I’m declaring open season on decluttering. Doesn’t everyone do that at the start of the year?! Or set a decluttering New Year’s resolution? It’s time to declutter our homes, give them a fresh start, and make home matter. So let’s do a declutter challenge to kick off the year!
Either you’re with me or you’re not. And if you’re not, at least you’ll get a good chuckle as I’m over here emptying the entire contents of the medicine cabinet as it has all expired. Every. Single. Thing.
Also, this may be the world’s most easy decluttering challenge. No checklists. Few rules. Lots of room to put your spin on it. Let’s get to it.
Why A Declutter Challenge?
“Why” matters. It’s what drives us and motivates us. Exploring why you want to declutter your home is an important first step toward successfully making it happen.
My why for embarking on a declutter challenge, AND naively sharing the process with the world, is to make our home matter more. To get rid of the excess so the things we choose to keep shine.
I’m also powered by organization and order. Hello! Could I be any more of an enneagram 1?!
It’s like the famous quote by Damien Fahey, “I’d like to have a kid, but I’m not sure I’m ready to spend 10 years of my life constantly asking someone where his shoes are.”
I can see all you parents out there, nodding a collective node of “Yessssssssss!”
I’m ready to reclaim our home, stop spending time searching through all the shoes to find the kids’ favorite pairs, spend less time sifting through clutter, and more time on the things that matter.
My Story Of Clutter
Let me paint a picture for you. Super tidy neat and organized girl meets messy boy. They fall in love and move in together. The stuff doubles but is manageable. Girl regularly spends time tidying their home and keeping it organized, decluttering daily.
Then the first child comes along. Keeping home neat, tidy, and decluttered is getting progressively harder but it is doable. Keeping up starts stressing girl out but she keeps going. Questions why kids need so much stuff.
And then the global pandemic hits, a second kid comes along, local daycares don’t recover, parents juggle too much, girl stays home with kids. The tidiness of the house drops precipitously and the girl is home all the time, overwhelmed by clutter, stress, caretaking, etc.
This is where I’m at right now but I’m diving in to change the narrative, starting with this declutter challenge.
Clutter Affects Us
It’s like the quote about the kids’ shoes. When there are too many things in our home and they don’t have a place (guilty of both over here) it takes ten minutes to find shoes in the morning. Multiply that by 20 times because it’s not just the shoes we’re looking for. It’s the favorite stuffie for nap time, a clean coffee mug, socks, keys, library books, and more. It adds up.
For me, and I’m sure I’m not the only one, the clutter affects my mental health. It’s the whole concept of outer order inner calm, which Gretch Rubin wrote a whole book about. I won’t get into the health perspective of clutter but one of my favorite reads is Joshua Becker’s article on Ten Ways Clutter Affects Our Health. Joshua also has an amazing story of becoming a minimalist which turned into a writing career.
Declutter Challenge Rules
Find a friend or a buddy to do the challenge with (or comment below that you’re joining and we can challenge each other). Make sure they are also interested in decluttering and minimizing their things.
Pick a start date. On the first day, get rid of one thing. Day two, get rid of two things. On day three, get rid of three things. Continue, day by day, slowly increasing the number of items removed from your home. Whoever goes the longest, wins.
One important rule is that things MUST be removed from your home by midnight that night. They can’t be placed in a donation box in the corner of your bedroom, but out of your house.
If you’re joining the challenge and want a great progress tracker, there’s a 30-day minimalism game printable at the bottom of the page.
The minimalism game is meant to only last for 30 days but I’m modifying it a bit just for myself. I’m removing the 30-day time frame and challenge myself to go as long as possible. We have alot of things to get rid of.
But you do you! If a 30-day challenge works best for you and you need a time limit, go for it. If you want to stretch yourself and take extra time to declutter, join me in trying to go as long as possible.
Where’s A Good Starting Point For Decluttering?
What a great question, I’m so glad you asked! Honestly, it depends. Here are three ways to start decluttering for whichever feels right for you on your journey.
Declutter Room By Room
Decluttering room by room is a great way to declutter, especially if you’re the type of person who likes to see results quickly.
