A Doable Plan to Complete a Full-House Purge Before the New Year

posted by Andrea | 09/6/2018

It’s roughly 16 weeks until the start of another New Year — which is often the time of year everyone wants to “get more organized”.

However, wouldn’t it be fantastic if you could dedicate a chunk of time, every week from now through the end of the year, to complete a full-house purge BEFORE the New Year?!?!

I realize that might sound overwhelming and/or impossible…. but let me break it down for you and simplify things a bit!

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STEP #1: Make a numbered list of every single room/space in your home.

Here’s what my list would look like:

  1. mudroom
  2. kitchen
  3. dining room
  4. half bath
  5. laundry room
  6. living room
  7. office
  8. master bedroom
  9. master bathroom
  10. nursery
  11. landing area
  12. kids’ bedroom
  13. playroom
  14. kids’ bathroom
  15. storage closet
  16. basement

That was simple enough… right! 

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STEP #2: Assign one room per week.

As I was thinking through the various rooms in our friends’ and family’s homes, I realized many homes have between 12-20 rooms/spaces in them… and with roughly 16 weeks until the end of the year, purging one room/space per week might just be a fantastically doable approach to completing a full-house purge before the New Year!

Once you know how many spaces you have in your home, take a few additional minutes and literally assign one room per week in your planner, on your calendar, in your favorite to-do App, wherever… just write it down.

If you know you’ll have a busy week, schedule a smaller, less-cluttered room for that week (like a half bathroom). If you know you’ll have more free time one week, make it a goal to tackle a larger area (like an overflowing closet or a basement storage area).

Once you have this tentative plan in place, the project will already SEEM more doable (even though you haven’t actually purged a thing yet!

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STEP #3: Dedicate a spot for donations and a “maybe” pile.

Whenever I purge, I find it most helpful to have 3 piles, bags, boxes, etc.

  1. Trash
  2. Donate
  3. Maybe

I use large, heavy-duty trash bags for the trash. I dump the trash immediately after I’m finished purging a space (or whenever they get too full).

I use large paper bags with handles or cardboard boxes for the donate (so they are easy to transport). I put these bags and boxes into the trunk of my van (or on the bench in the mudroom) so I remember to donate them the next time I’m running errands (which is fairly regularly).

I use some of our extra clear plastic storage tubs for the maybe pile. I put these maybe items in our storage closet upstairs. This storage closet is clean, somewhat small, very easy to access, and I use it on a daily basis, so I am regularly reminded of my maybe items every time I walk into the closet.

Having a dedicated (separate) space for my maybe pile has been helpful for me as it feels like I’m making so much more progress when I physically remove items from the space I’m purging — even if it’s just to this temporary storage area.

I have a little extra time to think about if I really want to purge those items or not, but at the same time, I can enjoy the immediate benefits of less-cluttered, more-organized space in the area I’m purging.

Of course, I’ll eventually need to deal with my “maybe items”, but considering the time it saves while I’m purging, it’s worth it for me to take this 2-step approach.

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STEP #4: Purge the first room.

The first 3 steps should really only take you a few minutes to complete… yay!

Now that we’re actually purging, it won’t go quite as quickly — but don’t get discouraged just yet. Choose the room you decided to start with back in Step #2, grab your garbage bags, your boxes, your bins, etc. from Step #3, and get started!

QUICKLY go through each closet, dresser, cabinet, drawer, cubby, shelf, bin, box, basket, flat surface, etc. in that space and pull out anything and everything you don’t absolutely need to have in that space (and then distribute it to your trash bag, your donation box, or your maybe tub).

If something needs to go to another area of your house, bring it to that area and quickly put it away. If you can’t quickly put it away, just set it in that room to deal with once you’re ready to purge that space.

The trick here is to move QUICKLY… don’t over-think things. If you aren’t sure, put it in the maybe pile to deal with later. 

You might even try setting a timer for 20 minutes to see how quickly you can move. Once the timer goes off, set it for another 20 minutes. I certainly don’t expect you to finish an entire room in 20 minutes, but these little alarms are a good way to track your progress and keep you on task (in case you’re the type to easily get side-tracked!)

