How to Create a Foolproof Decluttering Plan

Having a decluttering plan is a helpful way to clean out the extra stuff in your home without getting distracted or giving up. Let’s face it, decluttering is hard, so the more help you can have in your corner, the better off you will be.

A step-by-step plan is also the most effective way to learn how to declutter so you can streamline every room, drawer, and cabinet inside of your home.

decluttering plan

Wouldn’t it be great if you could wave a magic wand and have your home completely decluttered, cleaned, and organized? In one swoop, you could have every room neat and tidy. Every item is in its place without breaking a sweat.

And what if you also had systems set into place that were there to help you keep each and every room clean and clutter-free?

And while we’re at it, let’s also magically create a schedule. One that guides you through your days instead of dragging you through them. One that helps you go from task to task, keeping your focus on what you are doing instead of what you are skipping.

Okay, that would be a pretty thing to have, don’t you agree?

A blonde women wearing yellow cleaning gloves and a blue long sleeve shirt standing in a kitchen holding a blue cleaning towel and a bowel spray bottle.

But let’s talk about that for a minute.

What is a decluttering plan?

A plan is a step-by-step approach to cleaning out and organizing your way to a home you love and deserve. And I believe that is easier to do with an actual planner. A planner is a group of pages or sheets of paper that are set up in a way to prompt you on how best to create lists that cover daily, weekly, and monthly tasks.

Basically, all the items you need to do to stay on top of things. This covers your family, your finances, cleaning, home projects, gardening, and even holidays.

A good planner not only gives you those prompts but also provides specific pages that allow you to break things down and spread them out. This means that instead of big, overwhelming projects that you tend to avoid over and over, you have small, easy-to-do tasks that you can sprinkle throughout your weeks. Tasks that take just a few simple minutes to complete.

An average planner gives you vague pages that you need to tweak so they work for you.  A good planner gives you the exact pages you need so you can start using them immediately.

Why do you need a planner in the first place?

It’s true what they say. A goal without a plan is only a dream.

A colorful cloudy sunset with the quote: "A goal without a plan is only a dream."

And this is also true in our homes and with our clutter, and maybe even more so.

Indeed, goals can sometimes motivate us enough to overcome a lengthy and unfocused list. Well, at least for a while.

But that motivation can quickly die off, leaving you right back where you started.

Running a home without a plan will only cause you more work later. By keeping up with all the things that need to be done as you go along, you will save yourself from having to do weekend marathon labor sessions—week after week after week.

But wait a minute.

You are here for a plan. A specific plan that will help you declutter. And maybe you are thinking to yourself, what does decluttering my home have to do with a planner?

Absolutely everything.

Whether decluttering the counters in your kitchen or doing a full home cleanout, you will be more successful when you have a plan. Something that will help you stay focused so you don’t burn out before the job is done.

A decluttering plan that will guide you along step by step. Section by section. Donation bag by donation bag. Until you have it all cleaned out and tidy.

Before we dive into the logistics of your decluttering plan, let’s go over a few things first.

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What is clutter?

Clutter is basically anything that does not have a home. A specific place where you keep each specific item so when you need it, you know exactly where to find it.

Take your silverware drawer, for example.

This is something that just about every single home has a specific place for. A drawer that is meant to do one thing. Hold the knives, forks, and spoons so that when it is time for you to eat a meal, you can find the specific utensil you need to get the job done.

A woman's hand opening a white silverware drawer with a grey silverware organizer and chrome steel silverware.

A clutter-free home takes this simple concept and applies it to every item that is found inside. From towels to tools. Pens to the television remote. Each item has a specific place where it can be found at all times.

Every time. By anyone.

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Why should a home be clutter-free?

It’s no secret that stress can make you sick. There have been extensive studies over the years on that very thing. But, what you may not know is that clutter causes stress. Both mentally and financially. Clutter has this frustrating way of distracting our minds whenever we are near it. As Psychology Today mentions, it makes us feel as if our work is never done. Like a nagging thorn in our big toe, it can needle away at us with every step like a neon sign.

If removing the clutter can not only stop the nagging and needling but allow us to be healthier, then you just gave yourself a pretty convincing argument for why this project is one you probably should tackle sooner rather than later.


If you are still sticking with me, then the next question in your mind right about now is probably this; where should you keep each of your things?

Woman Hiding Face Behind a Question Mark

Lucky for us, the answer is really quite simple.

For each item you find that you know does not have a home, ask yourself this.

If I needed this item, where would be the first place I would look to find it?

If you are not yet sure of the exact place yet, (don’t worry – it will come), at the very least, ask yourself; where is the first room I would look for?

If you are struggling to select the perfect home, you can start out by narrowing down the location just a bit until you can fine-tune this new way of thinking.

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What is a decluttering plan?

A decluttering plan is a road map that will take you from step one to step 10 until everything is cleaned out and organized. It is by far my favorite tool to use when cleaning out and cleaning up a home.

Once you find one or even create one of your own, the pages will guide you through each room one by one until your entire home begins to take shape. It removes the overwhelm and frustration that often accompanies a project like this.

Does this sound like you?

You walk into your kitchen after a long day. There is stuff all over the counters and kitchen table. The sink is full, and the dishwasher is loaded and waiting to be run.

There is food on the counter because there is no room in the pantry, and so many papers are tacked to the refrigerator you can barely find the handle.

