30 Days of Decluttering!

Hey, guys, it’s finally spring! Which means it’s time for spring cleaning and decluttering. And I’ve got a guide that we use when stuff gets away from us and we need to get back on track, that will help you get after the mess in small, manageable bites over the course of a month!

We’re starting this in April, and will be keeping track of how it goes over on Instagram under #homefrontdecluttering if you’d like to join us!

I like organization. I like working in a clean, decluttered space where my mise is freaking en place and I’m not getting crowded in by stuff.

But even though I hate clutter, life happens, I’ll open that stack of mail later, I’ll do the dishes later, I’ll sort through those clothes later, and soon enough it’s later and that stuff has turned into an overwhelming pile!

Stuff attracts dust and dirt. Stuff makes it harder to clean. Stuff just plain makes it harder to think.

Spring is a great time to get things back on track.

The air is getting warm and sweetening with growing things, so you can throw open the windows and air out the place. It’s time to put away some of the heavy winter coats and blankets and break out spring linens. It’s time to shake out the hibernation fog that has been hanging over us and let some sunshine in.

And I’ve got a system to help get us there.

Some Basic Techniques for Maintaining Organization

Before we get started, here are some basic techniques to get the clutter out of your house and keep it out! When you’re going through and organizing a room, keep these things in mind.

Pick a Starting Point and a Direction. When I start clearing a room or a space, I start to the left of the door and work counter-clockwise. It helps me keep track of where I’ve cleaned already and make sure I’ve hit everything in the room. Don’t leave out drawers or hidden areas.

Move Stuff that Doesn’t Belong to the Center. Pick a drop zone in the middle of the room and get everything that is where it doesn’t belong to the middle of the room.

A Place for Everything. This is your Marie Kondo time. You can ask if it brings you joy. I look to see if it belongs in a particular space, or in my life. If it has a home, I put it there. If it doesn’t, it goes back to the middle of the room.

Sort the Un-homed Things. A lot of things won’t have homes at this point. Don’t let them go into a box or a drawer and be forgotten about! Then they’ll never find a home {or leave yours!}. Some will immediately jump out at you as things you haven’t used in forever and need to leave. Get rid of them!

Put the Things You’ll Keep in the Rooms They Belong In. If there are things in the un-homed pile that you need to re-home into the proper room, do it now.

Make a Schedule. You don’t have to do this all the time. I probably hit a room a month, my kitchen more often than the others. But make a schedule to make sure you go through every room at the change of each season to prevent things from piling up.

Take Inventory. You probably have some high value items floating around your house, things that you need details on when it comes to insurance in case of theft or damage. Keep a running inventory of the jewelry, the serial numbered items, the things you value, just in case.

Do this often enough, and the clutter shouldn’t get away from you. Of course, I say this only having one child who isn’t old enough to make too much of a mess, so let’s be kind to each other when it comes to these kinds of expectations!

And if you are in the situation where it has gotten away, here’s how I get myself back on track without having to donate a full weekend to decluttering or spring cleaning.

30 Days of Decluttering!

Week 1 – Stuff that Piles Up

Let’s start with the most obvious stuff – the things that have piled up on various surfaces throughout your house. Getting these piles under control not only gives you a sense of accomplishment and make you feel like you made progress, but can reduce your stress levels as well. We don’t like to look at busy, cluttered things, and this helps!

Day 1 – Sort through stacks of mail. Pay those bills, file those tax papers, and get it gone. It can be stressful to let all that back up, so get it under control in a hurry!

Day 2 – Go through piles of magazines and catalogs. Keep the ones with references and recipes you want to use and get rid of the rest. Consider Catalog Choice to stop the catalogs you don’t want.

Day 3 – Kitchen Table. The kitchen table can easily become a dumping ground for clutter. Get everything off of it, including your decor and centerpieces, give it a solid cleaning, and be choosy about what gets allowed back on.

Day 4 – Dressers. Just like your kitchen table, dresser and bureau tops can become a dumping ground for the bedroom. Take everything off, wipe them down, and be picky about what goes back on.

Day 5 – Kitchen Counters. I’m so guilty of leaving out packages of things I’m going to cook with, appliances I just used or am going to use, and cookbooks, and the stuff piles up quickly. Get them stuff-free, get them clean, and make sure stuff finds a good home!

Day 6 – Desk or Workspace. Notebooks, pen and paper sorters, and other tools to keep you organized can become clutter themselves if you let them pile up! File or shred old notebooks, sort through and purge all the things you’re keeping organized, and you’ll find you don’t need as much storage on your desk.

