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How to declutter your home when you have zero time

Do you want to KonMari your home to get organised, but have zero clue how to set aside the time to take on such a mammoth project?

I watched Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up series on Netflix earlier this year and wondered how on earth I could make it work for me as a busy mum of two young girls. 

I do a little freelance work on the side, however I’m mostly a stay-at-home mum. The girls take up the vast majority of my time every single day, and by the evenings I am ready to flake out in front of the TV. 

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Despite that, I still really wanted to declutter my home. I was finding the clothes particularly difficult to keep tidy in the girls’ rooms and I felt like I was drowning in stuff in every single room. 

At the start of the year, after watching the show and feeling really motivated by it, I decided to just go for it. 

I got a copy of Spark Joy by Marie Kondo and binge-watched the rest of her Netflix series. I love how enthusiastic she is about decluttering, tidying and organisation, it makes me want to roll up my sleeves and get to work. 

But. There is a huge time commitment to embarking on the KonMari method of tidying your home. 

Marie’s tips include putting every item of clothing in the house into a pile and sorting through it one item at a time.

This is a job that can take an entire day in itself when you add the kids’ clothes to the pile, then have to sort things into bags to be donated.

Plus there’s the folding technique!

This is brilliant once you master it, however, it is a really time consuming process. 

Decluttering your home can seem like a mountain that is impossible to climb, especially when your kids interrupt what you’re doing every two minutes because they need something.

So, since I embarked on my decluttering and organising journey in January, I’ve taken the tips that I love from Marie Kondo, but I’ve done it at my own pace and altered it slightly to suit my own routine. 

It’s worth bearing in mind too that Marie Kondo herself admits that the KonMari method is pretty tough to manage when you’re a parent!

In an interview with Parents, she said she didn’t have the energy to follow her own tidying tips after having her kids.

Let this motivate you on the days you just can’t be bothered to tidy! It doesn’t have to be a rule or routine you follow every day. Just do what you can, when you can. You can make progress by doing small amounts here and there.


Read more: Items to ditch right now


If you’ve landed on this post, you’re already considering using the KonMari method, but here are a few instances where you may want to embark on Marie Kondo’s amazing organisation journey:

  • You’re expecting a baby. A new person in the house usually means you have to make way for all of their stuff, and set aside a whole room for them. You will find it much easier to accommodate the baby and give them the space they need if you have a good clear out. It’s also easier to declutter before the baby comes!
  • When you’re moving house. If you’re preparing for a big move then getting rid of excess stuff now will make it so much easier for you! This is especially true when you have kids who have a wardrobe full of toys they never play with any more.
  • When you’re totally overwhelmed by all the stuff. After a few years of being in a house, and especially after having kids, you become bogged down with stuff! It’s the toys, the books, the kitchen gadgets and everything else that just takes over your home! Some times you need a good clear out to make your home neater and make it easier to find things.

So how do you approach the KonMari method?

Marie advises you to go about the decluttering process by category in the following order: Clothes, books, paper, Komono (miscellaneous), and sentimental items.

This is a brilliant order, however I haven’t been able to be quite so methodical when it comes to my decluttering journey. I covered the kitchen all in one go, because it was a huge task and I needed to add shelves to our pantry to help with storage.

It took around a week just to do this room, because I did it in small increments. 

I then moved on to the utility room once that was done, and this was another job where I had to organise things one cupboard at a time, because I just didn’t have the time to chuck everything on the floor in front of me and sort it all at once. 

Now, I haven’t quite finished the decluttering process yet. I am working on the paper and Komono areas as we speak, and I’ve set aside sentimental items in one place as I come across them for another day. 

But I have found a system that’s inspired by the KonMari method, but is far more realistic for a busy mama.

Whether you’re working full-time, or a stay-at-home mum, I hope you’ll find these tips useful when it comes to decluttering your home!

Clothes

Break it down

I loved putting all of my clothes on the middle of the bed and sorting them one item at a time. It was so satisfying to see the volume of stuff I could get rid of all in one go. BUT, it took me hours to do it all in one go. 

I think it’s way more realistic if you are pushed for time to do it by category. Start small, with your socks and underwear drawers, and then work your way up to tops, coats, dresses and trousers etc.

Once your clothes are done, move on to the next member of your family’s stuff. This way, you can spend 15 minutes at a time doing this as you work your way around the house. Yes, it takes more time, but it’s more realistic. 

As you’re doing this, think about where each category of clothes is going to be stored, so that you put them away by category.

This may involve displacing some items of clothing that you haven’t gotten around to sorting out yet.

Either put these in a pile in the corner to sort out later or find a different drawer to store them in until you can get around to the next category. 

Remember as you go through the clothes to think about whether they are something you really want to hang on to. How often do you actually wear them? Check clothes to see if they still fit you or your kids and try to be ruthless with clearing out items that do not “spark joy”.

Find your best folding method

Marie’s folding method is legendary, and looks so pretty. She folds clothes so that they are stored horizontally, rather than vertically.

It means when you store the clothes, you can see everything in the drawer. This makes it quicker to find things, and it just looks better!

However I’ve struggled to keep up with it.

When I have time, I will straighten out the girls drawers, folding all of their clothes on a space on the floor so that I get it right the KonMari way!

