Got some unexpected free time in the schedule?
Maybe your local church, school, or sports team gathering has been cancelled. Maybe your vacation plans got upended and now you’re going to be safe at home for the next few weeks instead of leaving. Or maybe your local stores are all out of necessary supplies so there’s no use leaving the house anyway.
Either way, I think we all want to remain productive. Maybe some extra time at home could do us all some good—if we choose to use the time wisely.
I’ve seen some recent chatter about people spending extended periods of time at home. Tasks such as Cooking, Cleaning, and Decluttering seem to top their list of goals.
Although Clutterfree, the first app to provide everything you need to own less was just released this week, I thought it might be helpful to create a list of home-based decluttering tasks for you to work through with your family today (or one each day if you’re planning to be home that long).
14 Achievable Tasks to Help Declutter Your Home
1. Take the 12-12-12 challenge. 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.
2. Fill an entire trash bag. Get a trash bag and fill it as fast as you can with things you can donate at Goodwill. Ann Marie hosts a 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge every year during the Lenten season. You can still hop in late and join the community of people completing this challenge daily.
3. Sort through a pile of mail or paper. Junk mail piling up on your kitchen counter or a stack of paper somewhere it shouldn’t be? For this challenge, look for piles of paper in places they don’t belong (kitchen counters, dining room tables, coffee tables) and tackle those piles first. Work to get through them quickly and easily.
4. Set a physical boundary for toys. I’m not a big fan of making your kids declutter their stuff unless you’ve led by example, so don’t start with this challenge. But when the time is right, take a look at the toy collection in your home and create a helpful physical boundary for them (a shelf, a closet, a wall, etc) and then help your child curate their toys to fit.
5. Clean commonly-touched items. It’s always important to keep often-used surfaces clean of germs and contagious viruses and stuff. Maybe now more than ever. Using an effective cleaner, take time to clean countertops, faucets, doorknobs, drawer pulls, light switches, remotes, keyboards. You know, all the things that should remain clean in order to shorten your time at home.
6. 15-minute family challenge. If your whole family is getting tired of the indoors, see if you can talk them into a fun game. Take 15 minutes as a family and see if you can find 100 things to remove from your home. Give them instructions to scatter, declutter only things that belong to them, and see if your total pile numbers 100 things by the end.
7. 20-minute linen closet clean-out. You can probably declutter all the old towels and linens in your linen closet in 20 minutes. Set a timer and get it done. You’ve been meaning to anyway, now’s your chance.
8. Declutter one room in 45 minutes. Take a look around the house and see if there is a lived-in room that you can declutter entirely in 45 minutes. Maybe your living room, family room, or dining room. Work hard to challenge your assumptions about what needs to stay in the room, removing as much as you can. When it’s complete, take a break and enjoy the peace and calm of a clutterfree room. Maybe tackle a new room tomorrow?
9. Skip one television show. I mean, really, you can only watch so much television before you start feel terrible anyway. So skip one show that you’d normally watch (if you enjoy sports, that’s already been settled for you) and use the time to declutter. That’s 30 minutes (or maybe even 60) of progress creating a new living environment.
10. Clean out your car/vehicle. Too often our vehicles fill up with unnecessary things: old CDs, sunglasses, Happy Meal toys, receipts, coins, empty water bottles, paper trash. Grab two bags: one for garbage and one for items to relocate. Fill them quickly with everything in your car that doesn’t need to be there. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can empty your vehicle of unneeded clutter.
11. Clear out clothes you don’t wear. Open your closet and drawers, notice how you usually wear the same things every day? Now’s a good time to get rid of the others: clothes that don’t fit, clothes that are too old, clothes that are out of style, clothes with holes, clothes that just don’t complement your figure the way you thought they would…. clear them out and open up your closet (and mornings).
12. Sort through your pantry. Seems like now is a pretty good time to get a good handle on what home essentials you already have and what is still needed. So take an afternoon this week to sort out your pantry—removing anything old, expired, or unlikely to get used.
13. Food storage containers. Your kitchen doesn’t need to be a punchline about Tupperware lids and the fact that they never match the container you need them to. We declared Tupperware bankruptcy many years ago, getting rid of our entire stack, and replacing them with Rubbermaid containers that stack easily. Do the same.
14. Clear your desktop. A clutterfree desktop is such a beautiful place to get work done—whether it’s career-based work or home-based work. So find some time and finally clear yours. 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.
