The stacks of books are gone from the end table next to the sofa. So are the magazines, mail, and other papers that used to live and grow on my kitchen counter. The desk in the kitchen is so empty and inviting that I actually sit down and work there. And several shelves, drawers, and cabinets in my home and office look like the “after” photo in a before-and-after makeover. Which, of course, is exactly what they are.

My New Year’s Resolution this year was to spend 15 minutes a day on decluttering projects, and I’m happy to say that, two months into the New Year, my resolution and I are still going strong. Not only do I have a cleaner and more appealing environment to live and work in as a result, but I’ve also made some interesting discoveries along the way. And I’m not talking just of the lost items I’ve found, or the memories and memorabilia I’ve uncovered in the process.

One discovery is that you really can make a noticeable difference by doing something for just 15 minutes at a time. Another is that creating the routine and forming the habit is what makes it work.
Actually, these are things I already knew, but seeing and experiencing them in action is like discovering them all over again. And some of the lessons they provide really are fresh and new. Like the understanding that at first I need to remind myself every day to do my 15-minute project – figuring out what I’m going to do and when during the day I’m going to do it – but that there will come a time when it’s as much a part of my life as getting dressed every morning or turning in my column every week.

I’m also dreaming of the day when I will look around and realize with amazement and delight that there are no more decluttering projects to do. All because of the habit I developed of working on them for 15 minutes every day.

I know it’s going to take me a long time to get to that point, but in the meantime I’ve also discovered that the pleasure I get from each 15-minute session is twofold. First is the satisfaction of getting something accomplished – a result I can see immediately. Then comes the pride of knowing I set out to do something – meaning the resolution, not the individual project – and I stuck with it. I didn’t give up when the novelty wore off, or when the going got tough.

That’s certainly an incentive to keep going, and it’s why a humble little resolution of spending 15 minutes a day on something can conquer what would otherwise feel overwhelming and insurmountable.
If you’re interested in jumping on board, you don’t have to wait till next January 1. And you don’t have to do a project like my decluttering one. You can select anything you’d be doing already if only you had the time to spend on it and you knew where to start. That’s not what you need to accomplish it. All you need is to decide that you can squeeze 15 minutes out of your day for it, and then do it. Every day.

You can start tomorrow and call it your own personal March Madness. See how far you get in a month, and decide then if you want to keep going.

I hope you will. And I hope you’re amazed at all you discover along the way.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on February 28, 2013.
©Betty Liedtke, 2013
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