This is your year. You’re going to start fresh and figure out how to declutter and organize your home (and keep it organized) once and for all. You should be able to get that figured out in a month or so, right?
Not necessarily. Once the calendar flips, you’ll find yourself rudely reminded of your responsibilities at work, the tangle of schedules for the kids and a longing for new personal adventures (like finally committing to that morning yoga class). Suddenly, your infallible home organization system seems hopelessly flawed.
Don’t get stressed out! Here’s a plan you can actually stick to. We created a month-by-month checklist culled from the smartest home organization experts we could find to help you get your act together at the leisurely pace of a full calendar year.
Declutter and Organize Your Home, One Month at a Time
Month One: Tackle your laundry room.
Let’s go right to one of the trouble spots as we decide on the best ways to declutter and organize your home. Your laundry room is one of the hardest-working spaces in your home. Since it sees a lot of action, start your organization project by removing everything but the washer and dryer. Give all surfaces and baseboards a nice cleaning and then sweep or vacuum the floor. Then:
- Add a drying bar: Rather than hanging your wet delicates from random spots in your house (we’ve all been guilty of using the shower, doors and chairs), install a drying bar right in the room. Mount a shower rod, bath towel holder or extension rod underneath a shelf, giving you a great spot for a row of hangers.
- Contain your supplies: “Instead of having bottles of detergent all over the top of your machine or all over the floor, use a rolling cart,” Bonnie Dewkett from The Joyful Organizer advises. “It slides in between your washer and dryer or along side the unit. It is plastic and easy to clean when detergent spills.”
- Organize your clothes: Laundry bins full of dirty clothes can easily crowd your floor. Use a hamper, baskets or bins to pre-sort dirty clothes (one for whites, lights and darks). When it’s full, you’ll know to do the wash.
“Have a spot for miscellaneous items,” Bonnie adds. “Misfit socks, items you find in pockets, and small toys that have fallen into the laundry basket can all clutter up your laundry room. Purchase a bin or jar and put all of these random items in there. Let your family members know where to look to find their stuff. Every few months, clean it out.”
Month Two: Give your mudroom a makeover.
Your mudroom is the entry to your home, which means it could be the first thing people see when they come over. Whether you have a spacious room or a cramped doorway, chances are this space could use a little love.
“Only things that you truly need as you’re coming or going and that you use on a daily basis should be kept in the area,” Steph from Modern Parents Messy Kids explains. “A safe rule is: if it can possibly go somewhere else, it should.”
- Include seating: A small bench is a smart addition to any entryway, since it offers a place for people to safely put on or take off their shoes. And added bonus? You can use the space underneath to store shoes.
- Install hooks: Hooks work great for entryways that lack a closet space. Even a short rack can hold your guest’s coats, purses and other accessories.
- Allocate space: Purchase a basket for each family member, and allow them to use it for their shoes, gloves and scarves or small sports items.
Month Three: Simplify your bedroom.
“In order to get the most restful sleep, the bedroom should be a serene, uncluttered environment,” Kirsten Fisher from Imagine Home Organization says.
You can’t figure out how to declutter and organize your home if you can’t get a decent night’s sleep! To simplify your bedroom, Kirsten suggests:
- Be consistent: Give your room a unified look by purchasing a complete bedding set that includes a bedframe, skirt and shams. Commit to taking three minutes each morning to make your bed.
- Maximize storage: Use bedside tables with drawers and add behind-the-door shelves. If you find you need extra storage, place a trunk or long ottoman at the end of the bed.
- Keep surfaces clear: Avoid messy floors and table tops by establishing a “home” for every item in your bedroom. Nothing should be left lying around!
- Stay clean: Place your clothes hamper in an easily accessible location, this way dirty items can go directly from your body to the laundry without stopping on the floor or bed.
Month Four: Rearrange your kitchen pantry.
Along with the laundry room, the kitchen probably gets the most work out of any room in your house— — which is why organizing it can be so hard. While you probably clean out your fridge and scrub your counters regularly, you may be guilty of avoiding your pantry.
To declutter and organize your pantry, start by removing everything and giving it a good scrubbing. Then, take a look at everything you have stored inside, and dispose of anything that is expired or will never be used (did you need that much cream of mushroom soup?).
