We all have a lot going on in the weeks leading up to Christmas, New Year, and Winter break, but it’s worth carving out a few minutes here and there to declutter — and that’s the goal of this mini-challenge. While this challenge won’t get you totally clutter-free in just 20 days, it’s a great start and will put you ahead of the game come January when I’ll be hosting an even bigger and more thorough decluttering and organizing challenge. So, let’s get you clutter-free by Christmas!
Clutter Free By Christmas: How it Works
First, subscribe to my Clutter-Free by Christmas email HERE. Each day, a new mini-challenge will arrive in your inbox. This task will focus on one small space or category of your home.
Complete that task. As you go through each space, be realistic about what you use and what you need. If you’re on the fence about getting go of a specific item, you can put it in a “limbo” box and see how you feel after you’ve lived without it for a month.
When you’re arranging items in their spaces, keep visual clutter in mind. Line things up nicely, even if you’re not adding any organizing solutions to a space.
This challenge is quick and simple. Don’t stress about it. Just make fast decisions, tidy up the space, and move on. No one has time to be diving into an entire kitchen organization project a few weeks before the madness of Christmas, but hopefully doing a bit of decluttering will help holiday preparation and the aftermath easier to handle.
If you’d like to share your progress, send me a message, comment below, or tag me on Instagram @life.with.less.mess. If you don’t want to share, just give yourself a pat on the back and wait for the next day’s email.
Don’t like emails? Don’t want to do a task a day? Find the entire list below and work at your own pace.
Clutter-Free By Christmas Schedule
Take it day by day. Do what you can. If one category or space doesn’t apply to you, either take a day off or tackle one of the alternatives down at the bottom.
December 1: Winter Coats & Boots
Take inventory of all the coats in your home.
Make sure you still like the style, that they’re in good shape, and that they fit. You don’t want to get hit with a snowstorm and send a kid out to play with sleeves that are 4″ too short or boots that smoosh their toes.
Consider how many coats your family needs. Let go of a few coats if you exceed that number.
If you or your partner could use an upgrade, these items make great Christmas gifts.
Where to Donate: Many places hold coat drives at this time of year. Keep an eye on your local Facebook pages or ask at your church. Give your discards a quick wash before donating.
December 2nd: Winter Woolies
Sooooo many hats and gloves and mittens and scarves and mufflers and ear muffs and everything else imaginable. Lay them all out and evaluate how many you have — I’m betting it’s more than you need!
Donate the itchy ones you never reach for and the ones that are no longer your style. If you’ve got children, make sure all the gloves and mittens have matches and that everything still fits.
If you find you’re lacking something, grab them for stockings or add them to your Christmas list.
December 3rd: Winter Weather Tools
I know you have a lot more pressing matters to worry about in the days leading up to winter break, but you don’t want to be hit with a storm and caught unprepared. Take inventory of what you have.
I can’t tell you how many times we broke our shovel one winter and intended to replace it, only to find the same broken shovel waiting for us the following winter.
Make sure you have an ice scraper, shovels and rock salt stocked and easy to access. Don’t wait until a storm is predicted — that’s when shovels are scarce.
December 4th: Socks and Undies (everyone’s)
Three reasons for doing this now:
- This is ALWAYS where too small, ratty, and holey items go to die. Always.
- It’s inside socializing time – don’t be that person (or have that kid) with the holey socks.
- Fresh socks and undies make fantastic stocking stuffers. (Meaning they’re easy for the person stuffing, maybe not as fantastic for the stocking owner.)
Make sure everyone’s undies are the right size and in good shape. Use a few socks for dusting the dresser you’re working in, then toss them.
December 5th: Pajamas (everyone’s)
If you don’t get a new set of matching family pajamas, is it even Christmas?? I think not. We get at least 2 new pairs every Christmas.
Take a second to look through everyone’s pajamas. Donate or pass down items that are too small. Recycle items that aren’t fit for passing on.
For your own pajamas, be picky! Toss the pair with the bulky pockets that drive you nuts, the pair with the elastic that digs into your waist, and the pair that gives you wedgies. You won’t miss them, I promise.
How to Recycle Clothing: Check Out Earth911 for facilities near you.
December 6th: Hoodies and Sweatshirts (everyone’s)
We cannot be the only family that has way too many hoodies and sweatshirts. Go through each family member’s collections and weed out the ones that never get worn, are too small, or just plain embarrassing to be seen in.
If a hoodie holds sentimental value, add it to a memory box. Otherwise, donate or recycle.
December 7th: Kids’ Dressy Clothes
‘Tis the season to dress your kids up in fancy clothes. Whether you’re heading to a show, your kids have a holiday concert, Christmas church service, or just a fancy party, you don’t want to be stuck rushing around at the last minute.
Tackling your child’s entire closet is a big job (we’ll talk about this in January), so let’s just stick with dress clothes. Check the sizes of sweaters, dress pants, dresses, and nice shoes. Make sure they’ve got accessories like belts, ties, and tights while you’re at it.
