Creating a decluttering checklist is an excellent way to begin organizing your home and simplifying your life. Along with helping you take stock of your belongings, lists can help you stay on track and prioritize the areas that need attention. However, following your checklist can be difficult with so many distractions in everyday life. Luckily, we can help.
Decluttering checklist basics
1. Keep your expectations in check
Your first step is not getting ahead of yourself and having appropriate expectations of your space. “If your home is 1,500 square feet, don’t expect it to hold the stuff of a 12,000 square foot home,” advises Ryan Eiesland, owner of Home Sort. “Not all items you purchase are meant to last more than 20 years, so it’s ok to use an item for a season and then let it go.”
2. Establish a decluttering checklist
A decluttering checklist is a valuable tool for organizing and tidying your space. “By noting the time required for each task, you can manage your schedule effectively and increase efficiency,” says Jamie Steele, owner of Tidy Your Time. “As you gain experience, your ability to estimate task durations will improve, allowing you to create a practical plan for a clutter-free environment.”
3. Set an intention before starting your organization project
Without a solid plan for getting started, organizing projects can create more chaos instead of helping. To help, Star Hansen, a Certified Professional Organizer, suggests setting a clear intention by asking yourself three simple questions:
What do you want to do in this space?
How do you want this space to feel?
How do you want this space to look?
“Once you answer these questions, you have the necessary clarity to help you with every hard decision,” she says.
4. Sort items into three categories
To start a decluttering project, work from room to room and form three piles: donate, keep, and store. “You can also involve your kids in the organizing process and teach them how to declutter,” suggests Audrey Kuether, founder of Oh So Lovely.
Marta Parfan, owner of Well Arranged Home, recommends focusing on one group of items at a time, such as jeans, shirts, or jackets. “By focusing on a single category, you’ll be able to compare similar items and make more informed decisions about what to keep and what to let go of,” she says.
5. Wear gloves to create an emotional barrier
Touching your items can trigger emotional responses, making it harder to let them go. “Wearing gloves creates a barrier to help limit those emotional responses, making it easier to let go,” notes Cassie Thompson, owner of Serene Spaces. “Additionally, the longer you touch your items, the more value you associate with them.”
Decluttering checklist for the entryway
1. Prioritize action items
Action items like Amazon returns, clothing alterations, and home projects are usually the first things to clutter a home. “To organize them, give them a labeled bin and take care of them if the bin starts to overflow,” says Angela Joyce, owner of Unveil By Design. “This way, you can gain accountability without letting items overflow your home.”
2. Control your paper
If stacks of paper are still threatening to take over your home, use these tips from Eliza Cross, owner of Happy Simple Living:
Reduce: Unsubscribe from unwanted mailings, choose digital subscriptions over paper options, and use a junk mail removal service
Scan: Scan any necessary documents and use a photo scanning service to convert your old photos to digital files
Store: Once you digitize your items, store them securely on the cloud using a service like Dropbox or Carbonite
Toss: Get rid of anything you no longer need by using an at-home shredder or professional shredding service like
Lisa Zaslow, founder of Gotham Organizers, has even more suggestions to help you handle your paper:
Set a time limit: Work for 15-60 minutes at a time.
Don’t read: Focus on finding the necessary information without getting distracted by reading old letters or articles.
Clear clutter: Recycle or shred any old or out-of-date information.
Categorize: Put similar types of papers together.
Contain: Keep each category separate.
Label: Make it clear what kind of information is stored where.
3. Tackle your mail
One of the quickest ways to reduce a mountain of unopened mail is to remove the excess inserts and envelopes first. “Then, tackle the rest, opening and discarding outer envelopes, unneeded inserts, and return envelopes if you are paying online,” recommends Barbara Trapp, owner of Zen Your Den. “You’ll be left with a much smaller and less overwhelming pile that you can then put in order of due date.”
Decluttering checklist for the living room
1. Consider how you want your space to function
Before decluttering your living room, consider how you want to use the space going forward. “Make a list of the activities you want to do in the room and the area of the room that will work best,” says Kathy Druffner, owner of Druffner Professional Organizing. “Then, methodically work around the room, clearing items that do not serve your new goals.”
2. Prioritize high-traffic areas
Now, you’re ready to declutter, starting with high-traffic areas. “This includes the entryway, sitting area, and side tables,” says Erin Hackett, owner of Hackett House Studio. “Focusing on high-traffic areas frequently will help keep your living room feeling fresh and organized without anything getting out of control.”
3. Ask the important questions
As you go through your things, Julia Goldberg, owner of Love It and Label It, advises you to ask yourself the following questions:
Do I love or currently use this? If the answer is no, let it go.
Is it damaged, expired, or missing pieces? If the answer is yes, let it go unless you know you will spend time fixing it.
Do I have multiples of this? If the answer is yes, narrow down the items to your favorites and get rid of the rest.
Will someone else get more use out of this? If the answer is yes, let it go.
