Minimalist Decluttering Checklist: Declutter Your Life Today

Written by • Last Updated November 19, 2020

Are you overwhelmed with knick-knacks and notification bells? A minimalist decluttering checklist is the perfect starting point to simplify your life.

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When we think of clutter, our thoughts often go to overstuffed closets and junk drawers holding long-expired batteries. But our homes aren’t the only places that accumulate excess stuff.

To declutter your life and mind, you must go beyond the tangible–beyond the things you can pick up with your hands, evaluate, and put in a donation pile.

Our calendars, devices, and brains are all clutter-collecting spaces. Without addressing those areas, we’d be living in a tidy house while still feeling busy and stressed.

This minimalist decluttering guide will tackle all of those spaces. You might even say it’s the ultimate decluttering checklist.

But before we dive in, let’s address the elephant in the room: how long is this going to take?

It’s tempting to say you’ll declutter your life in one week. Just rip the band-aid off and become a whole new you!

Unfortunately, a week is neither practical nor reasonable for making lasting change. If you don’t want all your hard work to get undone, take your time. After all, starting your simple living journey with a mad dash doesn’t make much sense.

There is no perfect amount of time to complete this minimalist decluttering checklist. But I would recommend one week per category (maybe two weeks for your home if you have a lot of stuff).

Go at your own pace, and remember: it’s not a race. It’s a lifestyle change.

RELATED: How to Stop Shopping for Clothes You Don’t Need

Minimalist Decluttering Checklist

Declutter your home
Declutter your digital life
Declutter your routines
Declutter your obligations
Declutter your mind

Grey couch with black and white throw pillows, wooden table with cactus, and green plant in white pot

Declutter your home

My Decluttering Method for Physical Items

I’m a big fan of the “three box” method for decluttering physical things. As you move through your home, sort your items into three categories: Keep, Contemplate, and Remove.

The Keep category is for anything you definitely want to hold on to, whether it’s staying in its current place or being relocated elsewhere in the home.

Anything you aren’t certain about goes in the Contemplate category. These items should go into a box for 30 days. If you don’t need to retrieve the item from the box within 30 days, let it go.

The Remove category is for the items you’ll be selling, donating, rehoming, or trashing. Throwing things in the garbage should be a last resort– endeavor to reduce your waste when decluttering.

In the bedroom

Sorting through closets and clothes is an obvious part of decluttering your bedroom. But what about the rest of the space?

Your bedroom should be a peaceful place of rest. Getting rid of visual clutter and unnecessary furniture can transform your room into the oasis you deserve.

Here are the types of items to remove or reorganize:

  • Decorative items on walls and surfaces
  • Throw pillows
  • Extra blankets
  • Electronics (is there still a TV in your bedroom?)
  • Laundry hampers
  • Under-the-bed storage
  • End tables
  • Vanity tables
  • Dressers and armoires

Addressing those points will give you the momentum to tackle clothes and accessories:

  • Work clothes
  • Casual wear
  • Athletic wear
  • Pajamas
  • Undergarments
  • Socks
  • Seasonal clothes
  • Outerwear
  • Formal wear and special occasion pieces
  • Shoes
  • Jewelry
  • Hats
  • Purses and bags

Finally, don’t forget about clothes and accessories stored in other rooms (ex. hall closet, guest room, etc.). Although this is the bedroom section, it helps to go through all of your apparel together.

In the kitchen

Kitchens manage to accumulate the strangest clutter. Rubber bands, chopsticks, sauce packets… You may be surprised (and slightly grossed out) at the contents of your cooking space.

Here are the areas to address:

  • Inside the fridge–remove old condiments and reorganize shelving to maximize space
  • On the fridge–cull the magnets and visual clutter
  • Countertops–put away anything you don’t use every day
  • Cabinets and drawers–pull everything out, sort into Keep/Contemplate/Remove, and reorganize as needed
  • Pantry–check the dates on everything, make a plan to use up any items close to expiring, and reorganize for easy visual access

As you sort through your kitchen, you might come across gadgets and tools that you rarely use. A large turkey baster that only makes an appearance at Thanksgiving, for example.

