Five Simple Ways to Reduce Clutter in Five Minutes

Are you completely overwhelmed by clutter? Does looking at it make you feel depressed? Do you want to do something about it but don’t know where to start? There are simple actions that you can take now to make a visible difference in your environment and create an immediate sense of accomplishment. You don’t have to read a book, buy any special tools or supplies, or make any emotional commitment to a process or program.

To be successful, simply pick a small task that doesn’t require emotional decision-making. Stick to the work at hand and avoid being distracted. After five minutes, pause and look at what you have accomplished. Take pride in the improvement in your surroundings.

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

1. Throw out old catalogs. Keep only the newest one from each company and stack them together. Don’t try to deal with magazines, just catalogs. If you feel brave, throw ALL of them away–you know that a replacement will soon be in the mail! Recycle the old ones if you can but get them out of your house immediately.

If you have too many catalogs to sort through in five minutes, make a game of getting rid of as many as you can. If they are scattered all over your house, find the nearest one and start with it.

2. Gather together dirty clothes and linens. Put them in the laundry basket or hamper or use garbage bags if you don’t have anything else to put them in. You’re not doing the wash, just getting it all together in one place so it isn’t heaped on the floor or draped over furniture. Don’t forget about the bottom of the closet and under the bed. Get those socks out from under the sofa.

If you have children, let them help–you can make even make it into a contest. If there is too much dirty laundry in the house to collect in five minutes, just pick one corner of one room and begin. If you can’t decide which room to start in, begin at the front door and work towards the farthest end of the house.

3. Get rid of food in your refrigerator that has expired or spoiled. Put the garbage that has accumulated where it belongs–in the garbage. You’re not worried about cleaning the refrigerator, just throwing away everything inedible. Recycle the containers if possible.

It may help to remove the drawers and bins from the refrigerator, one at a time. If you can’t decide where to begin, start with the shelves on the door and work from the bottom up. Still feel ambitious after five minutes? Move from the door to the main area of the refrigerator and keep working your way from the bottom up.

4. Get rid off old pens and markers. Sort through them and get rid of the ones that have dried up or run out of ink. Test them on a newspaper or magazine thick enough to protect the surface under it from scratches and ink. Scribbling is fun, so don’t agonize over each one–it either writes well or it doesn’t.

Gather the ones that work in a pencil cup or coffee mug–don’t leave them in a junk drawer or scattered about. If there are pens and markers all over the place and you can’t figure out where to start, begin by testing the pens closest to the telephone. If you find that you can accomplish this task easily, then go a step further and throw away the cheap pens that never wrote well even when they were new.

5. Turn messy heaps of paper into neat piles. Is there a desk, table, countertop, or other horizontal surface in your house that is covered with unorganized masses of paper? Take five minutes to stack them up. The “don’ts” are important to this task: Don’t read the papers. Don’t try to sort or organize them in any way. Don’t file them. Don’t throw them away. Don’t even turn them right-side-up or flip them over. All of that takes too long and is distracting. Just gather the papers and arrange them into neat stacks.

If you have more than one surface covered with papers, pick the one closest to a stove, fireplace, radiator, or other source of heat and start there. You can eliminate the clutter and a fire hazard at the same time.

Clutter doesn’t have to be overwhelming and depressing.

You can use these suggestions to attack it right now. Success will come from choosing a simple, well-defined task and working at it for just five minutes at a time. After five minutes, make sure to step back, look at what you have accomplished, and congratulate yourself for taking positive action to improve your environment.

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