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How to Declutter When You Have No Time

​If you have a hard time getting motivated to declutter and feel like you have no room in your schedule to tackle the daunting tasks that lie behind each door of your home, let me reassure you. I felt the same way you do. I have five kids, ages 8 and under. Our youngest is just 9 months old. If I had a dollar for every time I let an entire day be ruined because instead of doing any actual decluttering, I moved random items from one spot to another. Never actually accomplishing anything. It wasn’t until I started to look at decluttering as an ongoing project that needed to be accomplished in the few spare minutes of my day that I had, that I started to see real progress in my home. No matter how overwhelmed you feel, stick with me and let’s tackle how to declutter when you have no time.

Related:  Declutter a Room in 30 Minutes

Related:  How to be Ruthless When Decluttering

Getting Into a Decluttering Mindset

Decluttering often seems like a daunting task, especially when you have a busy schedule and little kids. 

There is very little time to spare. 

The good news is small amounts of progress add up to huge changes in your home.

The best way to approach the decluttering process is by embracing the “small steps” strategy. 

You don’t need a lot of time to make great progress. 

Start with just a little bit of time each day, focusing on one room, like the living room, at a time. 

Understand that it’s about making your living space a clutter-free, comfortable home for your family. 

Perfectionism has no place here, and it’s essential to let go of unrealistic expectations.

When you have tiny people needing diaper changes, snacks, and their own messes cleaned up – you simply aren’t going to find the time for a massive declutter session.


Learn to embrace “progress over perfection” and put one foot in front of the other every day.

Finding Pockets of Time to Declutter

As a mom with a hectic schedule, finding pockets of time for the decluttering process is key. 

You might not have long stretches, but even a few minutes here and there can add up. 

Involve your family members, including your young children, in the process. 

It can be a great way to teach them about the importance of keeping things in their proper place and reducing clutter.

Honestly, not involving our kids in the decluttering process is doing a huge disservice to them.

This is a lesson I had to learn the hard way.

My kids were spending way too much time in front of the TV while I attempted (unsuccessfully) to declutter our house.

I ended up just frustrated at the whole process.

My kids constantly needed me (how dare they) and no decluttering was actually happening. 

I was just moving things from one place to another with no real plan.

The best way to declutter is to have a written plan and to fit it into the margins of your day.

Let’s tackle a decluttering plan next.

Setting Clear Goals to Declutter in Smaller Chunks of Time

Define your decluttering objectives from the jump. 

Do you want to declutter your entire house, or are you focusing on specific areas like kitchen cabinets or the medicine cabinet in the bathroom? 

​The best place to start is to make a list of the areas of your home that bother you the most.

You are probably rolling your eyes like I would have before I started this minimalism journey I’m currently on.

What do you mean pick a place that bothers me? The whole d*mn house is a mess.

The truth is, there are areas that bother you more than others.

Is it that the kitchen table is always stacked with clutter and you have to move piles of crap to serve meals?

​Are the counter tops so covered in clutter (paper, dirty dishes, etc) that you get frustrated and end up just ordering dinner most nights?

Decluttering your home has a snowball effect on how the rest of your life functions, so plan your decluttering process accordingly.

For me, it looked like this:

Clutter Hot Spots:

  • Kitchen Table
  • ​Kitchen Counters
  • Entryway table
  • Dresser in our Master Bedroom
  • Hallway Bathroom Counter

​Yes, everything else was a mess too, but these were the big ones.

These were the ones that were getting in the way of my day.

Small, daily progress is the key.

Trust me with the following strategies for just a couple of days and you’ll view decluttering completely differently than you do right now.

How to Declutter in the Margins of Your Day

For me, decluttering had to become a habit.

When I’m waiting for one of my kids to finish up their shower, I’m spending 90 seconds or so tidying up the bathroom counter.

While I’m working on breakfast or dinner, I’m unloading the dishwasher, clearing the counter, and reloading the dishes.

I regularly go through our junk drawer just to see if I can fill my hands completely with things to throw away.

I go through the mail as soon as I get it and throw away any junk.

