Clutter isn’t just annoying, it’s stressful—like medically, life-altering stressful. Did you know clutter is clinically proven to increase anxiety, the stress hormone cortisol, and lead to unhealthy habits like overeating, oversleeping, and binge-watching TV?
Studies also show that if this stress isn’t reduced, it can cause lasting damage to your brain structure, organs, immune system, metabolism, and more.
In other words, you need to get rid of all your extra stuff. We’re here to help. And with most of us stuck at home right now, there’s no time like the present. So let’s go ahead and knock out your spring cleaning, including all that stress-causing clutter!
Here’s your decluttering checklist!
Let’s start with something easy—unnecessary and expired food. Whether supplements, canned goods, crackers, old pasta boxes, spices, sauces, jams, or those fast food condiments you keep hoarding, go ahead and throw out everything that’s expired, freezer burned, or now just plain gross.
For all unwanted dry and canned goods that are still in date, consider donating them to a food bank in need.
Some of us—we’re not pointing any fingers—like to collect, store, and never, ever get rid of their grocery store bags. Don’t misunderstand us, having a few on hand can be a real lifesaver, but once you reach the threshold of 5 or so, it’s probably time to seek out the recycling bin and consider investing in a reusable grocery bag.
If your kitchen cabinets are overflowing with a chaotic rainbow of duplicate or mismatching utensils, pots, pans, and Tupperware, it’s time to rethink your life choices. OK, maybe it’s not that bad, but hidden clutter is still clutter, even if it’s stuffed wayyyy in the back of a drawer.
Get real, if you’re not a family of 10, you don’t need 5 different spatulas or 4 of the same size skillet. You know the drill, if it’s donatable, donate it. If it’s not, recycle or trash it.
Isn’t it ironic—the things we buy to clean our homes often end up making them more disorganized?
As you scan through your kitchen, looking for ways to decrease clutter, don’t forget to check under the sink. Odds are it’s packed full of half-empty cleaners, noxious air fresheners, and grimy sponges and scrubbers.
First, chuck all the extras you don’t need. Then, to make your spring cleaning simpler and safer this year, start by trading out the old fashioned household products for effective, family-safe alternatives. Next, replace all those gross, old sponges with eco-friendly microfiber cloths or another sustainable scrubber. They’ll last longer, meaning you’ll need fewer of them, ultimately saving you some extra space.
While outdated medication is rarely dangerous, it does become less and less effective over time. It’s a no-brainer: if it’s expired, toss it. But before you do, learn how to properly dispose of each medication by consulting with your doctor, pharmacist, or the FDA’s website.
Old makeup isn’t just about clutter, it’s also a health hazard. Within only a few months, makeup that’s used directly on your eyes, lips, and anywhere else on your face, becomes a breeding ground for all sorts of yucky bacteria.
So even if you have a sentimental connection, put your health first and upgrade your makeup collection as needed. Refer to labels for the expiration date, but if for any reason you’re unsure, trash creams after about 6 months and eye makeup after 3.
Old styling products, extra bottles of shampoo and conditioner, soaps that are shrunk to within an inch of their life—these items only serve to make your bathroom messier. Do yourself a favor and only keep what you really, really need (pro tip: if you haven’t used it in 2 months, you don’t really, really need it).
On average, bath towels only last about two years before they become a source of embarrassment when friends come over. So if your towels are past their second birthday or already tattered and holy, it’s time to bite the bullet and go shopping for a new set.
If they’re completely beyond redeeming, recycle them or say goodbye for good. Otherwise, do the planet a solid by finding a way to reuse them instead—like as a rag for drying your pup after rainstorms or as a cleaning towel for your car or garage.
The junk drawer in your desk—like almost everything in there needs to go. Those dozens of extra pens, that 95% empty whiteout bottle, all those loose staples, paperclips, and business cards, yeah go ahead and toss, organize, or recycle all that. Do away with any other unnecessary knick-knacks, redundant supplies, and out-of-date office equipment, too.
