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12-Week Decluttering Plan

The more mountainous those piles of mail become and the more crowded your countertops get, the more exhausting decluttering your home can seem. But if you divide it into pieces, it won't be nearly as daunting. Here, your week-by-week plan for a clutter-free home—minus all the hassle.

Week 1: Attack the Obvious
Begin with the area that’s motivated you to declutter in the first place. It’s likely that something has pushed you over the edge: that pile of unopened mail or the heap of clothes in the laundry room. “Whatever you do, don’t start with family heirlooms,” says Barry Izsak, an Austin-based certified professional organizer. “Go for items that you’ll feel good about cleaning out.” It will give you an immediate sense of accomplishment. The goal is to deal with that one area, not the whole room. Baby steps.

Week 2: Bathroom
Why? Same logic: You can quickly power through tossing bottles that you stopped using three hairstyles ago. Makeup should be tossed after a year. Toss every item that’s past its expiration date, and keep only as much as you have room for (it’s a bathroom, not a store). Your backups should be organized neatly in a linen closet, along with the extra toilet paper.

Week 3 & 4: Public Rooms
Perhaps you’re embarrassed by all the DVDs, video games and newspapers scattered around your living room, or can’t host another dinner party until something is done about all that stuff on the dining room table. Areas that guests see are often a lot easier, emotionally, to go through and sort out. Bonus: Cleaning them up will allow you to quickly benefit socially.

Week 5: Kitchen
This is one of the trickiest spots because it tends to be packed full of items that you could use, like that bagel cutter or extra plastic containers. Leo Babauta, the author of The Power of Less, suggests putting all items that you haven’t used in the last few months (your blender, fancy cookware) in boxes. Store them in the garage. If you really need something, it’s right there. Donate everything you haven’t used in six months.

Week 6: Clothing— yours and everyone else’s
Plan 90 minutes for typical closets, and start in the deep corners, moving toward the middle. The part most likely to slow you down? Items that fit but for some inexplicable reason are never worn—which make up more than half of most people’s closets, according to Urbanska. The Not Sure bag will come in handy here.

Week 7 & 8: Bedrooms
Bedrooms are often home to mementos, photos and family items that may be irreplaceable, so schedule a friend to sit with you to help you make quick decisions. “Remember, your bedroom is primarily for relaxing and sleeping, and all items that won’t help you do that don’t really need to be there,” says Wanda Urbanska, author of The Heart of Simple Living.

Week 9, 10 & 11: Attic, basement, garage and home office
Never do these rooms solo—furniture and big boxes will slow you down, so schedule a helper. As with closets, work back-to-front, beginning in the back corners and moving toward the middle of the room. Back corners tend to fill with junk you don’t need, and make for quick tossing that opens up a lot of space.

Week 12: Throw yourself a party!
A giveaway party, that is. Invite over friends who might be happy to take that necklace or the jeans you never wear off your hands. You might just inspire a spree of decluttering.

Read more: How to Declutter - Decluttering Tips at WomansDay.com - Woman's Day

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