you are in the habit of 15 minutes of chores daily, this is likely not a problem.

But if it is, make it pleasant. Put on music or Netflix while you work. 

Reward yourself with a piece of dark chocolate or a cup of coffee while you work.

Work together with a friend to tackle their pile and then to tackle yours.

Cluttered Homes

What if the place where you try to save the item (called its "home") is currently cluttered, so the item cannot go there?

I suggest that you add it to that cluttered area. (Seriously. I don't want this to sidetrack the current declutter project for you!) Then, take a second and add decluttering that new area to your planner. 

I put mine on a Projects page called Household, which I glance at when I have 15 minutes and my house is already clean.

Basically, that already clean house happens only if we've had company within the last 5 hours. :)


First, tackle trash.

Is it broken? Can you (and SHOULD you) fix it?

If so, add it (and the location where you store it - hopefully in your hold box) to your task list in your planner.

Is it broken and can't be fixed? Toss it. Still need one? Add it to your shopping list in your planner.

Do you hate it? Trash it! If it's in good condition, put it in your donate bag.

Want to keep it? Don't. Look, you put it in your trash pile. You probably don't love it. Discard. Done.

Next, tackle the other decisions pile, filled with items that just don't have a home.

Designate a home with similar or like items and note it on your locations list in your planner.


This is the hardest part for me. Maintain the area in a decluttered way.

Something that helps me is erasing the evidence of whatever I do, always carrying something with me from room-to-room to put away, and doing 15 minute quick cleans every day. (Yes, for bigger piles, I might schedule 30 minutes or an hour just once in a while.)

But I also think about the space and how I organically use it.

I need my magazines in the living room, so I tucked a tote (filled with library books and magazines) behind the couch.

I have little bits of trash that collect near my laptop (like the orange peel, a candy wrapper, or a dry ink pen). I put a little pen cup there to serve as a trashcan.

I need clear space there to work, so I made homes elsewhere for rarely used items. (
I noted them on my locations page, so that when I am looking for the thermometer later, I know I stored it with the aspirin and not in the living room with the tissues like before.)

Let me know in the comments what area you commit to decluttering this week! 


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Mary Wimbley said...

This is an awesome post! Love the idea of a mini trashcan on your desk! I'm looking for a cup to serve that purpose right now. :)

I actually did a little decluttering earlier today. One of my biggest clutter traps is the space between my bed and my dresser and closet. For some reason, everything seems to congregate in that area. Mostly laundry that can never seem to find its way out of the basket and into a drawer or onto a hanger. But then other stuff finds its way into, under, and on top of the baskets! Looking at those piles drains my energy, so that's where I have started. Wish me luck!

Anna said...

Thanks for taking all the time to stage the picture for us ;) I try to "erase" the evidence as I go and stay on top of things daily. But for all the times that doesn't happen (too often!) it is good to have a plan. I normally use Monday night as my major tidy/straighten. I like to go into the weekend without big messes, but sometimes that doesn't happen. And by the end of the weekend, a lot accumulates. I notice that my biggest problem is when I don't have "homes" for things. Then I keep moving them from spot to spot.

Renee said...

I love reading about decluttering! I even love to do it, it just sometimes takes me a little while to get motivated :-). Your post is great. I love the ideas (especially the chair idea).

Lori said...

Great post! How to declutter is an issue of mine, but I feel like over the years I have become better. Getting rid of trash first is what I like to do first as well. It is the easiest and makes you feel that you have accomplished something. Sometimes when I don't know what to do with certain things I put them in a small plastic bag and then at the end of the week I go through everything and find a home for it. said...

Good tips! Thanks for sharing this at Motivation Monday! I've long had trouble with clutter. One thing that I find helps is reading the junk mail before I get into the house -- that way I can toss it into my outdoor recycling bin before it becomes clutter!

Elle C. Mayberry | Tuned In Parents said...

Thanks for sharing these awesome home organization tips! Too sweet not to tweet. :)

She Yarns Crochet said...

A great article. I should heed your advice....but! You offer many great tips here. Thanks for sharing with us at Merry Monday.

Jaime Barfield said...

I love the 15 minute quick clean. It seriously helps me keep my house from looking like an inside yardsale.