Limit your pantry to the necessities. Donate anything you won’t use to a food bank, and move doubles to other cabinets or even the basement.
For the remaining items, Abby from Just a Girl and Her Blog recommends swapping out bulky packaging for containers or bins that can sit on top of one another. She also suggests using cabinet risers to hold things like spices and soups, which give height to items in the back and make them easier to locate.
Month Five: Declutter and organize your shed.
“In order to maximize storage in your shed, you need to provide a storage system,” Kirsten says. “A large empty cube is the least efficient method of storage, so you need to create structure.”
Remove everything from your shed. Eliminate items you no longer use or aren’t in the best condition. Organize everything into categories, such as sports gear, gardening equipment, tools and decorations.
“The best solutions utilize the full height of the wall and overhead space,” Kirsten adds. “Organization says minimizing the number of things you have to have on the floor. Utility shelving is excellent and one of the best systems for flexible wall storage for tools is ELFA sold by The Container Store.”
Month Six: Condense your entertainment.
Although the world seems to be becoming increasingly digital, many of us still hold on to our beloved hard copies of DVDs, Blu-Ray Discs and even VHS tapes (nostalgia, right?). Instead of letting those bulky plastic cases take over your living room, invest in a multimedia shelving system.
Before deciding on the size of your unit, take a look at your inventory and omit anything you don’t need. When is the last time your teenage children watched those cartoons? Figure out what your family still uses, and donate or store the rest.
Once you’ve established your new library, create a system that determines how you organize your media on your shelves. You can get as specific as you want (by album title, artist name or genre). If you’re wondering how to organize your home and are really short on space (and don’t mind ditching the cases), opt for a simplified setup.
“When storing movies, DVDs and CDs, it’s really helpful to remove the DVDs and CDs from their packaging and store your movies and music in a DVD binder instead,” Lauren Kim from momhomeguide.com says. “A DVD binder has several sheets of plastic sleeves that can store at least 200 DVDs and CDs. I moved my family’s movies into a DVD binder, and now instead of storing our movies in a big ottoman, we can store our movies in a slim binder that fits easily into our TV entertainment unit.”
Month Seven: Revitalize your bathroom cabinet.
Although it’s commonly referred to as a medicine cabinet, you’re better off using this space for your beauty products.
“Consider moving drugs to a different location, such as a high kitchen shelf,” Alice Daniel from Better Homes and Gardens suggests. “High humidity and heat can cause some medicines to lose their potency. Wherever you store your medicines, make sure they are out of reach of children.”
Only the most-used items should be stored in your bathroom cabinet. If you don’t use it daily, put it in the closet or under your sink. To organize your remaining items:
- Use jars: Clear jars make it easy to quickly find whatever you are searching for. Use them to hold your cotton balls, Q-tips, band-aids and small lotions or ointments.
- Add trays: Thin desk trays double as the perfect organizer for small items, like nail polish, tweezers and other tools.
- Place by popularity: To avoid adding time to your already hectic morning, organize your supplies based on how often you use them. Place most-used product at eye level, and less popular ones on higher shelves.
Month Eight: Focus on your furry friends.
You may not be able to train your four-legged friends how to declutter and organize your home, but you change a few things to make it easier to keep them safe and organized.
“Just like with children, it’s important to weed out your pet’s playthings from time to time,” Sarah Soboleski from Classically Organized advises. “Your pet most likely has a favorite chew toy and preferred stuffed animal, so work on letting the rest go. And, of course, you should have one central location to keep their playthings. A bin or basket or even a diaper caddy could work well to corral their items.”
It’s also a smart idea to buy an inexpensive rubber mat to put under your pet’s food and water bowls. This will keep it from sliding around, protecting the floor from scratches and spills.
Just like you, your pets have a unique list of special needs. Type up relevant care instructions, like medicines, allergies, contact information and directions to the nearest animal hospital, to put with your family’s records. This way, whoever is in charge of your companion will know what to do if anything was to happen.
Month Nine: Purge your playroom.
