Physical clutter in your home can cause anxiety and stress. When we see the clutter, we are constantly reminded of what we need to add to our never ending to-do list. We then become overwhelmed by that to-do list and end up doing nothing. It’s a vicious circle. That’s why the best way I know to reduce that stress and make your home more welcoming and relaxing is to declutter it. But it’s hard to know where to start, so I have compiled this declutter your home checklist (pdf-free) to help streamline the process of having a clutter free home.
This article only outlines the areas and things that should be decluttered. To help keep you focused (and to keep you from becoming overwhelmed) we do not discuss organizing or cleaning, just decluttering. Decluttering is just the first step to get control of your home. Organizing and cleaning should happen after you have decluttered everything you can.
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Table of Contents
Should I clean or declutter first?
Keeping your home clean can be a challenge, and cleaning without decluttering first makes cleaning even harder. If you don’t declutter a room before you clean it, you have to clean AROUND the clutter and that takes more time as you have to move everything, find a place for it and put it away. A decluttered home is much easier to clean. That’s why I like to declutter before I clean.
Things to get rid of to make cleaning easier
This list of things to get rid of can be overwhelming as well, but you don’t have to do it all at once. I’ve found the best way to start is 10 minutes at a time. Pick one area of one room, set a timer, and declutter for 10 minutes. Then stop and take a break. You will find that your progress helps to motivate you to keep going.
What should I get rid of when decluttering?
The main things to get rid of when decluttering are things you don’t or won’t use anymore. Whether it’s because they’re broken, or expired, or ripped, or don’t fit anymore, or you just don’t like them anymore. If it’s taking up space and you haven’t used it, get rid of it.
It’s best to start with things that don’t have any sentimental meaning to you, as making decisions when emotions are involved takes longer. If you’re not sure, you can always go back later and purge some more.
The goal with this list of things to declutter is to get rid of as much clutter as you can, as quickly as you can. That’s it. Don’t try to clean or organize as you go. Just get rid of stuff you don’t need or want.
What is the first thing to declutter?
The first thing to declutter is trash. Set aside 10 minutes, grab a trash bag and start throwing things away. Go through your home, room by room, and toss any obvious garbage you see lying around. This can include wrappers, empty bottles/cans, junk mail, menus, anything that’s expired, receipts, stale snack bags, ripped clothing, broken things and anything else lying around that you don’t want or need.
The reason trash is the first thing to declutter is so you can see results quickly. This will help to build momentum and motivation from your accomplishments. Holding a full bag of trash shows the impact of how much you can purge in a short period of time and helps to build confidence in your ability to keep going.
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List of things to declutter your home
This declutter your home checklist is organized by room and focuses on getting rid of things you don’t want or need. Set up boxes or bins for donating anything that isn’t broken or otherwise unusable and donate it as soon as you can. Otherwise, throw it away.
If you have valuable items that you don’t want or need, you could try selling them, but pricing the item, finding a buyer and shipping take time. It’s important to get rid of your decluttered items as soon as possible or it defeats the purpose of decluttering altogether. Have a plan to sell your items quickly.
Remember to do one thing at a time, one room at a time so that you don’t get overwhelmed. Don’t try to do everything in one day or even in one week! Print out this free declutter your home checklist pdf to help guide you so you don’t miss anything.
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Declutter the kitchen
I’m starting with things to declutter in the kitchen because it tends to be the catch-all area that collects all the things. Start by getting rid of all those plastic bags you have stashed in your kitchen – you don’t need that many and more are always coming in.
Declutter kitchen pantry
Get rid of any expired items and other items you won’t use. Throw away any packages that have been sitting unused for a few months or don’t contain a full serving. Make note of items you have multiples of and don’t buy more until you use what you have.
Declutter fridge and freezer
Throw away expired items, old leftovers, freezer burned items and old produce. Clear off those menus, artwork and anything else you don’t need that’s stuck to your fridge. Take a look at everything that’s stored on top of the fridge and throw it away if you haven’t seen or used it in a year.
