Set Small Goals

An MSN article, reposted by Joshua Becker on Becoming Minimalist, and discussed by me in a previous post, presents seven useful tips for decluttering. The second tip on the list, and the subject of my musings today, is Set Small Goals. This is a powerful concept, one which will allow you to get started with your decluttering without having to wait for that long weekend, and without become overwhelmed in the process.

When I decided to become a minimalist and declutter our home, it was as if a switch flipped in my head. I wanted all the clutter gone – now. I wanted to dive in, head first, and get it all done at one time. I wanted to back a dumpster up to the house, load it up with clutter, and then have it taken away. I wanted to declutter once and then reap the rewards forever.

But this is not a reasonable approach to decluttering for most people, and it certainly wasn’t the right approach for me. For one reason, I, like many people, work outside the home. This means that unless I take a leave of absence, there is no way that I am going to have a declutter-a-thon during which I get rid of all my clutter, have done with it, and then go back to my life. Additionally, I don’t want to suspend time with my family for the sake of rapidly decluttering my house.

So, if you don’t declutter all at once, how do you do it? And how many times have you wanted to declutter, looked around your home, and thought “I don’t even know where to start?” This is where the advice of Set Small Goals can help. For example, rather than decluttering your whole bedroom, you can just focus on your closet, or maybe even just your sock drawer. Rather than sorting and filing all your papers, make your goal sorting through the pile of mail on the dining table. Rather than tackling thinning out your entire wardrobe, just focus on your shoes or t-shirts.

I have found that setting small goals for myself in decluttering has been a big help to keeping my momentum going. While I don’t get the satisfaction of a clean sweep, I am able to go through my items more purposefully, and give each item the individual attention and respect that it deserves. This allows me to make an informed judgment about whether to keep the item, or let it go.

Some examples of small goals that I have set for myself and achieved are:

All these goals were things that I could tackle in anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours. I directed my attention to each small task and did not let myself get distracted by the clutter near the area of focus. I didn’t look around at the fifteen other boxes full of stuff and become overwhelmed or discouraged. One box, one container, one area, one cabinet. Set Small Goals. And eventually the little clear areas began to add up, and converge, and make larger clear areas.

If you decided to run a marathon, you wouldn’t just go out and run 26.2 miles, would you? So why is decluttering your entire house any different? Select some small areas to start. Find something that you can easily imagine yourself completing. Build your decluttering muscles. Then set another small goal for yourself, and meet it. Then another, and so on, until all those fresh, new, clutterfree areas converge and drown out the clutter!

Further reading:
Start With The Easy Stuff

This post is brought to you by Fifi, who is very small herself, and understands how powerful “small” can be!

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