30 day plan to remove clutter from your house this fall

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Right after Halloween and before the holiday rush is a perfect time to do some fall cleaning. Sure, everyone likes to get in a frenzy about spring cleaning, but now is a good time to concentrate on your home and avoid hunkering down too soon for the hibernation season.

Cleaning up your household and keeping some movement in your body can also help prevent weight gain from all the food gatherings about to happen in the near future. Here is a 30 day plan to keep your house clean and to ultimately help you declutter.

Before you get started, strategize. Make a note of your personal clutter “hot spots.” The table by the back door? Your bathroom counter? Underneath the bed? Make a note of these spaces and then set your list aside. You can swap in these “hot spot” days with challenges below that are not as relevant to you.

Before getting to the clean sweep, you need four boxes for keeping, donating, recycling, and trash. You can have a “maybe” box if you’re really confused by an item or two when you get into the cleaning process. If things stay in the maybe box for 6 months, it probably can be thrown away or donated.

Day 1. Make room now for new sweaters. Go through your closet and see what you don’t wear anymore. There are several clothing shelters and churches that would be happy to take your used clothes. Your kids may have outgrown their clothes as well. Try to donate clothes that are still in good condition. A piece of clothing covered in holes might be better suited for dusting. Give yourself a goal before you start diving into the closet: are you going to fill up 3 trash bags with clothes for donations or one giant box? If an item doesn’t fit, let it go. Right now your focus should be to make room for clothes that do fit. A pro tip for clearing out clothes you don’t use: at the beginning of the year, flip all your hangers to the wrong side. As you wear something, flip the hanger for that item to the more easy to reach direction. When the year is over all the clothes that still face the wrong direction are the ones you haven’t worn.

Day 2. Clean up the closets. Now it’s time to rearrange closets in the house. You can go to TJ Maxx, Target, or Ikea for closet storage ideas. Shelves for shoes are lifesavers. You can arrange your clothes by season or by color to make it easier for you to get dressed for work. Be on the lookout for stinky shoes that may need to be thrown out altogether or need some TLC. When cleaning out the closet, make sure you get rid of any extra trash, paper, or plastic – you can easily recycle this stuff. Make sure if there are any important documents to put them together with other important pieces — it’s best to have a folder ready for these items, you can label the folder “to be filed.” Repeat this for other closets in the house. See what you don’t need, donate, and let go. Check to see if there are any coats hanging out in the coat closest that you may have kept for a few too many decades.

Day 3. Clean the refrigerator. You may have collected a few new sauces, salad dressings, and other items over the year that you’re not using and are just filing up space. Several of these bottles are recyclable. Do a good clean scrubbing of the fridge, use a combo of 1 cup vinegar and 2 cups water to get rid of stains. Make sure you don’t have any old leftovers hiding in the back. Anything with mold needs to be thrown away. Even though you might not see the mold throughout bread, cheese, or other items – any sign of mold means it has spread, and not all mold is visible to the eye. If you’re a pack rat and love to put things on the fridge, some of those items now need to move to a scrapbook or memento box. Cut the fridge decorations in half.

Day 4. Clean the pantry. Look through the pantry to see if you can find any expired foods, those need to be tossed out first. If there are any foods still in good shape but you doubt you’ll actually eat, now is a good time to donate them to a food pantry. It’s good to look through the pantry and make sure there are no cobwebs. Dust down the shelves, combine packages like multiple spaghetti boxes, and consider adding a spice rack to the Christmas list if you don’t have one already.

Day 5. Clean out the cutlery. Maybe you have had a lot of dishes passed down to you, multiple wedding gifts, or grandparents who died and willed their dishes to you, plus the cheesy ones you may have bought in college. If your kitchen is feeling crowded – or there are plenty of items never getting used – consider minimizing this. Plenty of donation places or food pantries will accept these items. You’ll want to call ahead to see if they’ll take them. Religious sites often will take these supplies. Sharpen the knives if they’re starting to get dull, spend time arranging the items if everything is in chaos, and restock the cleaning supplies under the sink if they’re looking lackluster. Also, if those cleaning supplies are getting old, it may be time to declutter there as well. If you have appliances you never use nor plan to use, let it go.