Declutter kitchen countertops
Do you use those appliances that sit on your countertop on a daily or even weekly basis? If not, store them elsewhere or get rid of them if you don’t use them. Put food storage items where they belong.
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Declutter cooking utensils
Do you really need 5 different spatulas or wooden spoons? Review your cooking utensils and keep the ones you use most often. If you can’t bring yourself to throw them away (because cooking utensils do break sometimes), find somewhere else to store them so you have them if needed.
Declutter food storage containers
Go through your food storage containers and make sure the containers have tops that fit. Throw away any orphan containers or lids.Take a look through containers that contain food and other items and make sure they are still usable.
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Go through all your plates, bowls, glasses, mugs, serving and mixing bowls, and any other dishware in your cabinets and trash anything that’s broken, cracked or chipped. If you have random dishware that doesn’t match the rest and you don’t need it, throw it away.
Declutter kitchen cleaning supplies
Most people store their cleaning supplies under the sink and don’t even remember what they have. Throw away anything you haven’t used in the past year and any almost empty containers. If you have more than one of any item, don’t buy more until you use what you have.
Declutter kitchen junk drawer
Pull everything out of the junk drawer and examine it. Throw away anything that is broken or that you don’t use. Be ruthless – it really is just junk.
Declutter silverware drawer
Open the drawer and look for bent or damaged knives, spoons or fork tines and throw them away. If there’s anything in there that isn’t silverware, throw it away or put it where it belongs.
Declutter tea towels, dish cloths and oven mitts
Inspect your tea towels, dish cloths and oven mitts for holes, tears, burn marks or stains that can’t be removed. If any of these apply, get rid of them.
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Declutter the bathroom
The bathroom is one of the easiest rooms to declutter because it’s usually the smallest room in the house. It also holds the least amount of sentimental items, so you can move quickly to get rid of unused and unwanted items. Start by using this list of things to declutter in the bathroom you use most often so you can enjoy the results and motivate yourself to continue.
Throw away any empty bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc. If there are slivers of soap bars, toss them. Get rid of any old razors, loofahs or any other unused personal care products on the shelves.
Declutter bathroom countertops
Throw away any empty or near-empty products and any other trash such as old toothbrushes that are on the bathroom countertop. If there are items on the countertop that don’t belong there, put them away. Rearrange the remaining items.
Declutter medicine cabinet
Go through everything in the cabinet and toss all the expired and empty products. If you have multiples of an item, get rid of the open ones and use the new ones. If it looks old and crusty – toss it.
Declutter first aid kit
Inspect everything in your first aid kit and toss anything that’s expired. If the packaging is damaged, throw it away as it will no longer be sterile. Get rid of any cracked or otherwise damaged creams or ointments.
Declutter bathroom drawers
Take out everything from one drawer at a time and inspect it. If it’s expired, old and crusty, falling out of the packaging or empty, throw it away. If you remember buying an item years ago and never using it, it’s time to admit you don’t need it and throw it away.
Declutter bathroom cabinets
Empty one cabinet at a time and go through the contents. Throw away anything that’s expired or that you haven’t used in the past year. Get rid of empty and nearly empty product containers. If you have more than one open package of something, combine it into one package.
Declutter bathroom cleaning supplies
Go through your bathroom cleaning supplies and throw away anything that’s expired or unused. If you have more than one container of a specific product, try to combine it into one container. Throw away any old cleaning sponges or rags.
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Inspect the expiration date on everything and get rid of it if it’s expired. If it’s separating or smells bad, throw it out. Toss those sample packs you’ll never use and trash anything you haven’t used in 3 months (makeup can gather bacteria quickly). Don’t forget to go through your makeup tools and accessories and get rid of the stuff you just don’t use.
Declutter bathroom shelves
Get rid of any stained or torn towels and facecloths. Remove all items from storage containers and trash anything that’s expired or otherwise unusable. If it’s covered in dust, throw it away because you never use it.
