Are you like many moms I know: You love the idea of less clutter and chaos in your home, but you can’t seem to make it happen?
I’ve been feeling this way for years (I wish that was an exaggeration). And, as I’ve transitioned most of my work to happening at home, the clutter negatively affects me more and more. I’ve realized it’s because I’m around, and in, the clutter, way too often.
When you work outside of the home, you get to leave. And yes, maybe you come back to clutter at home, but to me, it feels very different when you’re in it almost constantly. I spend a lot of time at home where I see the amount of stuff we have and feel overwhelmed by how much there is to do to tackle it.
You might be thinking- you’re at home a lot, why not just start dealing with the clutter? Well- if it were that easy, I’d already have done it, wouldn’t be writing this, and you probably wouldn’t be reading this. And believe me, I wish I was in a position where it felt easy to deal with the clutter. It hasn’t been.
It’s easy to say that “it’s just clutter” and it’s really not that big of a deal, but this post and this post tell us otherwise! You may already know that decluttering is important, and before we can often tackle it, we need to know what’s getting in the way of accomplishing getting rid of clutter.
Here’s what gets in my way of dealing with clutter
- We’ve lived in our house since 2009, and have been parents since 2012. Even with donating, selling, or repurposing, we still have WAY TOO MUCH. It’s overwhelming.
- Yes, I’m home a lot. But I am working. Or hanging with my kids. Or working some more. Or exhausted from all of that. Dealing with clutter falls off the to-do list. Can you relate?
- Children. Yes, I blame them. But it’s so silly because they don’t need nearly as much as they have, In fact, having less can be really good for kids.
- I try to be financially responsible and sometimes have a hard time parting with things because we paid for them, or because it seems like we might need it later, and then that could be a waste of money.
- The project seems so big. Yes, that’s basically a repeat of #1, but I think this is what has held me back for so long: the size and depth of the overall task.
10 Ways to Deal with Clutter as a Work at Home Mom
Even with the reasons (and excuses) about the challenges of getting rid of clutter, there is a lot that can be done. Though I’m not always good at taking my own advice, try these 10 tips for decluttering.
Do the most important spaces first.
Each of has the parts of our home that make us cringe. This may be due to the amount of clutter and junk, the fact that the space can’t seem to stay clean, or it’s a part of your home you use a lot. If you can identify a space to start with and declutter it, you’re likely to notice how good that feels. This will help to create positive momentum and keep you going.
Do the “easy” tasks first.
Sometimes the most important places feel like a big job. And, if you’re like me, the big jobs hold you back from starting. Picking something small or easy to begin with can also help you create some momentum. For me, this was a couple of drawers, specifically my drawer that holds supplies like pens, sticky notes, and other office supplies, and my make-up drawer. Both had plenty of excess including things that were old or broken. By cleaning these spaces and seeing some of the clutter removed, it reminded me how nice it feels to be organized and only have what I need.
Schedule decluttering like you would your other work.
This is where working from home does have its advantages. I’ve been scheduling decluttering on a daily basis, just like I do other work-related tasks. It’s on my to-do list and I get it done. I prefer the flexibility of deciding what I’ll declutter and when in the day, but you might want to be even more organized with a plan and a time for your regular decluttering efforts. Since I tend to be exhausted at the end of the day, I’ll usually tackle some decluttering in between other tasks, or when I’m feeling a bit fried from work. Decluttering has actually been a nice way to break up the way.
Tackle it a little at a time, every day.
A friend of mine with a more traditional job has recently decluttered. She was able to dedicate large chunks of time to getting this accomplished. For me, with younger kids, this has proven to be harder because I can’t focus on the task in the way she did. Though I wish I could take the approach she has, I realized that I need to take this project in small chunks. This means it’s going to take me a while, but I have to be okay with that and be excited about the small (but steady) progress that I’m making.
Set small goals.
I have a general goal of decluttering every day. I try to tackle one area or space at a time. But, I also make it a point to try to get rid of at least 10 items. I either trash them if they’re broken or unusable, or I move them to my garage for selling or donating (I’m realizing that the garage is going to be a project of its own when all of this is done!!). I love the 40 Bags in 40 Days approach because it gives you a concrete daily goal, along with helping you create a plan to make it happen.
Break the bigger areas into smaller ones.