4. Set up a decluttering schedule
As you work through your living room, remember that letting go of belongings gets easier the more you do it. “By setting up regular times to declutter, you can build the organizing muscle and involve your family in the process,” notes Sara West, owner of South Coast Organizers. “And, the more you do it, the less you will have to do the next time.”
Shani Smith from Havenwood Tiny Homes recommends storing, donating, or discarding items as you work through them. “Don’t put something back down until you decide,” she says.
5. Think about design and decor
Once you organize your room, you can think about your decor and design. “Simple changes like purchasing new curtains, lamp shades, cushions, and rugs can dramatically transform your home,” notes Terri O’Callaghan, owner of Decluttered by Terri. “As with any project, focus on one item at a time.”
Decluttering checklist for the kitchen
1. Minimize visual stimulation
The first step in cleaning a kitchen is to minimize visual stimulation, so you can see your space more clearly. “Pick up trash, messes, and other clutter to get your bearings,” says Candace Hora, owner of HORAstudios. “Most people who leave to go put something away get distracted because of over-stimulation,” she says.
2. Store items in plastic or glass containers
Now, it’s time to organize your kitchen. Start by investing in quality glass and plastic containers. “Shallow bins and baskets are also great for sorting food into categories, such as pasta, snacks, and more,” suggests Lisa Dooley, owner of Your Organized Life. “If you can see the food, you’re more likely to eat it and keep it organized.”
3. Use height to your advantage
If you’re running out of space, the best option may be to think vertically instead of removing belongings you might otherwise want. “Use wall space to display items that you might otherwise not have room for, such as plants, pictures, and paintings,” recommends Lauren Williams, Certified Virtual Professional Organizer with Casual Uncluttering.
4. Clean after decluttering
Once you finish decluttering your kitchen, it’s time to give it a thorough clean. “Focus on your floors, appliances, cabinets, counters, and any other areas previously hidden by clutter,” advises Hernan Urtubey, marketing manager with 1st Hoarding Cleanup. “To eliminate leftover odors, consider using natural products with a pleasing scent.”
Decluttering checklist for the bathroom
1. Remove toiletries you haven’t used in a while
When decluttering your bathroom items and toiletries, get rid of anything you haven’t used in a few months. “If you aren’t using these items regularly, there’s no need to keep them,” says Carly Booze, owner of Pop Organizing.
Additionally, your items may be out of date. “All skin and hair care products have an expiration date,” notes Michele Delory, owner of Modern and Minimalist. “Use this date to inform when you throw them away, especially during a decluttering day.”
2. Sort your bathroom products
To make morning and evening skincare routines easy, set up your space for success. “Gather everything you use every day and group them together,” suggests Lisa Greene Smith, owner of Simplify Studio. “Then, create a back stock area for duplicates of your everyday items or products that you use infrequently.”
3. Use everyday storage containers
. “The easiest way to declutter and organize your bathroom is to sort every item into bags and shoeboxes,” says Susan Wade, owner of Sunflower Strategies. “The last step is to place the items in their proper places, arranged by how often you use them.”
4. Get a handle on medications
If your family has many over-the-counter medications, consider separating children’s medicines from adult meds. “Then, sort them by category, for example, stomach, pain relievers, and more,” recommends Meghan Maxson, owner of Streamlined Living Colorado. “Store these groups in labeled bins, so you never lose track of meds again.”
Decluttering checklist for your closet
1. Sort through your clothes
Once your bedroom is clear, work your way to your closet. Melissa Capps, owner of Simple Spaces, notes that your wardrobe should make you smile, not want to hide. When deciding on what to keep or get rid of, there are two things she recommends considering:
When was the last time you wore an article of clothing? If more than a year ago, say goodbye.
Does it make you smile? If not, let it go.
“Filling your closet with items you like and want to wear will help you start every day in a better mood,” she says.
2. Think about how items make you feel
When going through your clothes, ask yourself how they make you feel, not how you feel about them. “The goal is to feel good when you walk in your closet and great when you walk out,” notes Marie Jackson, owner of Organized Marie.
Another way to organize your clothing is to sort through them seasonally. “Every season, go through what you own and ask yourself how you feel when you wear that item,” says Elise Hay, owner of Organized Sanctuaries. Here are a few questions she recommends asking when organizing your closet:
Is it something that makes you proud of how it looks on you?
Do you have clothes that go with it?
Is it still the right fit and style?
3. Utilize your door
Sometimes, you just need a little more room. “Buy an over-the-door organizer to give yourself more space,” advises Melissa Adams, owner of Happy Organized. “You can store plenty of items for later, including sunscreen, clothing, sunglasses, and more.”
Decluttering checklist for sentimental items
1. Be gentle with yourself when decluttering
Decluttering sentimental items can be especially difficult. Las Lemene, owner of Ready Set Declutter, has some tips to help you through the process:
Be gentle with yourself and give yourself grace and time.
Understand that letting go of the item doesn’t mean letting go of the memories
Remember that if you haven’t used or displayed your item, it’s only collecting dust
Figure out if another family member may enjoy/use it more often.
