Clearing the clutter in our homes is something pretty much all of us know we have to do. But the thought of it is so daunting that it’s not surprising we procrastinate.
That’s why I’ve come up with the 30-Day Declutter Challenge. It breaks up the task of decluttering into 30 mini-tasks, each of which you can complete in one day — or in some cases, a few minutes.
Dividing up the cluttered areas in your home gives you a game plan and makes the overall task seem more manageable. And even though it’s called a 30-Day Challenge, you don’t have to do everything in consecutive days. For example, you can choose one area once a week if that works better for your schedule. The key is to tackle the problem in small steps. So here, in no particular order, are the 30 most common sources of clutter.
1. Mail: Toss or shred junk mail, bills you’ve already paid and catalogs.
2. Refrigerator: Check the expiration dates of your condiments and any other open jars and bottles. And throw out leftovers that have become science experiments.
3. Pantry: If your pantry has food that’s been sitting there for more than a year, get rid of it.
4. Boxes: I know you’ve been saving shoeboxes, shipping boxes from Amazon and boxes that your electronics came in just in case you need them. You won’t.
5. Gift bags: All those gift bags you’ve received through the years really can pile up. Keep just a few and donate the rest. The same goes for shopping bags.
6. Receipts and ticket stubs: If you need them for tax purposes, place them in a designated folder. Otherwise, you can trash them.
7. Magazines and newspapers: You can find your favorite articles online now, so you don’t need the hard copies.
8. Wires and chargers: Most likely they don’t go with any of your current electronics; keep only the ones that do.
9. The closet: This goes without saying, right? You can get rid of clothes and shoes you haven’t worn in more than a year.
10. Linens: Animal shelters will welcome your old towels and sheets.
11. Pillows and blankets: If your sofa or bed suffers from decorative pillow and throw blanket overload, donate them.
12. Plastic food containers: Any containers that don’t have corresponding lids can go in the recycling bin.
13. Greeting cards: Most birthday and holiday cards can go, but hold on to the ones that have sentimental value. I still have a birthday card my Grandpa Oliver sent me when I first went away to college.
14. Dried pens: Test all your pens and chuck the ones that don’t work anymore.
15. Takeout menus: All restaurant menus are online now, so you don’t need to keep them.
16. Old warranties and manuals: If you warranty is expired, you don’t need the warranty certificate. And most manuals are online now.
17. Wedding and party favors: My mom keeps every favor she’s ever received. Don’t be like my mom.
18. Spare buttons: Practically every clothing item comes with extra buttons just in case. I have never needed a spare button, but I guess no one’s ever ripped the shirt off my back.
19. Unused kitchen gadgets or appliances: I have an extra blender, a panini maker and an ice cream maker taking up space. What do you have?
20. Extra pots and pans: I don’t think I’ve ever thrown away a pan. It’s time.
21. Old paint: You can dispose of paint cans from past decorating projects at many local paint stores.
22. Hair products and makeup: Say bye bye to anything you used once or twice and decided you didn’t like.
23. Old toys and games: Donate them and let someone else enjoy them.
24. Old calendars: Try not to be too sentimental about calendars. You’ll get another one next year.
25. Loose change: Take all that change to a Coinstar machine. You don’t need to pay a service fee if you redeem it for an e-gift card for places like Amazon and Starbucks.
26. Expired coupons: What’s the point? Except for those Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons; the expired ones are still good.
27. Old vases: You’re never going to use the vases that came with the floral arrangements.
28. Unused gifts: You’ve kept them long enough out of guilt. But those candles, stationery sets and canisters of tea can be donated.
29. DVDs and CDs: Stream, baby, stream.
30. Virtual clutter: Clear out your inbox by deleting emails and unsubscribing from mailing lists. Update your bookmarks. And leave those Facebook groups you have no interest in.
Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself projects at jonathanfongstyle.com.