While working from home, my schedule is different everyday. And, with young kids, it’s hard to have more than 10 minutes at times. Breaking down larger tasks into smaller ones has helped with this. For example, we have a buffet in our kitchen that has become storage and a catch-all. I decluttered one drawer at a time, and then one cabinet at a time. One cabinet holds our old bills (yep- random!) and that felt like a big job on its own. So, I decluttered everything else, took the random bills that had been shoved in there, put them neatly into a bag, and I’ll tackle the bills at another point in time. The good news is, when you open up all parts of the buffet now, it’s clean and (mostly) clutter-free.
Figure out what your “problem areas” are.
We all have them. These are the areas where clutter constantly collects, or no matter what you seem to try, the mess still accumulates. This is usually due to our patterns and habits, and less about the area. For us, this is a counter space next to our fridge. It was stacked high with papers and “stuff” for way too long. I cleaned it after Christmas and found a letter from Santa. From the previous Christmas. Yep- it’s one of our problem areas. And, I’ve confirmed it’s a problem area because it has a pile again (not as high as the last, thankfully!). I need to take a step back and figure out why (and what) is causing the accumulation and deal with that. We probably need better systems for things like mail and papers so that this one spot doesn’t become the catch-all.
Involve your family members.
The clutter was not made by just you, so you shouldn’t be the only one responsible for dealing with it. Delegate tasks and let your kids help decide which toys or games they want to keep, and which to donate. We’ve tried to get in the habit of clearing out before gift-giving holidays and decluttering can become an extension of that.
Make decisions for your family members.
Yes, this runs contrary to the above point, but I think a balance of involvement and lack of information is important when trying to declutter. While I do firmly believe that your kids (and partner) should be involved, there are times where they don’t need to be. It only complicates things and slows you down if you have to have a battle over every broken toy or item that your family no longer needs. Decide when and how to involve your family and when to make the executive decision.
Create guidelines to help you cut the clutter.
I recently read the 20/20 rule to help with decluttering. If you haven’t used an item in a while but are tempted to keep it around, ask yourself: can I get the item again within 20 miles for less than $20? If so, then get rid of. Though this seems like you’d be wasting money to replace it, the idea is that you probably won’t need to replace it (because you haven’t used it recently anyway), but if you did, you could get another fairly easily (and inexpensively). You might also create rules around clothing, that if you haven’t worn it in a year (and it’s not seasonal like a jacket), then you get rid of it (and that can include donate or sell). By creating guidelines, you can help yourself deal with some of the challenges that will inevitably come up when it comes to decluttering.
Dealing with clutter can be a large project. Looking at it as an ongoing task may not be ideal, but it also helps you to see regular progress that will help you accomplish your goals.
What do you do to deal with clutter in your home?
I need to declutter SO badly. I can totally relate to being financially responsible. My twin girls just turned 1, and we probably aren’t going to have another baby (and if we do, it will be many, many years from now!), but I just can’t bear to part with my maternity clothes or baby stuff we have outgrown. Thanks for the encouragement, I feel motivated to declutter! Just maybe not the baby stuff…yet…
🙂 Though we’re done with kids, and I LOVE being able to get rid of the baby stuff as we’re done with it, I can absolutely understand not being ready to part with those items just yet! I did read something about going through even those items and getting rid of things you didn’t really use, or that are broken, not in good condition…and I agree with that. When we pulled out things the second time around there were items that weren’t in great shape, or like now with the 18mo clothes, we had at least 25 pairs of pants- what kid needs that many?! So, maybe not get rid, but keep just what you need. I don’t know about you, but I realized the second time around that we didn’t need as much, and that there were items that we just didn’t use!! Glad to have helped motivate you!!
These are such great tips, Sara! I definitely can’t stand clutter, but it always seems to come back! Kids drop things here and there and before you know it, Aaaaahhh! LOL. But I will start tackling it one day at a time like you suggested.
Thanks, Kristie. I really feel like it’s an ongoing battle when you have young kids. Because even though they can “help” they’re much better at helping with the problem!! I actually got out of the habit of doing a little each day, so I need to get back into it- starting and creating the momentum felt really good- now to get it back!
What wonderful ideas. I have worked from home off and on for decades, since my children were small and now they are grown. Finding the right balance between work work and running the household has been an ongoing battle. Your plan is definitely sensible.
Thanks, Regina! I find it’s hard at home because you had so many responsibilities tugging at you, especially when the kiddos are little!
Awesome tips! I love the suggestion of figuring out your problem areas. Mine is my kitchen island – it’s like a giant magnet that pulls all of our stuff 🙂 We have gotten better over the past few months, but it is still a work in progress.