Like you, I usually set resolutions or goals every January that end up forgotten or abandoned by March. Sometimes I do actually end up achieving some things on those lists, but how? Which goals actually get met and which ones don’t?
Goals that get tracked and/or become a habit are the ones that get met. And if they aren’t met, take stock of why not and try to find a way to make them achievable for next year. Sometimes I need to try harder and other times I need to abandon or modify the goal entirely because it’s not feasible for me.
For example, in 2022 I had a goal to declutter my house. Did I reach it? No. That’s a goddamn large undertaking. But did I make progress? Yes ma’am. When I took a deeper look at what happened, I realized that I made a goal but didn’t make specific plans to achieve it. Sure, I learned a lot. Last year I enrolled in two courses (Your Uncluttered Home and Homemakerish-U), listened to two audiobooks on decluttering (Declutter Like A Mother and Decluttering at the Speed of Life), and listened to a lot of podcast episodes about decluttering. And in the end, I decluttered 1.5 rooms (my bathroom and about half of my kitchen) and made progress with a lot of mindset stuff but I didn’t get my whole house done.
Why not? I had a lot of information but not a lot of action. I didn’t plan it out and make it a priority. Allie Casazza talks about making a date with yourself and scheduling time to declutter. I failed to do that. Instead, I spent most of the year overwhelmed and unsure of where to start or what to do next.
Decluttering is hard. It’s making a million tiny decisions that I have been putting off for a long time. And my perfectionism makes me freeze in my tracks and says to me that I can’t possibly do this right so I shouldn’t do it at all. I’m afraid of making mistakes, of not getting rid of enough, of getting rid of things I still may need, of not knowing where to put something, of not knowing how to best organize something, of not knowing how to get rid of things and who to donate to or how to recycle something. My head spins with the decisions to make and exhaustion sets in and I opt instead to watch Netflix on the couch. I made some progress on some days and those small pushes made me feel great and accomplished but then it felt like I had cut the grass and now could see that there was a whole mountain of grass to cut past my front lawn.
So do I beat myself up for not achieving my goal? Honestly, I did a little bit. But I recently listened to the audiobook of How To Keep House While Drowning and realized that I need to make my goals realistic for my actual, busy, working mom life. It is not realistic for me to get a million things done each week on top of the million that I already have to do. So I needed to find a way to make this goal work for me. Here’s what I did:
Look at prior goals lists
Looking back is often helpful when trying to find a way forward. I looked at my prior years goals, particularly about decluttering, and took a look at what worked and what didn’t. This isn’t an exercise to beat myself up, but a way to take stock and look for needed changes.
Last year I told myself that I would declutter the whole house. Great, ok that’s a reasonable goal since I planned to do it by the end of the year. But I did not make a plan. I listened to podcasts, read some books, took an online course, got some great guidance and ideas, worked on my mindset, and worked on minimizing bringing in new stuff. But, I didn’t make much progress on actually decluttering. I decluttered my bathroom and about ⅔ of the way through the kitchen. That progress alone really helped me, but I stalled out because I realized my habits needed to be worked on so that I could actually maintain the cleared off kitchen counter.
So I identified that things that I would need to do if I set the same “declutter my house by the time and of the year” goal would be that I would need to work on:
- Mindset (to reduce overwhelm)
- Making a Plan
I asked myself what my priorities and overall goals were:
- I want a clean, clutter free house so that me and my family could freely move about the house without tripping over things, use our flat surfaces, and have space for activities
- I want to be able to easily find and put away items and for my family members to do the same
- I want to be able to look around the house and not feel stressed by piles of things that need to be handled and decisions that need to be made
- I want to not feel embarrassed when people come over for fear of judgment by my messy and cluttered house
Next I identified which of my goals were realistic and attainable. Right away I realized that my last goal to not be embarrassed by my home has not as much to do with my home as my mindset. I realized that I am putting the responsibility for the state of the household on my shoulders instead of sharing that responsibility with my husband and kids. And I am measuring my self worth by the tidiness of my home. These are both losing propositions. So I am working on mindset shifts away from these old ideas and onto new ideas that clutter and cleanliness is morally neutral and that the state of my house does not reflect my value, and is not solely my responsibility just because I’m the mom/wife/woman of the house.