Day 7 – Clean Newly Discovered Surfaces. You’ll notice at the end of every section here, we have a cleaning day. This is all about building good habits. Start making the habit of picking an area to deep clean once a week, and your cluttered surfaces probably could use some polish and love.

Week 2 – Stuff that Hides Well

Now it’s time to start digging into the less obvious stuff. You’ve cleaned off all your surfaces, so lets start digging into the boxes, bins, crates, drawers, and other things that have too long hidden from the light!

Day 8 – Junk Drawer(s). Do you need a junk drawer in the kitchen? Honestly? To me, that’s gross. I don’t want a drawer of random crap in my nice clean kitchen, and chances are pretty good, all of that stuff actually belongs somewhere else. Build a system to house it. Have a small container for rubber bands and twisty-ties, a basket for frequently used tools like screwdrivers, a file for appliance manuals, and so forth – somewhere other than in your nice clean kitchen!

Day 9 – Wallet and/or Purse. I clean out my purse whenever I switch it out, but sometimes I find myself carrying the same one long enough for stuff to really build up. Lay out a sheet of parchment or foil and just dump the thing out. Wipe out the inside, throw out the junk, and put back what belongs. Too many cards? Cancel and cut up the ones you don’t use, cancel loyalty programs as needed, and consolidate!

Day 10 – Bathroom Cabinets. Time to check expiration dates on those old pills or vitamins you swore you’d take. Get rid of perfume samples, nail polish, and makeup you don’t use. And if you just found an old hair dryer or humidifier or something else coated in dust in there, get rid of it – if it’s been there so long you forgot about it, you don’t need it.

Day 11 – Bathroom Drawers. Same as above, there’s lots of stuff that hides in here collecting dust that you just don’t need. After you go through these drawers, you might find yourself saying, as I often do, that you don’t need more bathroom storage – you just need less stuff!

Day 12 – Makeup Drawer or Bag. Old makeup not only doesn’t look good on you, it’s bad for your skin. Throw it out, clean out your bag, or maybe treat yourself to a new one. Bonus points if it’s like this one and can travel easily, because then you never need to pack a bag to travel or go to the gym – just grab yours!

Day 13 – Cleaning Supplies. As you’ve been going through this process, you’ve probably noticed you have a lot of random cleaning supplies stashed places so long they’ve gone old and dry, or you have several versions of the same thing open in one place. Sort, consolidate, and pitch the old stuff.

Day 14 – Cleaning Day! Let’s keep building those good habits. You’ve been in a lot of cabinets and drawers and noticed a few things that could use a deep clean. Get after them!


Week 3 – Stuff in Plain Sight

By this point, you should be feeling pretty accomplished! You’ve gone after the piles that have mounted up over time and the things that have languished in drawers. Now it’s time to start tackling the less obvious stuff, the stuff you see every day and may not realize is clutter.

Day 15 – Fridge. Are you, like me, one of those people who has given an unreasonable amount of fridge space to bottles of barbecue sauce, salad dressing, jams, jellies, and salsa? Are there things hiding in the back you meant to use but kind of forgot about? Get everything out on the counter including the drawers and shelves, take inventory, clean the fridge, and put back in what’s good and what you’re going to use.

Day 16 – Freezer.  Things last longer in the freezer than in the fridge, but they don’t last forever. And there’s no reason to give space to things you’re just not going to use. Get it all out, clean the freezer, and put back the stuff you’re going to use.

Day 17 – Pantry. Use this not just as the occasion to get rid of old expired stuff, but a chance to build in systems that help you stay organized. Get your baskets, your can organizers, your shelf liners, your label makers, and build yourself a system where you can see what you’ve got in there and what you’ll use! Get rid of the stuff you won’t use. No point holding onto apple cinnamon oatmeal if you don’t like apple cinnamon, no matter whether it’s good or not.

The good news is, if you have a lot of good pantry items you just won’t eat, you can donate those. Check out your local food pantry for information!

Day 18 – Kitchen Drawers. As a chef, I’ll argue that you can’t have too many wooden spoons, ramekins, spatulas, or knives. But you don’t want to keep buying more of the same thing because you don’t know what you’ve got. Bring those things into the light, inventory them, and again, build yourself a better organization system!

