Day 314 Ten minute decluttering

As you all know I advocate decluttering with the slow and steady approach. I often say even if you do just 10 minutes a day it will make a difference. Here are a list of ways that you squeeze in ten minutes of decluttering each day…

  1. While waiting for the kettle to boil and the tea to brew.
  2. When having done nothing useful for a while and feel the need to feel better about yourself.
  3. During the commercials while watching a show on television.
  4. Between dinner preparation steps.
  5. When putting the laundry away check the cupboards for unused items.
  6. While dusting on cleaning day think why do I really want this thing I keep cleaning every week.
  7. When ready to go out with a friend but they haven’t arrived yet.
  8. When  finished showering and you grab the deodorant, give the cabinet the once over.
  9. When putting away the dishes pick one cabinet or drawer and do a little decluttering.
  10. After driving into the garage stop for 10 minutes before going inside and find a couple of unused items that can go in the donation/eBay/garage sale pile.
  11. When searching for a DVD to watch go through your collection as see if there are any you don’t really want.
  12. When putting the children’s toys away pull out the broken and outgrown toys.
  13. When folding the laundry check for items with holes or faded or outgrown by the children.
  14. Before putting the recycling bin on the street have a look around the house for anything that should go in it like old boxes, magazines that you no longer read, newspapers etc.
  15. Enlist the children to go through a drawer in their bedrooms and discard items they no longer want.
  16. When in need of a band-aid declutter the out of date items from the first-aid kit.
  17. When grabbing a pair of shoes before leaving the house give the shoe box/cupboard the once over and discard any holey or outgrown shoes and ones that just never get worn any more.
  18. When choosing a book from your bookcase pick a shelf and do a little check to see if there are any book you no longer have a need for or can live without. Popular fiction titles are always available at the library to borrow if you ever feel the need you re-read them while the information in some non-fiction book can become out of date.
  19. When you finish working on a craft/hobby project pick one area of you work space to declutter.
  20. Any drawer in the house usually only takes about 10 minutes to clean out.

That list should keep you busy for a while or at least for ten minutes a day for the rest of this month so hop to it. I would love to hear your 10 minute declutter tips so leave a comment on the post so we can all take advantage of our collective knowledge.


I am putting together a bunch of craft supplies and having a little sale at a local craft group and these tags will be part of the sale.

Craft Tags

5 things I am grateful for today

  1. Getting my post written early.
  2. Knowing I have a great post from Cindy to share with you tomorrow.
  3. Understanding friends – Especially when you forget to text them and let them know you can’t make an arranged outing.
  4. The pie shop down the street – There aren’t many places in this country where you can buy lunch for three people for $4.50.
  5. Liam scored a 12 out of 12 on his PTA testing again today – Lets hope he can do it again tomorrow and the next day and then he can start on the brain injury rehabilitation. Also we may be able to bring him home for a couple of hours on the weekend.
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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Great news about Liam.

    Good post. Lots of great ideas for times to declutter.

  2. Go Liam! That’s great news.

    Excellent list for uncluttering on the go. Here’s one from me:

    Clean out your purse either right before shopping or right after. File receipts if needed, or toss out, along with gum wrappers, etc. Gather appointment cards and enter them in your calendar, put excess change in a piggy bank, replenish aspirin or Motrin in the pill box, smooth out currency and refold neatly into wallet, same with coupons, and toss out expired or unwanted coupons. Amazing how much stuff one’s bag collects and how much stuff gets lost or unused, like coupons, all because of an unorganized and cluttered purse.

    • Hi Meg,
      great advice! I deliberately only use small purses so things can only accumulate for a short time or they just won’t fit that way I have to keep it decluttered.

      • Same here about the small purses…and I clean mine out as Meg suggests. I can’t stand not being able to find what I need in a cluttered purse.

