If you’ve been meaning to declutter and simplify, or if you’re on that path now, it’s probably because you’ve realized that excess is not just taking up space in your home. Far from it. It also sucks up any extra time you might have. (And who really has “extra” time? Not me.)
When you spend time washing extra things, moving things around to get to other items you need more, and organizing and reorganizing stuff you never have time to actually use, there’s not much time for anything else.
And I know you want that time back.
You don’t just want it back. You need it back. Because that’s the time you’re supposed to be using to make wonderful memories with your family, to pursue your dreams, to take care of yourself, and to engage in your favorite down-time activities.
So it’s time to pare down a bit. Here are some things you can simplify NOW (whether it’s a block of time this weekend, or a little bit each day) so that you’ll be able to stop wasting time and have a few more hours for what’s really important in life.
Simplify NOW: Anything You Have to Launder
The Problem: When we have more clothes, towels, sheets, cloth napkins, and anything else that needs laundering, it’s far easier to get behind on laundry. And when that happens, it feels like we have piles of dirty clothes scolding us for not washing them, baskets of clean clothes guilting us for not folding them, and the machines beeping at us constantly.
The Solution: When we “edit” our collection to include only our favorite things and the essentials, we are forced to keep up with the laundry schedule. And because our loads of laundry will be more frequent and smaller, they’ll be much easier and faster to fold and put away, too.
What to do NOW: Go through your dresser and closet (and your kids’ clothes too) and toss the just-in-case stuff into a box for donation. You know the stuff I mean. This is the clothing you never really want to wear, given other choices, but you end up wearing now and then when you’re behind on laundry. Don’t give yourself the opportunity to get behind. Toss the insurance clothes.
Simplify NOW: Any Kitchen Excess
The Problem: When we go into the kitchen to make a meal or even just to get a drink of water, any time we have to move extra junk to get to what we need, we are wasting our time. And when we have too many of something (like drinking glasses), we tend to use more than we really need to. Which means we have more dishes to wash.
The Solution: If there’s another tool we have that can do the job, we can get rid of the unnecessary duplicates (I recently got rid of my trivets when I realized I always use kitchen towels for that purpose anyway). We can keep track of our glasses and mugs instead of getting a new one for every sip, and if we need to wash them right away to use them for a different beverage, it only takes a minute. If something is rarely or never used, we won’t miss it when we declutter it. But we will love how simple it is to operate in the kitchen each day.
What to do NOW: Start with your cooking utensils. How many whisks do you really need? How many spatulas? Wooden spoons? Et cetera. Keep only a couple of each, and get rid of your least favorites.
Simplify NOW: Downtime Stuff
The Problem: We think of ourselves as readers, as crafters, as woodworkers, or as photographers. And before we know it, we find we’re surrounded by the stuff of those hobbies. Cases full of books, drawers and bins of craft supplies and works-in-progress, wood scraps that have no plan or intended future, photography props and rolls of seasonal backdrops. But when we let ourselves acquire so many things, we are forced to spend time maintaining those things. Cleaning them, organizing them, storing them and cleaning the storage containers, and so on. And before we know it, we have very few hours to actually use for those hobbies we supposedly value.
The Solution: We just need to focus on one thing at a time. We can borrow a book from the library and read it until we’re finished with it, then borrow a new one. If we’re working on a painting, it should be our main project until it’s complete and hanging on the wall. If we’re knitting a sweater, we don’t need to buy yarn for future projects yet. If we build a piece of furniture, we can let go of the scraps afterward, knowing that we’ll buy the exact materials we need for the next project, when it’s time to focus on another one. And we can simplify our photography props by keeping the 20% of them we use 80% of the time anyway, and letting the rest go.
When we spend less time maintaining extra hobby items, and focus on one project at a time versus juggling (and finding places to store) multiple unfinished ones, we’ll have more time to actually do those projects we always say we prioritize in our lives.
What to do NOW: Gather all of your scraps for donation to your local school’s art class or a similar group that will actually use them. Bits of wood, partial skeins of yarn, small pieces of fabric, leftover scrapbooking paper, and so on. Also collect neglected DVDs, CDs, video games, and books to give to your library, a local children’s home, or another nonprofit where they’ll be used and enjoyed.
Reading about simplifying is well and good, but it won’t change your life unless you actually get up, throw open your closets, cabinets, and storage bins (not all at one time though), and make it happen.
I know you’re busy. But the thing is, if you want some of your time back so that you can be less busy soon, you have to find time to simplify NOW.
Are you ready to take that first step?
Emily Chapelle is an expert homemaker, having set up six different houses in seven years of military moves. She’s also the mother of two adorable curly-haired kids, wife to a Navy fighter pilot, and a former teacher, childcare provider, and nanny. Now she works from home to spread encouragement and inspiration to other homemakers with a no-nonsense attitude and lots of tough love. She blogs at So Damn Domestic. Get her free eBook, Finding the Awesome: 3 Steps to Doing More & Stressing Less for more inspiration and guided, broken-down exercises to find your Awesome.