Grab that trash bag or donation box and start decluttering the living room, linen closet, laundry room, and then onto the home office and coat closet. Start with the easiest room to declutter first since that can quickly get you some momentum.
Some rooms may be harder than others. For me, the hardest room would be the kitchen. Break down decluttering that space zone by zone to keep it from getting too overwhelming. For example, in our kitchen I can break it down by kitchen counters first, followed by the junk drawer, then onto the small appliances cabinet and pantry cabinet, even the chest freezer can have its own decluttering day.
Declutter By Category
Another good place to start is decluttering by category. First aid supplies overflowing or spread all over? Consolidate them and pare down. Old receipts or important documents spilling out of your desk drawer? Digitize what you need and toss the paper version.
You know where your cluttered areas are and those are a great place to start. My biggest problem is kids’ toys and art supplies. This category is tricky since it involves buy-in from another family member who isn’t as on board with decluttering.
Everyone has their problem areas. Someone else may have extensive amounts of beauty products they need to pare down while for me, that’s not a problem. I have a lot of paper clutter and sentimental items to work through, which may not be your problem area.
The point is, to pick a category that feels cluttered and start working there. Go category by category until your entire home feels less overwhelmed by stuff.
Declutter As You Go
The best way to declutter, in my personal and totally biased opinion, is to make decluttering a habit and a daily mission. By this, I mean regularly paying attention to your surroundings and removing unwanted items as you go about your home. This makes decluttering part of your mindset and becomes a lasting habit.
Let me paint a picture of what this looks like. I’m doing laundry and notice the shelf above the washer is packed. There are a few cleaning supplies that I haven’t touched in a very long time. I grab those items, place donatable items in the donation box, and toss the others.
Later that day while cooking dinner, I reach for the jar of bread crumbs. I notice some canned soup that’s been in the cupboard for a long time. I check the expiration date and find it’s expired. Into the trash it goes.
Then in the evening, after the kids go to bed, I settle down on the couch to watch a movie. I reach for some throw blankets and find we have a large stack overstuffed in the linen cabinet. I pick my two least favorite/used and put them in the donation box.
Where NOT To Start
While I am a big believer in marching to the beat of your own drum and being you with reckless abandonment, there is one decluttering category that is not a good place to start. Drumroll, please…
It is rarely recommended to start the decluttering process with sentimental items. Now I’m sure there are loopholes as there are with everything. Any lawyers out there willing to find the holes in this argument? But starting with sentimental items can be a disaster.
Why? They’re often the hardest items to let go of and the things that hold us back from starting the decluttering process. I’ve been guilty of it myself. It’s the mindset that I can’t possibly get rid of my photos, wedding dress, baby clothes, or insert the most sentimental items you have.
Here’s the thing. You don’t HAVE to get rid of anything that you don’t want to. One of the main points of decluttering or minimizing is that you get rid of the excess so the meaningful things you love have room to shine. But that’s a soapbox for another day.
So…moral of the story. Start with any other category than sentimental items. Once you build that decluttering muscle or start to see and feel the difference decluttering is making, then maybe look at that stash of tiny baby clothes.
What To Do With Items No Longer Wanted?
The age-old question is, what do I do with unwanted items? The short answer is to toss, donate, or sell. What you’re not going to do? Save items in plastic containers for a garage sale. Nope. Let’s get those items out of your home and get it feeling lighter. You continue to carry the mental load of having to deal with those items if you save them for a garage sale.
Donate Items In Good Condition
The most popular way to remove items in good condition from your home is to donate them to a local charity or Salvation Army. Just have good intentions and don’t send things that are essentially trash.
You can also pass things along to friends or family members who need certain things. For example, we have a friend currently working on a bathroom renovation. We gave them some of our leftover bathroom tiling supplies that we no longer needed.
Another option is using free item Facebook groups. Our community has a fabulous group page for listing and requesting free items. I’ve unloaded things that our local thrift stores don’t accept but items that helped someone else out. Like an old breast pump to a new mom who couldn’t afford one.
Toss Things That Aren’t Donatable
Ruthlessly scrutinize the items you are removing from your home and don’t be afraid of throwing them in that garbage bag if they’re not in good shape. Be honest. Will someone really want that 18-year-old bike helmet with a broken strap? No. Into the trash, it should go.