When you’ve made your way through the entire room/space, bring your trash to the trash bin, put your donate items in your car (or garage or mudroom or somewhere close to your car!), and put your maybe items in the designated spot from step #3.

At this point, I usually like to go back into that room with a dust cloth and vacuum. I realize this isn’t necessarily part of the purging process, but once a room is decluttered, I like to “finish the job” by running a dust cloth over all the flat surfaces (including baseboards, door frames, window sills, etc.) and vacuuming really well. It looks SO nice!

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STEP #5: Repeat step #4 with every room in your house!

Yes, I know, somewhat of an anti-climactic ending… I can simplify the process, but unfortunately, I can’t magically make it happen without some time and a little elbow grease!

The good news is you still have 16 weeks… and you only need to focus on one space per week!

If you don’t fully finish a space in one week, it’s up to you whether you continue on with that space or move to the next space. In my opinion, I’d probably suggest moving on to the next space, because if you have a tendency to procrastinate, or if you are a perfectionist, you could easily get held up on one space for weeks and weeks and weeks without moving on.

Just make as much progress as you can in one week, then move onto the next space.

It won’t be perfect and it won’t happen over night… but it will be SO MUCH BETTER than if you did nothing at all!

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And when the New Year rolls around, you can tackle your maybe pile!

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25 comments

  1. Kim

    09/09/2018

    When I think back about my declutter/minimalism journey that started 15 years ago. I’m always amazed at how I think there isn’t anything left to get rid of or declutter. I always find something to donate, sell or toss……always. Thanks for the list and the challenge.

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  2. Melissa

    09/07/2018

    Thanks for the inspiration! This is something I desperately need to do, and I think I’m going to try it.

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    Andrea Reply:

    you can do it!!

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  3. Marlene

    09/06/2018

    Thanks! I like it! It does sounds doable.

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  4. Amy

    09/06/2018

    Thanks for the helpful tips on how to get started. I’m a saver — always think I might need something & that it’s cheaper to hang on to it, just in case, than to buy it again if needed. That might be where the “maybe” option will come in. I have a big old farm house with 11 rooms. Some rooms/closets will take more than one pass, I’m sure. I’ve always thought that the best way to do anything is to tackle the most difficult first but maybe tackling the smaller jobs will give me immediate satisfaction & make me more inclined to keep at it.

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    Andrea Reply:

    I’m not a saver — so I can’t relate to you there 🙂 BUT, I’m a huge advocate of starting with a smaller project to get that immediate gratification of crossing something off my list. So yes, I would highly recommend starting with a smaller room this time!

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  5. Stephanie

    09/06/2018

    Thank you for this post. This reminds me to take another look at our Christmas decorations (although decluttered once, we have too many). I thought what we didn’t use, I would sell or donate so that others could use them. I’m finding that after we have done a major purge, the next year when we do another round of decluttering, we see what we saved but don’t actually use.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Christmas decorations are hard for me too.
    In January, I just want to pack them away and not think about them anymore, but then in November, I’m so excited to put them out that I don’t want to purge anything — it’s a vicious cycle!

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  6. Angela

    09/06/2018

    Love this manageable strategy! The majority of my house is pretty de-cluttered to my liking, but I have one storage room that’s becoming more full than I want…I want a feeling of “enough but not too much” when I walk in there, so I need to minimize that a bit. It’s difficult to do though, since it’s mainly filled with storage totes of holiday decor, kids’ outgrown clothes being saved for siblings, etc., so the decluttering process involves more unpacking and sorting through things, which is messy. Maybe I need to dedicate chunks of time each week to just this room, and have it shaped up in time to decorate for Christmas!

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    Andrea Reply:

    we have a storage closet like this too — it’s going to be one of the first places I tackle! I like your theory of “enough but not too much”!

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  7. Mary Dolan

    09/06/2018

    I do one room a month all year except for summertime. I schedule the room and make a list of categories within that space to purge. For example, office might have a list of files, closet, photos, etc.

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    Andrea Reply:

    great plan — thanks for sharing!

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  8. jen

    09/06/2018

    I have one more great motivator: send the kids to college and come home to an empty nest! I have cleaned out every cupboard/closet in our house–and I am NOT a keeper so there wasn’t much in them to begin with! I’ve needed (cheap-because two kids in college!!) things to keep me busy, so clean/organize it is. On Monday I started scanning/storing our photos on to Flickr. That should keep me busy for quite a while! Happy purging, all!

