7 decluttering projects for when you're stuck at home

folding clothes
Public Domain Unsplash / Sarah Brown

Now's the time to tackle jobs you've been thinking about for months.

Being stuck at home for an extended period of time is the best possible scenario for accomplishing certain long-overdue tasks, such as decluttering and organizing your house. Take advantage of this time to go through surplus belongings and create the tidy, functional space that you've always dreamed of having, but never felt like you had the time to achieve.

On his blog Becoming Minimalist, minimalist expert Joshua Becker offers some approaches to decluttering that can keep you motivated and hold you accountable. I want to share some of his suggestions, as well as a few others. Decluttering is a lot more fun if you turn it into a game or challenge, and it's also an excellent way to boost your mood and feel like you've accomplished something significant at a strange time when our usual markers for accomplishment have all been paused indefinitely.

Keep in mind, though, that many thrift stores may be closed right now, due to the CoVID-19 pandemic. You may have to stash your bags in a garage or storage space until they reopen, or contact a women's shelter or refugee resettlement house to see if they can use any clothing items that are in good condition.

1. Fill a garbage bag.

Make it a goal to fill an entire garbage big (or equivalent-sized box) with items to be donated or discarded. The extent of the task is up to you – either one bag for your house or one bag per room – or you could take the impressive 40 Bags in 40 Days Lenten challenge, which has you remove a bag of surplus items every day from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday. (There's no reason you can't start a few weeks late.)

2. Take the 12-12-12 challenge.

Becker writes, "The rules are simple: locate 12 items to throw away, 12 to donate, and 12 to be returned to their proper home. That’s it. Repeat if desired." You declutter and tidy at the same time.

3. Play the Minimalism Game.

This was developed by the authors of The Minimalists blog, and they recommend finding someone to do the challenge with, as the going gets tough really fast. You're supposed to start at the beginning of the month, so say April 1, and the number of items you discard daily corresponds to the date. As I wrote in a previous post, "On day one, get rid of one thing. On day two, get rid of two. On day three, get rid of three, and so on. This adds up to 465 items cleared out of your home by the end of the month."

4. Try the Project 333 challenge.

This is easier than ever if you're not leaving the house to go to work, but now's a good time to figure out what your professional wardrobe could be, once life goes back to normal. I wrote earlier this winter, "This concept was developed by Courtney Carver, who challenges people to wear only 33 items, including accessories, shoes, and jewelry, for three months. It does not include sleepwear, loungewear, or workout clothes."

5. Use a timer to declutter.

Give yourself a pre-determined amount of time to go through a room and purge it of all superfluous items. This could be 10 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour – whatever you want – but the point is to go all-out and work as fast and efficiently as you can. It will transform your space while simultaneously proving that you can accomplish a lot with limited time.

6. Tackle those unappealing projects.

Do you have a desktop piled high with papers? Bookshelves gathering dust? An email inbox full of unread messages? Kitchen counter heaped with junk mail and paper bills? A phone full of old pictures? Now's the time to tackle it. Becker writes, "Process piles of paper and remove unneeded supplies to craft an entirely new work environment. Who knows? Given the amount of free time you’re going to have at home over the next couple weeks, you might be surprised what new opportunities you are paving the way for."

7. Organize your pantry.

The time has never been better for a pantry clean-out, although in this case you'd be wise to find uses for many of the formerly-neglected items sitting there before deciding to discard them. Pull everything out and assess its viability. Reorganize in a user-friendly way. Make a menu plan to includes as many of the items as possible; this will expand your recipe repertoire. (Personally, I have to figure out uses for pot barley because I have three bags of it.) Make a list of what's needed the next time you go to the grocery store.

7 decluttering projects for when you're stuck at home
Now's the time to tackle jobs you've been thinking about for months.

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