Declutter the House
Cleaning

Challenge Accepted: Declutter the House in a Month (Week One)

The Catalyst

This past weekend was a series of unfortunate events. First, we had a 10-hour road trip planned. As you know, before a vacation you are hastily packing and planning. And then you leave the house at 3:00 a.m. with a mess behind you and an open road ahead.  

Event 1

Before we left for vacation, we had ordered a new couch to be delivered for the weekend after we returned. While on vacation, I got a notification that the couch was arriving early…while still on vacation. Of course! Luckily, my brother-in-law was able to run over and bring the couch into the garage for us (Thank you, Edgar!).  

So when we get home from our exhausting 10-hour drive I start the normal process: unpack the car, do a load of laundry, take an inventory of what food is left in our house, and order a pizza for dinner.  

Event 2

After the kids went to bed, my husband suggested putting together the new couch. Mind you, we had not yet gotten rid of our current couch but why not, right? So in the living room, I have piles of crap from the car waiting to be put away, piles of dirty dishes in the sink, and an extra very big couch in our living room. 

Event 3 

The next day, my husband noticed our refrigerator was not keeping cold. Great. He pulls it out, cleans it, etc…nothing. Awesome. Thankfully, I hadn’t gone grocery shopping yet since being back from vacation and had pretty much cleared out everything before we left. 

BUT I realized how much stuff we stored on top of our fridge when I saw it lined up all over the kitchen counters and floor. UGH.  

Let’s recap…

Post-vacation exhaustion + extra furniture + piles of mess from said vacation + broken refrigerator = HOUSE RESET NEEDED

Side note

I am very grateful to have a roof over my head. I am very grateful to have a couch. I am very grateful to have a refrigerator that (normally) works and I am very grateful that I can buy food and store it for my family.  

I acknowledge that my “series of unfortunate events” is a bit dramatic but the good news is it is helping push me in a direction I needed to go for a while now.  

My Journey with Minimalism 

A few years ago, while my kids were very young, I caught the minimalism bug. I was consuming articles, watching YouTube videos, listening to podcasts, and reading books about decluttering, minimalism, and learning to live with less.  

I really did enjoy that time. I went through every room of my house and paired down. A LOT. I sold some things, donated tons, and passed them on to friends and family. It felt wonderful, refreshing, and light.  

I’m sorry to say I don’t feel that anymore. I feel that “stuff” has once again taken over my house. Everywhere I look I’m ashamed to see a disorganized pile and just plain excess. Recent events have shown a light on it and lit a fire under my butt to take back control, reset my house, and feel that freedom again.  

And I want you to come on that journey with me. Follow my plan to declutter yourself, or just stand on the sidelines and cheer me on.  

The Process

The first time I went through this, I followed famous minimalist Joshua Becker’s method in “The Minimalist Home.” I highly recommend this book. He sets you up for success! Purchase the book here on Amazon.  

This time I am straying from his original plan because I want to start with the rooms I am in the most every day and have taken a hit recently with disorganization: living room, kitchen, and main bathroom.  

The bathroom is an easy win with a very small space and even smaller cabinets and storage. I can knock that out in 30 minutes, easy.  

The living room plan is to remove the extra couch, clear off countertops that have collected pre and post-vacation piles, declutter the art supplies and projects and organize our puzzle area. Then keep it that way! To do this I will identify problem areas and try to figure out solutions.  

For the kitchen, I need a functioning refrigerator. But the repairman comes Friday so I’m not sure how that will go and it’s out of my control. In the meantime, I will clear off the mess that was being stored on top of our refrigerator and look for a shelf for my jar storage so I can be better prepared to deep dive into the kitchen next week!

Decluttering the bathroom

Declutter the House

Goal: Only keep things we use

Plan: 

  1. Go through drawers and lower cabinet storage and get rid of expired products, nearly empty bottles, samples we’ll never use, etc
  2. Go through the upper cabinet and do the same
  3. Organize what’s left according to what makes sense for us, not what Pinterest shows me 🙂

Time it took: 30 minutes

I started with the bathroom because, as I said before, it’s an easy win. You can see in the before and after photos, it was getting a little cluttered in the bottom drawer. I’m ashamed to say I had 4 empty skincare boxes taking up space in there!  

The majority of my time cleaning out this space was spent deciding which makeup to toss, keep, or give to my mom. I have only worn makeup 6 times in the last year and a half (3 weddings, 2 dance recitals, and a quinceanera). How much did I need to keep?? Spoiler alert – I could have gotten rid of more haha.   

My top cabinets were a breeze. I just had a few things out of place and did a quick clean of the shelves. I forgot to take a before picture but the after looks so purrrtty. 

Declutter the House
Declutter the House

Decluttering the living room

Declutter the House

Goal: A functional and calming space where the family can live, play, and relax without being overwhelmed by clutter. 

Plan: 

  1. Remove things that don’t belong (couch, toys, vacation piles, random crap)
  2. Clear countertops and go through drawers; remove and donate things that are no longer of purpose
  3. Comb through the arts and crafts zone and declutter. Do the same with artwork and projects
  4. Declutter the puzzle & office supply/catch-all zone 
  5. Find solutions to problem areas: piles that accumulate on our tall cabinet and toys that end up on the TV stand.  

Time it took: 2 hours, spread out over a few days

Living Room Declutter Step 1

The first step in decluttering the living room was getting it back to a “reset” stage. Meaning, that all the excess was removed and put back where it belongs. I bribed my kids with cookies to help me with this part and it was so totally worth it. 