We live busy lives—maybe too busy from time-to-time. Spending a few extra hours or days over the coming weeks at home with family may be just what we need as a society. If that’s you, for whatever reason, I hope you find the list above helpful in making the most of your time making your home the best it can be.
Marilyn Fiedler says
The 14 Decluttering Ideas are a huge gift to bringing & maintaining order in one’s home & environment.
I am in a six month initiative in bringing en-lighten-ment to lighten the load of putting a whole lot of possessions in a compact apartment. Others whom I’ve asked to join me are doing a variety of activities to beautify & simplify their lives through whatever they see will streamline their lives through the process. Thank you for this opportunity to be given guidelines in puttting strutures for fulfillment together. The 14 Decluttering Ideas, apply in many ways to many environments and can be adapted to health & well-being too as well as a variety of other areas of our lives. Thank you for the wise words & miraculous practices to generate & carefully apply to living abundantly & opulently with grace & ease without doing without & with authentic prosperity and generosity!
It translates into sending fewer donations to agencies that do not support human services and more for education for all. For my part, I would like to give more to shelters for women victims of violence. Because we do not always know the services offered in the community, it is difficult for me to speak to them directly. Very often I give to those closest to my house i.e. goodwill, Purple Heart, veterans etc. There are many choices.
The hardest thing my family is having with this is what to do with all of the decluttered items. As most places aren’t currently taking donations we already have the back of one vehicle stuffed with things to donate.
I am struggling with this too . I can’t do my usual donations. I really hate to throw away perfectly usable items. Any ideas ?
Melinda J Mitchell says
I’m just trashing mine, as much as I hate to do it. Keeping stuff to find the “perfect place” or time to donate, is how my house looked like a dumpster in the first place. So, better to pitch it in the dumpster, than live in one.
Vanessa Cassani says
Great ideas, thank you for sharing. I hope you and your loved ones stay safe and alert!
Hi Joshua—- here in Illinois we are in a SHELTER IN PLACE order till April 7th. I am wondering if this recent event will cause some people to fall back into old habits and start hoarding again. I hope not… but just a random thought. Can it spark the “depression era” type mentality again?
joshua becker says
Depends how long it lasts. The Great Depression was a worldwide economic depression that lasted 10 years. I don’t think anyone knows how long it is going to last or what the long-term effects are going to be economically or socially.
about sorting through the pantry. I do not like hysterical people to throw away food only its expired. It says “best before”, it does not say “absolutly deadly after”! Why should perfectly good food been trhown away?
At xmas I finaly used the beacon that was sitting in the fridge for some time. I thought I had bought it for last xmas, but when I checked I must have bought it for xmas 2 years ago. Yes! Well the package looked ok, as I opened it, it smelled ok and so I used it and ate it and it was still good.
Last week I started to make me own yoghurt again, with easiyo. I still had some packages with the powder “best before 2014” was the oldest and it was still good. It worked ok and it tasted ok.
As I am trying to say, only it was “best before” what ever time does not mean it should not be used anymore. Why should we throw all that stuff away? Why not donat that too? If you don’t want to eat that anymore? Judge for yourself if its still good! The best example is the 2 Million Years old Himalaya Salt which expires in 2 years!
Greeting from Germany
I would not eat 2 year old bacon! ?
I love what you addressed in #4- about starting the decluttering process with your kids when the time is right. Ours are older now (12 and 16) and we decided to work at decluttering this week while we are home. It’s a much different experience at the age they are now, compared to when they were younger. Talking to them about holding on to things that are unnecessary is really making sense to them, now. But what I found most important, is that we have to lead by example.
And to those against donating to Goodwill- I would like to share my personal experience. Our son has a disability and worked at Goodwill last summer for a local work program. Goodwill was AMAZING! I know there is information out there on what they profit, compared to local non-profits/thrift stores. But Goodwill made it very easy for us, as the management accommodated his needs and were already trained on how to use his emergency medications. They let him work independently (which is what he desires!) and they assisted him anytime he needed it. What I loved best, was that he really found a place in our community because of it. We ran into many folks in town who knew him from Goodwill and told me what a hard worker he was. So….for those (and other) reasons, I support Goodwill! I just wanted to share our own experience! :)
Susan Vogt says
On March 14 I added a few additional ideas of what people could do with extra time created by cancellations. To read the whole article, “Covid-19 Cancellations – The Gift of Time” including all 18 suggestions go to to my website link.