Declutter bathroom floor
Is it time for a new toilet bowl brush and holder? Now is the time to replace it. Toss any old bath mats or rugs that are damaged. Move your bathroom trash can and weigh scale into a cabinet if you have room to clear the floor.
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Declutter the living room or family room
The living room or family room is where everyone gathers together to relax and enjoy each other’s company. But it’s hard to relax when you have a ton of stuff surrounding you and making you feel anxious. Here’s a list of things to declutter in the living room or family room so you can make it a place to relax again.
Declutter personal items
Grab a box or basket for each family member. Take any backpacks, clothing, mail, shoes, toys and other personal items and place them in the corresponding box or basket. Put that basket in their rooms where they belong.
Declutter living room surfaces
Coffee tables and end tables collect a lot of stuff. Take a quick look at what’s on the tables and quickly throw away anything that’s obviously trash like packaging and papers. Gather any dirty dishes and put them in the dishwasher or sink. If you have more than one set of coasters, choose the ones you like best and get rid of the others.
Declutter living room DVDs, CDs and video games
In this age of streaming services, ask yourself if you really need all those DVDs, CDs and video games cluttering up your space. If you can’t bear to part with it, keep it. Move them into storage, give them away or trash them if you never use them. If you know they’re worth money, you can sell them.
Declutter living room books and magazines
Look at every book and determine whether you’ll read it again or if someone else will read it. If it was a crappy book or you won’t read it again, get rid of it. Go through your magazines and get rid of any that have been read – you could always find the articles again online. Donate the old books and magazines to your local library.
Declutter living room electronics
Do you really need all those charging cables and electronic remotes? Do you have an old VCR that never gets used? Throw away any electronics that are broken or no longer serve a purpose. Consider a universal remote control that can control many electronics from a single point.
Declutter decorative pillows and blankets
Throw away stained, torn or just plain ugly decorative pillows or blankets. If they end up on the floor more often than on your furniture, it’s time to get rid of them. Consider a blanket holder if you have many blankets for many people.
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Declutter living room plants
Take a look at your plants. Get rid of any half-dead plants. Remove dead leaves and branches on remaining plants. Make sure there’s enough room between them so they can grow. If a plant has become too large, move it to a more spacious area.
Declutter living room drawers and chests
Go through the drawers and/or chests, one by one, and determine if the items are worth keeping. Discard old batteries, wires that will never be used, incomplete decks of cards or games or puzzles with missing pieces.
Declutter living room decor
Take a good look at your decorative items. Get rid of anything that’s outdated or you just don’t like it anymore. If there’s a novelty item that doesn’t work anymore, throw it away. Remove any items that are just collecting dust.
Declutter living room toys
If you must have toys in your living or family room, try to keep it to the bare minimum. Decide which toys can be stored in your child’s bedroom and which will remain. Get rid of any toys that are broken or not used. Try using a toy storage unit to contain the toy clutter.
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Declutter the bedroom
The bedroom should be a peaceful retreat from the rest of the world. The primary function of a bedroom is sleep and relaxation, but sometimes it can be a dumping ground for laundry and personal items. Follow this list of things to declutter in the bedroom to help you feel less stressed and more calm and relaxed. When you go to bed you will get a much better sleep.
Do your sheets, pillow cases, comforter or blankets have stains, tears or holes in them? If so, it’s time to replace them. Take a look at your pillows. If they have stains or holes, wash them or replace them. Then make your bed so you have a clear surface for decluttering the rest of your bedroom.
Declutter bedroom surfaces and shelves
Bedside tables, shelves and chests of drawers can collect a lot of stuff. Take a quick look at what’s on the surfaces in your bedroom and quickly throw away anything that’s obviously trash like empty water bottles, snack packaging or used tissues. Gather any dirty dishes and put them in the dishwasher or sink. Put everything else where it belongs or get rid of it.
Go through your drawers and closets and be ruthless about what you don’t wear. Get rid of it if it still has tags on it and it’s been there for over six months. If it doesn’t fit or you haven’t worn it in a year, get rid of it. Throw it away if it has stains or tears or even loose threads. If it doesn’t feel great on you and you barely wear it, that won’t change. Toss it.