I grabbed 3 baskets: one for my son’s stuff, one for my daughters’ stuff, and one for the playroom. I had my twins pick up all the random toys, books, and papers that were scattered across every surface and put them in the appropriate basket. Then we took a few minutes to put the things that were in those baskets back in their proper spot.   

This made a HUGE difference. My husband took a work break during this cleaning spree, saw what we were doing, and chipped in on his pile of stuff, too. This first step only took about 15 minutes to complete. Yay!

That evening, my husband and I carried our old couch out to the curb (yikes that was rough) and moved our living room couch to the playroom. I put the furniture back in its place and immediately felt a calm, clean presence. The living room was back to normal with one couch!

Declutter the House

Living Room Declutter Step 2

This was a breeze and only took about 5 minutes. Turns out, once we were back in “reset” mode, there wasn’t much left to declutter. I moved some toys around in our shelving unit and switched a few things into drawers to keep it looking neat.  

Our kids play with very few toys in the living room so they all stay relevant. We also have a playroom and library room with more books and toys so that will be for another post.

Living Room Declutter Step 3

Ahhh the dreaded arts and crafts zone. These shelves are pretty difficult for us to keep tidy regularly. The biggest challenge is keeping past projects cleared out. My kids love to keep every little thing they make so this can be like pulling teeth. I hadn’t gone through their artwork all summer (oops) so this was a good time to tackle that project. Check out my post, “The Best Way to Manage Kids’ Artwork” to see how I do that.  

I knew my biggest annoyance in this area was the white bin on the floor overflowing with artwork. Once I cleared it out, I wanted to move the bin to one of the shelves to keep the floor clear. This made a HUGE difference in cleanliness!

I also transferred our Play-Doh toys into the bottom bin, which was full of smaller items like scissors, stickers, and pads of paper. Those items I organized into big reusable Ziploc bags that the kids can easily find, open, and put away.  

The top of these shelves was home to our “point system” which we try every once in a while but always end up falling off of. So I cleared it out for now. The top would look better if I could convince my kids to get rid of some rocks but…you win some you lose some. It houses our abacus which we use for the date and our Waldorf-inspired peg doll days of the week. We use these as part of our morning routine and I will never get rid of them. I love them so much. 

Declutter the House

Living Room Declutter Step 4

Decluttering the puzzle area was much easier than I thought because…I didn’t get rid of anything. Well, besides one broken storage bag. My kids are in a huge puzzle phase right now and would not let me get rid of any. All of the kids’ puzzles fit in the 2 bottom bins so I don’t really mind.  

We’ve been doing a lot of puzzles as a family lately so it was important to me to have a puzzle rotation shelf available instead of piling them all on top of the shelving unit. So I cleared out a bunch of random things and made room.  

This area is also where I keep the kids’ grab-and-go activities like Grab & Go Play Packs and Color Wonder. It turns out all of them I had stored there were completely colored so I got rid of them and cleared a ton of space. 

I had recently organized my cords/office supplies/catch-all boxes so there wasn’t much to do there. Lastly, I picked through the red basket on top which is like an open junk drawer (the tall cabinet is my husband’s, this one is mine – but I swear I keep up with mine!). It holds my pens, chalk markers, labeling things, headphones, and sunglasses. Random, I know.  

Declutter the House

Living Room Declutter Step 5

The final step in my living room declutter is identifying problem areas and finding solutions. Have you heard that if you put something beautiful on a surface you want to keep clear, it’s less likely that “stuff” will accumulate there? Yeah…that is false. At least in my house, it is! 

We have a tall wine cabinet in our living room that we have never used for wine and is basically just a junk drawer at this point. There are very few things in the cabinet, but the top of it is where my husband dumps all of his stuff. I cleared out a junk drawer in the TV stand a while ago where he could toss his stuff, but that filled up quickly and the tall cabinet is back to overflow.  

I know I’m just going to dump a pretty basket on that cabinet and do what I used to do – anything laying out on the cabinet is going to get tossed in his junk basket and then he can sort through it. At least it’s all contained then. 

As for the shelves under the tv collecting more random crap (usually kids’ toys), we’ll do a nightly pickup as part of our bedtime routine. I used to do this and it worked really well but we fell out of that routine at some point. Anything left out after our 5-minute evening pick-up will get tossed in the “lost and found” basket that I keep on the floor in the corner.  

Every couple of days I throw that lost and found basket in the middle of the living room and declare if everyone cleans out the basket they get candy (or a treat or a TV show, etc.). It works like a charm 🙂

Declutter the House

Declutter the House in a Month (Week One)

I’m very pleased with how this first week went. I’m glad I started on the main living areas so I can see an immediate difference and continue the momentum. I have so many other areas I want to tackle and this is gearing me up for success!

Make sure you subscribe to my weekly blog updates so you don’t miss next week’s journey: the kitchen (freezer included!), pantry, and hall closet. 

Thankfully, I didn’t have much to deeply declutter in this area of my house. If you need a more in-depth guide to decluttering, I recommend checking out Joshua Becker’s book that I mentioned before or following The Minimalists. It’s not too difficult when you get in the groove. Just make sure you have an exit plan so all your stuff doesn’t end up back in your home! 

Did this inspire you to start decluttering your house? What are your problem areas? Tell me in the comments!

For more content like this, check out these posts: 


How to Keep Your House Clean with Kids
Save Money & Time with an Eco-Friendly Cleaning Routine
How to Start Spring Cleaning (The Easy Way)
The Best Organization and Routines for Back to School
A Break from Laundry: Why You Need to Stop Doing Laundry 
How to Manage Kids’ Artwork

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