Use the ‘Calendar Method’ to Finally Declutter Your House

Use the ‘Calendar Method’ to Finally Declutter Your House

While being surrounded by clutter in your home can feel chaotic and overwhelming, much of it can probably simply be discarded. How much of your kid’s old artwork really needs to be kept forever? There’s nothing of value in that stack of junk mail. And what do all the cords in that drawer even do? I’m not saying it’s easy to part with all of it, but you can make it easier. All of that junk is overwhelming in volume, but when you break it down, it can be totally manageable. You didn’t accumulate it all at once, so don’t try to get rid of it that way. Just use a calendar.

How the “calendar method” of decluttering works

The calendar method is pretty simple, when you get down to it: On the first day of the month, set out to declutter your house—but with the intention of it taking the full month. You start slow: On the first day, you find one item to throw away (or donate). On the second day, you throw away or donate two. Add another item each day, so you’re slowly building your decluttering muscle over the course of the month.

On a day with 31 months, you’ll end up parting with nearly 500 pieces of junk—and yet, you’ll still be pacing yourself. On the first few days, don’t throw away anything too hard to part with. You’ll have plenty of time to get rid of every receipt, every unused appliance, and every expired container of food. Try to focus on one room at a time and make sure you stay on track with the numbering system. In fact, consider dedicating a month to one room, the next month to another, and so on, so you wind your way through the whole house at a pace that doesn’t feel burdensome.

The best way to do this is by getting a big day planner and using that as your calendar, since it will tell you not only the numerical day of the month, but give you some space to write. At the end of each day, jot down everything you tossed out or donated. 

If there is a day when you feel like tossing more pieces of junk than the date’s number dictates, go for it, but use some caution. You know that toward the end of the month, you’ll be getting rid of a bunch, so don’t burn out. That’s exactly what this technique is trying to avoid. In the event you work through this method for a while and find it’s a little too slow, there are other decluttering techniques that take a stricter and more intense approach, so once you’ve gotten used to the feeling of getting rid of what you don’t need, consider switching to one of those.

Why the calendar method is so effective

This method helps you get in the habit of tossing out a predetermined number of things, so that by the time you’re up to the teens and 20s, it’s much easier to part with stuff. (That’s why I suggest saving more sentimental items until later in the month, when you’ve built up the mental muscle and are more used to tossing things out.) You see the progress and gain momentum along the way, especially if you take time to write down what you parted with every day. Getting rid of hundreds of pieces of clutter at once is an overwhelming task but chunking it up so you get a little thrill of accomplishment every day is much more sustainable. Plus, you’ll see the progress through the month. By the third week or so, the space will look different—and that’s motivating, too.

And at the end of the month, if you still have a bunch of clutter around, start back over at one.

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