Deadlines Help With Decluttering



Have you ever had a deadline help you with decluttering? I know I have. Think about this for a moment.

Remember when you were having the family over for a holiday dinner or birthday party? How did you prepare for it? If you’re like most people you planned the food/menu for the dinner or party. Hopefully you shopped for most of the stuff ahead of time leaving just a few perishable items to buy last minute.

But what about cleaning the house? I always find it amazing that when I’m preparing for company I notice all the clutter laying around. I know the stack of magazines has been there for awhile. But now it looks real messy. The DVD’s and video games are overflowing the shelf under the TV.  How long have they been a chaotic mess? And when did the empty cups and dishes start accumulating on the coffee table and end tables? I didn’t realize the cat and dog (or kids) had so many toys laying around.

You get the picture. We become blind to everyday clutter until we know company is coming over. Then we start looking at our house through their eyes. 

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about how deadlines help us with decluttering and cleaning our homes. She has family coming in at the end of this month so she is writing a plan on how to clear the clutter laying around.

As we were talking, we both began to wonder why we take action when there is a deadline (her family visiting) but we don’t take action otherwise? This is an important question we need to answer. 

Is it because:

  • Our family or friends deserve to visit a clean decluttered house?
  • Are we embarrassed to have anyone see how we live on a daily basis?
  • We don’t prioritize living in a clean and decluttered home? Maybe because we don’t feel we deserve it?

Deadlines Make Us Accountable

The interesting thing about deadlines is they make us accountable. That is, if we are accountable to someone else.

I have found when I make a self-imposed deadline I’m not always good with meeting it.  In fact, I fail more times than I succeed. This doesn’t mean I don’t get the job completed, it just means I don’t get it completed by my self-imposed deadline. There may be several reasons for this.

  • The only person I’m accountable to is myself. If I let myself down, oh well.
  • I wasn’t good at prioritizing the project/job.
  • I let my excuses consume my time instead of focusing on the project.

But if I have a deadline for someone else, letting them down is unacceptable. Like the questions above, I’m not sure if it’s because I would feel embarrassed for people to see my mess or if it’s more because I would feel like a failure. Probably a combination of the two.

Now the big question is, how to we change this bad habit? And yes, it is a bad habit. 

The definition of a habit is:  a tendency that someone has settled into.

If we make a mad dash to clean and declutter before someone visits (a deadline) but don’t bother to keep it that way the rest of the time, then that is a tendency we’ve settled into. 

The best way to change bad habits is to create new and better habits. Sometimes we can do this on our own. Most of the time we need those deadlines to kick our butts into action. As mentioned above, most of us aren’t that great at creating and following through with our self-imposed deadlines. This is where an Accountability Buddy comes in. 


Accountability Buddy

When we commit to someone else that we are going to do something by a certain deadline, we usually are more successful. We may procrastinate until the last minute, then become stressed out and frantic. But we usually figure out how to get it done on time. We don’t want to let that person(s) down.

Now this person or persons can be someone we know in person or they can be online. When it’s someone we know, we may be more committed to take action, then again maybe not. It will depend on how close that person is to us and how we would feel if we let them down.

Maybe that is another question we should be thinking about.

How will I feel if I let down my chosen Accountability Buddy?

If we have strong emotions about letting that person down then we’ll be more invested to make sure we do what we say we will do by the deadline we set.

If we aren’t that emotionally invested in our Accountability Buddy, there is a good chance the arrangement won’t help us. That’s not to say it won’t work at all. But we may not feel as motivated to meet the deadline.


Announcing Your Deadline to the World

Okay, maybe you don’t want to announce your plans and deadline to the world, but letting several trusted family and/or friends know your deadline is not a bad thing. I’ve read some studies that show when we let other people know our plans and deadlines, we have a greater chance of succeeding with them. We’ve put it out there, so now we feel obligated to do it. 

When we keep our plans and deadlines to ourselves, we are basically telling ourselves that when we fail to make that deadline it won’t be so embarrassing because no one knew about it anyway. In other words, we have already accepted that we will fail. Now that is a bad habit.

Of course, if you want to announce it to the world then there is always Social Media sites. If you feel comfortable doing this then go ahead with it. You can ask your online friends to check in on you. You can post your progress. As a result, you just may motivate others to start their own projects and set deadlines. In other words, you’re creating an Accountability Group.

There are many private groups on Facebook that you can join just for this purpose.  Some are more general in your area of interest. Some are more specific. I’ve joined some decluttering groups that are about general decluttering, downsizing, and paper clutter. I have a private paper clutter Facebook group that you can join if you’re interested in some accountability buddies, Cut Paper Clutter With Scissors. There are lots of other supportive groups available in many different areas.


Once you start questioning why you struggle with deadlines you can start to find ways to change the bad habits that cause the struggle. Finding an Accountability Buddy or group can make a world of difference. There are so many options today that one or more will fit into your life. 

  • In person meetings.
  • Text, phone call, or email check ups.
  • Zoom/Facebook call meetings.
  • Online support groups.
  • Paid one-on-one support, private or groups, online or in person.

We really don’t have an excuse not to find an Accountability Buddy or group. The key is accepting that getting an Accountability Buddy is not a sign of failure. It can actually be a generous thing to do. In most cases we are also helping our Accountability Buddy or group improve their habits. In other words, it’s like the saying, “you wash my back, I’ll wash yours”.


To a lighter load along the way.

Janice Scissors

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