“A great habit starts with a 30-day challenge,” says Certified Professional Organizer Ellen Delap.
This 30-Day Decluttering Challenge is no exception — it’ll help you conquer the clutter in your home, get organized, and make space for what really matters.
Ready to get started?
Day 1: Set Intentions
Before you start decluttering, it’s important to organize your thoughts. Write down why you’re taking on the challenge and what you expect to gain from it — this will help keep you motivated and focused throughout the 30 days. Delap also recommends scheduling the challenge in your calendar and marking each day with its corresponding task to stay accountable. If you think any one task is too big or overwhelming, go ahead and narrow your focus. “It’s best to focus on items that can be decluttered and eliminated quickly,” she says.
Day 2: Dresser Clothes
Start with the most challenging, time-consuming task: decluttering your wardrobe. “Organizing [this area] can bolster us to make it through the day a little less stressed,” says Leticia Pfeiffer, Professional Organizer and Principal Organizing Stylist. For the first day, focus on clothes you typically store in your dresser, like socks, undergarments, pajamas, T-shirts, and athletic wear. Grab a donation bag or bin, and toss anything that’s worn-out, ill-fitting, or no longer your style.
Day 3: Outerwear
Gather up every piece of outerwear you own, including jackets, sweaters, cardigans, hoodies, coats, and the puffy down ski jacket shoved under your bed. Keep the items you love, wear regularly, or need for a special occasion, then donate anything you don’t like or never wear.
Day 4: Hanging Clothes
Sort through your button-down shirts, blouses, dresses, skirts, pants, and any formalwear you might have lying around. Ask yourself these two questions: Do I love it? Do I use it often? If the answer is yes to either, hang the item right back up. If not, place it in the donation bin.
Day 5: Shoes
Delap recommends lining up your pairs of shoes to determine which of your kicks are uncomfortable, worn-out, ill-fitting, or not your style. Donate the shoes that are still in good condition and trash the rest. “Sort the remaining shoes into categories such as dress, every day, [and] exercise, [then] decide how to store,” Delap suggests.
Day 6: Bags
There’s a good chance you have more handbags, backpacks, and totes than you know what to do with. Use this day to get rid of the ones you’ve worn too thin or never use. You can organize your remaining bags by category, and either gently fold or hang them up.
Day 7: Wardrobe Accessories
Pare down the wardrobe extras floating around your closet today: your belts, scarves, ties, hats, and jewelry. Pick one category at a time and go through each item to determine whether to keep or donate it. Here’s a handy tip: if you forgot you even owned something, you probably won’t miss it too much.
Day 8: Appliances, Cookware, and Serveware
Congratulations, your closet is finished! Now onto the kitchen. As Pfeiffer says, “The kitchen is the heart of the home. If it isn’t working, the home isn’t working.” To start, pull out all your pots, pans, serving platters, specialty cooking items (like crock pots or griddles), and large kitchen appliances (think: the pasta maker you used once). Get rid of anything broken, mismatched, outdated, or still in its box.
Day 9: Dishes and Glasses
Focus on sorting through your everyday dishware, like glasses, plates, bowls, and mugs. If you have an excess of stuff, try to limit your go-to dishes to matching sets big enough to feed your family plus a few guests. For items like coffee mugs and reusable water bottles, only keep the ones you reach for over and over again.
Day 10: Pantry
Take stock of your pantry and get rid of any expired food or food you don’t enjoy eating. Gather non-perishable items like canned beans, soups, and boxes of rice or pasta in a box to donate to your local shelter or Goodwill.
Day 11: Tupperware
Take back your kitchen cabinets by sorting through the avalanche of plastic and glass food containers that have accumulated over the years. First, Delap recommends matching up your lids and bottoms to decide how many containers you actually need. Next: “Recycle any containers that are in bad condition, [that] you have too many of, or [that] are too large or small,” she says.
Day 12: Silverware and Kitchen Tools
Dump the contents of your kitchen drawers to sort your silverware, serving utensils, and tools like can openers and meat tenderizers. Get rid of damaged items, mismatched pieces, and multiples (let’s face it: you probably don’t need three wine openers).
Day 13: Junk Drawer
Don’t skip the infamous junk drawer. After all, Pfeiffer says, every home has one and it’s usually in the kitchen. Start with dumping everything on a towel so you can see what you’re working with. Next, set aside useful items that belong in other areas of the home (like screws in the toolbox or pens for your desk). Finally, get rid of trash and anything that doesn’t have an obvious purpose or use.
Day 14: Fridge and Freezer
As with the pantry, it’s important to go through your fridge and freezer to dump expired food and anything else you may not want, like the frozen peas you’ll never eat or quarter-bottle of white wine you opened two weeks ago.
Day 15: Linen Closet
A streamlined, clutter-free linen closet makes household chores that much easier. Gather up your dish cloths, cleaning rags, sheets, pillowcases, blankets, and towels, then sort them into piles. Get rid of anything that’s worn-down, permanently stained, or no longer your taste. Same goes for items that have no match, like a lone pink floral pillowcase. Then organize your remaining bed linens and towels into corresponding sets.
