Kick start the new year with a 31-day decluttering plan that will help your home feel lighter, calmer, and easier to organize.
If your home is anything like mine, things start to feel a bit tight around the end of December. There are toys everywhere from the holidays. The fridge and pantry are full of strange leftovers and sweet treats that aren’t exactly January healthy. And every cupboard, drawer, and closet is bursting at the seams.
It’s a lot. And it’s overwhelming.
That’s why I put together this January challenge. I figure if my home needs it, so does yours. And what better way to tackle a project than together!
I’ve spread the whole house decluttering over 31 days to break it into manageable daily tasks. While some days may take longer than others, the goal is to declutter as much as you can in the time you have. If you only have 10 minutes to go through a category, make those 10 minutes count and move quickly to find as many things to donate, recycle or throw away as you can.
And if you have to skip a day, don’t worry! Just pick back up when you can. Or do two categories in a day. Or skip a category altogether. Remember, it’s not about perfection, it’s about progress. You are releasing physical things from your home and every single thing you take out makes a difference.
Before you work the challenges, begin with your mindset. Decluttering can be exhausting, emotionally challenging, and physically draining. But it can also be freeing, exciting, and fun! To help sway it to the latter, I like to visualize the end result. This helps motivate me to push through when things get hard, or I get decision fatigue.
To help visualize the end result, ask yourself, how do you want the space to feel? What do you want it to look like? To function like? Be as specific as you can! Describe what it feels like to be in the space.
Here is my vision:
I look around my home and see a calm, clutter-free space. There is nothing on the floor or the counters that isn’t beautiful or functional. I open the linen closet to find the perfect set of sheets or a neat stack of folded towels. I open up a kitchen cabinet to get a mug and my favorite mugs are nicely lined up, just waiting for me to make a cup of tea. I feel calm walking around my house, knowing that I can easily pick up a few items and be company-ready in less than 10 minutes. I know that when I open my closet, all I see are items I love to wear. It’s easy to get dressed and I feel confident as I am able to quickly grab my keys and purse and walk out the door.
Yours may look different than mine, but the benefits are the same. When things get tough, return to your vision in order to help you decide what items to declutter in order to get closer to that vision.
GATHER YOUR DECLUTTERING SUPPLIES
You only need a few things to get started, but they are critical to your success. First, gather empty boxes to hold donations. You will want to be able to fill the boxes and carry them directly to the donation center. If you don’t have boxes, use large garbage bags or paper grocery bags. Anything you can easily carry and drop off without transferring the items is best.
You will also need a large trash bag for trash and a box or bin for recycling. A paper shredder can be handy as well, but don’t let that hold you up if you don’t have one. There are places you can drop off items to shred once the challenge is complete.
CREATE A PLAN FOR THE ITEMS YOU DECLUTTER
Decide in advance where you will take your items in order to prevent your decluttered items from becoming clutter themselves.
For trash, have a trash bag that you take immediately to the garbage can.
For items that you can recycle, have a bin or bag ready to go.
For donations, decide on a thrift store or charity that has an easy place to donate.
If you have things that you are giving to people you know, like hand-me-downs or items you may have borrowed, then label a bag with their name.
If you are selling any items on Facebook Marketplace or giving them away on a Buy Nothing group, then take a picture of the item and list it immediately. Then place it in a bag near your front door.
The goal is to have a plan and stick to it. Follow through until the item is fully out of your house!
DAILY DECLUTTERING CHALLENGES
Day 1: Purse and wallet
Cleaning out your everyday bag and wallet is the perfect bite-size task to jump-start your decluttering. Take everything out and sort it into piles. Throw away old receipts, trash, and wrappers. MInimize the items in your purse to only the things that you must carry around with you.
Day 2: Linens, sheets, towels, and blankets
Everyone has too many linens. For sheets, sort by size – twin, full, queen, king. Remove any worn sheets or sheets you no longer like. Strive to keep only 2-3 sets per bed. For towels, sort by color and size. Remove any worn or faded towels and keep only the best. Same with tablecloths and blankets. Keep only what you love and use.