Karen J Sipera says
I have to say the new Tupperware is easy to store and so much better than the cheaper brands of storage. ..they all fit inside each other and are easily stored…been using the cheaper stuff for a few years and was just unhappy with it. If I lose a lid or button to the Tupperware I toss it..I do quality over quantity…..loving my Tupperware. .
You can buy individual parts from Tupperware, so don’t throw away something just because you lost one of the pieces. Tupperware lasts forever – I still have some pieces that my mom bought 50 or 60 years ago. I love Tupperware!
Janine Cavanaugh says
Great ideas and helpful suggestions. Thanks.
Patrice Young says
Minimizing & organizing possessions is a wonderful activity for this “down time”.. Please don’t forget creativity, too! Writing, making art, doing crafts, making new decor for your home will also bring a satisfaction from things there are usually no time for in our busy lives! Have fun, whatever you choose to do! And be sure to let those you love know you’re thinking of them!
Catherine Barwick says
I do not believe that now is the time to gathering up more bags of garbage or donations. Trotting more of your undesired stuff down to your local donation centre is only going to put more stress on those workers. There are many things we can do whilst stuck inside that
have nothing to do with overloading our neighbourhood donations centres or putting more garbage out on the curb. We can clean and tidy, organize the our papers, use those colouring books that were so popular a few years ago, look at those photos that are sitting in shoeboxes, pray and pray some more, we can talk to our spouses and children, bake cookies (if we can find supplies), we can read some of those hundreds of books collecting dust on our shelves,
we can phone our elderly neighbours and make sure they are okay,
we can exercise inside our houses, paint the trim around the windows, vacuum up the cobwebs. We may soon arrive at a point where donation centres may have to shut down to minimize social
contact. We don’t want the workers to come back in a few weeks to find mountains of “donations” stacked outside the door in garbage bags. At that point, everything will likely be hauled off to the garbage dump. We are ultimately responsible for all the extra stuff we allowed to come into our homes, cars, garages. We need to take ownership of all that stuff, be responsible and keep it for the time being until this worldwide crisis is brought under control.
joshua becker says
I think generosity should always be encouraged.
Catherine is correct. The non-profit store where I volunteer has just announced that it will be run by paid staff only for the next while (so a minimal number of people). While I support that decision, I do think it will be difficult for them to process even the normal amount of donations, much less extra bagfuls created by people looking for things to do at home. Generosity is wonderful, as is cleaning out, but timing is a factor as well. Perhaps people could do the cleanout but store the donations in the garage for awhile? (That’s just my opinion, not necessarily the position of the organization supported by our store.)
As an update to that, the store is now closed.
Most prudent thing is to call and ask your local donation center if they still want donations. Our fantastic local place put out a request to please still bring things in until further notice.
Love the article… but please consider women’s shelters, churches, foster care facilities, etc over Goodwill. Goodwill is not a non-profit organization and the CEO takes most of the profit. GIVE to those that GIVE!
Colten Wells says
I’ve been practicing minimalism since summer of ‘18. It’s been a revolution in my home and has made everything much simpler. My wife and I love simplicity and I enjoy your blogs about this life style. This was a a great reminder and helps me to see if I’ve done this or need to do it. Please continue to post!
Please do not promote plastic, period, but especially not food containers.
I love your writing very much.
Thank you for the motivation.
I’ll be waiting for the app!
Susan Vogt says
Apparently Joshua and I are sharing a brain today. I also wrote an article titled “Covid-19 Cancellations – The Gift of Time. What do do when work, school, church, events, or trips are cancelled.” Our ideas are very sympatico and build on similar ideas. In addition to Joshua’s decluttering ideas I list 17 value based activities like exercise more, repair stuff, play family board games, meditate, take a hike, have “Church at home,” read a new book, garden, and other indoor family activities.
Pamela Langston Cox says
Susan, is there a link to your article, sounds wonderful!
Yesterday I culled through all my personal files, and despite fancying myself a decent minimalist, came up with a small box full of paperwork (which I took to the UPS store for shredding).
Great suggestions, Joshua!
Sandra Quitugua Kickbusch says
Please do NOT recommend Goodwill (#2) as they have very high administrative expense in their budget. Rather, thrift store or community center of your choice. Otherwise, this article is great and very timely. Even tho I have been practicing for many many years I have room for improvement of a few areas.
joshua becker says
Thanks for the comment. I have always recommended Goodwill and will continue to do so.