Day 6. Clean out the basement. If you have cords that you haven’t used in 10 years, it may be time to say goodbye to those. There are usually a few boxes in the basement that never get touched. It may be time to say goodbye to those boxes, or maybe they need to be rearranged. If you have lots of pictures, those could be put into scrapbooks or binders and put on shelves to help with space. It’s also a better form of preservation rather than being lumped together in boxes.

One basement cleaning method is to dump out all the boxes and force yourself to interact with the objects and see how you can put them into a practical space, or flat out get rid of the stuff. This plan might also be stressful, so think before dumping items everywhere. You’ll want to put things in four different zones: KEEP – DONATE – RECYCLE – TRASH. Label things if you haven’t. Lookout for unnecessary duplicates.

  1. Empty everything one section at a time. Divide stuff into sections.
  2. Group like things together. Assess your inventory. Purchase storage containers as necessary, remove duplicates as necessary.
  3. Sort, stack, and label.

Day 7. Clean out bathrooms. Some of us have a bad habit of hoarding bathroom supplies. We’re not hoarding dragons; we’re humans with good taste, so stop keeping things you don’t need. It’s best to clean all the bathrooms at once to see if there are duplicate items. Don’t be afraid to open all the drawers and cabinets and throw away junk. Now might be a good time to recycle bottles and cut down on the products to the ones actually in use. Old lotion bottles sitting around collecting dust are doing no one any favors. Read labels carefully to see if anything has expired. Make sure to clean down all the surfaces, give the toilets a scrub, and use cleaner on the showers and bathtubs. Look for any extra soap gunk or other unwanted critters.

Day 8. Fill 2 bags with trash or recycling. Instead of focusing on a specific room, go around the house filling two bags with things that can immediately be discarded, whether for trash or recycling. Continue the process around the house until you have filled those two bags. Make sure not to throw away anything important. Some culprits for trash: old mail, candy wrappers, opened up packages, bizarre crafts, and excessive knick-knacks. Forcing yourself to get rid of trash around the house will help you to declutter and examine areas of the house that need extra sprucing up. If you have discovered a new clutter “hot spot” add that to the list you made before getting into the fall clean sweep.

Day 9. Clean out your car. Spend a couple of bucks and go get a car wash. Remove the trash in the car and use a vacuum to suck up trash, leaves, and other chunks of things that collect in the car. Look through your glove box and see if there are old files in it. Do you need paper insurance or do you have an insurance app on your phone with your IDs? Either way, one paper insurance copy will suffice in the glove box. Keep your title and other important documents, maybe the last bill from when you went to the mechanic. Most papers that are more than a year old are probably not important anymore and can be thrown away. You can put things that do seem special in your “to be filed” folder. Make sure to open up your trunk and see if there are extra items in there that you don’t need. The things you should have are: jumper cables, a spare tire, a tool kit, and a first aid kit.

Day 10. Cutting down on objects. Today you’ll be practicing the KonMari method. Marie Kondo is a famous organizing consultant from Japan. Her method of organizing is known as the KonMari method, and consists of gathering together all of your belongings one category at a time, and then keeping only those things that “spark joy” (tokimeku,the word in Japanese, means “flutter, throb, palpitate”), and choosing a place for everything for the items you keep. We’re going to simplify this somewhat. Take about 50-60 questionable items into the living room with you and hold each item for about 30 seconds and ask yourself – does this item bring me joy or did it used to bring me joy? If it used to bring you joy and serves no purpose anymore, great – it belongs in the donation or trash pile. This method can obviously take a long time if you go through the whole house, for some maybe a couple of hours – for others a process that could be done over months. The idea is to not hold onto so many items that really just flood the household.

Day 11. Clearing out paperwork. It is now time to go through all the bills, receipts, papers, everything building up and toss it out or shred and recycle it. Spend at most 2 hours collecting the items and deciding what to do with it. Any other papers floating around can be solved another day. You don’t need all those papers sitting there distracting you and building in the house. If you do need a certain paper, it needs to be in a folder in a designated place. You may have some papers that are also digital copies. You can use those instead of have multiple medical files, tax files, etc. Do keep papers that you need to make an action with and one folder for items that need to be filed.

