Stuff accumulates—it’s a fact of life. When you find your house getting a little cluttered and chaotic, take a little time to tidy so you can effectively organize and clean.
Sorting and storing is hard when your space is overcrowded, and cleaning is almost always ineffective when you’re trying to work around a mess. Decluttering allows you to make space in your life for the things that really matter, and means you can stop shoving things in the hall closet and pretending they don't exist.
For this seven day decluttering challenge, you'll need to set aside one to two hours each day to tackle the tasks. At the end of the week, we recommend adding some basic organization and storage to your home.
The number one rule of this decluttering challenge is this: if an item doesn’t have a permanent place, get rid of it.
As you unburden your home of extra stuff accumulated through the years, we also recommend finding a local Goodwill, Deseret Industries, or similar organization that takes donations. Donating is a simple way to turn your decluttering into a force for good (plus donations can earn you a break on your annual taxes in many countries).
Day One: Closets
Closets can seem like a beast to tackle, but organizing them can help facilitate all your other clean up efforts.
Start with shoes—throw out or donate pairs you haven't worn in over a year, any that don’t fit, and any you like the looks of but don't enjoy wearing. After you’ve given your shoes the boot, head straight for the clothes.
Clothing often holds sentimental value, which keeps us attached to items we never wear. If a garment is just taking up space in your closet or drawer, it’s probably time for it to go. Whether you’re giving your college t shirts a new life by repurposing the fabric, or donating a pair of acid wash jorts that probably won’t come back into style, everyone will have something to get rid of in their closet or dresser.
Check bathroom and hall closets for sheets or towels with holes, duplicate items like umbrellas or walking sticks, and old healthcare or hygeine goods like expired medicines.
Day Two: Kitchen
A deep purge will leave your kitchen in a much better state. Not only will it be easier to clean and stay clean longer when you do, it will become a more enjoyable space to occupy in general. Start by sifting through your pots and pans, then move on to silverware and dishes, and finish with miscellaneous kitchen items.
Be honest with yourself. Do you really need two cheese graters? Should you be holding on to this broken old pot you've been meaning to fix? How often do you really use that panini press?
Declutter any excess items, items you don’t use, or items that take up space and serve no real purpose. Keep only things you regularly use, things that make you happy, and things that are vital to your culinary endeavors.
Take fifteen minutes to pick through your fridge and freezer during this phase, releasing any items that have expired or gone bad, cleaning your shelves, and moving foodstuffs you want to use soon into places you can easily access.
Day Three: Bathrooms
Decluttering bathrooms is usually easy compared to more storage-intensive areas of the home. Start by emptying your cabinets and drawers onto the floor and cleaning them out or wiping them down. Then one by one, go through the products and only put things back into the cabinets and drawers that you really need to save for future use.
Throw out expired or badly worn items, and consider getting rid of half-used products you never seem to reach for. If you have multiple bottles of similar products, consider combining them to streamline your storage. Is it really that big a deal if your hibiscus and orange shampoos team up for the sake of efficiency?
Day Four: Papers and Piles
If you’re like most people, you’ve got papers and piles (and maybe piles of papers) all over the house. Day four focuses on going through all of your documents and deciding what is important enough to keep, and what needs to meet a recycling bin.
Start at one end of your house and work your way from room to room, decluttering papers and obvious piles. Depending on how much of a hoarder you are, this step could be a breeze or take a few hours. When decluttering papers, remember to keep important letters and documents that you find in a safe place (consolidate that storage to just one location). Use a free cloud software service like Google Docs to store information that otherwise would be stuck on scraps of paper tucked throughout your home.
If you're getting bogged down by every page, speed things up with a maybe pile, a definitely keep pile, and a definitely trash pile to get the engines revving. Then go back through your maybe pile at the end instead of agonizing through it upfront, eating your whole day.
Papers take up space and instantly make a room look messy, so make a designated spot for all the papers that you saved. This spot can be anywhere from a basket to a secluded shelf in your newly cleaned closet. The important part is that they're not floating around cluttering your entire living space.
Day Five: Boxes and Bedrooms
On day five, start by decluttering the bedrooms (including desk and nightstand drawers). Get rid of items that don’t make you happy, have no purpose, and won’t serve a purpose any time soon. Bring two big bags on your quest—one for trash and one for donations.
After you’ve finished your bedroom, move on to boxes of items stored around your house. As time allows, go through these boxes with the same critical eye you've brought to the rest of your project. If you don’t have time to get to a box, at least mark it clearly so you know what's inside.
Day Six: Communal Spaces
On the second to last day of your organizational push, focus on communal spaces like living, family, and rec rooms. As you tidy these shared spots, make sure you aren’t turning someone else’s treasure to trash.
This phase will rid your home of extra trinkets, outdated technology, and worn-out eyesores like stained couch pillows and that front door rug with a hole. Letting go of unnecessary objects creates more space for the items you love to shine, and helps you identify things in need of replacement.
If you live with family members, friends, or roommates, make deep-cleaning these joint spaces a group activity. Sometimes personal items taking up communal space really belong in individual bedrooms. Sometimes no one knows where something came from in the first place.
Day Seven: Upgrade Your Storage
After your purge, take one final day to organize and store your items in a way that works for you. Make some new storage boxes, or pay a visit to the Container Store or a local Walmart and get whatever organization tools you need so that everything in your home has a place. Remember, if you don't have a place to keep something, you don't need to keep it.
One deep clean like this every year will keep your space fun to live in and easy to clean, saving time in the other 51 weeks for projects, relaxation, and spending time with the people you love.