    • Good idea about the purse, Meg. I usually declutter mine when I’m waiting for an appointment. It doesn’t get bad, so I can go through it quickly. Still, those store cards (buy here 25 zillion times and get $5 off) need to be purged sometimes.

  3. You’re so right Meg about how magnetic the inside of a purse is for scraps of this-n-that.

    I think ithis is obvious but when the mail comes, grab it and immediately open all the envelopes, shred the junk and read/file the rest. Handle it once. Don’t leave it in a pile for ‘later’.

    • Hi Willow,
      this is very good advice to. To add to this one try to digitise most of your bills so they are taken care of with the computer and you never have to waste paper on them. Also don’t give out your address to anyone you don’t have to so you don’t end up with tons of useless junk mail. We would not receive more than ten letters a week in our snail mail box and that’s the way I like it.

  4. I like #2 especially. When I feel that I’ve been unproductive or that I’ve been productive but at my desk all day, a bit of decluttering or cleaning makes me feel good.

    Sometimes we also try decluttering or cleaning as quickly as possible. I’ll set the time for no more than 10 minutes, and we run around like crazy girls trying to get everything picture perfect before the timer goes off.

    • Hi Cindy,
      #2 has been a good one for me over the last three weeks which is probably why it ended up so high up the list.

      I think you need to video your manic cleaning sessions and send it to us for a laugh they sound like fun.

  5. Lots of sensible ideas here – it’s easy to get overwhelmed isn’t it and then completely frozen in any decluttering attempts.

    I will certainly try and incorporate some of these into my routines and make them habits.

  6. I actually did #2 and #4 today. Decluttering has a way of making chores more fun!

    • Hi Sally,
      the sounds like an order at a take out – “I’ll have a #2 and a #4 today thank you”. I didn’t actually do any decluttering today but I think my husband did a #2 and #10 as a result the garage is getting more organised everyday. I just went for an morning walk, lunch with some friends and visited Liam in the afternoon.

  7. Yeay Liam!

    These tips are awesome for me for maintenance – but for actual decluttering, I have had to do it in a major way. But still spread out over a few days, or a couple of weeks. (I’ve done a few, with each move, and three or four times while in this apartment the last 2 1/2 years!) I’m just not good at the slow and steady, never have been.. everything is in bursts of epic proportions. Which is not always the best way, but I seem incapable of the other way 🙂 Still, I never went from complete mess to total austerity in one step, so I guess I DID spread out the work over the years. Each time decluttering I’ve been able to let go of lots more stuff. Though admittedly, there was always new stuff to declutter that had crept in. But all in all, the stuff has gone down enormously. I expect to need this move only 1/2 of the boxes we needed last time, even though we now have a child 🙂

    • Hi Cat Meow,
      I used to do what you speak of here. Declutter in spurts and large volumes but then I always over time replaced the clutter with a new batch and it was back to square one. Granted my children are grown and that makes it easier to not accumulate more stuff as they age but plenty of what we had accumulated belonged to the adults of the family. Decluttering constantly over a period of time like I have this year and delving into the psychology behind the clutter and focusing on how the supply and demand effects the environment I feel I have learned my lesson better and am unlikely to fall into this trap again. I too hope to only have half the boxes when we move next time.

      • I know what you mean. During the past year I’ve read for the first time a lot of literature on simplifying, decluttering and minimalism, which made me finally understand myself better, and the reasons for the mess.. So now I finally feel confident that this will stick. I realized that no amount of decluttering will ever be enough if I keep buying more stuff (DUH!)
        I’m a bipolar artist so I have enough challenge there 🙂 But keeping things calm and simple actually help stabilize my moods! It’s got to be minimalism for me.

  8. I found that weekly sessions of 30-60 minutes work best for me to declutter. The tips above work great for maintenace. My favorite trick is to set the timer for 20 minutes and zoom in to work – when the timer goes off I take a 10 minute break (also by the timer!) and then repeat the process 2-3 more times . I get alot more done and I’m not always checking the clock and I tell myself I can stick it out for 20 minutes. I do this for unpleasant chores as well – it makes it more fun to try to beat the clock

  9. Could I please have a heaping helping of #2 and #19? 🙂

    Great tips, both in the post and in the comments.