Day 12. Clean out linen closet. If you have a linen closet overflowing, it may be time to get rid of some of the older linens you never use. Often homeless shelters or animal shelters will use linens that are still in good condition. Toss any items that are really dingy and in bad condition into recycling. It’s a good idea to pull everything out and wash down the shelves, look for cobwebs, and actually go through each linen to see what you really have in stock and if you have too much surplus. Maybe all your children have grown up and could use some of those linens or maybe you just had a breakup and getting rid of some shared items that remind you of your ex would be a happy reprieve.

Day 13. Throw out old makeup. Toss anything that has been expired, anything cracked, or anything that you’re not even sure what it is. Try to condense down to your essentials with makeups. Also, go ahead and give all the brushes you use a wash. Maybe some of the brushes need to be tossed. To clean the brushes:

  1. Wet the bristles with lukewarm water.
  2. Massage gentle soap such as Dawn or baking soda into the bristles.
  3. Rinse the bristles and clear out the soap.
  4. Squeeze out the excess moisture with a clean towel.
  5. Reshape brush heads.
  6. Let dry on a towel.

Day 14. Sort jewelry. Look through your jewelry and see if you have broken, tarnished, or missing pieces. Some of these could be donated, some of them may be in bad enough condition that you should throw them into recycling. Consider buying a jewelry box if you haven’t got one already — or add it to the Christmas list. If you have an expensive piece of jewelry – like a diamond – don’t just recycle it. If it has problems, schedule time for a repair or for professional maintenance. If you have way too much jewelry, consider giving some to family members who might like it. This could also make for an easy Christmas gift.

Day 15. Setup healthcare appointments. This is a day for you to declutter your life by cutting down on the appointments you haven’t setup. The nice part about fall cleaning is that you may realize you haven’t seen certain doctors this year. Now is a good time to setup those dentist, eye doctor, and other appointments. Maybe you haven’t taken the dog or cat to see the veterinarian; now is the time to get those weird things they do checked out. Decluttering is about making healthier living space for you, and working on your individual health is one way to free up your time and space.

Day 16. Clean out sock and underwear drawer. If you haven’t already, it’s time to throw out all the old socks and underwear you don’t use anymore. If it has a hole in it, don’t bother with it anymore. These are easily replaceable items, so don’t hold onto things that are old and ratty. Some clothing items are good after only so many uses.

Day 17. Clean out laundry room. If you have old products, it’s time to dispose of them. Look around for cobwebs and other dust that needs to be removed. See if you have accidentally been hiding clothes that need to go to a closet instead. Consider adding a shelf if things are too messy or scattered. Make sure the laundry room is about the laundry room and not something else. It should be easy to cut back on the clutter in this room.

Day 18. Give things a home. Go around the house and find 5-15 things that don’t have a place, and find them a place. Put it on a shelf, put it with like items, but don’t just stuff it back into your closet. That’s cheating, and it doesn’t work.

Day 19.  Scrub those floors down. When is the last time your floors have had a good scrubbing? It’s time to mop, sweep, vacuum, and maybe hire professionals to clean up the carpets. There are some nasty critters that can multiply in carpets, and dirty tracks around the house can make you sick. Doing a good floor cleaning can be good exercise. Mop the floors down and really give it extra elbow grease. Your goal is to make the floor as spotless as possible, which can be challenging with kids and animals. Move furniture so you can clean areas that haven’t been cleaned in ages. Take really good note of your floors for the first time. Is there something in the way of them being clean? Also, scrub down all the baseboards – get rid of that dirt and dust.

Day 20. Clean out your office. Start with all the papers that have piled up. Put them in stacks: “to file,” “to do,” and “to toss.” File your records in a way that makes sense to you. Records older than seven years can likely be tossed out (that’s the length of time lawyers are legally required to keep their own records.) Clean off the desk; look for knick-knacks you don’t need. Limit how many knick-knacks you have on your desk: maybe 5. Throw away things you haven’t used in a year. Empty out all the drawers and go through the items one by one. Get rid of old planners, expired coupons, etc. Take stock of your supplies, and purchase drawer organizers that will accommodate your belongings.

