In an effort to stay sane and keep our house under control, I try to declutter on a very regular basis.
While I don’t consider myself a minimalist, I do try very hard not to keep or store things we don’t need, use, want, or love… even if we have space to store it, even if it was a gift, and even if we might potentially need it again someday.
My kids know that if they no longer want a toy or if an item of clothing doesn’t fit, they can put it in the “donation bag” in their closets (this helps so much because there’s always a place for these cast-offs to go immediately).
Once the bags/boxes are full, I load them into the van and drop them off the next time we swing past our local thrift store — DONE!
Living in the midst of clutter and disorganization is pretty high up there on my list of LEAST favorite things — right along with whiny children, icy roads, overpowering smells, and any sort of noise while swallowing!
If you feel the same way but are overwhelmed with where to start, I hope a few of the ideas below will help.
As we begin another new year, I challenge you to clear the clutter in your home and life!
If you’re wondering where to start, simply choose ONE of the areas below.
Enjoy making progress in one small area and then eventually, choose another area to work on.
You won’t transform your home overnight, but you WILL continue making progress.
1. Unmatched food storage containers.
A container without a lid or a lid without a container — they need to go!
Make space for the items you actually use and alleviate the frustration of hunting for matching sets or realizing you just put food in a container without a lid.
NOTE: I really like these nesting food storage containers.
2. Extra cords, chargers, remotes, and cases for items you no longer own.
Go through your files, your closets, your drawers, and the random shoebox in the back of your closet and ruthlessly declutter all of these electronics.
There’s likely a free recycling spot in your location — just Google it or ask around on social media.
3. Manuals for items you no longer own.
Go through your manuals and recycle any that are for items you no longer own.
Truthfully, you could probably pitch all your manuals because you can find them all online these days.
4. Puzzles, games, and toys with missing parts and pieces.
Go through your toy rooms, bedrooms, garage, and living room searching for toys that are broken or missing parts, games that no longer have all the pieces, and puzzles that are missing pieces.
Throw them away (please don’t donate them).
5. Clothing that doesn’t fit and flatter your current body.
I don’t care if it has tags on it yet, if it was a gift from your best friend, or if you’re sure you will lose those last 10 pounds and be able to wear that pair of jeans next year…
Do yourself a favor and purge everything in your closet that doesn’t fit AND flatter your CURRENT body.
It might be a little scary at first. You might feel like you have nothing left to wear. But getting ready each morning will be so much more enjoyable if you only “get” to choose from the items you love and items you look and feel great in.
Plus, your closet will most likely be super decluttered — and that’s always a great feeling!
6. Clothing you haven’t worn in over a year.
In addition to all the clothing that doesn’t fit or flatter anymore, you should also purge anything you haven’t worn in over a year (unless it’s maternity items you know you’ll use again soon — or a similar situation).
If you haven’t worn it in a year, there’s a good chance you won’t wear it again (especially with how quickly fashion trends change these days!)
7. Shoes, boots, and other worn or outdated footwear.
I get so much satisfaction from decluttering shoes — and our kids grow so fast that I get to do it a lot! I donate our shoes and usually pick up a couple of new-to-us pairs almost every time I go to the thrift store.
8. Unused pieces of a set.
Do you have a set of teacups or wine glasses that technically match your dishes or other glasses… but you never use them?
Get rid of the extras.
Do you have a 6-piece luggage set, only 3 of which you actually use?
Get rid of the extras.
What about your pots and pans and your knives? Do you use EVERY item in the set?
If not, get rid of the extras!
I’ve already shared my thoughts on separating and purging sets — it might shock you at first, but I save SO much space and needless clutter in my home by only keeping the items I actually need and use and purging the rest (even if they are part of a set).
9. Extra linens.
Unless you regularly host overnight guests, there’s a good chance you don’t need even half the extra sheets and towels you have on hand.
We have very few extra linens and I don’t think we’ve ever run into a situation where we couldn’t make do with what we had.
I save a HUGE amount of space by not storing extra linens.
10. Books, movies, and CDs you don’t use.
In all honesty, I’d say you could declutter ALL your books, movies, and CDs — not just the ones you don’t use.
You can find almost any book you want at your local library or online, and the vast majority of movies, TV shows, and music is available somewhere online too — you’ll save so much space.
11. Cookbooks you don’t use regularly
This needs to be a separate category because I know how many cookbooks some of you have (you’ve told me!)
I donated a TON of cookbooks years ago, and I’ve never once thought “Oh shoot, I needed that one recipe”.
I can find any recipe I want online, so the need for shelves of cookbooks is obsolete.
Yes, I understand the joy of flipping through the pictures, but if storage is tight, these should go to make room for more important storage needs.
12. Magazines or newspapers more than 3 months old.
This is another biggy for many people and it takes up so much space!
We no longer get any magazines or newspapers and I love how much less paper clutter enters our home — we don’t miss the subscriptions at all.
If you have shelves, files, boxes, or bins of past magazine issues, it’s time to part with them (at least some of them) and put that space to use in other ways.
13. Extra craft scraps and supplies.
If you’re a crafter, a sewer, a quilter, a scrapbooker, or just like to do fun projects with your kids, you probably have drawers and bins and baskets filled with extra bits and pieces you ‘might need’ or could potentially use on a project someday down the road… right?