Day 3: Toys
If you have children, you have toys. And most likely a lot of them. Set a timer for whatever time you have and make a sweep through the toys. Use a bin or black bag to gather any toys that your child has outgrown or no longer plays with. Remove any stuffed animals or dolls that are not special. You can temporarily store this bag or bin in a garage or closet away from your children for a certain amount of time. If they ask about the toy you can retrieve it from the bag. But if they don’t, you should feel empowered to donate after a few weeks. If you come across any toys that are broken, they should go directly into the trash.
Day 4: Fridge
Time to clear out the fridge! Take everything out and toss any old leftovers or dicey-looking produce. Check expiration dates on all condiments and toss anything expired. Wipe down the shelves and sides with warm water and mild dish soap. Return items that are still good to the fridge and make a list of anything that needs restocking.
Day 5: Pantry
Next the pantry! Similar to the fridge, remove all food items and throw away anything that is stale, expired, or non-edible. Following a new diet? Remove any food that is edible, but not wanted. These items can be donated to a food bank. Remove any excess packaging, containers, or boxes. Consolidate foods as needed to reduce the space they take up in your pantry. Wipe down the shelves and place the items you want to keep back on the shelves.
Day 6: Medications, vitamins, first aid
Round up all the medicines and vitamins in your home and check every single expiration date. Safely dispose of any medication that you no longer need (check pharmacies near you for medication disposal programs). Consolidate vitamins, supplements, and first aid. Discard what you no longer need.
Day 7: Books and magazines
Quickly gather any magazines for recycling. Sort through books and remove any that you can’t see yourself reading. Similarly, look through your cookbooks and pull any that you no longer use.
Day 8: Beauty products and makeup
Sort through all makeup and facial products. Remove anything that has expired or is no longer used. Remove duplicates. Consolidate products if possible and recycle empty plastic bottles.
Day 9: Decorative pillows and blankets
Gather all of your throw pillows and blankets and ruthlessly purge any that you no longer like or use. Wash any that may be dirty or stained. Reduce the number you have in order to make it easier to organize and store.
Day 10: Coats and shoes
Declutter coats and shoes by grouping each household member’s shoes and coats and then donating any that are worn out, no longer fit, or not worn any longer.
Day 11: Casual clothes, workout clothes, socks, and undergarments
Dump all casual clothes on your bed and sort by type. Declutter anything that doesn’t fit or is worn out. Keep only the items you like wearing. If you have too many of one category (say, leggings) consider minimizing by selecting your favorite pairs and donating the rest.
Day 12: Dressy clothing, workwear, special occasion
Assess your current lifestyle and keep only the items you wear regularly. If you no longer wear dressy clothes to work, consider donating to free up space in your closet. For special occasion clothing, keep flexible pieces that you feel amazing in. Donate everything else.
Day 13: Kids clothes
Sort each child’s clothes and remove any that they have outgrown. Pack up any hand-me-downs that you want to keep for younger children. Donate or recycle any garments that are stained or worn out. Assess your child’s needs and pull in any larger size clothing or make lists of items that are needed.
Day 14: Paperwork
Gather all miscellaneous paperwork in your house and make a stack. Start sorting the stack based on 4 categories – 1) Action items 2) Items to file 3) Shred 4) Recycle. Immediately deal with categories 2-4 and schedule time on your calendar for category 1.
Day 15: Pots, pans, and bakeware
Quickly purge any scratched, dented, worn, or not used pans. If you have duplicates, choose the best one and donate the other. If you have baking pans or pie tins you no longer use, consider donating to free up space in your kitchen
Day 16: Cooking utensils and kitchen tools
Sort by type and remove any duplicates. Consider donating any single-use items (like an avocado slicer.) If you come across any plastic silverware or take-out items, toss immediately.
Day 17: Glasses, plates, food storage containers, and mugs
Declutter by taking all dishes and cups out of your cabinet and putting back ONLY the items you love and use daily. Donate everything else. If you have too many or of one item (like mugs!) consider imposing a number limit, say 10 mugs to keep the number manageable.
