What to Declutter Every Week, Every Month, and Every Year

Consistent decluttering here and there makes for a much less overwhelming spring cleaning.

Whether you live in a large home or a studio apartment, clutter can easily build up. Sometimes it’s a kitchen countertop or the desk in your home office. We all leave things out and say we’ll take care of it tomorrow, then end up pushing that day back again and again. As a result, messes accumulate and our homes become the sources of headaches, not peace.

While diving in all at once can feel overwhelming, scheduling key areas to declutter regularly can be a more efficient way to tackle messes. So, where do you start? Here are the spaces that professional organizers recommend decluttering weekly, monthly, and yearly.


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What to Declutter Every Week 

Countertops, Flat Surfaces, Refrigerator

We’ve all been there. It’s been a long day and we end up throwing a stack of mail on the kitchen countertop, leave out those empty pizza boxes we’re not quite ready to break down, or pile up reusable grocery bags after unloading the groceries. Things start to look messy quickly, particularly in open-concept homes.

Jennifer Jarrett, professional organizer and founder of Jenuinely Contained, recommends decluttering countertops weekly. “Any flat surface is fair game for putting crap down on," she says. "Don't know where to put that stack of mail that built up while you were away? A flat surface. Unsure where to put all the artwork your kids bring home from school every day? Any flat surface. It can be a convenient and quick solution, but if it isn't kept in check, it's fast to get cluttered.”

At the end of each week, Jarrett walks through the common areas of her home with a “put-back basket” and collects items that have landed in the wrong place. “Once I've cleared off the countertops I redistribute the items to their proper location," she explains. "Crumpled wrappers, trash. Random belt, kids' room. Lip gloss, my purse, etc.”

The refrigerator should also be decluttered every week, Jarrett explains. If you go grocery shopping once a week, then ideally, you would declutter the fridge before making the trip to the store. Start by throwing away anything past its prime. Not sure? Refer to this food expiration dates guide to see if you should keep or toss those questionable items in your fridge.

Finally, make a mental note of anything that’s not expired but definitely needs to be eaten in the upcoming days before it spoils. “Move those items to the front of the fridge and work them into your upcoming meal plan," Ashley Murphy, professional organizer and co-founder of NEAT Method, says. "Sort the remaining items into categories and contain them in individual drawers, bins, or shelves. Add removable labels to each zone to keep everyone in your home on the same page. Don’t forget to leave a spot for leftovers."



Pantry items tend to last a little longer than refrigerated items, Jarrett explains, so those only need decluttered once a month. She suggests checking for expired or stale items and tossing them. “Make sure that all other items are securely closed," she says. "Chip clips are the best for this. It is also a good time to get rid of those impulse-buy items that never gained traction, such as that dill pickle popcorn that nobody liked, or those baked lentil potato chips that tasted like cardboard.”

Then, Jarrett recommends grouping similar items together—chips with chips, pasta with pasta, nuts with nuts, etc.

To avoid losing track in the future as well as to prevent food waste, Murphy suggests implementing a riser for a better visual of canned goods and storing categorized condiments onto turntables. “Transparent canisters are perfect for storing staples at eye level so you can keep an eye on [what you have in] stock," Murphy says. "Lastly, corral remaining categories into labeled bins and baskets.”


Closet, Paperwork, Toys

While the co-founders of NEAT Method recommend cleaning out your closet seasonally, Jarrett advises doing one big closet clean out yearly. “For this area, you want to pull everything out. Yes, everything," Jarrett says. "If you have a rolling clothes rack this is often very helpful to put all of your hanging clothes onto while you sort through them. If there are space constraints, this area can also be done in sections.”

NEAT Method co-founder Marissa Hagmeyer suggests considering letting go of any items you haven’t worn in the past six months. “Set them aside for donation," she says. "It’s also a good time to pass on items that no longer fit, are stained, or have seen better days. Don’t be afraid to send pictures to an honest friend for their opinion on pieces that you’re on the fence about.”

Files and other paperwork, like credit card statements—if you still get them in the mail—are also things that should be decluttered annually. “Following tax season is a good time to give files a glance to see if there are any items you’re holding onto unnecessarily," Hagmeyer says. “If you don’t already have a file system in place, we suggest sorting them by category and using hanging file folders within an office drawer or modular box. Align the tabs in a straight row and alphabetize for an easy visual.”

Last, but not least, if you have young children, toys can be a major source of clutter and frustration. So, every time a birthday comes around, it’s time to get rid of some things. “Depending on your child’s age, you may or may not want to include them in the process of making those decisions," Hagmeyer says. "Set aside anything that is no longer age-appropriate, as well as anything they haven’t played with in the past four months. Or, consider collecting less often played-with toys in a bin and cycling them out every few months. If, when you bring the old toys back, your child still shows no interest you can safely say goodbye."

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