You’re setting out to declutter. You’ve motivated. You have your supplies. You tell yourself, “I’m going to get this whole garage finished this afternoon.” And yet, at 5:00, you’re walking in the house to get dinner – and the garage is less than 1/3 done.

We’ve all had it happen to us. But really, what actually happened?

Well, it turns out you tried to grab all three corners of the “declutter triangle” – and it got away from you. “But wait,” you say, “what triangle? I don’t have any triangles in my garage!” Glad you asked.

When you’re doing a declutter project, you’re dealing with something called the “declutter triangle.” It’s simple, it’s easy to understand, and it governs pretty much all decluttering projects.

The declutter triangle has three points:

  • Space – “Space” is the physical space you want to declutter. This might be as small as a shelf, or as large as a whole house with the surrounding yard. 
  • Time – This is the amount of time you’re going to spend. Again, this could be five or ten minutes, a weekend, or every weekend for a year.
  • Progress – This is the amount of progress you’re going to make. Completely done? Partially done? The major garbage picked up? 

You can pick any two you want. Any two. Then you have to be okay with letting go of the third one – it’s out of your control.

  • Want to do a big space for 15 minutes? You won’t see much progress.
  • Want to do 1 hour and get something completely done? You’ll finish up a small space.
  • Want to get the living room completely done? It’ll take as long as it takes.

It all sounds so simple, doesn’t it? It is, but people run afoul of it every day. This is partially because we’re bad at estimating. It’s even more so because we typically underestimate, not overestimate. Nobody ever says, “I’m going to completely declutter this shelf, and I’ll give myself every evening for the next week.” It’s always something like, “I’m going to completely declutter this desk in the 15 minutes before bedtime.”

Does this mean you shouldn’t take on ambitious projects? Absolutely not. But it does mean you should tackle those projects with a dose of realism, and not beat yourself up when wild estimations don’t materialize in reality.

And for larger projects, it specifically means you shouldn’t underestimate things like the final step – the junk removal. Whether that’s a bunch of boxes or totes in the back of your minivan, an industrial dumpster, or a local junk removal company, make sure to factor that step in as well. 

Best of luck with your declutter projects!

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