How to declutter your home even if you have zero free time

One of the biggest barriers to decluttering is simply not having the time to do it!

But the truth is you can still declutter your home when a few spare minutes are hard to find.

Even when you’re a busy mom, have a full-time job, or have too many commitments to give it the time you think it deserves.

Use this guide to learn how to declutter your home even when you have no free time.

how to declutter when no time

First thing’s first: You have to want to declutter.

When you’re time-poor, decluttering your home won’t happen until you make it a priority. Take a minute to think about the reason for wanting to declutter to get yourself motivated.

  • Is your home making you feel stressed?
  • Do you want to host family for the holidays?
  • Are you planning to downsize your home?

When you have a clear reason for the decluttering, it’s so much easier to carve out the extra time and energy to make it happen. (Yes, you can carve out the time needed – see points below – you really have to want to, though!)

Make it as brainless as possible.

When you’re exhausted and/or busy, tasks that involve using the brain are the most overwhelming.

You’ve already reached your quota for making decisions throughout your busy day, so how are you supposed to decide whether to keep or declutter something that has sentimental value?

Before you even start, it’s important to make some plans. Break down the process and put measures in place to make it as easy as possible to work through in the time you eventually spare.

The good thing is these setup tasks can be done on the fly – while on the train ride to work, while passing from one room to another at home, or even while waiting in line at the pharmacy.

Now that you know why you want to declutter, let’s make it happen!

Make a decluttering plan with timeline.

This will make you feel more organized and focused when you do start the decluttering process. You’ll be able to break the bigger project into smaller bites that can be accomplished here and there, and you’ll be able to keep track of your progress.

This doesn’t have to be anything too intense or detailed. We simply want your brain to not get overwhelmed.

So break your project down according to your timeline (if you have one), but then break it down into tiny micro tasks.

For example, if you want to declutter your kitchen by the end of the month, your daily task could be as small as going through a single drawer or a single shelf in the kitchen cabinets.

Or, if you want to get really simple, you could plan to declutter one item every day from the kitchen for a month. Then do the same for every area of the house. At the end of the year, you will have 360 fewer items in your home!

Be ok with a slow process of decluttering. Any action is action. Any progress is progress.

>> Psst! You might be interested in our 30-day decluttering challenge to get started! It’s part of our Step-by-Step Decluttering Workshop

Set up a system for the decluttering before you start.

declutter and maybe piles
You need to make at least 2 piles while decluttering. We recommend using boxes or containers for this.

For this part of the setup, you simply need 3 containers. They can be plastic storage bins, oversized IKEA shopping bags, or empty cardboard boxes.

You will need a KEEP, DECLUTTER, and a MAYBE container. Actually, you may only need the DECLUTTER and MAYBE containers, but the KEEP is useful if you need to clear out areas completely before putting items back.

Label them. Use them.

The beauty of this part of the setup is that the MAYBE container helps you not get too overwhelmed. If you can’t make a decision on an item within a few seconds of touching it, put it in the MAYBE container and move on.

You can spend your spare minutes on another day addressing the MAYBE’s. Or better yet, take a photo and make your decisions while in those spare moments of your daily life away from home.

Use decluttering checklists.

We have plenty of decluttering checklists here on Decluttering School! They really help cut back on the brainpower needed to complete a complicated decluttering project.

Start with 10 minutes.

Does 10 minutes feel impossible?

Remember: You’re reading this article, so you probably have a few minutes to spare throughout the day.

Let’s look at some ways to make that 10 minutes possible.

Learn some different time management tactics.

Sometimes making a few simple changes can help you to free up the time needed to declutter your home.

Linda wrote a great article all about the hidden value of time that can help you think differently about time management. Those lost minutes here and there really do add up!

If you need more guidance on finding time, check out our Time Management Workshop!

Keep it simple.

One tiny task can get the decluttering motivation flowing. You’ll start to see that big change can happen from small things over time.

Try these quick decluttering projects to jumpstart your decluttering engine!

Make decluttering an extension of your workday.

Do you want to declutter but work full-time? While it often feels impossible after a long day to expend the extra energy, a couple of tweaks can help you get started (and finish!).

Build tiny habits around an existing routine.

When you’re decluttering with little time to spare, it’s going to be a long game. You’ll want to make decluttering a part of a daily routine.

Have you ever heard that the way to build new habits is to integrate them with existing ones?

For example: If you want to take daily vitamins but always forget, you can put your vitamins next to your toothbrush. You always brush your teeth; it’s a routine. Now, you’ll see your vitamins there and remember to take them before brushing your teeth.

Here are some decluttering habits you can splice into your daily work routine:

  • Put a declutter box next to the front door. Before you leave for work, you must put at least one single item in the box!
  • Every day when getting dressed for work, you make it a habit to remove one item from your closet that can be decluttered.

Redefine your finishing point.

For most people, their workday ends when they walk in the front door at home. Why not redefine your finishing point to add in 10 minutes of decluttering before mentally shutting down?

We talk more about finishing points in this post: Do you feel like your house is always messy?

Incite help where needed.

If time is just too hard to find, this might warrant asking for help from others. Tell your family and friends what your goals are for your home, and see if they are willing to give just a bit of their time so you can regain some of yours.

ask for decluttering help
Ask for decluttering help from family. Or, ask someone to babysit so you can have more time.

Get a babysitter.

If taking care of the kids is keeping you from decluttering, maybe it’s a good time for them to visit their grandparents. Or perhaps hiring a babysitter for a day will do the trick.

Ask friends to help.

Better yet, make it a social event so you can kill two birds with one stone. Order pizza, grab some wine, and declutter while you catch up!

Hot tip! You might want to share this article with them first: How to help someone else declutter

Hire a decluttering coach.

For many people, this seems a bit extreme or unreasonable. But it’s not! Sometimes we simply need some extra help and guidance, even when it comes to managing the contents of our home.

Here’s a great article where we discuss 4 situations that make sense for hiring a decluttering coach.

Take a day off work.

Hear me out. Taking a personal day from time to time is important for your mental health, which in turn makes you more productive at work.

Imagine the mental clarity you will gain when your home isn’t a source of stress and frustration, but a place for relaxation and recovery.

Your boss will literally be thanking you for taking the day for yourself.

Remember: The doing is what matters.

It will not be perfect the first time around. In fact, we do not aim for perfection here at Decluttering School!

But guess what… you can always do it again! (And again, until you’ve reached your goal.)

So don’t worry too much right now. What’s important is that you’re taking action. You’re making the small changes and moving in the right direction.

Those 2 minutes you spent on the medicine cabinet today, combined with the 5 minutes on the linen closet and the 10 minutes going through your wardrobe, are adding up.

The only way is up from here!

How have you managed to declutter your home when you have no time?


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1 thought on “How to declutter your home even if you have zero free time”

  1. I started slow, with one (ended up being two) drawers in my kitchen. Off and on since, I get motivated and accomplish so much, some times it is really 10 minutes, sometimes it ends up being a half hour to and hour. It’s because I can’t believe the success. Time flies. I do stop before I get discouraged because that could slow down it all. Use common sense. It is amazing.


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Welcome. I’m Sarah!


I’m the creator of Decluttering School (formerly known as Early Bird Mom), lover of organized spaces, encourager to women and mom to four boys. Click here to read more!

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