Throwing things out is one of the hardest things for me to do. I hate making trash and removing trash. It feels so wasteful. But I feel less bad about tossing the broken bike helmet than how bad I feel about having a cluttered home.
Buh-bye rubber ducky filled with mold!
Sell Items Of Value
The key here is to only sell items that hold value. It takes a lot of time and effort to sell items and your time is worth something. While it isn’t worth trying to sell a vase for $5, it might be worth listing a piece of furniture for $100.
The goal of this challenge is to get unwanted items out your front door. So think about what the real value of your items are and unless you can get a decent chunk of cash for your things, just donate them or pass them along.
My Declutter Goal
I’m going to share with you something scary and vulnerable. My declutter goal is to make it to 100 days doing the minimalism game. That’s 5,050 items to remove from our home.
Okay, when I write it out like that it seems absolutely bananas and totally unrealistic. But then I think about all the spaces and things we have to clear, and it just might be doable.
We still have so many small items out in the storage sheds that were left here by the previous owners of our home that can just go in the trash. Then there are tons of little things throughout our home we don’t need and so many decorative items stored in the attic.
And the DVDs? We don’t watch those anymore so maybe it’s time for them to go. Along with the stacks of magazines in my craft room. Not to mention the totes and totes of baby clothes and kids’ clothes stored in the attic.
While the big goal is REALLY BIG, I’m going for it. Go big or go home, right?! Just baby steps of a few more items each week.
One Week Into The Declutter Challenge
I’m a little over one week into the declutter challenge and I thought I would share a little about how it’s going.
So far, I’ve just been removing items as I move through our home, going about my day-to-day business. It’s worked well so far but I’m sure once I get to the higher numbers, I’ll start clearing spaces by room or by category.
Household Items Removed: 55
- Day 1: (1) colander donated
- Day 2: (1) dog care book tossed, (1) broken Barbie refrigerator tossed
- Day 3: (1) stuffie donated, (2) board books donated
- Day 4: (2) pajama pants donated, (2) oven mitts tossed
- Day 5: (1) board game donated, (3) vases donated, (1) kids winter coat donated, (1) kids ski pants donated
- Day 6: (6) pajama shorts donated
- Day 7: (1) pair of skates given to friends, (2) games with missing pieces tossed, (4) moldy bath toys tossed
- Day 8: (1) ski wax cork tossed, (2) ski waxes tossed, (4) supplement samples tossed, (1) kids book returned
- Day 9: (9) expired meds and supplements tossed
- Day 10: (7) expired meds and supplements tossed, (2) dried out cleaning wipes tossed, (1) glasses cleaning cloth tossed
Our home is already starting to feel a little lighter. And this is just after two trips to the thrift store.
Decluttering Lessons Learned
The biggest lesson I’m learning about successfully decluttering is to get the items out of the house immediately. It’s one of the main rules of the 30-day minimalism game and has been a pain point when decluttering with our kids around.
In the decluttering days of yore, aka last year, I would do a great job throwing things out or packing donation items up in boxes. But it never failed. If I kept five of the kids’ best artwork pieces and tossed the other seven, one child would find the discarded items and bring them back out.
Same thing with donation boxes. If I left them in our home someone would find them and declare that this old blanket is their favorite and we can’t possibly get rid of it. Next thing I know every item from the box is back in our cluttered home.
Now, I take out the trash right after I throw something away that the kids might be apt to retrieve. Donation boxes immediately go into the trunk of my car.
Per trips to the donation center. I don’t go every day since my favorite place to donate items is an hour round trip. But I made a plan and every Wednesday or Thursday, weather dependent, I donate the items.
Monthly Decluttering Progress Reports
I’ll be back next month to give you an update on how the declutter challenge is going. I’m sure I’ll have lots of notes and progress to report on after that much time passes.
Pssst…If you’re doing the declutter challenge, be sure to leave a comment below so I can cheer you on! And don’t feel like you need to start in January. You do you. If you’re joining on July 15th, I’ll still be here rooting you along.