Take a little time to inventory your things, toss items you won’t use, combine like-items together, and realistically evaluate what you will use again someday in the near future.
In my experience, children AND adults are much more excited about working on a craft if the supplies are neat and organized.
If the drawers and bins are a huge mess, it’s easier to just do something else.
So if you want to get more use out of your supplies, keep them neat and organized by purging what you no longer need.
14. Expired food.
I detest wasted food — to the point where I will eat very strange combinations of foods and ingredients just so they don’t go to waste. However, even I am willing to toss expired food.
Our family usually implements an eat-from-the-pantry-and-freezer challenge whenever I feel like our freezer or pantry are getting too full.
We eat only foods we have in the house in an attempt to clean out our freezer, our fridge, and our pantry (we save a bunch on our grocery bill too!).
During the challenge, I take inventory of all our food and toss anything that’s expired.
NOTE: Please do NOT donate expired food items — non-profits cannot accept this and it creates more work for their limited staff.
15. Expired prescriptions and other medical items.
Every year (usually around this time) I go through our medicine cabinet thinking, “I’m sure there’s nothing to toss, but I’ll look just in case.”
And every year, I am SHOCKED by how many expired medications I find! I swear, we just bought the stuff, and now it’s expired!
Take 30 minutes to gather up all your medications and other medical items and check expiration dates, consolidate like items, and organize them in a way that makes sense for how you use the items. Then use a black Sharpie to clearly mark the expiration dates on the box or bottle.
Also, I’m regularly asked about the “best” or “right way to dispose of expired meds. Here’s the information I know…
- Use this map (mobile friendly) or check out The American Medicine Chest to find a prescription drop-off location near you
- If you can’t find a close enough dropoff location, mix the prescription with an undesirable substance (used coffee grounds, dirt, kitty litter) and place it in a sealed bag in the trash.
- Never throw any type of drug away in the actual packaging.
- Remove labels from prescription bottles to prevent unauthorized refills
- In general, flushing meds down the toilet is not recommended, except if your drug is one on this list.
16. Cleaning products and toiletries you no longer use.
I trashed some, gave some to friends and family who like certain brands and scents, and I actually donated many of the unopened containers to a local thrift store that gladly accepted them.
While you’re purging these items, take the time to toss candles or air fresheners if you don’t like the smell.
17. Gifts you don’t want.
I know — I just heard you gasp.
However, I personally don’t feel any shame donating (or trashing) a gift I don’t want or need.
Don’t let guilt trap you in a clutter-filled environment!
18. Kitchen gadgets and appliances you don’t use.
I’m not really a big spender, but if I had a “weakness” it would be kitchen gadgets and small appliances!
I find so many really cool things at thrift stores, plus I regularly get kitchen items gifted to me from friends and relatives who know I love to bake and cook.
I try to stay on top of my purging, but since we have a lot of storage in our kitchen, it’s easy for things to get lost in the back corners of cabinets (can you relate!?)
Every couple of years I do a massive purge and clear out so many cabinets and drawers — it feels amazing!
19. Exercise equipment you don’t use.
Dave and I recently laughed over an advertisement for a Bowflex on Facebook Marketplace. They said they were selling their “like new, very expensive clothing rack… I mean, Bowflex”. 😂
If you have an excess number of “expensive clothing racks” sitting around your house, you might also consider selling or donating them to free up some space (and guilt).
Also, the next time you want to try a new piece of exercise equipment, just shop Facebook in March when people’s willpower is gone and they realize they are no longer going to use the equipment they bought in January!
20. Any toys YOU want to be gone.
You are the parent… and while I do think we need to encourage our children to participate in the purging process, I also think there comes a time and place when we just need to make an executive decision and toss anything that doesn’t make sense for our current space or life.
No, I would never purge my child’s favorite toy without asking, but I might just sneak a handful of the toys they haven’t played with in forever out to the van.
I also offer to sell some of the bigger toys and split the profit with the kids — they are very eager to declutter in these situations!
It’s SO freeing to unload boxes and boxes of excess toys!
21. Extra furniture.
This is a biggy because it has the potential to free up SO MUCH SPACE in your home.
Ask friends or relatives if they want sentimental pieces, sell them on Facebook, or post them to a freecycle website if you don’t want the hassle of moving them yourself.
Also, many thrift stores in our area will come to your home with trucks and trailers if you tell them you have large items to donate (just something to think about!)
22. Items you tried to sell without success.
Do you have a pile of things you tried to sell on Facebook, Craiglist, Ebay, etc. but they are STILL sitting around your house?
It’s probably just time to donate them.
Stop worrying about the $20 (or even $200) you could make and take it as a deduction on your taxes while enjoying the extra breathing room in your home (and one less to-do on your list).
NOTE: This is how I evaluate whether I should sell something or donate it.
23. Anything you wouldn’t bring along if you moved!
Last, but not least, if there is anything in your home you wouldn’t be willing to pack up, move, and unpack in a new home… it needs to go!
This is one of the questions I regularly ask myself when I’m debating whether to save or purge… if I’m not willing to move it, I know I can live without it.
There are many more categories I could add to this list, but I think this should keep you busy for a bit!
What items would you like to declutter this year?
Grab a bag or a box and get started today!