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Stressed Out by Clutter? Here’s a Month-by-Month Plan of Attack

A woman folding clothing neatly into a drawer organizer.
Kostikova Natalia/Shutterstock

Decluttering a little each month will help keep your home clean and organized without the stress of having too much to get done at once. Focus on the important things monthly for less clutter at the end of the year.

January: Put Away That Holiday Decor

While some folks may have packed up Christmas the day after the holiday, there are plenty of others who aren’t ready to deal with the tree and the outdoor lights until at least mid-January or even early February. When you pack it all up this year, do it a smarter way—make it easier to get it all out again when the holidays roll back around.

Pack all of the outdoor decor together and wrap your light around chunks of cardboard—it helps keep you from needing to undo a bunch of tangles later. Pack all of the ornaments and other tree decor in a box together as well. All of this will make your holidays so much easier.

And, while you’re at it, adopt a new policy of purging your holiday decor when you pull it out each season. By doing so you can avoid clutter-creep with your decorations.

February: Declutter Your Bedroom

The bedroom is supposed to be a place of relaxation, but if yours is full of clutter, it may be keeping you up at night. With Valentine’s Day a prominent holiday in February, this seems a wonderful time to express some self-love by decluttering your bedroom and making it a place of serenity. If you have or live with a significant other, your decluttered bedroom may open up the space, literally and metaphorically, for a little more intimacy and romance for Valentine’s Day as well.

Now’s a great time to invest in some new sheet sets if your old ones are worn out. Wash your blankets and pillows if it has been a while. When it comes to cleaning, here are some good places to focus on:

  • Under the Bed – Clean out anything that you have stashed under your bed, whether it’s there on purpose or not. Sweep or vacuum under there, too. Now’s a great time to make better use of that potential storage space.
  • Nightstands – Nightstands sometimes become catchalls for the to-be-read book piles, morning pills, and so much more. Pull everything off, and out of there, and wipe it down to remove dust. Only put back the stuff that really needs to be there; the book you’re reading, your alarm clock, a reading lamp, etc.
  • Top of the Dresser – Another catchall is the dresser. Put away any clothing that’s stacked up on there. Stick that loose change in the bank.

March: Tackle Financial Paperwork

March is the perfect time for purging financial paperwork and making sure you have a file system in place to reduce your stress when tax time rolls around in April. Worried you’ll shred something you need? Here are some guidelines for how long to keep documents.

Once you’ve properly disposed of the paperwork you don’t need, consider adopting a new filing system that will take up space and make your life easier. Instead of having a large filing system that’s a hassle to keep up with, consider using the one box method of filing. This method will make finding paperwork so much easier when you need it and leaves you with just one box for each year.

April: Purge and Put Away Winter Stuff

While spring officially sprung in March, that’s a little too soon to pack up all of your sweaters and other winter gear. Snow and cold weather follow no specific calendar days. However, by the time April arrives, you can be sure all you’ll need is a good hoodie to get you through chillier evenings.

Instead of diligently packing up your winter wear this year, take some time to give it all a good once-over before it ends up stuffed in a tote under the bed. Are there any items you didn’t wear at all this winter? Maybe it’s time to let go of them.

If a shirt was too big or too small, what’s the likelihood of you fitting in it by next winter? If the chances seem slim, perhaps it’s a good time to donate that stuff. You could also pack up anything you want to let go of and write “yard sale” on the box and plan a yard sale (see August).

May: Declutter the Attic and Basement

The attic and basement are where clutter goes to collect dust. Purging those spaces makes room for new things and better organization.

May is a great time to tackle both spaces for different reasons. It’s still cool enough that attic isn’t a sweltering sauna and, if you live in a humid area, it’s not quite the swampy summer weather so you’re avoiding working in a damp basement.

While you’re in both spaces, make sure to check out the physical space itself. Look for any water damage in both your attic (from a leaking roof) or in the basement (from a leaking foundation). If your basement seems a bit on the musty and damp side despite no visible leaks or issues, consider getting a dehumidifier to keep anything you store down there in good shape.