The trash is overflowing, and the cabinets are a complete mess. You roll up your sleeves with grim determination and dive in. After an hour of jumping from mess to mess, you take a break to admire your work.

dirty dishes on a counter and in a kitchen sink copy

And you see that things are worse now than before you started! 

The reason for this is so simple you may not see it.

Sure, you began with good intentions, but you missed a very important step. You forgot to create a plan. A step-by-step path to follow so things look better as you go along instead of worse.

Worse means you give up and walk away.

Better means you begin to get excited about what the end result will be.

How to create a decluttering plan.

Let’s break this down step by step to help make things a bit easier to tackle. Remember, small steps are easy, and when you are creating a home you love…easy is the key to it all sticking.

Step #1. What is your goal?

So many times, we do it without thinking, and for some chores, like washing the dishes, that is just fine, but in this case, you are transforming, and with any transformation, you need a “why.”

That “why” is your finish line. Your trophy, so to speak.

Take a minute to identify your “why” and write it down on an index card.

A bulletin board with a index card pinned to it with the words "WHAT IS MY DECLUTTERING WHY? to create a clutter-free home our entire family loves to be in." written on it.

Post that card where you can see it to help you better remember your end goal. This is the finish line you are working so hard to reach with your decluttering plan.

Step #2. What is your deadline?

Knowing how much time you have to completely declutter and organize a room is more important than most folks realize. When you give your project a deadline, it ensures you will actually get it done. A project without a deadline is just an idea that will never come to fruition.

Take a minute to give yourself a “complete by” date.

This could be for a party, family gathering, or your own satisfaction. By confirming a date in writing, you are flipping a switch in your mind that this is more than an idea but instead a project that must be done.

a woman circling a date on a calendar

Step #3. How long will it take?

When you know how long a project will take, you can more easily break it down into small tasks. This is by far the best way to make decluttering less overwhelming.

Since there is no exact way of knowing how long each room is going to take, you will want to just do an estimate.

The easiest way to do this is to actually go into the space you hope to work on. Take a good look around and list out all the things you need to do. As you do this, keep a running tally of the time for each task. Just an estimate to help give you a full time idea.

Step #4.  Make a list.

Next, on your decluttering plan, you will want a list of the smaller tasks of your big project. From decluttering to cleaning and finally to organizing. Be sure to list every single part so you can just go through your list on autopilot, confident nothing will get left out.

I find it best to make this list when I am actually in the space I am working on.

Seeing things in real-time helps to build a list that is complete. Using a clipboard, write everything down no matter how small the task is.

a woman in red making a list on a pad of paper

I know you may be thinking that you do not need to be thorough here, that you will remember you have to dust the furniture in the room but trust me on this. The more mental energy you can keep focused on the list and not remembering what is not on the list the quicker you will get this project done.

The goal of making a list is to help you to get in and done just as quickly as possible.

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Step #5.  How much time do you have?

Go back to step number 2 and look at your “finish by” date.

Next, take a look at your family, work, and personal schedule. Consider how much time you can dedicate to this project each day or week. Using a bright colored marker, write in the words “work on my decluttering/organizing in (fill in the blank) room.”

I find that smaller pockets are easier to block off for this project. Never underestimate how much you can get done in 10-20 minutes!

D/M PRO TIP: Don’t underestimate the power of a minute. You may be surprised at how much you can get done in just a few minutes. Cleaning out your underwear drawer takes 10 minutes.

Washing the woodwork in your closet just 5 minutes. And sorting through jewelry 8 minutes. Take advantage of the smaller pockets of time to really make a dent in your decluttering/organizing project.

a girl in a pink top writing in a calendar on a desk

Step #6.  Begin.

Now that you have a schedule and a list, all you need to do is follow along.

Just like with a complicated recipe, follow along step by step, knowing that in the end, you will have a beautiful dish.

Don’t skip anything. Be thorough and intentional with every step on your list and schedule. Remember, this plan is meant to make this project easier for you to do and, in the end, maintain.

Focus just on each small step at a time and try to be as thorough as possible.

a woman putting green dishes into a box for donations

Step #6. Putting your decluttering plan together.

Let’s see this plan in action so you can visualize the benefits of having a plan and how successful it can be.

You had a long day, and all you want to do is put on sweats and plop down in front of the television. You see on your schedule that you have 10 minutes blocked off to sort through the scarves in your closet. Instead of being frustrated, you are excited that you will be able to take another step closer to your goal of a cleaned-out and organized closet. You put on headphones and begin your playlist of songs.

D/M PRO TIP: Have a playlist of songs for these quick projects on your phone. Label them by length so you can find the music blocks you need quickly. 5 songs equal approximately 20 minutes.

Set up a block for 10, 20, 30, 45, and 60 minutes, labeling each accordingly. Music has a way of distracting our minds so we can better focus on the job at hand. Also, music time blocks act as a timer to keep you focused so you can get the job done in the time you have allocated.

After just 3 songs, you have gathered up all of your scarves, sorted out the ones you want to keep, and tied them onto a hanger in a simple and organized way.

5 colorful scarves tied over a hanging rod in a closet.

Another item is checked off your closet’s to-do list and after only a few minutes, you are on the couch relaxing.

By having a decluttering plan, you will finally be able to work your way through your home. Room by room, drawer by drawer, closet by closet. By breaking things down into small pocket-sized tasks, you will remove the overwhelm of this daunting project and now be able to look at it as just another item on your weekly to-do list.

Before you know it, you will begin to see your home transform from its cluttered state into a home you truly love.

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