Day 19 – Car. By this point, you’re probably over the kitchen. Let’s look at something else you use every day and grows clutter like crazy – like your car! Get rid of the wrappers, parking garage dash tickets, extra jacket and umbrella you tossed in the back and forgot about, and toys and pacifiers that inevitably get tossed out of the car-seat and fall between seat cushions. Might be time to hit the car wash, too, and get all the salt and snow dirt off your machine!

Day 20 – Coat Closet. Time to start storing away the winter stuff? Figure out what else is lurking in your coat closet. Hats you haven’t worn in forever, coats that don’t quite fit right, reusable bags that probably should be in a place where you remember you have them before you head to the store. Donate what you won’t use, find new homes for things that need them, and hang back what’s left in a more organized closet!

Day 21 – Cleaning Day. You guys know the drill! Open up the windows, turn on some tunes, and get after some of those dirty spaces you discovered in this process!

Week 4 – The Donation Bin

Home stretch! Right now, you should have hit most of the main clutter areas in the house. Now it’s time to get your KonMari method on and let go of the things you’re not using. Because as we mentioned before, sometimes you don’t need to add more storage. Sometimes you just need less stuff!

Day 22 – Shoes. Life is too short to abuse your feet in uncomfortable shoes. There are too many comfortable and inexpensive shoes for all activities out there now to keep old painful ones. Get rid of them.

Day 23 – Purses. I’m a purse hoarder. It doesn’t help that my mother-in-law gives me her fabulous hand-me-downs. Keep a couple special occasion bags, but otherwise, it only makes sense to keep the things you’ll use. Donate the rest. And make a one-in-one-out rule to keep from accumulating more.

Day 24 – Clothes. Does it fit? Is it in good repair? And will you wear it? Keep it. If it doesn’t fit, if it’s so threadbare you can’t even justify using it as a house-painting shirt, and if it was your jam eight years ago but you just can’t see yourself wearing it now, get rid of it.

Day 25 – Books. I have a library. I don’t get rid of books. But I have been given or picked up while traveling a lot of paperbacks I won’t revisit. Time to get those to a new home. Consider starting a little free library book box in your neighborhood {but check the ordinances, because if you can believe it, there are city councils apparently trying to crack down on or regulate these adorable little libraries!}.

Day 26 – Toys and Games. I’m horrible at getting rid of toys, games, video games, or other fun things we don’t use. But there are some things my son has just shown zero interest in, some games we break out all the time when friends are over and others we don’t touch, and so forth. I don’t want the things we don’t use crowding out the things we do, so it’s time to pare those down.

Day 27 – Appliances and Devices. Some people use their toaster ovens. Ours has been living in a drawer or in the pantry since the day we moved in together. It has probably started keeping home for the first generation iPad we have stashed somewhere, too. Seriously, if you don’t use it, or if it’s hopelessly outmoded, let it go. Someone can refurbish it for use somewhere. People are amazingly inventive.

Day 28 – Cleaning Day. We finished another week! Time to clean up. Probably your newly refreshed closet, at this point!

Bonus – That Extra Stuff

We have two more days, and there are a couple of things you need to do at the end of this whole process to make sure your home is both decluttered and safe.

Day 29 – Stuff that Never Found a Home. At this point, you have probably found a number of things while decluttering that you thought you might use, but just don’t have a home. A lot of these might be things that have sentimental value, that you were given and don’t want to let go of, or you kept for some other emotional reason.

It is okay to keep these things. Repeat after me, it is okay to keep something just because it has sentimental value and makes you happy. Think of a creative way to store these things. You can build frames and shadow boxes to display them, place them on shelves or mantels, or put them somewhere they will bring you joy. You can put them in cedar chests to preserve them along with their stories for family who might be interested.

But it is not okay to keep something someone gave you just because you feel guilty about throwing it away or giving it away. Do you remember every gift you ever gave someone? If you remember it enough to ask about it, you probably shouldn’t have given it away. Get rid of the guilt, and get rid of the stuff.

Day 30 – Take Inventory. Now that you’ve gone through All The Stuff, remember that inventory we talked about? Make sure your valuables are inventoried and insured if necessary {you probably don’t want to pay full price to replace that photography equipment}.

This is by no means the ultimate guide to getting your house clean and getting the angels of organization to smile upon you. It’s just what works for us. And I’m sure we missed a few things in there! If you spot any of these things or have ways we can improve this guide, please let us know!

How are you guys getting after the clutter this spring?


About the ChefKristin

Career Army officer with a tendency toward workaholism. On the side, self taught cook, carpenter, and gardener, working to build a beautiful life for my family. Trying to tilt my balance in the right direction.

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