  10. I think I will print this list and put it on my refrigerator for when I have 10 minutes here or there. Great list, Colleen. Thanks.

    • Hi Di,
      that is a good idea. I have been finding that since Liam’s accident there a some extra things I need to do but keep forgetting so I have now made a list now too. I will check it our each day and see what I can fit in.

  11. I know that many people have more years, space, and cupboards than I do, but I found a long time ago that if I set a timer for 10 minutes and work on anything at all (easy or hard) as long as it’s related to decluttering, I can get to the bottom of my possessions eventually — as long as I do the 10 minutes every day. Of course, that number is meant for my personal space and possessions. Adding in other people (and their stuff) significantly extends the time, difficulty, and mess.

    The trick is simple, really, just like money — where if you spend beyond your means, you go into debt. With possessions and messes, if you mess up more of your space than you spend time dealing with mess, you end up in clutter debt. For me, if I spend 10 minutes a day, I’m putting money in the bank. For other people, that number may not be right.

    I don’t count the kitchen and doing the dishes as part of this, or cleaning the common areas (simply because I don’t usually leave my stuff there). What I do count is my private area, where all the messes are mine. Things count if they are on the floor or not in their proper place (maybe they never had a proper place to start with). Occasional vacuuming and dusting count. Sorting through papers, picking out library books to take back, dealing with mail, cataloguing receipts, paying bills, and making a decision to get rid of or donate something all count. The thing that’s holding up a mess from getting cleaned counts (maybe I need to scan through the occasional magazine before getting rid of it, or take a picture of something before donating it).

    Say I estimate that I make an average of 2-5 minutes worth of mess every day. Some days I make no mess at all. Occasionally I make half an hour or an hour’s worth of mess. It doesn’t matter. If I have to spend a week cleaning up “new” mess, that’s ok. In a week it will be gone, and I won’t have “new” mess anymore, only “old” mess to clean up.

    If I make an AVERAGE of 2-5 minutes worth of “new” mess each day, that leaves me 5-8 minutes every day to deal with “old” mess. Even if I only have those few minutes to use on “old” mess, I do HAVE TO use them. That means that, almost always, something gets done each day that moves me forward. I typically use those 5-8 minutes of dealing with “old” mess doing the least intimidating, easiest thing I can. If I finish that, I move on to the next thing that is the least intimidating and the easiest, and so on. This makes me feel good, because I feel like I’ve avoided work.

    How do I know that I’m on track and have picked a good time target? Most days, I’m dealing with “old” clutter.

    If you’re not dealing with any “old” clutter on most days (or at least on many days), you’d better sit down for a while and honestly ask if you are allowing enough time. As long as you’re dealing with “old” clutter on a mostly daily basis, you’ll probably get there, even if it takes a while.

    If you produce an average of 15 minutes of mess a day, and you only spend 10 minutes, you are going to go into “clutter debt.” If you create careful habits and protocols for daily life, you will naturally create less mess to start with (i.e. clothes automatically just go in the hamper, not on the floor).

    I used this method once as a child to totally clean my space from top to bottom. As soon as I put the seal of approval on the finished product, I stopped. Of course, I quickly ended up “in the red” again, because I was once again producing more clutter and mess than I was taking the time to deal with, and it more or less went back to the way it was before I started before long.

    I printed out a calendar last month, and I put star stickers on the days I did 10 minutes. Instead of a timer, I listened to 3 songs (since 3 songs tend to add up to about ten minutes anyway). I discovered that even when I missed days, I still reduced my “clutter debt,” rather than increasing it. My space looks better than it did. It saved my fanny once or twice, too. (Sometimes stuff that banks send you is important. Who would have thought?)

    What worked as a child still worked.


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