There I was, staring at my 2017 in 2017 decluttering chart, pondering how my progress had stagnated. In January, I decluttered 200 items. Six months later, I’ve only managed a further 500ish items. Telling myself, “I must try harder”, I racked my brain for the ultimate idea to inspire me and reignite my motivation.
Then something struck me. Less than two weeks into June, I’d already decluttered as much as in all of May. Without even trying, I’d already solved my own problem! How?
Something is better than nothing
This stealthy surge in momentum coincided with reading Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck[i]. Manson discusses what he calls the “Do Something Principle”. Rather than waiting for the inspiration to do something, just start. The principle is based on the premise that action (doing something, anything) is both the cause of motivation, as well as the effect of motivation.
This resonated with me. Manson gave a name to a principle that I apply in different facets of my life to overcome procrastination. Despite having pretty much zero motivation for decluttering, Manson spurred me to re-engage with some of my tried and true strategies for overcoming inertia. I picked up the pace, got back on track with my goal, and it was painless.
In turn, that inspired me to share my top tips for overcoming your own inertia.
- Declutter as you go
This is a great strategy for beating overwhelm or if you struggle to set aside a block of time to declutter (parents of young kids, I’m thinking of you). Rather than adding decluttering to your to-do list, simply incorporate it into things you are already doing. Putting your socks away? Declutter the holey and lonely ones. Brushing your teeth? Remove expired medicines from your bathroom cupboard …. You get the idea.
This approach prioritises the areas of your home you use most often, so even though they’re small changes you’ll notice the difference every day, providing inspiration and motivation to keep going.
- Set a timer for 15 minutes
When you have time to declutter, but it’s the last thing you feel like doing – then what? Starting is the hardest part! All of a sudden you can find all sorts of more urgent or important things to do. Procrastination has set in.
To beat procrastination, I tell myself I only have to declutter for 15 minutes. I set the timer on my phone and pick something up. One of two things usually happen: I get engrossed and keep going, or I decide I really don’t want to spend more than 15 minutes and I race around to do as much as I can before the timer goes off and I’m off the hook. Either way, stuff gets decluttered.
This works well as a general procrastination-beater, it’s how I finally wrote this post!
- Add some accountability
Nothing spurs my motivation quite like accountability. As I’ve written about before, I’m an Obliger (and a big fan of Gretchen Rubin’s four tendencies framework), which means I’m motivated by external expectations (rather than internal expectations).
If I say out loud (or on the internet) to someone that I’m going to do something, then I’ll do it. I decluttered my first 1,000 things because I told a few strangers on Twitter that I would!
If you are also an Obliger (take the test here), you need to find a method of external accountability. That sounds a bit heavy, but really it means doing fun things, like joining an online challenge or making a date with a friend to hold a joint garage sale.
In the past, I’ve played several rounds of the Minimalism Game and I’m part of a number of decluttering Facebook groups. Currently, I’m using the 2017 in 2017 tick chart. I keep it on my desk and it motivates me to look for things to declutter as I move through my day, with an occasional blitz when inspiration strikes. I post a picture of my chart and an update on my progress every month on Facebook and Instagram. This little bit of accountability works for me, but play around to find something that works well for you.
What’s your best tip for keeping motivate?
If you need some external accountability, tell me about the next decluttering task you’d like to complete. I’ll follow up with you by email in a week to see how you are getting on.
[i] I highly recommend this book. It’s not about decluttering, however Manson is a minimalist and does touch on the subject, along with loads of practical and entertaining advice about living a meaningful life in line with your values.