“A thing that’s important in any organizing endeavor,” Stacy Erickson, a child development specialist and professional organizing blogger for Home Key Organization, says, “is to have the least amount of stuff possible. Less stuff equals less to clean/put away which equals more time.”
Kids are constantly getting new toys and games. Before jumping right into your organization project, take the time to donate your child’s unused toys.
“Reducing the amount of toys in your space not only makes things less overwhelming for you, but it can also help your child focus better and become more engaged in independent play,” Stacy explains. “Try putting half of the toys that are out right now away in a safe storage spot. Carefully observe your kids for a couple of days after that and see what happens.”
- Organize toys based on similarity, and store them in clear bins for easy visibility.
- Abby recommends labeling everything — this will help you or your child find things quickly.
- Use wall storage and stackable bins to keep your floors clear of clutter.
Following this system will help encourage them to be active themselves in decluttering, regardless of their age.
Month 10: Establish a recycling system.
Americans generate about 254 million tons of trash. That’s a lot of garbage! As you figure out how to organize your home, minimize your family’s ecological footprint by creating a recycling center right in your own home.
The best way to stay consistent with your recycling is by sticking to one place. Determine an area in your home that can hold the extra storage (the garage, laundry room and kitchen are popular areas), and clear it of any existing clutter.
Then, purchase matching containers. Every area recycles differently, but it’s safe to say you’ll need at least three options: one for metal, one for plastic and one for paper. Depending on space, you can hang bags from your wall, stack bins on top of each other or place cans next to one another.
“Designate and clearly label containers for your recyclables,” Jill Annis from Simply Organized, LLC says. “Have the containers easily accessible in your kitchen or pantry to prevent recyclables from cluttering counters.”
Month 11: Declutter and organize your home office.
Start this new habit in the new year to significantly declutter and organize your office. “Reduce paper clutter by scanning documents and storing them electronically when possible,” Bryn Huntpalmer of unclutter.com explains. “Organize your electronic files into clearly labeled directories on your computer hard drive and get in the habit of backing up all your files to an external hard drive at least once a week. You might also consider automatic backup to Cloud storage.”
To organize your physical papers, create a color-coded filing system. Each category (medical, financial, insurance, warranties, etc.) should have a unique color or pattern. This will allow you to keep everything in place and easily found in the case of an emergency.
When it comes to the rest of your office goodies — focus on simplicity. Invest in a few boxes and drawers to hold supplies, and be sure to label everything so you know what is inside. Play with fun colors, photos of your loved ones or your favorite quotes. This is a place of creativity — you’ll want to surround yourself with a little inspiration!
Month 12: Manage your makeup.
Sick of running late because you couldn’t find your go-to red lipstick? Yeah, we’ve all been there. Take this month to manage your makeup:
- Ditch: Even though your makeup hasn’t run out yet, it may still be time to ditch it. All makeup has a shelf life, and ignoring it can make your face a breeding ground for bacteria. Dispose of anything that is past its time (do you really need three black mascaras, anyway?).
- Divide: “Now that you’re left with the products you want to keep,” Sarah Soboleski from Classically Organized says, “start putting things together in categories. Keep your brushes all in one place, your moisturizers together, and your lip glosses grouped with one another. This way you always know where to find something and you can see your collection at a glance to know if you’re getting low or missing a certain color.”
- Designate: Place each item in a designated space, and commit to keeping it there. Depending on the setup of your vanity, use drawer dividers, acrylic drawers, plastic containers or over-the-door organizers to hold your products.
And don’t forget about those brushes! Just wet your brush, swirl it in baby shampoo, rinse and lay to dry overnight.
Too much stuff, not enough space?
You wanted to figure out how to declutter and organize your home, and you succeeded — that’s great! But now you’re left with a ton extra things you’re not ready to get rid of that don’t necessarily have a place in your home.
Our solution? Self-storage. Life Storage offers a variety of storage options to protect even your most delicate belongings. Visit our website to find a storage unit near you. You can even learn more about how you can receive a free rental truck.
How do you tackle clutter year-round? We’d love to hear your tips and tricks. Let us know in the comment section below!
This post originally appeared on the Life Storage blog on 1/5/16 and was revised on 12/31/18 to provide new information.