When you come upon these items, ask yourself: can I do this tool’s task with another item I use regularly? If the answer is “yes”, put that item in the Remove pile.

In the bathroom

Honestly, the bathroom is one of the hardest areas for me to keep clutter-free. It’s so easy to forget about travel-size lotions and the odd decongestant bottle when they’re neatly stored away!

Even if you can’t see the clutter, it’s still there, taking up space unnecessarily. Here’s where you need to look:

  • Medicine cabinet
  • Drawers
  • Cabinets
  • Countertops
  • Storage baskets
  • Makeup bag
  • Linen closet
  • Shower/bathtub ledge

In the office

Is there a pile of old mail sitting on your desk? Does your filing cabinet consist of one folder labeled “important”?

We don’t have a dedicated office anymore, but our old one was a gathering ground for paper, pens, and random cables. It certainly wasn’t a place conducive to getting work done!

Here are some tips for decluttering your home office:

  • Go through existing papers and sort into File or Toss/Shred
  • When possible, scan hard copies to store digitally and toss/shred the original
  • Use a filing box with tabbed folders to organize important documents
  • Keep a box or dedicated space for “action needed” mail and paperwork
  • Use zip ties and other cable management systems to keep wires neat and tidy
  • Buy a desktop organizer to store writing utensils, paper clips, and other office essentials in one easy-to-access place
  • Gather your partially-used notebooks and use them one at a time until the pages run out
  • If your walls are full of plaques, awards, and certificates, consider removing everything except for the achievements you’re most proud of
Grey chair and stool with throw pillows and blankets piled on top, in front of white brick wall

In the living room

I’ll let Francine Jay’s famous simple living quote lead off this section:

Quote format: “Your home is living space, not storage space.”

Our living rooms should be welcoming, comfortable spaces to gather with family and friends. There should be room to set a drink down on the table and to play tug-of-war with the dog. Few people can fully relax in a room full of clutter, especially when things are out of place. 

As you go through your living room, think about what you can declutter and how you can organize what’s staying:

  • Wall decor
  • Surface decor (bowls, candles, figurines, etc.)
  • Electronics (game consoles, lamps, smart home devices, etc.)
  • Physical media (books, DVDs, video games, etc.)
  • Games and toys
  • Pet products
  • Hobby and exercise equipment
  • Cables and wires
  • Throw blankets and pillows
  • Rugs
  • Open storage furniture (bookshelves, coffee tables, TV stand, etc.)
  • Closed storage furniture (drawers, cabinets, chests, etc.)

In the garage

Ah, the garage–everyone’s favorite dumping space for things they “might need someday”.

I know people use their garages for all sorts of things beyond protecting their car from the elements. But for the purposes of this declutter your life checklist, we’ll address the typical contents:

  • Tools
  • Car maintenance (engine oil, tire wax, etc.)
  • Lawn and garden care
  • Outdoor equipment
  • Sporting goods
  • Seasonal and holiday decor

P.S: If you’ve been following my three box method for decluttering, the garage is a great place to keep your Contemplate box. Just remember to set a reminder to empty it out in 30 days!

Woman in white blouse and jeans sitting on top of table in library, with computer and apple next to her

Declutter your digital life

On your phone

Given the average American spends over 5 hours a day on their phone, this step is essential.

Smartphones are rife with distractions and digital clutter. From time-sucking apps to random photos, here’s how to declutter your phone:

  • Home screen–Remove all but the most essential daily use apps, and move widgets to a secondary screen
  • Apps–Uninstall apps you no longer use, as well as unhealthy time wasters (looking at you, Candy Crush)
  • Notifications–Turn off all non-essential notifications and set your Do Not Disturb to start at least an hour before bed
  • Photos and videos–Delete any photos and videos you don’t need or cherish, and organize the rest into albums
  • Contact list–Clean up outdated and irrelevant numbers (ex. delivery places from your old neighborhood, ex co-workers, etc.)
  • Messages–Archive old threads you may want to refer to again, and delete everything else that’s not from frequent contacts

On your computer

As a photographer and blogger, I know all too well how digital clutter piles up on computers. Even with a rock solid organization system, I still find stray files hanging out on my desktop or clogging up my Downloads folder.

