How to Reclaim Your Time From Your ClutterA couple of weeks ago, I decided to spend my morning cleaning out our garage closet.

The kids were at school, and I had received the extra bit of motivation I needed to get this job done from my daily Hardcore Homemaking email, so it was time.

I had two hours to work before it would be time to pick up the kids again.

And I used all of the time. All of it.

Two hours on one closet, and I wasn’t even done.

There was still work to do! There were a few things I couldn’t get to because I needed my husband to move something heavy for me.

And beyond that, I also had a pile of stuff I needed to drive to my local donation center, as well as a few things I wanted to try to sell.

What is the true cost of stuff-ownership?

People talk about it a lot, and I’ve done some of that talking too. I think by now, we all know that it isn’t just whatever you paid for it, coupled with the storage space to keep it.

It’s much more than that.

And my garage closet drove the message home for me.

Stuff takes time.

Even if it’s “just sitting there” with seemingly no maintenance required.

Stuff takes time, even if it’s “just sitting there.” Reclaim your time. Here’s how. Tweet this.

We still spend time on it.

  • We move it around from closet to closet.
  • We spend time organizing it.
  • We spend a little bit of time now and then cleaning it or at least dusting off the cobwebs.
  • When we move from house to house, every bit of extra stuff adds to our packing and unpacking time.

I spent TWO HOURS in a closet I have barely even peeked into in the last few months, dealing with items I mostly don’t have any use for!

That’s two hours during which I could’ve been writing, working on my son’s quilt, cooking something delicious, walking my dog, and reading.

The worst part is that because time is completely finite (We all get equal amounts of it. Period.), it is infinitely valuable. I’ll never get that time back. Ever.

Time is completely finite (We all get equal amounts of it. Period.) so it is infinitely valuable. Tweet this.

Even once we decide to get rid of it, stuff takes more of our time!

  • We spend time loading it into our car and driving it to the donation center.
  • (Or we spend time arranging a donation pick-up appointment if we’re lucky enough to live in an area with that service.)
  • We spend time photographing items for sale, listing them on ebay, craigslist, or facebook buy/sell groups, communicating with potential buyers, meeting with them, measuring the items for them, answering questions, shipping or delivering the items, or waiting for someone to come to our house to get them.
  • Or we spend time advertising our garage sale, going to the bank to get change for the big day, setting up early in the morning, organizing our things again, and talking with potential buyers who jingle ziploc baggies of quarters as they eye our wares. (And then spend more time taking our setup down after the sale, and driving the leftovers to a donation center or storing them AGAIN “for the next yard sale.”)

How Many More Saturday Mornings Will You Let Your Junk Take From You? Reclaim your Time.

I listed five items from that closet for sale on a local page that morning.

  1. Our big flat screen television we haven’t used in the 6 months we’ve lived here
  2. Our PS3
  3. The coffee table we haven’t used since my older child was a baby
  4. A really nice computer monitor my husband bought for work and used for several months until the Navy finally issued him one
  5. And a computer/writing desk.

The television sold the next day, pretty painlessly.

Someone else asked about the height of the coffee table when I listed it. I measured it and replied with the answer, and she hasn’t commented again.

I “bumped” all of my listings a couple of times this week, and tagged the girl who asked about the coffee table.


Do I keep trying?

Spending my infinitely-valuable time trying to recoup some of our “investment”?


Are you going through this too?

It’s time to reclaim our time.

Here’s how I did it, and how you can reclaim your time too.

  1. Know what your priorities are before you begin. When you know exactly what you want out of life, it’s far easier to answer the question, “Is this item serving my priorities or tearing them down?” If you need help figuring out what your priorities are, grab my ebook and worksheets for free.
  2. Spend as little time as possible on decluttering projects. This doesn’t mean don’t do it. It means that when you do, FOCUS. 
  3. Set a threshold for how much you’re willing to work to recuperate money from your clutter. You might decide that you’re ready to donate everything you don’t need, and never look back. But if you feel like you need a bit of cash in exchange for your stuff, set a dollar amount. Donate anything worth less than $10, $20, or $50 (you decide where your cut-off is).
  4. And for the stuff you do try to sell, set a time limit. Give yourself a deadline on the calendar, or a certain number of hours (photographing, listing, communicating, re-posting, and so on) you’ll allow yourself to put into it. When your time is up, donate the item. Don’t let it steal any more of your time from you!
    (If you drop it off at a consignment store, be sure to check the box to allow them to donate the item if it doesn’t sell.) 
  5. Move forward with the knowledge that stuff will cost you more time than you ever realized it would. Decline freebies from businesses events. Go shopping with a plan, keeping your priorities in mind. And when you notice that something is no longer serving your priorities, let it go as quickly as possible.

If you feel like you need cash for your clutter, set a dollar amount. Donate anything under $10, $20, or $50.Tweet this.

So the next time you’re spending hours on a decluttering or organizing project instead of living your life, remind yourself that you can prevent this from happening again in the future.

You can’t get back the time you’ve spent on STUFF in the past, but you can get through the clutter as quickly as you can and reclaim your time in the future.

Get through your clutter as quickly as you can and reclaim your time. Tweet this.

Now, make it happen.15 minutes is all it takes to get started decluttering, organizing, and homemaking

If you haven’t already figured out your priorities, spend 15 minutes reading my ebook (it only takes most people 15-20 minutes to read it) so that you can fill out the priority worksheet.

If you have your priorities figured out already, set the timer for 15 minutes, and get to work on clearing your clutter. Focus.


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  1. […] remember though… if you have fewer toys to maintain (even out of rotation)  in the first place, you’ll have way more time…. Only keep the good stuff, and if you realize later something doesn’t make the cut, declutter […]

  2. What a timely post for me as I’m preparing for home-moving. I’ve never really thought about it but you are so right that freebies are not really freebies (in terms of our time) at all. They take up our time in organizing and management, time we can use to enrich our children, our family or our friends’ lives.

    The only exception to the rule though is learning materials that we’re trying on our children. Experimentation is part of learning and play and I feel it adds more value to our children than the time it takes to manage it. The reminder I get from your post is that we must have a plan to manage it especially once it’s done: eg bless it to another parent, make that drive to donate to charity etc etc

    Good reminders from your post. :)

    • So glad you found my post useful. I agree about the kids’ stuff. I often welcome craft materials or inexpensive toys into our home, but always keeping in mind that we will USE the craft materials and that the toys may break and be disposed of, or that we might pass them on to another family at the end of the season if they hold up.

  3. “Spend as little time as possible on decluttering projects. This doesn’t mean don’t do it. It means that when you do, FOCUS.”

    So love this, Emily! I’m in the midst of a “decluttering fever”, really feeling the urge to get rid of all the stuff that’s not me anymore. So far it’s going really well – it’s either keep or give/throw away. I’m resisting the temptation to throw stuff on the “I’m not sure yet – let me think about it and decide later” pile :) If it’s not a resounding yes, I’m getting rid of it! Feels good actually to really decide on the spot and move on – feels liberating and energizing!

    • The “not sure yet” pile should be reserved only for the REALLY TOUGH STUFF – so you’re right to just give it a yes or a no! Way to go, An! Glad you’re getting it done. :)

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