Watch Out For These Clutter Zones: Home Organization for 2021

It’s safe to say that most people are ready to let a few things go. After the year we all had in 2020, or shall I say the decade we had in 2020, many people are feeling like they want to leave a few things behind. Some of those things are tangible, and some are more emotional, but most of us are ready to lighten the load. 

Now if you’re like me and you’ve spent a lot of time at your house (I’m guessing that’s most of us), you have stared your clutter straight in the face. And now is a great time to do something about it. I started working on these in the last few months as we prepared to have a child, and it’s amazing to me how quickly clutter creeps back in. So, if you’re on a purging spree like I’ve been on, here are some top zones to go sort through to see what you can let go of.

  1. Junk Drawer: Some minimalists and organizers say you shouldn’t have a junk drawer, but I’ll just call it something else because I really DO need this space where pens and keys and matches live. BUT, I realized that I don’t need 20 pens when two or three will suffice. I also don’t need to keep all the old keys in there that have unknown locks. A quick audit can drop this drawer to a useable amount of useful items. 
  2. Jewelry: Whether you use something on the wall, a bin, a jewelry box, or something else to organize, we all collect a few pieces of costume jewelry that we simply never wear. Sweep through these pieces and get rid of anything that is worn out (finishes coming off), missing a mate (hello stud earrings from Target), broken, or simply something you never wear. 
  3. Shoe Closet: Do you have shoes that are worn out and scuffed up? Would you be embarrassed to wear them to a meeting with your boss or a client? Get rid of any shoes that make your feet hurt, are embarrassingly worn out, or something you simply never have an occasion to wear. 
  4. Winter/Outside Gear: Do you have mismatched gloves, scarves you never wear, or coats that you don’t need anymore? Consider giving these items away to a homeless shelter, or someone in need. It an item is missing a mate, or is worn out, turn it to rags or get rid of it. 
  5. Media: Still holding onto a ton of dvds or vhs tapes? What about CDs? With so many apps like Spotify, Netflix, and others, you could pare this collection down to only your top favorites or get rid of the collection entirely. 
  6. Desk: Take a quick look through what papers, notes, and office supplies you have sitting on your desk and living in your drawers. Ask yourself the hard question of if you really need that item and if it should deserve to live on your desk. 
  7. Papers: This is easier said than done, but sorting through your papers is an important thing to do. Take a look at all you get physically in the mail and see if there’s anything you can manage to opt out of receiving. Then, also take a look at what you’re holding onto year after year and if you have anything that is older than seven years. Do an annual shred of any of these documents you no longer need to have on hand. (Dive deeper into our paper organization and filing system here.)
  8. Pantry: Take a hard look at what is in your pantry and if you will actually eat or use that food item. If the answer is “no,” then you need to give it away (if already opened), toss it, or donate it. 
  9. Fridge: Just like the pantry, your refrigerator is a hot spot for clutter to build up. Look for expired food, old leftovers, or items you bought aspirationally, but will never actually consume. Whatever doesn’t belong needs to go!
  10. Spices: It’s always shocking to me how I can go years without looking at these and suddenly I have oregano that’s been expired for five years! This tricky hot spot is a big one and it takes only a couple minutes to look through and see what is expired and what needs to be restocked. Just stock only the spices you actually use regularly! Don’t buy the random ones you never cook with. 
  11. Stemware: It’s amazing how miscellaneous wine glasses and other stemware appear over time. We’ve received different sets as gifts, from fundraisers, and others as gifts. Of course, over time these glasses can break, leaving us with a hodgepodge of a collection and frankly, we rarely use half of them. I’m guessing your own collection is similar. 
  12. Purse: I’ll admit, I have to clean out my purse frequently because when I’m on the go, it’s easy to just stuff trash and other small items in my purse to deal with later. If I’m not careful, this space gets out of control and I’m carrying a heavy bag all over the place! 
  13. Bookshelf: Is your bookshelf full of books you will read again or refer to again? What about the list of books you have sitting around waiting to read? Will you actually read these books? Be truthful to yourself! If you don’t want to read those books, give them away. Are you hanging onto books because you feel like you should in order to look intellectual, because you spent money on them, or because someone gave them to you? I give you permission to let these things go! 
  14. Bedside Table: One common hot spot for clutter to build up is that nightstand or bedside table. I’m guessing if you sweep through yours, you’ll find fifty hairbands, empty chapstick containers, and five sets of headphones. Okay, yours might not be exactly like mine, but this is a common location for clutter to build up without us even realizing it. 
  15. Cleaning Supplies: A good spot to check out in your home is your cleaning supplies. Are you low on any vital products? Do you have too much of something else? Do you have old cleaning gadgets that you simply never use? I discovered that I had about ten old toothbrushes I was saving to clean those small, hard-to-reach spots around the house. Did I need ten? No, odds are, I probably only need one or two on hand. 
  16. Bathroom Cabinet: A sneaky spot is underneath your sink! Random toiletries, old towels, and old cleaning supplies can build up in this space and before you know it, you’re cramming stuff in your cabinets just hoping the doors will close. 
  17. Makeup/Toiletries: You don’t need to hold onto all those cosmetic samples, expired makeup, or stretched-out hair ties. Your morning routine deserves better than this! Be real with yourself about what products and items you really use and be ruthless with the rest. Remind your future self not to purchase these unwanted items again in the future. 
  18. Medicines: Do a quick sweep through your medicine drawer or cabinet to see if you have any outdated medicines that can be disposed of. Look for prescription containers that you can take back to your pharmacy to be recycled. While you’re at it, take stock of any items you’re low on and need to restock. 
  19. Linens: How many sets of sheets do you really need? Some people argue you only need one set. I’d argue you need at least two
  20. Car’s Console: Is your car a little cluttered? When you’re on the go, it’s easy for your car to fill up with miscellaneous items. I like to look at these spots when I’ve arrived somewhere early, or while I’m sitting through a car wash. I also like to grab small chunks of trash while I’m pumping gas. It’s amazing what you can clean up in just a few short minutes. 
  21. Photos: Don’t ignore the digital clutter that can build up without you even realizing it. The photos on your devices can build up over time. We’re now a culture of people who take twenty photos of the same thing just to get a good one. Sweeping through your photos once a week or daily can be a good habit to get into to help ensure that you keep only the pictures you really mean to. (Get NPR’s tips on how to organize digital photos.)

Of course, there are many other zones in your life that will arise. In our house we have areas like our barn, hunting gear, and art supplies. Your home might have other unique zones that fit your own lifestyle. However, the zones above are largely applicable to most households and they’re areas where clutter can creep in so fast you don’t even realize it. 

One important thing to remember when you think about these various zones of your home is that you don’t have to address them all in one sweep. You can tackle one area at a time and do a nice rotation once a quarter, once a year, or whatever cadence works for you. Whatever you do, as you sort through these spaces, be honest with yourself about what you actually want and need in your life. Don’t be afraid to find new homes for items that don’t fit!