A to Z Declutter Challenge

IMG_0717In The A to Z Declutter Challenge,  each letter represents a category that commonly causes household clutter. I offer suggestions on how to discard and let go. Tackle all the categories or set a timer for 15 minutes and go after a few of the worst offenders in your household. Ready, set, declutter!




A Arts and craft supplies A is for Arts and crafts supplies. Collect all your supplies in one spot (if you have a lot, focus on a sub category, like kid’s supplies or knitting stuffs). Start by tossing dried out glue/markers/clay, broken buttons, paper that’s warped, etc. Next, ask yourself what do you really use? Be honest. If you haven’t scrapbooked in years, maybe it’s time to part with your boxes of supplies and donate* them to a friend or organization that will use them now. Ditto on the supplies for that fall felt leaf wreath you saw on Pinterest that was so cute but you know you’ll never make.
B Books and/or Board games How often do you reference academic books from grad school? Or re-read that cheesy novel you bought at the airport for the plane? For many of us, books, once read, sit around and collect dust. Examine each book individually as you decide what to keep and what to let go of (I will never part with my Jane Austen novels!). If there are particular passages or quotes that are meaningful to you, write them down in a journal (or store them on your Goodreads profile). For Board games, make sure you have all the pieces and that it’s a game you/someone in your family play.
C Cosmetics Collect all your cosmetics in one spot (don’t forget about any that might be in your purse or tucked away in travel cases). Throw away expired items, colors you no longer wear, empty containers. Take a look at your brushes and discard any that are no longer in good condition (be sure to regularly clean those that are). NOTE: If Cosmetics aren’t your thing, make today about decluttering Cleaning supplies!
D Discs (DVDs, CDs) You know that Planet Earth DVD collection you’re holding onto? It’s available on Netflix. And music streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music provide great access to all the tunes you could ever want. For discs that you do keep, store them properly (i.e. in a case), so they don’t get scratched. And please, put them back in the correct case when you’re done!
E Expired food items This category including spices (if they are clumped together and no longer fragrant, toss ’em); stuff in your fridge/freezer (like that freezer burned meat from last fall); and canned goods.
F Food containers This category includes Tupperware, take-out containers, etc. Get rid of items that are stained, broken, without lids (or bottoms), and/or prone to leaking.
G Gift wrap Set out all your gift wrap items in one spot; ditch gift boxes and bags that are damaged and donate* stuff you won’t use; carefully repack stuff in appropriate storage containers. For easier organization, consider storing holiday wrap separately as you only use it once a year.
H Hats, gloves, and scarves (“Hearty” wear) Sort through cold-weather items and think about which ones what you really wear when winter calls. If you know that you didn’t wear a particular hat all last season, let it keep someone else warm. Also recycle or donate* those that are too small, worn, missing mittens, etc.
I Invitations for past events You attended your cousin’s wedding two months ago, so do you still need the invitation on your fridge? Include in this category other out-of-date papers you no longer reference…like old holiday/birthday cards, catalogs, school flyers, and those credit card offers piled on the countertop. Setup a recycle bin and shredder near where these items accumulate to make for easier disposal in the future.
J Jewelry Like clothes, chances are you only wear a fraction of the jewelry you own. Ditch pieces that are broken (and unlikely to be repaired), as well as those that are trendy and unworn. And, think about how you display your jewelry. Are you not wearing it because it’s stashed in a drawer somewhere? Hang necklaces and bracelets where you can see them. The Expandable Jewelscope Jewelry Tree by Umbra® is an excellent way to organize necklaces as it’s pretty and functional. I love the tray at the bottom, which can accommodate a few watches, earrings, and/or bracelets.
K Kitchen utensils/gadgets It’s only a great gadget if you use it, so ask yourself if you really need an avocado slicer (especially if you don’t eat avocados). And when’s the last time you used three ice cream scoopers at the same time? Keep one and donate the other two.
L Linens Sometimes it’s nice to have a spare set, but do you really use four sets of sheets for your guest bed? And what about that comforter set for the twin bed you no longer have? Once you’ve determined which sheets and bedding you can discard, use this tip for storing what remains: keep your folded sheet sets within a pillowcase (and put them in the room where they’re used), so you won’t wonder which sheets go with which beds.