Day 18: Small kitchen appliances
Do you have an ice cream maker or waffle iron gathering dust? Today is the day to look long and hard at your lifestyle and decide if you will ever use these appliances. If you have never made waffles, chances are you never will. Pass those appliances on to people who will. Ask yourself the same question for all rice makers, instant pots, food processors, etc.
Day 19: Junk drawer
We all have one. Empty the drawer (or drawers) out and group items by type. Throw away any garbage or junk. Remove any duplicates or items you no longer use. Put items back, like with like.
Day 20: Board games and puzzles
Sort through all board games and puzzles and consider donating any that you no longer use.
Day 21: Bathroom cabinets
Declutter the space under your bathroom sink. Pull everything out and throw away any mouthwashes, shampoos, or soaps you no longer use. Throw away any garbage, empty wrappers, or expired products. If there are any hair tools or products you no longer use, consider donating or giving to a friend.
Day 22: Art supplies or hobby materials
Today is the day to sort through your art supplies or hobby materials. Pull out things like fabric, craft supplies, paints, paper, or any other physical materials you may be holding on to. Trash or donate any craft supplies you no longer use or items for hobbies you no longer participate in.
Day 23: File cabinet
If you have a file cabinet or long-term paper storage, then take a quick decluttering pass today. Set a timer for 15 minutes to help motivate yourself to get through this not-so-exciting task. Plan on recycling any old papers you no longer need and shredding any with sensitive information.
Day 24: Cleaning supplies
Cleaning supplies tend to multiply and hide all over the house. Go on a scavenger hunt to gather anything cleaning-related so you can see what you have. Remove any that you no longer use. If you have two half-filled products, combine them to save space. If you have more than you can use, consider giving to friends and neighbors.
Day 25: Decorative items, vases, candles, and knickknacks
Today declutter all the items that sit on surfaces and are pretty to look at. These decorative items take up space and require frequent dusting, so best to minimize to only the items that you LOVE and that bring you joy. If any item makes you feel just so-so, it’s time to let it go.
Day 26: Jewelry and accessories
Pull out all jewelry, hats, scarfs, sunglasses, belts, and any other accessories. Put like with like so you know how many of each item you have. Then pull out any items you no longer wear to donate.
Day 27: Extra luggage, bags, purses, and other reusable bags
I’m convinced we all have too many bags. Today is the day to go through all the reusable grocery bags, purses, backpacks, wallets, and suitcases you may be holding on to. Even though they may all be useful, try to minimize your stash to the minimum that you need.
Day 28: Art, frames, wall hangings
Do you have framed photos or art laying around, not hung on the walls? Today is the day to declutter and get rid of anything you don’t plan on hanging. For extra credit, hang any you want to keep on the wall to get the clutter off the floor.
Day 29: Old electronic devices
Gather any old phones, laptops, and tablets that are outdated and no longer used. Erase data as needed and properly dispose of the item. Look for electronic recycling programs near you.
Day 30: Office supplies
Pull out all pens, pencils, paperclips, notebooks, calendars, envelopes, thumbtacks, Post-It notes, or any other office supplies. Sort everything by type and only keep the best of the best. For example, keep your favorite pens, but throw away all the ‘freebie’ pens.
Day 31: Party supplies, paper products, wrapping paper
It’s the last day of decluttering! Today tackle paper plates, cups, party decorations or wrapping paper. Anything you keep “just in case there is a party.” Donate or toss anything that you don’t plan on using and consolidate the rest so it’s easier to store.
THAT’S A WRAP!
And that’s the end of our 31 days of decluttering! Did you make it through? How is your house feeling now?
I guarantee that anything you have taken out has made a difference in the way your house feels. Having less “stuff” makes it easier to organize and clean our homes and keep it that way!
But perhaps the best hidden benefit of 31 days of decluttering is after doing it daily, it is now a habit that you can continue the rest of the year. A few minutes of daily decluttering will keep your belongings minimized and will help fight the daily accumulation of STUFF!
Be sure to be following along on Instagram @smallishhome this month as I work through the 31 days in my own home. I’ll share my progress and helpful decluttering tips along the way!