Day 16: Under the Kitchen Sink
Take the time to finally conquer the cabinet below your kitchen sink. Pull out everything crammed inside it, then organize the contents by categories like cleaning supplies, kitchen tools, and recyclable bags. Toss everything else.
Day 17: Bathroom Cabinets and Drawers
Empty your bathroom cabinets and drawers, then sort your belongings into categories: makeup, body products, skincare, shower necessities, travel toiletries, bathroom supplies, and the like. Go through each pile of stuff and trash anything that’s past its prime: expired makeup, runny body lotion, old perfume. Be sure to also purge things you don’t use or that no longer work well, like a tattered dopp kit or broken hairbrush.
Day 18: Medicine Supply
Today, you’re tackling the stash of medicine bottles, jars, and pills that have accumulated in your home. Peruse your supply and toss any expired items or prescriptions you no longer need. If you find unidentified pills or capsules, trash those, too. Sort the remaining medicine by type: pain relief, cold medicine, digestion issues, etcetera.
Day 19: Desk Drawers and Paper
Follow these simple steps to help control your paper clutter. First, gather all the paper items in your house and divide them into categories, like “work,” “family,” “bills,” and “personal.” Next, pick a category and sort each piece of paper into one of three piles: recycle, save, or scan. Common items like expired coupons, brochures, and junk mail, which Delap says most homes have too many of, can be recycled, while bills, bank statements, and even wedding invitations can be scanned onto your computer then shredded. Store everything else, like personal letters and photos, in a labeled file folder.
Day 20: Storage Closet
Whether it’s a closet, cabinet, or random corner of the house, you probably have a spot designated for all the miscellaneous items you don’t where to store. Today, it’s time to dive into this zone. Look for the stuff you have too much of or no longer need — this could be anything from cleaning supplies to outdated Halloween costumes — and put it in a bag to donate.
Day 21: Laundry Area
This should be fairly quick. Get rid of detergents and sprays you don’t use, plus any broken clothes hangers or crumpled plastic garment bags lying around.
Day 22: Area Under the Bed
Depending on your decluttering habits, this area could be a veritable disaster zone or home to an array of neatly organized shoe bins. Either way, start by pulling out everything from beneath your bed. Toss trash and let go of anything you don’t want, then set aside miscellaneous items that should be stored elsewhere in the home. From there, you can organize what remains and determine whether or not the space under the bed is the best place to store it.
Day 23: Books and Bookshelves
Time to get rid of your dusty college chemistry textbook and the pile of cookbooks you’ve never opened. When deciding which books to keep or purge, don’t overthink it: save only what you absolutely love, then donate the rest.
Day 24: Entertainment Center
Go through your media console or cabinets to pare down your collection of DVDs, CDs, video games, and — if it’s really been a while — VHS tapes. Chances are good you don’t need most of these items anymore, and you can either donate them or sell them online. While you’re at it, get rid of any superfluous tech stuff, like old remote controls, manuals, and TV cables.
Day 25: Children’s Clothes
Today, focus on paring down your children’s respective wardrobes. Sort through their clothing and set aside anything your child has outgrown — either in fit or taste. Same goes for items that have been stained or ripped beyond repair. Once you narrow it down, spend some time reorganizing the remaining clothes.
Day 26: Bedroom Nightstand
Nightstands are the junk drawers of the bedroom. Take some time today to sort through the piles of medicine bottles, hand creams, magazines, books, reading glasses, and other items that have accumulated next to your bedside. First, discard trash and set aside any items that should be stored elsewhere. Next, pick up each remaining item and decide whether or not it adds value to your life. If the answer is no, stick it in the donation bin.
Day 27: Living Room and Dining Room Drawers and Cabinets
The storage areas in living and dining rooms often go untouched for months at a time, which means opening every little side table drawer and buffet cabinet should be interesting at the least — and maybe even fun. After all, you never know what you might find: a lone doorknob, a handful of screws, silk napkins from the 90s, your grandma’s porcelain figurine collection, or perhaps a tattered copy of The Notebook. Sort everything into three piles: things to donate, things to store elsewhere, and things to keep and reorganize.
Day 28: Garage
Decluttering your entire garage in one day can be a daunting task, so pinpoint the area that inconveniences you most and start there. Maybe it’s the pile of basketballs and soccer cleats you nearly trip over every day. Or maybe it’s the bulging cabinets that make it difficult to park your car. Get started by clearing the space and sorting everything into piles by category, then go through each item and decide whether you need it or not. If you’re organizing a variety of items (like tools, gardening materials, and household supplies), make sure to use labeled containers, says Pfeiffer.
Day 29: Cluttered Surfaces
Today, work on clearing the crowded surfaces in your home. Think: kitchen counters, entryway consoles, coffee tables, bookshelves, and desks. First, discard trash and put misplaced items back in their proper homes. Next, clear everything off — even the decor — and only put back the items you either use regularly (like the bottle of olive oil next to your stove) or love looking at (like your family photos).
Day 30: Children’s Toys
Purging some of your kids’ toys will drastically reduce the clutter in your home. Start by boxing up any toys that are broken, too young for your child, or missing important pieces. If you don’t have children, use this day to double-down on any area that didn’t get its fair share of attention.