Day 21. Clean out toys. Your kids or pets might not like this, but if there are a lot of toys, especially old and tattered – it might be time to get rid of some, donate them, and upgrade to other toys. Sometimes the kids will help you if they know the toys are going to a good cause. Helping them to let go of toys will help them better handle decluttering when they are older. Too many toys can be a way for bacteria to spread. If your pets are not using certain toys, or if they have several that are chewed up – just toss them out. Your pets won’t mind not seeing them or getting new toys to challenge their minds. It’s good to cycle pet toys so they don’t get tired of them, so you can put some away for a couple of months in storage and cycle through them every so often.

Day 22. Scrub down the kitchen. Sprinkle salt into the kitchen sink and scrub with a cut lemon. If you have old, gross brushes, those can be tossed. Mix 1 cup of vinegar with 2 cups water and wash down all the counters and places where your family eats. Baking soda can be used to clean just about anything. You should scrub these counters daily, but try giving them more of your elbows this time. Also, scrub down handles, look for any mysterious marks, and scrub down appliances that haven’t been cleaned in a while – the coffee pot is a likely culprit.

Day 23. Clean your digital devices. Backup important files on a hard drive or flash drives. Go through your computer and see if you can get more space. Your computer will run better this way. Try to reduce the number of marks on your desktop. Remove apps you don’t use and are taking up space. Delete items you no longer need. Maybe you have some old computer game boxes from the early 2000s that no longer serve you. Clean up and sort the files on your computer. You can also spend the day cleaning up your social media presence. Check to see if your privacy settings are set at their best level, see if there are pictures you would want in a physical copy, and see what you can minimize on your profile. Maybe it’s time to update your LinkedIn or your relationship status. If you’ve broken up with someone in the recent past, maybe it’s time to delete some pictures off Instagram. Also, check to see if you’re behind on any emails, texts, private messages and the like. If you have several social media accounts, delete one of them.

Day 24. Declutter the backyard. Maybe you have a shed, maybe you have a crazy dog who finds things, or maybe your children like to take all their toys out for a sunny stroll. One way or another, the backyard shouldn’t be cluttered. When mowing the yard for the last time before winter, make sure to take stock of what’s making your yard messy and how you can manage that now.

Day 25. Craft supplies. For those of you who are artists, this may be a nightmare. Look through your crafts collection and see if you have any old paints, excessive amounts of certain supplies, or other things that honestly could be donated to a church or school. Try to get your items down to what is relevant and remove what you won’t miss or what causes unnecessary pain. Clean your paintbrushes; throw out ones that are not going to get better. Invest in new shelving devices if necessary.

Day 26. Second trash bag day. Go around the house again and throw away items that can be tossed out into at least 2 bags. These can be items sent to recycling. Keep going around the house until you fill up those 2 bags or boxes. If you fail at doing this, go through your closets again to find items you can donate or toss out entirely.

Day 27. The “hot spot” cleanup. Dealers choice here, but if you started this declutter assignment by writing down your household “hot spots” for clutter, now is the time to target two or more of those areas (if any still exist). Clean and break these spots down like a champ, and come up with a method for it to never be infiltrated again. It’s your job to liberate the space.

Day 28. Donation day. If you haven’t already, it’s time to take your donation items to places that will accept them, whether Goodwill, religious drives, or schools. You may have to make a few phone calls to plan this out. Label objects that you know will be going to a specific person.

Day 29. Clean out wallet, backpack, and purse. This should be an easy day. Go through your belongings where you carry your money and other daily essentials and cut it down to just that. You don’t need to be carrying around gum wrappers, receipts, and the like. If your wallet or purse are in bad shape – it’s time to go replace it. This can also be a nice item for the holiday shopping list.

Day 30. The final sprint, 5,000 steps of cleaning. To make really sure that your house is clean, go around the house sprucing things up till you’ve hit 5,000 steps on the odometer. Most smartphones have an odometer under the health section. 5,000 steps is about 50 minutes of regular non-stop walking. With cleaning interrupting your walking, this can add a lot of time. This final day might take you awhile. If you’re really ambitious and really want to be a clean guru – up the steps and shoot for a full day of cleaning with 10,000 steps of chores. Reward yourself with some ice cream when you reach your goal.