M Manuals or Magazines If you must keep manuals, put them in one spot and make sure that you actually still own the item – I doubt you need the manual for the NordicTrak you sold on Craigslist two years ago. As for Magazines, don’t let feelings of guilt over not reading last week’s issue of The Economist (or People) be the reason you hang onto it. If you haven’t read it and know you won’t get to it, give it to someone who will. And, moving forward stop accepting offers for free (or heavily reduced) subscriptions!
N Novelty items Pet rocks, lava lamps, snow globes, silly baubles, etc. may have had meaning at one point, but if they are accumulating in boxes and drawers, it’s probably time to send them to another home. Touch each item, recall its story, and then say farewell (hold onto the memory without keeping the item). For those trinkets that still bring you joy and you wish you keep, why not display them?
O Office supplies Try this 15-minute mission from Home Storage Solutions: http://www.home-storage-solutions-101.com/declutter-home-office-supplies.html
P Purses and wallets If your purse is like mine, it can easily become a depository for everyone else’s stuff — snacks, glasses, toys, handouts, etc. Go through yours and get rid of what doesn’t belong there. Consider putting items like Kleenex, hand sanitizer, lip gloss, gum/mints, etc. into a small cosmetic bag that you can easily transfer between purses/bags so that you don’t need to keep multiples of those items. Go through your wallet and toss receipts you don’t need, cut up expired cards, and ditch the bagel punch card for the shop that closed.
Q Queasy meds and other stuff in your medicine cabinet This is a good reference guide for how to dispose of medications: http://www.home-storage-solutions-101.com/drug-disposal.html
R Recipes Historically, I stored recipes on index cards in a recipe box. But lately, I’ve been using a three ring binder to print out recipes that I really love and use for entertaining (I write notes on them and store by occasion). And, like many folks, I’ve become a Pinterest devotee. I have one board for recipes I want to try and another board for recipes I’ve used (and I include my notes on the pin). Whatever your system, discard recipes you dislike and don’t make. When you do make something, keep notes on any modifications and/or comments for next time.
S Socks and underwear Ditch the pairs with holes, snags, stains, and missing mates (socks). Toss everything in a bag and drop it at your local H&M (yes, they will take it). In exchange, get a coupon for your next shopping trip.  Learn more: http://www.hm.com/us/longlivefashion
T Table linens (napkins, placemats, etc.) This is probably one of the hardest categories for me because I’ve never met a napkin I didn’t like! Whether you’re holding on to worn favorites (stained napkins are just gross — let them go) or ones that don’t fit your current table, assess your stash of all table linens (including holiday ones). Clear out those that aren’t working for your life right now. This includes that tablecloth that you never use because it’s such a pain in the butt to iron and the placemats you bought on sale but that you always find an excuse not to use because you don’t really like them as much as you thought.
U Unopened/unused products and unworn clothing you have no intention of using/wearing While it may be hard, admit shopping mistakes, let go, and move on.
V Vases Most of us have an accumulation of florist vases, and while you may use one or two of them on occasion, when is the last time you used several all at once? What about that enormous stockpile of mason and mayo jars for those projects you saw on Pinterest? And that expensive vase that was a wedding gift? You thought you’d love it, but turns out not so much. Let go of gift guilt and donate it to someone who will use it and give it a good home.
W Water bottles and other free crap Free tchotchkes can be a big clutter contributor. Look in drawers (esp. your junk drawer), your car, the backs of cupboards and closets to find offenders for this category. Once you’ve ditched the whistles, Frisbees, mugs, and door clings, repeat after me…”Just because it’s a free, doesn’t mean I should take it.” #justsayno
X X eXtras (duplicates) Pick whichever category tends to be your worst offender (for me, it’s pots and pans) and purge the duplicates. Remember, if you really need an extra of something once in a while, you can probably borrow it!
Y Yo-yos (i.e. kid toys) Sorry if it feels like I’ve saved the hardest for last (you thought you were off the hook when I didn’t do T for Toys, right? Tricked ya!). Put toy clutter in a time-out. These tips from Becoming Minimalist are a great way to start: http://www.becomingminimalist.com/a-parents-tip-sheet-for-owning-fewer-toys/ (I especially like especially nos. 5, 6, and 10).
Z Z Zzzzzs Take a rest and give yourself a pat on the back! You’ve worked your way through the A to Z Declutter Challenge and purged your home of stuff you don’t need, want, or use. Way to go!

*Here’s a list of Donation and Disposal Resources