Marianne Townsend says
Goodwill has changed as an organization. They give very little of their profit to the needy. Please follow up on this and change your recommendation as you see fit. You can really make a difference by making an informed recommendation. Thank you.
joshua becker says
In 2019, 89% of Goodwill’s total expense went directly to their charitable purpose. Source
That’s a higher percentage than The United Way, Salvation Army, St Jude Children’s Hospital, Habitat for Humanity, YMMCA, and Compassion Intl (just to name a few).
I agree. Continue to recommend Goodwill. I don’t understand why people think a CEO of a major non-profit should make a paltry salary. You have overhead and expenses and a CEO is a necessity. Excellent article. We’ve been doing this for the past few days and it’s liberating!
Hello! Why do you say we’d feel terrible after watching TV?
Maybe it’s the terrible news headlines you see while you’re watching your show. Or maybe it’s because we get stuck watching too much and we know we could have been doing things that are more productive and edifying. (But a little TV isn’t bad.)
Thanks for your videos and emails, they are very helpful for us. We are in Spain, in a special moment for coronavirus. We can not go away from home. This information can improve our home and life.
I like the list of tasks. It excited me to start, rather than a general room per week. Maybe it’s just the difference of it? Thanks!
Mary Tagliarino says
Please consider NOT recommending GOOD WILL as a donation site, but rather The Salvation Army or smaller local charities. The CEO of Good Will makes a ridiculously high corporate salary and only a very small percentage of their profits actually gets to those who need it. Otherwise, thank you for such great articles!
joshua becker says
Thanks for the comment. I have always recommended Goodwill and will continue to do so.
I donate to Goodwill all the time!
No goodwill for me either! Very sad!
Joshua must get a kick back for promoting them.
Better options for donating than to goodwill!
Let’s keep an open mind!
Will this comment get posted??? Lol
joshua becker says
Of course, all comments get posted. I don’t get a kickback for promoting Goodwill. I just appreciate the good work they do in so many communities.
Goodwill has been a great place for me to get clothes and other needed things I couldn’t have afforded otherwise due to being extremely poor. The guy makes a profit because he had a good idea, and they do good things for disabled people from what I understand. I’m fine with it.
Valerie Rogers says
Quite frankly tired of herd-mentality hysteria, with practically all news/articles geared toward that. I’m staying off my news app, and most internet, for a week to minimize that mind-racing from overstimulation. What did folks do before they were addicted to media? Many of us grew up before all that. As a society, we need to have less of it and just live.
Too right! I was really panicky last week but then I calmed down. There is really nothing I can do about it except follow instructions and stay home. It really lets us know how little in control we are. As a Christian I can either start to act like I believe – or not. I guess it sorts out who is for real or not. Very confronting.
I’m writing from northern Italy, in my area we’ve been in lock down for a while now. I made bags and boxes of things to donate/discard but now I can’t do anything with them until the lock down is over! I put them in the garage and hope to get them out of the house soon. This situation really gives you a whole new perspective on life. Tonight we’re having an “aperitivo” with some friends via Skype, we decided the some things are worth doing anyway, even if from afar.
I really hope we’ll get ut of this soon. Stay safe. Baci an lots of love from Italy
Best wishes to you and everyone else in Italy!! Stay well!!
I pray for all of you in Northern Italy. Stay well.
Sending our love and prayers to you and Italy. Such a sad time in this fragile world. Hope we are all the better afterwards. ?
Thanks for sharing these ideas & especially the emphasis of “quickly” as so frequently in the past I have worked too slowly.
I have to say—- I did the opposite with the food. I had a box headed to the food bank, but I decided to keep it just in case I get quarantined.
These are such great ideas! Thank you for providing such a positive attitude in this chaotic time. My college cancelled classes for the next 4 weeks, so I look forward to implementing some of these tips!
These are great ideas! Even though I try…with three young kids and two working parents…our schedules are always SO busy. So we are looking at the next two weeks as a blessing to tackle the items that keep getting shoved off as “we’re too busy to tackle.” It is my hope that this necessary “time away from the norm” will help us accomplish tasks that will make our summer more open to spending time on the things that really matter. Minimize now so we can maximize later! : )
Great article except for getting of Tupperware…that’s ridiculous. Love out Tupperware!! ??
Christine E Jones says
Thank you for this…Living alone I started a list just as you described…However after reading your list…you made it more fun!
Writing from Italy, which is quarantined at the moment, so we have a huge amount of free time. Helpful article. Please stay safe because of the CoVid19 spreading.