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — I’m sure!
    I told Dave, when our kids all move out, I’m going to have so much fun re-making those spaces into useful spaces for us. Of course, we’ll keep beds and stuff so the kids CAN come back, but I want Dave and I to be able to really enjoy our entire house too!
    Good luck with the photos!

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  9. Jen T

    09/06/2018

    Love this! I actually just moved two days ago, and purged and packed an entire 3000 sq ft in less than four weeks (in the midst of moving two kids back to school in two different states). I told my kids before they left that if they wouldn’t pay the movers to take it, I didn’t want to either. And they got rid of a TON of stuff…two boxes per bedroom each!

    Where today’s post will help me is the Rubbermaid totes in the basement. Several of them haven’t been opened since we moved six years ago, and I was going to just toss…but I opened one and found my HS and college yearbooks…so I didn’t end up purging any of them in the interest of time, but it’s my goal to do it by the end of 2018

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    Andrea Reply:

    oh wow — you are a rockstar! Yay for getting rid of lots and lots of stuff — you can get to the totes when you have a little more time and energy!

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  10. Heidi

    09/06/2018

    So thankful you posted your on this topic today! We have lots of company coming to stay with us in October to watch our kids play their fall sports. So I think I’ll tackle the garage first (summer kept our garage in constant use and it looks like a tornado hit in there!) and then move to the most seen rooms. Won’t it feel wonderful to have the purge done before Christmas comes with all the extra gifts to find a place for?

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    Andrea Reply:

    good plan — and yes, it will feel great!

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  11. Ann

    09/06/2018

    List made! Even better, I already organized and cleaned the playroom and garage since the kids started school. I put them on the list anyway so I could enjoy the two rooms crossed off! The changing seasons always get me in the mood to throw things out and declutter so this list came at a great time. Thank you

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    Andrea Reply:

    oh wow — you’re on top of things today! and I love that you also put things on your list, even if they are already finished! I may be “guilty” of doing this every now and again! 🙂

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  12. JJ

    09/06/2018

    That’s a great idea!!! I will definitely try this!!!

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  13. Mary Swartz

    09/06/2018

    This looks so doable for me! With the purging though I need to clean walls, windows etc…with a finished basement and main floor i have around 3,000 sq ft!!
    My husband and I are on our school benefit auction committee for a sale the end of September…and 4 weeks later his sister is getting married…I’ll be making dresses for my 4 daughters and myself so while i love this i wont be able to start right away!! I did purge the girls closet and paint it this summer so that felt wonderful when it was finished!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Mary… as I’ve mentioned many time before, there is rarely ever a super convenient time to get started — so why not just start NOW. You will always be busy, there will always be something else you could do, which means you will continue to put this off until “you have more time” which probably will never happen!
    Also, just to be devil’s advocate (and because it sounds like you have a touch of perfectionistic tendencies) you definitely do not HAVE to wipe down the walls or clean the windows in order to purge. All you need to do is grab a trash bag or box and remove everything you don’t want anymore from your house. That requires no other actions or skills — just grab and unload! The cleaning can happen another time — and it will be so much easier if you have less stuff to wade through while you clean!

    Just because you can’t get through your entire house in 16 weeks certainly doesn’t mean you can’t get started with SOME of your rooms now. If you don’t have the auction until the end of September, take the 2-3 weeks from now until then to work through 2 or 3 spaces in your home. Those spaces won’t occupy every waking moment, so I’m certain you’ll still have time to work on the wedding dressing in between purging.

    I think you’ll be surprised how much time you actually DO have for purging if you just get started!

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  14. Jamie

    09/06/2018

    Thank you for this post! I have been wanting to purge the house for a while now but it has just seemed too overwhelming. But this makes it doable. I feel kind of stupid for not thinking of just making a plan. Duh! I already have my list of rooms and have assigned them weeks. I am actually going to start today with my daughter’s room. My boys’ will be going to their PE class and she just got a big bed that we will be putting together this weekend. So perfect timing for a purge!

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    Andrea Reply:

    perfect timing… happy purging!

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