If you’ve been following the blogs about minimalism, decluttering, and reducing possessions, you might have noticed something interesting – many of them talk about the importance of reducing your stuff, without discussing the methods for doing so. Some of them make it sound like you just wake up one day, decide to live with less than 100 things/live in a clutter-free home/finish up all of your open projects, sit down (or stand up, as appropriate), and just knock it all out.  Presto, you’re a minimalist by dinnertime!

I can tell you for a fact that’s not me.  I would wager that it’s not most of you, either. For those of us who are in the same boat (i.e. we’re not decluttering “rockstars”!), here are some tips from my own experience:

Maximize – Some days you just wake up on the wrong side of the bed – don’t sweat it if you’re not super-productive on those days. But on the days where you have a nice burst of energy, I’ve found that’s a fantastic time to get a little extra organizing and decluttering done.

Minimize – Pick a small area to work on at a time.  Depending on your level of ambition, this could be as large as an entire room, or as small as a few drawers or a shelf. I’ve done things like “clean the kitchen counter before I go on vacation”, as well as “let’s clean out this drawer”. The size of the area doesn’t matter nearly as much as the fact that something is getting done.

Manage – Manage your expectations.  Your house, apartment, room, or whatever space you’re working with probably took months or years to get the way it did.  Don’t stress about getting it all done immediately – any progress is good progress!

Maintain – I try very hard to keep the areas I’ve already gone over reasonably clutter-free.  If you start your massive decluttering project with the kitchen, for example, you’re still doing great if you do nothing other than maintain the kitchen in that state on a day-to-day basis. Take 10 minutes each day and go over the area you just got cleaned – that gives you a solid platform to move forward.

Motivate – If you can come up with something nice to use as a reward, it can be a great positive motivator.  Sometimes the decluttering can be a reward in itself, but I’ve found it’s best to think of something a bit more tangible.  Maybe you could treat yourself to some great ice cream, or buy yourself some small item that you’ve always wanted but didn’t have room for until you decluttered the space.

Obviously these five ideas aren’t the end-all be-all of decluttering, but I find them to be a nice framework for a reality check when I get stuck in the decluttering process.  I can pause, take a step back (and a deep breath!), and appreciate how far I’ve come – rather than how far I have yet to go.

Do you have any creative ideas for keeping a positive focus while decluttering and organizing?