Declutter clothing accessories
Gather all your belts, ties, scarves, purses, and other accessories and go through them one by one. If they’re damaged, torn or stained, get rid of them. If you don’t like them or haven’t used them in a year, toss them. Get rid of any items that don’t match any of your clothes.
Take a look at the soles of your shoes. If they’re excessively worn or have holes, it’s time to throw them away. Replace them if they’re not as comfortable as they once were or have creases. Why are you keeping them if you don’t wear them because they’re too uncomfortable or never fit?
Now that you’ve made room by decluttering your drawers and closets, you will finally have room to put away those piles of clean clothes that you usually wear. If you continue to have more clothes than storage space, you still have too many clothes and need to declutter more. Keep in mind that it’s much easier to choose your outfits and get dressed when you have less choices.
Declutter under the bed
Take a look under your bed and toss any trash that has made its way under there. If you have storage under your bed, pull it out and go through everything. Get rid of it if you haven’t used it in the past year. If there are items that belong somewhere else, put them where they belong.
Declutter bedroom floor
Put piles of dirty clothes into a laundry basket. Move books onto shelves (it’s fine to keep your current book on the night table). Move random items such as suitcases, tools or hobby items that have been left on the floor to where they belong. If you no longer need these things, get rid of them. Store shoes in the closet.
Gather up all of your jewelry and go through it. Throw away anything that’s broken or missing a matching piece. If you’ve never worn it or haven’t worn it in a year, get rid of it. If it’s not your style anymore or you just don’t like it, toss it. Keep in mind that you can gift sentimental items that you just don’t wear anymore.
Declutter bedroom decor and furniture
Look around at the decor in your room and get rid of anything you don’t love anymore. If you have dead or dying plants in the bedroom, get rid of them or remove the dying parts. Do you have a chair in your room that just collects clothes or other items? If you don’t use it for seating, take it out of the bedroom.
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Declutter the home office
An uncluttered home office can maximize your productivity. The less time you spend trying to find objects and documents, the more time you can spend focusing on your work. This list of things to declutter in the home office will help you to find what you need, when you need it and reduce stress.
Declutter the desk
Remove everything from the desk surfaces, including drawers and shelves. Go through everything and keep anything you need for daily work. Throw away any broken pens, unnecessary papers, excess office supplies and anything else that isn’t useful or you just don’t need anymore. File important papers or put them in binders to keep the desk surface clear.
If you don’t need to keep a receipt for business purposes or as proof of purchase for large purchases, toss them. Everyday receipts for groceries, household items, etc. can be thrown away once you’ve checked them against your accounts. If you prefer to keep your receipts, you can take a photo of them and store them electronically.
Declutter filing cabinet
Go through your filing cabinet one drawer at a time. Begin with a single file and determine if you still need to keep the documents. Is the information easily available online? Toss the file if it is. If not and it’s still relevant information, keep it. Trash it if the file is for an item, service or contract you no longer have. Make sure to shred (or burn) documents that contain any of your personal information. To minimize paper clutter, opt in to paperless services whenever they are available.
Declutter outdated software media
Are you still holding on to that Windows 7 installation CD? You don’t need it anymore – toss it. Go through all of your outdated software installation media and determine if you need to keep them. Keep any software media you still use in case your computer crashes and you need to reinstall it.
If you have a collection of old phones, laptops, tablets, computers, cameras, remotes etc. go through them. Get rid of any broken, outdated or otherwise obsolete items after making sure to delete any of your personal information. Don’t keep them if you don’t have a plan to use them.
Declutter cords, chargers and cables
If you’re like me, you have a box that contains various cords, cables, adaptors and other random items that are no longer being used. If you haven’t used them in the past year and all of your electronics are working without them, it’s time to get rid of them.
Declutter reference books and manuals
Go through all your books and determine whether or not you’ve used them in the past year or two. If you haven’t used them, get rid of them. Check to see if the information is available electronically to reduce the number of hard copies you need to keep.
