I’ve always been someone who likes to shop and buy pretty things. It’s one of my favorite hobbies. But I can’t handle a lot of clutter around me. It affects me on a visceral level, and I’m always shoving things and drawers and closets just so I can breathe easier. The two don’t pair together well. Obviously.
When I open my closets and drawers, I’m always thinking, “I really need to clean and organize, but this is too overwhelming so later it is!”
I know I’m not alone in this way if thinking. We all feel better when we have a clean, organized space. We feel lighter when we are able to open the Tupperware cupboard and find the exact container we are looking for with the lid fitting snugly inside. But who has the energy and space in their day?
On the same token, no one wants to know how much time they spend during their lifetime looking for matching socks, the medium-sized Phillips head screwdriver or that journal from the eighth grade.
But I have to say, I’ve found the solution to living my best life through an organized pantry, a tidy hall closet and finally getting my spice drawer to a happy place — and it only takes 15 minutes per week.
“The Compound Effect,” by Darren Hardy, changed my life in every aspect: my relationships, my career, and the way I manage and keep my home.
What makes the “compound effect” so effective is that you’re doing small things often to reach your goals. Whether you want to or not, you are consistent about it. Over time, these small things add up, and the rewards are huge. This effect can be applied to anything: career, mental health, physical fitness, relationships, and organizing and cleaning you home. It actually changed my feelings around the monumental task known as keeping a tidy home and made me realize I could actually have huge gains by doing small things.
Instead of getting to the point of exasperation and delving into a rage-organizing afternoon and being grumpy at my whole family while sweating for hours only to have all my work undone in a few months, then be so overwhelmed about it for the following six months before I take action (again), “The Compound Effect” is the reason why I’ve been able to get a handle on my home without a big time investment. And it has been life-changing.
I first tested it out one evening after my three kids were in bed while I was putting away my laundry. My drawers had gotten out of control a year ago, and I hadn’t taken the time to go through them, purge and organize. It’s so much easier to just slam them shut and go about your day.
Then you find yourself looking for your favorite black T-shirt that you had your heart set on wearing because you’ve already pulled on the perfect jeans to go with it and you’re now running 10 minutes late because said T-shirt was in a wad on the left-hand side of your underwear drawer and you are mad about it. You have no one to blame but yourself.
So on that night, I thought about the book and how I didn’t have to do all my drawers, but what if I did one?
And that’s what I did— I tackled my pants drawer and got rid of all the pants I don’t wear, folded them and even color-coded them. I had a stack of blue jeans, a stack of black/gray and a stack of white/light colored. I felt like a new woman. I looked at the clock and realized it had only taken 10 minutes, so I did my top drawer in the same fashion. Getting dressed the next morning was pure bliss. I felt as if I’d had a new wardrobe.
I’ve stuck with this method for nearly six months. I set a timer. I take 15 minutes per week to tackle one drawer or cupboard or closet. Then I am done and feel fantastic. I find myself looking forward to it because I know it just makes me a happier person.
The reason it feels so fulfilling is that you get the satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment without the exhaustion. And every time you reach for something in your new, pretty drawer or cupboard, a smile crosses your lips because you are able to find it and admire your work.
Once your whole house is done, you can comb back over areas that are already organized and it’s a breeze. Even if you don’t think anything needs to be done, spend your 15 minutes per week editing your closet or adding a pretty drawer liner to your bathroom cabinets.
I also only buy things I absolutely love or need. It’s amazing how when you do that, you don’t have tolerance for mediocre possessions in your life and you stop grabbing something just because it’s on sale or you are afraid you might regret it later.
If I purchase something, I have to donate or toss something to make room for the new item. Usually, I get rid of more than just one thing; it’s funny how when you when you only buy things that feel special, you are more than willing to let go of other things.
If you are feeling like your stuff is swallowing you whole, this method is so worth a try.
And it doesn’t even have to be 15 minutes per week. Maybe you can only fit in 15 minutes twice per month or think you need to start with 25 minutes a day to get the ball rolling.
Do whatever works for you — just get started. We all have more moments in the day than we realize to steal from frantically looking for things, to organizing a bit instead. And before you know it, you will have more free time, feel lighter and wonder how you ever lived any other way. It’s that easy, and it’s that rewarding.
This story was originally published in Bangor Metro’s March 2019 issue. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.