However if I am rushing to get laundry put away I will fold the clothes while standing. I still try to fold them so that they will stand upright in the drawers, but I’m just not as precise as Marie would probably like me to be!

As long as the clothes are stored horizontally so that you can see everything, you’re still staying true to the KonMari method. 

There’s a full post about doing the KonMari folding method here.

Think about storage

Marie Kondo folds socks and underwear in a very particular and neat way so that they can be stored horizontally.

I decided I don’t have time to do this with every single pair of socks in the house for every load of laundry. So I bought drawer organisers with small compartments that are perfect for single pairs of socks and underwear.

This keeps each item separate and neat, but I don’t have to fold each individual item. For socks I just ball them together then place them into the organisers, for underwear I just roll them up and pop them in. 

The girls’ rooms had deep drawers for their clothes, which meant I couldn’t store their clothes horizontally. They were all piled on top of each other and I couldn’t see everything. 

I swapped the deep drawers for shallow ones that meant I could store their clothes in one layer. 

Books

Go room to room

Marie wants you to sort all of the books in one go, but if you’re pushed for time, it’s way better to allocate just 10 minutes to clear out any books you don’t want from one book shelf in one room at a time. 

I did the girls’ bedrooms first, then moved on to our cookbooks and finally the general book shelves in our spare room. 

Ditch the books your kids have grown out of, and clear your own book shelves.

Be really strict with yourself, and think about whether realistically you are ever going to read each book again.

Paper

Be totally ruthless

Do you really need all of those receipts from 10 years ago? No, you don’t! If in doubt, bin it. 

A pending box is essential

Marie recommends having a pending box for all of your paperwork that needs to actioned, such as letters you need to reply to and forms you need to fill in. I love this tip! When you’re going through the KonMari method a little slower, this is really key and helps you keep on top of administrative stuff you need to do. 

Manuals

So many brands now provide manuals to download on their website. Go through manuals that you actually do need to keep and see if the company has the manual to download online.

Download and store in a folder on your computer, or on your iPad. 

Komono (miscellaneous)

Treat it as an ongoing process

As I decluttered, I looked at the miscellaneous items as an ongoing job, rather than one that came after books, paper and clothes. That’s because it’s the biggest category, and it can really overwhelm you!

I broke Komono down into these categories, or areas of the house: kitchen, utility room, living room, bathrooms (which I dealt with one at a time) and the garage. 

The kitchen was the biggest job, and I spent an entire week doing this. 

Remember it will look worse before it looks better

One of the worst moments of doing the KonMari method, is the one where you look at the piles of mess everywhere and wonder why on earth you bothered to start. 

Marie suggests you take a picture of the mess, and use it as motivation to keep going. 

I just had to keep reminding myself that it would get better. The turning point was when stuff that I didn’t need any more started going into bin bags and boxes to be donated. Once those items were out of sight, I could then focus on organising stuff I was keeping into the right places and that part felt much better. 

Analyse your kitchen storage

Do this in every room, but I think the kitchen is particularly important. I looked in our pantry and decided to install shelves on the wall. It has made so much difference!

Consider using plastic boxes with handles like these for high kitchen cupboards, as it means you won’t lose things up there at the back. 

Adding shelves to your cupboards can also be a great way to store more items in a neater way. 

Don’t involve your kids in organising toys

I realise that Marie recommends getting the entire family involved in decluttering and organising. I totally see the logic in this, but my kids are two and four and are incapable of making rational decisions about their possessions!

I cleared out toys when they were at nursery, with their grandparents, or downstairs. I put the toys into plastic bags immediately and hid them in the utility room, which is always shut and they aren’t allowed into. 

This is because if I leave decisions such as this to them, we will not get rid of anything!

Don’t get too sentimental over toys

Just because your relative bought a toy as a gift, doesn’t mean you have to keep it forever! I keep sentimental soft toys and personalised items, however if a toy hasn’t been played with for months and months I get rid of it. 

Sentimental items

Invest in new albums and frames

See this as an opportunity to get some of your favourite photographs on the wall and create some lovely photo albums.

You could scan the pictures you love so that you can create a digital photo album with some pictures from your camera. 

Have a pretty box for each baby

I have kept little teddies and the girls ankle bands from when they were in hospital after being born, as well as a few other sentimental items. I have a box for each of the girls where I keep these things, which are mementos from their first year. It also contains their baby book. 

I hope that when they have a baby shower of their own, we will open it and it will be a nice talking point at the party.  

Get your kids involved

The final but possibly most important tip for organising like Marie Kondo when you have kids is to get the kids involved!

Try to encourage them to be excited about tidying up by turning it into a game. Challenge them to organise the blocks by colour, or to race you to put away their dolls.

It’s all about making it fun for them so that they will want to help you out. Setting these kind of examples and teaching them about tidying up right now will also help you so much in the long run.

You want your kids to be prepared to help you with chores as they grow up so that they learn how to care for their home and things.

Marie’s new book Kiki and Jax is aimed at kids and talks about the magic of tidying up and friendship! Why not try this story with your kids to encourage them to get excited about tidying.

I hope you found these tips useful! Please let me know what you think. Have you embarked on a decluttering mission this year? How’s it going?

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