Declutter bulletin boards
Take everything off your bulletin board and ask yourself if the information is still relevant or expired. Throw away any outdated items. Keep only upcoming items or items that currently inspire you. Leave space between items to keep clutter to a minimum.
Declutter home office closet
Empty out the closet and review what’s inside. Have you used it in the past year? Do you really need all of it? Do you think you’ll need it in the near future? If the answer to these questions is no, get rid of it.
Declutter home office decor
Look around at the decor in your home office and toss anything you don’t love anymore. If you have dead or dying plants in the home office, get rid of them or remove the dying parts. Do you have exercise equipment or other items that sit unused? If you don’t use it, take it out of your home office.
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Declutter the laundry room
Some laundry rooms have many flat surfaces that collect clutter. This list of things to declutter in the laundry room will help make the laundry room more functional because there will be more room to actually do the laundry.
Declutter washing machine and dryer
Remove everything from the top of the washing machine and dryer. Try not to keep items on top of these so that they are available as surfaces while actually doing the laundry. Move items to a storage area if they are necessary and trash them if they are not. If you absolutely must store items on the appliance tops, use a basket to contain them. Clear any clutter that’s around the machines.
Declutter laundry countertop
Recycle empty containers. Throw away any garbage or unused items. Admit that you will never find those matching socks and throw them away. If it’s broken, it’s trash. Put those piles of clean laundry away.
Declutter laundry cabinets
Pull everything out one cabinet at a time. Go through everything to determine if you actually use each item. If it’s damaged or you don’t use it, throw it away. If it doesn’t belong in the laundry room, put it where it belongs. Only keep the items you plan to use in the near future.
Declutter laundry shelves
As with the cabinets, review every item on the shelves and determine if it’s useful. Get rid of it if you don’t or won’t use it. If you don’t love any decorative items, throw them away. Toss it if you haven’t used it in a year and have no immediate plans to use it.
Declutter things that don’t belong in laundry room
Some laundry rooms serve more than one purpose. Determine the purpose(s) of your laundry room and remove any items that don’t align with those purposes. Get rid of them if they’re not being used or move them into the room they belong in.
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Declutter the linen closet
Over time, linen closets can gather lots of bedding, towels and other linens, as well as things that don’t really belong in the linen closet. This list of things to declutter in the linen closet can help free up space for things you need and use instead of being a catch-all for anything that you don’t know where to put.
Declutter bedding, towels and linens
Remove everything from the linen closet, one shelf at a time. Inspect each sheet, pillow case, blanket, towel or other item carefully for stains, tears or holes. If you find any, trash the item. Determine if the item has actually been used in the past year and, if not, either get rid of it or store it somewhere else. Toss any items that no longer fit your decor. Lastly, ask yourself how many of each item you really need and get rid of the excess.
Declutter linen closet toiletries
Although a supply of toilet paper, tissue boxes, shampoos, conditioners, body washes etc. are stored in the bathroom, we store our excess toiletries in the bottom of the linen closet. Take stock of what toiletries you have in your linen closet and determine if you really need to have so much excess on hand. Don’t buy any more until you run out. If you are a bulk or sale shopper, determine another place you can store bulk purchases.
Declutter the utility closet
The utility closet can become a catch-all of all things, much like the kitchen junk drawer. Most utility closets contain items such as brooms, mops, cleaning supplies, and other home maintenance items. This list of things to declutter in the utility closet can help you determine how to best utilize the space.
Declutter utility closet shelves
Empty the closet and decide if there are things you can throw away. If items are expired or nearly empty or you never use them, throw them away. If anything is broken or missing parts, get rid of it. Only keep the things you use or you plan to use in the immediate future.
Declutter home maintenance tools
If you have an assortment of mops, brooms, and other home maintenance tools, consider how often you use them. If there are any you haven’t used in 6 months, you probably don’t need them. Keep only functional or multi-use cleaning tools that you use on a regular basis in the utility closet. Store items you only use occasionally in a less cluttered storage area of the house.