June: Clean Out Your Closets

A woman cleaning out her closet and packing up clothing to donate.
suriya yapin/Shutterstock

June means warmer weather and more sunshine, which is a great time to go through those closets. Yes, you already packed up winter stuff, but you probably kept out some long-sleeve shirts and plenty of pants. Plus, there’s more in the closet than just shirts and pants, right?

Pack up the stuff that’s still in good shape to donate or sell at a rummage sale. Purge your closet of clothes that don’t fit and let go of anything you haven’t worn in the past year. If you have stained clothing, toss it. If you have ripped stuff, toss it if you don’t intend to repair it.

Go through your coat closets, too. Ditch shoes and jackets you don’t wear or that no longer fit. It’s easy for some closet items to get lost in that “out of sight, out of mind” mentality.

July: Tackle the Garage and Yard

July is a great month to be outdoors—it’s not raining as much as it was in the spring or will be again in the fall. It’s also not the hottest month of the year, which is reserved for August in many places. Now is an excellent time to clean up yard clutter, like that stack of hoses with holes in them, or your garage.

In the garage, make piles of stuff to sell or donate, things that need a good cleaning, and one for things that are being kept and are fine just the way they are. Put anything that’s trash right in the garbage. Take some time to clean the stuff that needs cleaning, like removing rust from tools.

Then, integrate some space-saving tips before you put things away again. Don’t forget to sweep the floor and do your best to clean up any oil spills and other messes.

August: Plan a Yard Sale

If you saved some of the stuff from the rest of your decluttering projects, August is a great month for yard sales. It’s an opportunity to make a few dollars and let your unwanted items find new homes. Here are some tips to prep for a successful yard sale.

Not everything you try to sell will make it out of your yard. Rather than hauling it back in your home to clutter things back up, learn What to Do with Yard Sale Junk that Didn’t Sell.

September: Purge Summer Gear

Some areas might have prolonged warm weather, but both because of the start of school and the arrival of the autumnal equinox, September serves as a marker for the end of most summer activities. That makes it a great time to purge all of the stuff you collected on your travels that were impulse buys. It happens—you visit cool places on vacation or on a road trip and inevitably buy some tourist t-shirts and other stuff in the spur of the moment only to get home and realize you don’t like the fit or didn’t need yet another shot glass. You could save these items for gifting, if they’re giftable, or send them off to the local resale shop.

This is a good time to start packing up some of your summer clothes as well. There may still be some warm days, but you probably won’t get another chance for bikini tops and short shorts. It’s also a great time to discard worn summer sports gear like a tent damaged during a summer camping session.

October: Clean Out Your Pantry

November and December are months full of holiday cooking. Whether you’re cooking for the people who already reside under your roof or you’ll be having more guests over, you’ll want to be sure you have the food you need and room for it—making October a great time to tackle the pantry.

You can weed out the expired stuff, work on better organizing what you have, and invest in some products that will help make it easier to find what you want and fit more in there. Be sure to put those cans of pumpkin, cranberries, and any other holiday foods toward the front for easy access.

November: Rearrange the Living Room

Speaking of the holidays, it’s getting close to decorating time, so why not clean up the spaces where you plan to put Christmas trees and other special holiday decor. Declutter the family room and do any furniture moving now to leave you with less to do when the holidays do arrive.

Another good idea for this month is to have your kids go through their old toys and start a donation box. Encourage them to let go of toys they’ve grown out of and throw away broken toys. This will help them make room for new toys they get for Christmas.

December: Resolve to Purge More Stuff

You have a lot on your plate this month, so why not take it easy. Your big project for December should be enjoying the holidays and getting rid of anything left in your home that hasn’t been touched all year.

Held onto that fur coat when you purged the closet but never wear it? Consider selling it online. Realized no one sits in the recliner anymore? Have a donation truck come pick it up so another family can enjoy lounging in the living room.

These projects don’t have to take you an entire month. Dedicate one or two weekends each month and your home will be virtually clutter-free by the end of the year—and you can start back over again next January.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »
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