Read my entire paper clutter strategy here.

Organizing Strategies

Use simple tips to maximize space and maintain an organized home on a daily basis. 

Utilize storage solutions that work for your family’s needs, creating designated places for frequently used items.

The only organizing strategy you need is “a place for everything and everything in its place.”

​The truth is, those homeless items are the ones that end up cluttering up our homes.

Everything else that makes your home feel messy usually falls into one of three categories:  paper, laundry, and dishes. 

Add a fourth category, toys, if you have kids.

Seeking Support and Accountability

Enlist the help of family members in your decluttering sessions.

Even young children can participate by putting items in the donation box or helping organize their own belongings.

Consider joining a decluttering challenge or group for motivation and share your progress on social media to stay accountable.

I once had my best friend come over with lots of plastic bins and helped me organize my kids toys.

We had fun and I learned to actually let someone help me with something that I was absolutely terrible at.

Asking for help is something I have never been good at.

Sharing before and after photos of my decluttering progress via text to my husband when he was at work really motivated me.

busy mom with two kids. pin reads "how to declutter when you have no time"

Dealing with Emotional Attachments and Sentimental Items

This could be an entire blog post in and of itself.

My theory is that almost all of the items you think have sentimental value actually just carry guilt.

Guilt about getting rid of them because you spent a lot of money on it. 

Guilt because a family member or friend gave you the thing. 

The guilt that comes with thinking maybe you’ll need those decluttered items someday.

Read my best advice about how to declutter without feeling guilty here.

It’s essential to cope with these emotions and develop strategies for handling items tied to memories. 

Finding closure and peace through the process is a crucial part of decluttering.

Celebrating Small Wins

Acknowledge and reward yourself for your progress, no matter how small. 

Even decluttering a single drawer can be a significant achievement. 

Recognize the benefits of decluttering, including more time for the important things in life and a clutter-free home.

Take before and after pictures when you start to declutter.

Even if you only have one or two minutes to spend on a kitchen drawer or a small room.

Grab a garbage bag and set a timer for two minutes.

This is a strategy that is completely neglected, in my opinion.

It isn’t even so much about the massive progress that you’ll see – and believe me, you will see massive progress.

But it’s about learning to really appreciate tiny amounts of time and the huge difference they can make.

​Once you see how much clutter you can plow through in under five minutes, your entire home will feel so much less daunting.

Instead of feeling like there’s just never enough time, you’ll start to feel like “oh wow, okay I can tackle the table while the kids get their shoes on.”

I waste so much less time now and I hardly ever set aside large amounts of time to declutter.

Instead, I do it all in my spare time that would otherwise be wasted just standing around waiting on someone else.

How to Keep Your Home Clutter-Free

To maintain a clutter-free home, you have to have strategies in place to prevent excess clutter from accumulating. 

Establish regular decluttering routines that fit your daily routine and adapt them as your family’s needs change. 

One thing that I find really helps me is to “earn” something I want.

Maybe I am fed up after a long day and just want a long, hot shower.

I know that all I’ll do in there is stress over all that’s left to do around the house.

So, I set a timer for 10 minutes, rush around decluttering every surface that I can, and feel about 200% better when I take some time for myself.

Your home will stay in good shape with consistent effort.

I keep an ongoing declutter box right outside of my laundry room in our garage.

Any item in good condition that I think someone else could eventually use goes here.

I have, for this season of my life, decided I won’t be attempting to sell anything on Facebook Marketplace or anywhere else in the process of decluttering.

It just slowed my progress to a screeching halt.

For now, simply having less stuff to manage and a cleaner house has made a huge difference in my mental health.

Motivation to Just Start

Decluttering your home, even with a busy schedule and young children, is entirely possible. Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to decluttering. Find what works best for your family, whether it’s small steps, involving your kids, or enlisting professional help. By taking small, consistent steps and making the decluttering process a part of your daily routine, you can transform your living space into an uncluttered home that benefits your family’s well-being and daily tasks. So, let’s start your decluttering journey today, one small task at a time, and turn your home into a clutter-free haven!