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Declutter the coat closet
The most common use of a coat closet is to hold coats. They can also hold shoes and other clothing gear, like gloves, scarves, snow pants and hats. This list of things to declutter in the coat closet will help you store only what you need and use and get rid of things you don’t.
Declutter coats and jackets
Go through your items one by one. Throw away anything that is stained, torn, or just worn out. Get rid of things that don’t fit anymore. Try to find another area to store out of season coats and jackets and rotate seasonally.
Declutter boots and shoes
Examine the soles of your boots and shoes. Throw them away if they’re excessively worn or have holes. Get rid of them if they hurt your feet, haven’t been worn in the past year or they don’t fit anymore.
Declutter other outerwear
Go through the gloves, scarves, and other winter outerwear. Throw away items that are stained, torn or worn out. If you can’t find a matching glove or mitt, throw the lone item away. Examine hats and other accessories for stains, tears or holes and toss anything that’s damaged.
Declutter other items
If you store other items in your coat closet such as umbrellas, book bags, sports equipment, etc., take them all out of the closet and get rid of anything that’s ripped or torn. Get rid of anything that hasn’t been used in the past year. If sports equipment has been outgrown and doesn’t fit anymore or no one is playing the sport, there’s no reason to keep it.
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Declutter the basement
I don’t know about you, but my basement seems to be the place all things go to be forgotten. Not only do we have storage shelves down there that hold everything from excess pantry items to Christmas decorations and supplies, but there’s also a utility room and a living area. You may even have a home gym in your basement. This list of things to declutter in the basement should help you to break it down into manageable sections.
Declutter the storage area
If you have storage bins, start with just one bin. If you have shelves that are just open storage areas, begin with one shelf at a time. As you go through everything, decide if you use it, need it, and want it. Get rid of anything that’s broken or you never use. Try not to keep anything ‘just in case.’
Declutter the utility room
The utility room can be the depository for half-empty cans of paint, cleaning supplies, tools and other home maintenance products. Review the contents of the room and determine if they are still useful. There’s no reason to keep an old can of dried up paint or a mop that’s covered in spider webs from lack of use. Be ruthless when asking yourself if you really need the item and get rid of it if you don’t.
Declutter the recreation or family room
The basement living area is usually where the family hangs out and relaxes. It often serves as a game room, bar and media room among other things. Follow the list of things to declutter in the living room or family room as a guide to declutter this area. If your basement contains a bar, go through the contents of the bar and get rid of any almost-empty bottles or cracked glasses.
Declutter home gym
Take a look at the exercise machines and equipment in your home gym and determine if you or other members of the household actually use them enough to justify keeping them. If anything is broken and you have no intention of fixing it, get rid of it. If you have other sports equipment in the room, go through it and get rid of anything that is no longer used.
Declutter other areas of basement
If you have bedrooms, bathrooms or even an additional kitchen in your basement, follow the applicable checklist for that specific room to declutter it.
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How to maintain a clutter free home
The best way to maintain a clutter free home is to stop buying things you don’t need. Here are some other way to keep your home clutter free:
- If you must buy things, make a rule that for every thing you bring into the house, something will leave the house.
- Make sure everything has a home to minimize clutter.
- Sign up for electronic billing and banking to minimize paper coming into your home.
- Create an organizational system that works for you so that you always know what you have on hand and avoid buying duplicates.
- Incorporate decluttering into your daily routine by putting things away as soon as they come into the house and right after you use them.
- Carefully consider whether you will actually use free items that are offered to you.
- Have a designated box or basket for donations and get rid of it as soon as it gets full.
Benefits of a clutter free home
There are so many benefits of a clutter free home including:
- Feeling lighter and liberated when you have less stuff to worry about.
- Less stress and overwhelm and better mental health overall
- Better health as less dust means less allergies and asthma
- Better sleep as those racing thoughts of what you need to do disappear
- Save money because you buy less stuff
- Easier to keep clean because there’s less to move and put away when cleaning
- Find things easier because you know where everything is
- Increased motivation to maintain a clean and uncluttered home