Letting Go: Setting Goals

Posted by in Life in Order, Minimalism

Setting goals is part of finding motivation which is something we discussed last week but because setting goals is so important to the process I thought it deserved a post of its own.  Goal setting is personal and everyone’s goals should be unique to their own needs, desires and personalities. Remember how I said last week that what works for one person as motivation will fall flat for another well same goes for setting goals.  Your goals should be a product of your motivations and in turn motivate you to continue forward in letting go.

Types of Goals

My goals are varied in type.  I set a combination of goals to keep things interesting, challenging and relevant to the task at hand.  This keeps things from getting boring, helps maintain momentum and keeps me on task.

Arbitrary Goals.  

Last week, I mentioned that having a decluttering chart helped keep me motivated.  The 2015 in 2015 decluttering challenge is an arbitrary number. This year the goal is 2016 – the number picked just happens to match the year but it could just as easily be 3000.  It is about creating a finish line of sorts.  2015 items was like setting the goal to run a 5k with the intention of eventually running a marathon.  At some point you will finish 26.2 miles but only after running a whole lot of shorter distances first.  What arbitrary goals should do.  They create an attainable, non-emotional metric for success and they are easy to track.  They allow for success.  These don’t have to be annual goals either – arbitrary goals can take the form of other challenges like 30 bags in 30 days or the cascading challenges where one parts with one item on the first day of the month and then two on the second and so on for all the days of the month.  These can all be used over time to keep things varied enough not to be boring.

Vision Goals.

Vision goals are much more visual in nature.  I am a visual person and I often envision what something will look like in my head before ever putting it into words.  Often times I will create a picture or in the case of my home a floor plan.  It may seem silly to some but creating a floor plan of your home is essentially creating a visual map.  It also makes it easier to communicate with one’s spouse.  I can try to tell my husband in words what I am envisioning and often he just stares at me blankly.  Show him a floor plan and he instantly gets it.  In the world of decluttering and letting go communication is very important and so is reminding yourself where you want to go.  Here is the layout I created for our small bedroom as part of my February goals. We had more furniture crammed in the room than this and some boxes lining the walls of things that needed to be hung up or put away.  I created the layout in January and showed it to my husband.

What vision goals do.  They create a framework or road map.  They help communicate.  They help maintain motivation and focus.

Space Specific Goals. 


I have mentioned before that each month I pick a space to focus on, declutter in and work on organizing.  My goal is to get as much done in that room during that month as possible and get it looking as close to my vision goal as possible.  In February we were able to get the basic layout done in the example above.  There are still pockets of clutter but we used our budget to tackle a couple key needs in this room.  Our focus shifted to the kids’ room for March.  This allows us to plan and budget projects for different rooms, focus on specific areas and begin to see tangible improvements in each space.

Some people in the group I moderate for have said that it helped more to box everything up in a room and only bring back in what they actually love.  If you have the time, ability and a spouse willing to do it then go for it.

Creating miniature goals generally will look more like a task or to-do list.  Task lists are just lists unless you give them a due-date.  A due-date gives a task a tangible threshold and elevates a task to a goal.  I don’t recommend that you do this for everything because then your life becomes cluttered with lists.  What I use these goals for are what I call domino decluttering – where one thing can’t take place until something else is finished first.  We couldn’t move the red dresser without first clearing out that corner.  That was a task that I set a due-date on.
Seasonal Goals.

Some might also call these quarterly goals but seasonal just sounds less “boardroom” to me.  These are the larger goals that you might have that can only be done during a particular season either because of timing or weather.  Spring cleaning is probably the most obvious example but there are plenty of others.  Cleaning out the garage, maintaining outdoor gear, decluttering a storage shed, etc.  If there are things you can only do during a specific time period then it is best to focus on those areas.  If one goal is to declutter the garage then it is best to set goals for those areas over the course of a particular season.  This summer I am planning on focusing on our patio our apartment is supposed to do some maintenance on it so we have some work to do to get ready for that.

Challenge Goals.

I try to challenge myself periodically as well to declutter outside my comfort zone.  These challenges are comprised of things either tedious or emotional in nature. Dealing with paper clutter is tedious and monotonous.  These goals are often met with rewards to myself.  Shredding mounds of old tax documents resulted in a homemade truffle from a local bean to bar chocolatier for me.

Sentimental clutter is another area that I have challenged myself to tackle slowly over time.  These become more categorical or space driven goals.  Some examples, I set the goal that I would only keep one item from my crystal collection, pared down our family photos to fit in a single photo box and decided to keep one outfit and one blanket from each child.  These are things that I set aside and take on when I am in a good place.  Right now, I have put a hold on dealing with sentimental items because I have enough emotions swirling in the grieving process.  I will get back to them at a later date.


Routine Goals.

Establishing routines is imperative to reaching your decluttering goals. If I sort and deal with the mail daily then it never becomes a monster.  If I stick to my regular laundry routine then I never have to tackle Mt. Washmore. One of my goals for the year is to set up a cleaning schedule for my home. I have done so by working on establishing specific routines or habits one day, one week and one month at a time until they become a daily habit.  These type of goals can be tracked in a journal or on a calendar to see your progress and see where items fit best in your schedule.  You might find that Monday is to “Monday” to tackle laundry but have no issues paying bills.  You might find that Wednesdays are always hectic and you never seem to accomplish everything in one evening – that night you might need to find a way to simplify your evening or delegate chores to others.   Tracking your routine goals also reveals patterns of when “things fall apart”.  Did you fall behind on laundry when your kids were sick for a week?  When you have a special event at work does your mail stack up?  It can help you see when you might need to ask for help and if possible plan ahead.

Remember to keep each goal SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Bound.  How do you go about setting goals for decluttering?

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