The other goals are pretty realistic. I can get my house clutter free to the point that I can use it for its intended purpose, find and put away items, and not be haunted by clutter piles of to-do’s. I just needed to figure out how to attain my goal.
What gets tracked gets done.
So I set about making a system to track my goals. I was inspired by Tracy Lynn from Declutter In Minutes to break down my declutter my whole house in a year goal into *gasp* increments that will actually take a year. Telling myself I’ll do such a large project in 2 months is not realistic for me. Life gets very busy and gets me sidetracked easily. But small, easily attainable and trackable goals work for me.
I broke my whole home declutter project into 12 parts, roughly 12 rooms/places. I don’t have 12 rooms in my house and you probably don’t either but when I included closets, pantry, bathrooms, sections of living spaces, outside storage closets, attic, and carport I found I could stretch it out pretty easily.
I emulated Tracy Lynn from Declutter In Minutes’ method of tackling roughly one room a month by breaking each room down into about 4 areas (one for each week of the month) and each area gets about 5-6 micro tasks for that week so I have a task to do every day just about. Some tasks are going to be easier than others. Decluttering my spice cabinet will be much easier than decluttering my junk drawer, that sea of otherwise homeless items which will require me to make a lot of decisions about finding where to store things.
I have found that micro goals work really well for me. I tend to get overwhelmed when I see a large project in front of me and procrastinate. When I break that project down into smaller pieces and focus on one piece at a time it seems much easier to get over the beginning hurdles. And that way when I finally get a little time to work on my project I know it’s exactly what piece I’m working on in that time and segment.
I literally created a task list in Excel for each space in each room and then assigned each room to a month of the year and then assigned each group of tasks in each room to a week of that month. I am type A. I like spreadsheets and this is a great way for me to track these micro goals and not have to carry around in my head the decision making of what area I need to tackle when it is time to work.
Making time vs finding time
Aye, there’s the rub.
I’ve never been able to find time. It’s not like it’s lost and I have to find it. What I have to do is reassign my time.
Making time means I have to remove something from my day that is less important than decluttering. Please, please can that be doing the dishes? 🙏 No? Ok fine. Then I have to make the time. I added in decluttering time on weekend mornings and weekday evenings. It’s not every night but most days I’m doing a little something, even if it’s ten minutes.
In addition, I’m looking for the areas in my day when I find myself with a minute or five and try to use that time productively to declutter even one or two things in a drawer. That may be tackling the junk drawer while dinner cooks. Or going through stuff on my dresser in a few minutes before I leave for work. Any small progress is still progress.
So how am I doing with this plan?
So far it has greatly reduced my stress. Like, really. I don’t feel overwhelmed as much and when I have a few minutes in the evening to tackle decluttering I know exactly what project I am supposed to work on.
Some things have taken way longer and I’ve already fallen behind. I had planned to finish all of my kitchen and my entryway in January but I’ve still got the junk drawer to handle in the kitchen and make a pass through the spice cabinet too. But I am making progress.
The biggest benefits from breaking this massive whole house decluttering project down into a million small steps are:
- Less stress and overwhelm
- Ease of starting decluttering because I know where to begin each time
- Planning dedicated decluttering time blocks (even if only for ten minutes)
- Being able to see small progress is so motivating
If creating micro-goals works for you, let me know in the comments! And below are some resources which have help teach and inspire me which I recommend.
Resources for mindset/training/motivation/inspiration
Allie Casazza’s Your Uncluttered Home course (I recommend buying it on a black Friday sale for $99, it’s overpriced otherwise but the content is still good and helpful. Get on her email list and she will send out emails when it’s on sale).
Kendra Hennessey’s Homemakerish-U course
Declutter like a Mother book by Allie Casazza
How to Keep House While Drowning by KC Davis
Decluttering at the Speed of Life by Dana K. White
The Purpose Show– I would suggest pre-late 2021 episodes since she has changed her focus some away from decluttering
Mother Like A Boss– This links to a helpful podcast directory so you can see the decluttering episodes
Abundant Life With Less– Because of Rachelle’s tips I packed our entire family in backpacks only for a trip to Sweden with two kids!