Remove items that no longer fit or aren’t in good shape. If you’re missing anything, you’ve still got time to run to the store.
December 8th: Adult Sweaters and Dresses
Now it’s your turn. It’s so easy to focus so much on your family that you end up throwing something together at the last minute, feeling stressed instead of your best.
Look through your dressier clothing — forget everything else for now.. Put a few outfits together that look good and make you feel good.
Anything that doesn’t fit, is no longer your style, or doesn’t make you feel great needs to make its way to the donate pile.
If you’ve got a spouse that relies on you for fashion advice, repeat this process on their side of the closet — but don’t get rid of their items without permission.
December 9th: The Dining Room Table
The dining room table in our house is where half-finished projects and puzzles live. Usually this is fine, but when the holidays are coming and you may be hosting company, you don’t want to scramble around at the last minute shoving items in a box that’s destined to be shoved in a closet and forgotten.
Even if you’re not hosting this year, tidy those piles on the dining room table. It will look great and it will FEEL great.
Pro Tip: Empty spaces are clutter magnets. If you’re going to be setting the dining room table for Christmas, just set it now. The table is much less likely to get cluttered when it’s set.
December 10th: Kitchen Utensils and Food Storage
Since you’re probably going to be doing a bit more cooking and baking than you usually do, let’s declutter some kitchen spaces and help streamline your processes.
Kitchen utensils and food storage areas are usually hot beds for clutter.
Look through your utensils. Let go of all the gadgets and gizmos you never use. Make sure everything else is in good shape (if you’ve got any melted spatulas or split wooden spoons, consider replacing them!).
Side Note about Gadgets: If you find you’ve got gadgets that something simpler can replace (Example: knife instead of apple slicer, spoon instead of avocado scooper) consider letting it go.
When you’re done going through that drawer, move onto the food storage. With additional cooking and baking comes the need for additional food storage. Match up all your containers with their lids. If you’ve got extras, recycle them. When you’re happy with what you have left, stack them as neatly as possible.
Again, streamlining these spaces will make your life run smoother — even if it’s just in small ways, like having a container with a matching lid ready to use.
December 11th: The Pantry
Okay, so this one might take longer than the rest, but that’s why it’s scheduled for a Saturday.
Don’t go buy bins, don’t make fresh labels, just sort through your pantry or food cabinet the best you can right now and declutter. Toss empty boxes that helpful children left inside or the bags with a half inch of crumbs left in them. Toss expired or stale foods. Give up on those new products you bought a year ago hoping to try them and never did.
Quickly sort items into zones (think dinner ingredients, pasta, cans, breakfast, snacks, etc.) and line everything up nicely.
Where to Donate: A lot of churches and food banks accept food donations year round, but especially during the holidays.
December 12th: Fridge and Freezer
Of all the cleaning and organizing jobs, this is the one I dread the most.
Clear out your fridge and freezer now so you have plenty of space for extra food. Take everything out and wipe down all surfaces. Toss any items that are expired or have been sitting for too long. Place items back into the fridge in zones: drinks, fruits, vegetables, condiments, etc.
Repeat with the freezer. If you’ve got a lot of frozen foods and often forget to use it, make a list of what you’ve got. Plan your next week of meals using items you have in your freezer.
December 13th: Kitchen Towels and Junk Drawer
Dive into your kitchen towel collection. Take everything out of the drawer (if that’s where you keep them) and look through. Remove any towels that are ripped or stained (you can for cleaning or pet rags — consider cutting them or marking them with sharpie so they don’t get mixed back in with your better towels).
If you’ve got time, dig into your junk drawer, too. This isn’t really a great time to run to the store to buy specialty dividers (unless you’re feeling motivated) but simplifying and inventorying this space will make that step much simpler when you’ve got time to focus on it (this will happen in our deep dive challenge — coming soon!)
Be picky in your junk drawer. Yes, all 75 of those pencils are good and have potential, but keeping too many just leads to a cluttered mess. It doesn’t matter how often you tidy if you’ve got too much stuff.
Where to Donate: Teachers or churches may want those extra junk drawer pencils.
December 14th: Holiday Dishes and Serving ware
We’re in full holiday prep mode now. Look through your holiday dishes and serving ware.
If you host, make sure you have enough for all your guests. Donate anything you know you won’t use.
If you don’t host — why do you have so many holiday dishes?!? Donate anything you don’t absolutely love.
Where to Donate: Churches can use serving items for functions. OR you could leave it with a host after you bring that platter of cookies over. Add a little note to the bottom telling her to do the same. It can be the traveling Christmas plate.
December 15th: Pots, Pans, and Baking Dishes
Again, getting your pots, pans, and baking items streamlined will help when you’re prepping holiday meals or desserts.
Take everything out of these spaces and see what you have. Donate pans that are in good shape, but you just don’t use or need. Toss any non-stick pans that are chipped or scratched.
