Decluttering Through Distractions: How to Maintain Focus

Decluttering Through Distractions How to Maintain Focus 1
Focus is often hard to keep when the home is cluttered. And then as interesting things are found in the decluttering process, it’s easy to be distracted by reliving memories, finding magazines that you hadn’t had time to look through yet, or re-reading the story that your daughter wrote in 4th grade.
Everyone struggles with maintaining focus. Here are some things that can help:

Use a timer

If you are limiting your work to 5 or 10 minutes it will be easier to stay focused on one small project:
Think “I’m going to sort and empty this bag in 5 minutes. I can look through the interesting stuff after the timer rings, but I’m going to make sure the trash is tossed and things are put away before I stop to look at the “treasures” I found.”
Give yourself one task to do when you set the timer, for example, pick one of the following:

  • Sort one pile.
  • Do the dishes that are in the sink.
  • Find all the junk mail in the kitchen and trash it.
  • Declutter the missing sock pile.
  • Pitch old medication from the bathroom cabinet.

Reward yourself

When you complete a task, reward yourself with something: read a book, look at Facebook, etc. Think of all the things you tend to use to procrastinate and turn them around so that they are a reward for your hard work instead.
If you know that you will get to do something enjoyable as soon as you finish this 10 minute task, it can spur you on to stay focused on just this task.

Learn to meditate

Meditation is becoming more mainstream these days, because people have found in our technology-distracted culture, we are having to re-train our brain to focus.
The definition is: to spend time in quiet thought for religious purposes or relaxation. <source>
When you are first learning to meditate, the mind is easily distracted, it wanders, thinking about all things you need to do that day, what someone said last night or what you’re going to eat for lunch today. When you notice you are distracted, simply bring your mind back to the topic you want to focus on.
Meditation doesn’t have to be super mystical with candles all around you. Prayer counts. Prayer is (or should be) meditating on God. I know many times I’ve sat down to pray and found my mind wandering. I have to bring it back to focus on Him.
That simple act of slowing down and thinking about one thing is disciplining your mind.
There are many simple apps that help you meditate, or you can learn to do it yourself.
For me, I like calming music in headphones (so I’m not distracted by the noise in the house) and thinking about an aspect of the character of God: God is a Father. What does that look like? How have I seen that in my life? How do I see that in the lives of others? How does a father care for his children? What does that look like when he’s teaching them something? And asking Him to open my eyes to see it.

Know when you need to quit

Many times we can work for a certain period, making decisions to get rid of, trash or keep certain items quite easily and after a certain point find that instead of making a decision about it, we find we are only shuffling items from one pile to another thinking “I’m not sure what to do with this.”
That simply means that your decision-making-power is used up for now and it’s time to quit. There is no point in sitting there shuffling clutter. Clean up your space by taking the donate box out to the car, dumping the trash and putting the “keep” items where they belong. Then find something else to do.

Remember that your focusing ability will increase

Just like exercising a muscle makes it stronger, the more you practice focusing the longer you will be able to maintain it.
It’s ok if it’s only 5 minutes at a time.
Even the productivity experts have a hard time focusing more than 30-40 minutes. Unless you decide to be a monk and live in a monastery, don’t hold yourself to high standards. Celebrate your successes when you focus on something for 5, 10 and 15 minutes. It’s a win!!

More helps:

  1. Be creative. We all need an outlet of some sort! Make time in your life to let it out: cook, draw, write, sing, do a puzzle. Letting your mind play is healthy and makes it easier to to focus on important things if your brain has time to enjoy life each day.
  2. Exercise. Get active and get your heart rate up. Exercise boosts energy, improves your mood and helps you focus. Find an activity that inspires you to move: run, dance, swim, lift weights. Don’t think you like any exercise? Try it a few times! If you definitely dislike an activity, move on to the next one. Keep going until you find one you enjoy and commit to doing that.
  3. Write in a gratitude journal every day. 3 things is all you need. Even if you keep it simple, thinking about what you are grateful for each day keeps your mind in a positive state, which means you are in a better place to accomplish things and enjoy what you get done.
  4. Decrease your media intake. Sitting in front of screens takes its toll on your mind. Same with looking at your phone regularly. Make it a point to turn off the TV or computer, set your phone on silent and leave it on the counter for a while. Taking a break from the constant input of ads, or opinions of others on social media helps you focus on things that are important and relevant to you.

Do you have a method that helps you stay focused? Please share in the comments!

About Rachel Jones

Hi there! I’m Rachel Jones, and I founded Nourishing Minimalism in 2012 at the beginning of my minimalist journey. If you're looking for encouragement in your journey, I created a FREE Facebook Group - feel free to join me there: Nourishing Minimalism Facebook Group and I share videos each week on YouTube


  1. Sugarboo on 04/12/2017 at 1:46 pm

    Thank you for this EXCELLENT article! Im pretty sure i do most of it already, but it made me feel better anout working for an hour and usung up all my brain power! After about an hour i just couldnt focus in making any more Decisions about where to put “stuff”. So i would get discouraged and then i eould ho do something i ” liked” to do. (Like baking!). Now i know its ok and i dont have to spend a whole day on organizing!

    • Sugarboo on 04/12/2017 at 1:47 pm

      Sorry for the typos!

    • Rachel on 04/13/2017 at 2:50 pm

      Oh good! So glad it helped!

  2. Euphemia on 04/13/2017 at 4:28 pm

    Yes, thank you for this, one of my greater challenges!

  3. Erin | A Welder's Wife on 04/18/2017 at 11:35 am

    Great tips! Setting a timer is a big help when I need to declutter. I also like to put everything on my bed, so that I have to deal with it that day.

  4. Amy@MoreTimeThanMoney on 07/13/2017 at 12:01 am

    Using the 2017 in 2017 chart an posting my progress on Facebook and Instagram each month is really helping me to keep on track, Thank you.

  5. Diann on 07/26/2017 at 6:48 pm

    NOT using any social media except Pinterest occasionally for recipes and patterns helps me steal back time I see taken from many friends. I still find that email takes too much of my time for my liking. I unsubscribe from lists and find myself back on them a couple months later.
    I too found the idea that we don’t have to expect ourselves to be focused on decluttering for an entire day or even half a day to be an idea that caused relief. I am constantly wondering why I can’t just do this, get through this decluttering so that I can create more livable and likeable spaces in my home. I truly end up feeling overwhelmed and thinking, “I just don’t know what to do with this” about more and more items after about 30-45 minutes. Nice to know there is actually a reason for that!

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