Take pictures and create a memory album to free up space without getting rid of the memory
2. Keep all sentimental items in one place
When organizing mementos, start by gathering them into one place. “Then, work your way through them, getting rid of what you don’t need anymore,” advises Meg DeLong, owner of The Tidy Home. “Consider setting up a storage tote for old and new items, so you have a convenient spot to put them.”
3. Limit yourself and your family to one sentimental bin
A great way to keep sentimental items organized and decluttered is to give each family member one bin or box to keep items in. “This bin becomes the limit on how much each person can keep,” says Lisa Yingling, owner of Empowering Home Organization. “Above all, remember that the memories aren’t in the items but in your heart.”
4. Distribute heirlooms between family members
If you’re inheriting family china or another heirloom, Susan Carmody, owner of Perfectly Placed, recommends dispersing the pieces between family members and friends. “This way, no one has to worry about storing the entire set, and everyone can enjoy a special keepsake,” she says.
5. Digitize memorabilia
Memorabilia can be a huge source of clutter. Get creative by finding ways to treasure memories without collecting physical objects. “For example, archive your kids’ artwork online through digital photos instead of keeping bins full of the original artwork,” recommends Natalie Gallagher, owner of Refined Rooms. “You can also digitize family photos and videos instead of storing family memories via a massive collection of outdated media.”
If you decide to digitize your items, make sure to keep them organized. “Start by consolidating all of your unfiled items into just one folder, then commit to a daily routine of sorting and organizing the folder for five to ten minutes,” suggests Melynda Weiland, owner of The Orderly Entrepreneur.
Decluttering checklist for children
1. First, involve your children in the process
Always involve your children in decluttering. “If you have established systems and are supportive throughout the process, they will want to help,” notes Kat Jacoby, owner of Divine Organization. “You can also make decluttering part of their playtime,” she adds.
One way of including your children in the process is, instead of asking your kids, “What do you want to donate?” giving them a box or laundry basket and asking them to fill it. “This gives them a firm goal, and they will often do it quickly to move on to playing,” says Bonnie Joy Richards, organizer, social media strategist, and writer.
2. Organize toys
Toys can quickly overrun a home, so get a handle on them and take a few days to do it right. “Commit the first day to categorizing and sifting through everything,” suggests Wendy Silberstein, owner of The Aesthetic Organizer. “Once you sort through everything, store them in clear labeled bins or invest in a tiered shelved cart for easy access.”
3. Rotate children’s toys
Another way to organize toys is by implementing a bin rotation system. “Designate a specific number of storage bins for toys and store all but one bin out of sight,” recommends Taya Wright, owner of Just Organized by Taya. “Rotate the bins every few weeks, giving your child access to a ‘new’ set of toys each time.”
4. Teach your kids about decluttering through books
“A great way to do this is purchasing children’s books focused on organizing,” suggests Ginger Willis, owner of Element of Fun Organizing. “Some popular choices are The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room by Jan and Stan Berenstain, A Clean House for Mole and Mouse by Harriet Ziefert, and More by I.C. Springman.”
5. Create a “before bed” checklist for your children
Lastly, creating a nightly checklist is a great way to help ensure you and your child complete all the steps in a routine. Seana Turner, owner of The Seana Method, suggests adding these basic steps to your list:
Resetting play areas and workspaces
Packing bags and backpacks with items your child needs tomorrow
Setting clothing to wear the next day
Helping them shower and brush their teeth
Putting dirty laundry in the hamper
Tucking them into bed
How to maintain a decluttered home once and for all
1. Declutter for a short amount of time every day
Once you declutter your home, maintaining it takes less than 15 minutes per day. “Get into the habit of putting items back into their homes, and they will be there when you’d like to find them again,” says Buffy, owner of B Organized Today.
Laura Marrs, owner of Simple Steps Organizing, notes that decluttering isn’t an event but a way of life. “It’s essential to schedule time to maintain your decluttered space,” she says. “Consider a ten-minute clean out twice-weekly on Thursday and Sunday, so you can prepare for the weekend and start the new week fresh.”
2. Put items back where they belong
Another way to maintain a clutter-free home is to consciously put things back instead of throwing them in junk drawers, shelves, or cabinets. “You can also declutter on a schedule as opposed to every day, such as once a week or every other week,” notes Shanice Bannis, owner of City of Creative Dreams. “Choose what works for you and remain flexible.”
3. Designate a box for unnecessary items
Whenever you see something lying around, toss it in the box. Be strategic by having three boxes ready to fill: one for trash, donating, and keeping. “If you can’t remember you had an item or take more than five seconds to decide whether or not you should keep it, it’s time to get rid of it,” says Ron Neal, Team Leader of The Neal Estate Group.
4. Use the one-in, one-out rule
Once you have an appropriate amount of belongings and a clean home, follow the one-in, one-out rule for future items. “This applies to clothes, kitchen tools, essentials, toys, books, toiletries, and more,” notes Logan Alderman, owner of Orderly SC.
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