Without question, there’s lots of paperwork we all need to keep, such as tax documents and certain receipts. Without question, there’s even more paperwork we should’ve thrown out a long time ago. If it’s super essential, keep it well organized and consider scanning a digital copy to save yourself some physical office space. Shred and recycle everything else.
Stacks of books and magazines might make your home seem cozy, but they’re also a common source of stress-causing clutter and dust. The magazines are easy—if they’re more than a couple months old, recycle them. Books, on the other hand, can be harder to let go.
We get it. Old books are full of memories and we’re not suggesting you get rid of all of them, especially not the ones with priceless sentimental value. But try to be honest with yourself about what books you really need to keep around. Anything that doesn’t make the cut, consider gifting it to a friend, donating it to a local charity, or selling it to a secondhand shop for some extra cash. Recycle as a last resort.
Even the most organized among us normally have tons of extra stuff in their closet. It’s just such a convenient place to hide things you don’t want to deal with till later. Any clothes, purses, linens, and shoes you haven’t used in over a year are good candidates for the chopping block. And, yes, that includes all those items you’re hoping will fit or come back into style again, too. They probably won’t, so just pull off that bandaid now.
As you work your way through your closet, try to recycle everything that’s damaged, worn out, or missing its matching partner. Unless you have a direct use for them, we suggest tossing out all those free wire hangers from the dry cleaner, too.
We all have one of those boxes where we stuff our unused electronic cables and cords. Well, you knew this day would come eventually—it’s time to finally conquer that box!
After unknotting the box of snakes before you, go through and discard any cords or cables belonging to electronics you no longer own or use. Trust us, you don’t need the power cord to your first iPod anymore. You had some good times, but it’s time to let go. If you uncover duplicate cords in the process, try offering them to a friend or coworker.
Speaking of electronics you no longer use, they tend to take up a lot of space, so let’s try to get rid of those as well. For everything you don’t want to gift, donate, or recycle, slap it up on Letgo, OfferUp or Craigslist.
We’re of the mindset that you should totally keep quite literally every little doodle, school project, and note your kiddos give you over the years. Personally, we just know we’d regret it one day if we tossed away something memorable.
But all their old toys and clothing, that’s a different story. Sure, these can hold memories, too, but they take up a lot of space, cause loads of clutter, and frankly there are needier kids who could use them. For everything in decent shape, try your best to hand it down or donate it. Anything with missing pieces or broken parts should probably find its way to the waste basket or recycling.
For all you pet parents out there, this applies to you, too. All toys, bedding, and gear that are past their prime should be recycled or trashed. For anything unused or barely used (like those treats your pup would never eat or your extra leash), donate it to a local animal rescue to benefit pets in need.
Likely the most challenging step to decluttering your home is finally getting around to organizing your garage. We’re not gonna’ lie, it’s not going to be easy. But you got this. We can tell. This is the year you get it done!
There’s no telling what’s hiding away in your garage, aka the junk drawer of the home, so we’ll skip the details, but the general suggestions remain the same. Be hard on yourself and recycle, donate, sell, or trash anything you haven’t used recently, say in the last 2 years. Deep clean afterward and make a serious effort to get your remaining garage items organized and neatly stored away. You’re going to feel soooo good when this is done!
The title of most successful collector of random clutter belongs to your junk drawer, but your tables, side tables and countertops tie for a close second. Keeping just these spaces alone clean and sparse will make your home feel much less stressful and scattered. It’ll also make dusting and polishing a breeze.
The worst, messiest clutter hideout of them all is also the final and most satisfying item on your decluttering checklist. If your junk drawer is anything like ours, 75% of it is going straight in the trash, another 20% back in the drawer or storage space it actually belongs. For the remaining 5%, recycle or donate it. The goal here is to give this drawer a whole new name, anything other than “junk drawer.”