A Decluttering Checklist


For the last couple of years I have been ruthless in trying to declutter. My last garage sale was a success in that I got rid of a lot of stuff that I simply don’t use or need anymore. What didn’t sell went straight to a donation station.

Sometimes it’s hard to get rid of stuff that has sentimental value or is unique. I get that. The sentimental stuff gets stored in the attic. I always give unique or unusual items a second look before I toss them. Can I use them in a different part of the house or even in the landscaping?

When I go garage sale-ing I notice a lot of unusual things in people’s yards. One person had an old rusted gear system from a tractor. If I’d seen it sitting in a garage I would’ve called it junk, but this person put it in among his pansies and it looked startlingly impressive. It had presence, a massive piece of metal among dainty flowers.

Aside from these there are a lot of things that simply are clutter. You know what I’m talking about. It’s the extra glasses, cups, towels, clothes, cleaners, and makeup that you never use anymore. They just take up space.

What I do when I’m on a rampage for decluttering is go room by room. First things first, make sure everything is in the right room to begin with.

Then this is where the work begins. Room by room start gathering the things that have become useless, broken, innumerable, or irrelevant.

• linens
I keep no more than two sets of sheets for every bed. That’s it. One for the wash and one for the bed.
•  comforters
• electronics: This includes clocks, remotes, and lamps.
• dvds and cds (for those of you (like me) still use them.)
•  pillows: Use what you need, not what looks fashionable.

Kids’ Rooms
• Toys, of course. Best to remove them when they’re not around. If they’re older, it’s a good learning lesson to teach them to choose which toys to keep.
• clothes that no longer fit or are worn.
I’m all for teaching kids early how to organize and store their stuff. Buy them their own storage bins and teach them to put their things away.
I bought something similar to this organizer (left) at a garage sale and I use it in my potting shed. Fun shelving–Not just for kids anymore. Click the pics for more info.


•  prescription drugs: Check the expiration dates. If they’re several years old, chuck ’em.
•  makeup: Yes. I’m guilty of this. I always keep this stuff too long.
•  towels: While we use towels for more than just bathing, don’t go overboard in storing towels you’ll never use

•  clothes. You know which ones just hang there year after year.
•  purses
•  underwear
•  luggage

Kitchen–This is a biggie.
• duplicate kitchen gadgets and utensils
• specialty small appliances you haven’t used in over a year
• duplicate pots and pans. Unless you have a huge stove and cook for a family of twelve, you’ll only need one of every size–if that.
•  drinking glasses: Keep only what you use regularly.
•  coffee cups: Everyone is guilty of this one.
• dishes: A service for 12 is all I ever need for us and company.
• plastic storage (Tupperware) I avoid plastic for the most part, but a few pieces are handy. More than that and you’ll be drowning in plastic bins, forever looking for their lids.

• old magazines
• pens: Confession: I am a huge pen thief. Not on purpose. I unconsciously pick up pens wherever I am and keep them. My thievery is fruitless though because these pens will freeze up and stop writing long before I ever get around to using them. I make an effort to go through my drawers and check my pens regularly. If they skip or stop working, out they go.
•  paper. I still write myself endless notes and reminders, but most of my paperwork is now digital.
• books. Oh, I know. That’s sacrilege to some of you, but you must choose your battle with books. Which will you reread? Which are precious to you? Which ones are just taking up space?

Laundry room/cupboard
• cleaners/detergents: All of us at some point have bought a cleaner that either didn’t do the trick or you didn’t like. They gather dust like relics.
• chemicals: These include insecticides, additives, and assorted witches’ brews that you may have used once but never used again. Open your cabinets and take a peek. What hasn’t seen the light of day in a long time?

I don’t tackle everything all at once. Just take one room and scrutinize it for clutter. With practice, it gets easier to spot what doesn’t belong. If things still look cluttered what you might really need are proper storage containers.

One of the best things I ever bought was one of those bars that hang all your brooms, mops and dusters. I love it. I keep one in the laundry room, the garage, and my potting shed. No more tripping over long handled tools.

What one thing do you think clutters your home the most? For me, it’s dvds. I really need to go through my library and get rid of what we don’t watch anymore.

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All original content copyrighted by Maria Zannini 2016 - 2018.


  1. We recently went through all the TV shows, movies, comedy shows, etc. we had waiting on Hulu, Netflix, etc. and got rid of lots of them. Sure, some day we’ll watch that documentary on blah blah blah. Yeah, right. It wasn’t so much physical clutter but mental, if that makes sense.

  2. Well since we live Tiny I have a little different perspective on clutter. I can’t have it at all because in a small space it just makes life chaotic. For me anyways and we’ve have really gotten down to bare necessities.

    But I like your advice because it’s very practical and if someone has a larger home this is so easy to follow. That’s how I did it when we had a larger home so great minds think alike and I to believe in one two sets of sheets per bed.

    Books were probably the hardest thing to let go of because we both enjoy reading.

    The shed though where we currently have our tools that’s another story. I have it organized but sometime in 2019 I hope to go through all of that and get things down to one tool box on wheels instead of two.

    It’s raining here and wow what a good day to declutter….

  3. My wife would regard you as an invaluable ally, but I’d be fighting you every inch of the way when it comes to books and certain ‘historic’ magazines. Even now, it’s the books I’ve lost or left behind in house moves, I remember and regret most bitterly 🙂

  4. When our son moved to his new fourth floor flat, we thought we’d save some money by packing and carrying his books ourselves. 2000 books later we estimated we’d saved just £70 at the cost of aching thighs and knees for weeks after 🙂

    • Mike: I hear ya! We actually had movers set up, but there was a sudden snafu on taking possession of the house and we were forced to cancel the movers until we could get a firm answer. Then it was rush, rush, rush and we couldn’t get the movers we wanted back.

      Never again. That was the move that shredded my knee. It was a hard lesson.

  5. When cleaning out, I used to use the old “if I haven’t worn/read/watched/used/etc. this in a year, why am I keeping it?” For some reason, that never worked for me. Then I came up with this one: “If everything we owned was destroyed in a fire and I only had the insurance check to spend on replacements, is this something I’d replace?” It doesn’t apply to sentimental or irreplaceable items, of course, but I’ve found it really helps me pitch a lot of other stuff.

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