Aside from messing with your productivity, this clutter can physically slow down your computer. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a tech wizard to clean up this space.

Here are some tips to declutter your desktop and hard drives:

  • On the desktop–Remove all but your most-used icons, and sort documents and images into well-labeled files
  • On your storage drives–Uninstall non-essential programs and clean up/organize system generated folders (ex. Downloads, Pictures, Documents, etc.)
  • In your folders–Delete outdated/unnecessary files, move files you don’t frequently need to an archive folder or external drive, and use sub-folders to organize what’s left
  • At start-up–Disable non-essential programs from launching when you boot up your computer (see these easy-to-follow instructions for Windows and Macs)

On social media

I’ve given social media its own section on this minimalist decluttering checklist because of its uniqueness.

Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok aren’t just fun tools to connect with others. They can also be sources of anxiety, negative comparisons, and addictive behaviors.

If you aren’t able to stay off a particular social platform for 24 hours, I recommend a social media detox.

Log out of the apps and websites for a week. You’ll be surprised how much mental clarity you get when you aren’t worried about uploading Stories or getting immediate likes on your posts.

Here are some other tips for decluttering social media:

  • Turn off all notifications
  • Unfollow/mute anyone who stirs up negative feelings (even if they’re a friend or family member)
  • Unfollow accounts and pages you don’t love interacting with
  • Clean up old direct messages
  • Set time blocks or time limits for how long you can use social media each day (you can do this inside the Instagram app or with a parental control app)

Save me for later!

Declutter your routines

This wouldn’t be a minimalist decluttering checklist without addressing routines. From getting ready for work to cooking dinner, our day-to-day lives are packed with rituals and tasks.

Figuring out how to streamline and reduce the things we do in a day can majorly improve our well-being. In fact, I’ve written an entire post about the benefits of simplifying your life!

Here are some common routines to evaluate and declutter:

  • The first 30 minutes of your day
  • Getting ready for work
  • Getting kids ready for school
  • Commuting to work
  • The first 30 minutes after arriving home from work (or stopping work if you work from home)
  • Cooking meals
  • Evening time
  • Before bed
  • Weekends
Two black meal prep containers with salads, sitting on white countertop

Declutter your obligations

You might think getting rid of sentimental items is the hardest part of the decluttering process. But learning to say “no” to friends, family, and ourselves can be just as difficult.

I know a family who spends nearly half of their Saturdays at children’s birthday parties. When you combine the new American trend of inviting every kid in class with the fear of being a less-than-perfect parent, this result is not surprising. But it is a massive time suck on already-busy schedules.

Even if you don’t have to contend with kids’ parties and intramural sports and school events, there’s no shortage of obligations clamoring for our attention. Community potlucks, holiday celebrations, volunteering, after-work socials… The most social of butterflies can get drained from it all.

I don’t have a specific list for you to check off, because obligations are deeply personal. Instead, I suggest approaching each one with this simple rule: if it’s not a happy “yes”, it’s a “no”.

Your time is precious, and there’s nothing selfish or shameful about spending it where and how it matters to you.

Declutter your mind

The minimalist decluttering checklist culminates here. After cleaning out your physical, digital, and emotional spaces, you should already feel like a weight has been lifted off your mind!

Here are a few other tips to further free up your head space:

  • Use a small notebook or simple note-taking app to jot down important thoughts during the day (I use Google Keep)
  • Instead of dwelling on negative thoughts, write them down or share them out loud with someone you trust
  • Take action on nagging tasks as soon as possible (hello, pile of wool sweaters I keep meaning to wash)
  • Before you go to sleep and after you wake up, list the things you’re grateful for rather than the tasks you need to do or failed to complete

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