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Your 12 Day Guide to Decluttering

Matt Paxton stands with two paintings in his hands, smiling
Matt Paxton in season two of Legacy List

Legacy List with Matt Paxton premieres on VPM PBS Monday, January 4 at 9 p.m. Watch anytime, anywhere on your favorite smart device through the PBS app or online at pbs.org.

When it comes to decluttering, where do you start? Legacy List host Matt Paxton recommends taking it one day at a time. By breaking up a big project into accomplishable tasks, downsizing becomes doable. 

Here’s your guide to declutter one day at a time.

Day 1: Establish WHY You Are Decluttering

Remind yourself why you are decluttering. Write it down on a whiteboard or post-it note. The more you see it, the easier it will be to stay focused on your decluttering goal.

READ: 7 Essential Tips for How to Start Decluttering

Day 2: Let Go Of Gifts (And The Guilt)

What do you do with a gift if you don't want to keep it? The sentiment is what's important. Free yourself from the obligation of keeping it and give the item a chance to be used by someone else.

READ: How to Declutter Sentimental Items in 7 Steps

Day 3: Pick One Room To Declutter at a Time

When you declutter one room at a time, you are able to see your progress and keep the momentum going. By breaking decluttering down into “parts,” an overwhelming and emotionally charged task becomes manageable.

READ: 3 Tips for How to Declutter When Overwhelmed

Day 4: Donate Books You Won’t Read Again

Are you saving books you really enjoy but are unlikely to read again? Free up space by giving them to someone who you think will appreciate the story as much as you! 

READ: 3 Options for Book Recycling 

Day 5: Digitize Your Photos

Once you’ve sorted through all of the photos you want to keep, scan originals using a phone app or scanner, and then merge and organize all of your digital files. Matt Paxton recommends saving digital copies in two different places so you always have a back-up for your memories.

READ: Organize Your Photos in 5 Easy Steps To Preserve Your Family Memories


Day 6: Get Rid of Duplicates

Thirteen pairs of scissors? Four pasta servers? Ten glass vases of the exact same size? Easy problems to solve. Identify the duplicates and get them out of your drawers and out of your home.

READ:  5 Fast Downsizing Tips for Seniors

Day 7: Switch to Paperless Bills

After you’ve cleared out and sorted your paper clutter, the best way to keep it organized is to not bring any more into your home. Consider switching to paperless billing and canceling unused magazine and catalog subscriptions. Less than 20 minutes a day for 2 weeks will stop most of your unwanted paper mail.

READ: How to Declutter Paper in 7 Steps

Day 8: Add a Donation Bin to Your Closet

Ever have second thoughts about whether or not you still enjoy an item of clothing? Add it straight to the donation bin rather than hanging it back in the closet.

READ: 5 Tips for How to Declutter Your Clothes

Day 9: Dispose of Old Prescriptions Safely

Prescription medications do expire and cannot be donated. You also aren’t supposed to put them in the garbage. Instead, check with your local pharmacy, fire or police departments, to learn how to safely dispose of leftover prescriptions.

WATCH: Common Hazards of a House Cleanout

Day 10: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Decluttering can be an emotional process as well as physically overwhelming. If you are decluttering your home or the home of a loved one get your family involved to help share the work. Consider hiring a local professional and reviewing helpful tips & tools from resources like Legacy List with Matt Paxton.

READ: 7 Essential Tips for How to Start Decluttering

Day 11: Clear Out Unused Paint

Oil-based paints are considered hazardous waste, but most cities allow you to throw them away if you dry them out first. Pick up a paint drying powder or stir in a one-to-one ratio of cat litter to dry out the paint.

WATCH: Common Hazards of a House Cleanout

Day 12: Everything You Keep Needs a Home Within Your Home

Once you know what you’re keeping, you can begin planning how you would like to organize it all (and keep it organized). Use folders, baskets, rubber bands, jars, binders, or whatever system will work for you to keep your ship sailing smoothly. Don’t forget to create a designated space for future items that no longer serve you to be donated!

WATCH: Legacy List with Matt Paxton

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