Nest pots and pans together as efficiently as you can if you’re tight on space. If you’ve got room to grow, lining the pots up in a drawer or on a shelf (lids on) makes them easy to grab. Vertical pan dividers are a great way to store baking pans, but you’ve probably got enough going on. There’s really no one-size-fits-all-kitchens for pans — the most important thing is keeping your collection under control and using your space in the best way you can.
Do the same with baking dishes.
December 16th: Small Appliances
Mixers, blenders, choppers, food processors, toasters, air fryers, instant pots, crock pots, ice cream makers, rice makers, ice makers, bread machines… take inventory of what you have and what you use. These items are often large and come with multiple accessories, so when you let one go, it can make a HUGE difference.
Where to Donate: Goodwill, soup kitchens, shelters, and halfway houses are all great places! Or, if they’re still in fantastic shape, ask friends or neighbors if they have any interest.
December 17th: Throw Blankets & Candles
I’m all for a hygge winter, but… How many throw blankets do you have in that basket in the living room? Empty it out and look through it. You probably don’t need more than one per family member. Keep your favorites (and toss them in the laundry, while you’re at it) and donate the rest.
Since we’re purging all things cozy, check out that candle collection. Let go of scents you don’t like — or all the candles if you’re on a more natural path now than you were when you purchased them.
Might as well go through your mugs while you’re at it, if we’re sticking with a hygge theme. Pick a few favorites, keep some extras for company, and let go of the extras.
Where to Donate: Animal shelters almost always take blankets for their pups to cuddle up in.
December 18th: Wrapping Paper and Supplies
Do you wrap early or wait until the last minute? Either way, toss those scraps of paper, smashed bows, tangled ribbons, and worn out gift bags. Keep only what you’ll use.
Take inventory of all the extras. Do you have enough tags and tape?
Where to Donate: Check with facilities that run Toys for Tots or other charity gift-giving services. They may take paper you no longer need.
December 19th: That Pile You’ve Been Ignoring
You know the one. It might be laundry, or papers, or donations… whatever it is, it’s always there, hanging over you. You dread dealing with it. Wherever yours is, take care of it. I guarantee it will not take as long as you think.
If your pile is laundry, do a load or two a day and delegate to get it done.
If your pile is papers, go through and sort into keep, recycle, and shred. Use post it’s to remember which is which if you’re unable to file or shred right now.
If your pile is the growing donate pile from this challenge, go drop it off somewhere or schedule a pickup.
December 20th: Kitchen Counters
Yes, your counters will just get cluttered up again almost immediately, but if you clear them off now, clearing again over the next day or two will be much easier.
Remove any items that don’t belong and put them in their home. If these items don’t have a home, that’s probably why they keep ending up on your counter. Try to assign them a home.
If you’ve got some extra time or energy, give your spice drawer or cabinet a quick search. Toss any spices that are expired or that you don’t like the taste of (ahem, thyme, ahem).
Side note: Spices don’t REALLY expire, but they do lose flavor. I usually keep slightly expired spices, but consider replacing any really old jars.
Alternate Clutter-Free Spots
Are there spaces above that aren’t relevant to you? Or maybe you’re just feeling super motivated. Here are a few alternative spots to declutter.
Odds are you or your family may get a few new games this holiday season. Declutter the games you’ve outgrown or the ones that aren’t worth the stress they cause.
Where to Donate: Classrooms or shelters are great place to donate games. Alternatively, if you or someone you know has a vacation home, everyone loves playing games on rainy vacation days.
Reusable bags are great ways to avoid using plastic (especially if you remember to bring them to the store when you shop), but they are often another cause of clutter in homes. Take inventory of how many you have. Save as many as you need for a large grocery trip, then donate the rest.
How to Donate: Fill these bags with your castoffs from other places around your home and donate it all in one fell swoop.
Duffle Bags & Luggage
If you’re traveling instead of hosting this holiday season, you may not feel quite as motivated to declutter during this challenge — after all, no one will see your kitchen counter.
Take this opportunity to sort through your duffle bags and luggage — anything you might use when you travel. Again, I’m betting you have more than you need. Keep a few bags in a variety of sizes and get go of the rest.
We touched on decluttering coats, boots, and winter woolies, so you may as well hit the entire closet if you have time. Coat closets can become a catchall sometimes — which is okay as long as there are systems in place — don’t let it become a dumping ground.
Clutter-Free by Christmas
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! While Christmas is sure to get your home cluttered up again in the blink of an eye, starting with a less cluttered space will help you get back there sooner.
This is the first type of challenge I’ve done like this — and the holiday season makes the stakes a little higher. If you’ve got any feedback (tasks that were helpful, tasks that weren’t, tasks you would have liked to see) I’d LOVE to hear it! Drop a comment below!
If you’re interested in a more intense challenge, consider joining us for our Winter 2022 Declutter. This challenge will spend more time working in larger spaces. It will also involve cleaning and organizing more than this challenge did. If you’re not signed up yet, sign up here and look out for emails late December 2021/early January 2022.