The Reader’s Digest 5-Day Declutter Challenge

Updated: Jan. 25, 2024

Give us 30 minutes a day for one workweek and we’ll help you give your home the reset you crave. Your weeklong declutter challenge starts—and ends—right here.

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Want to show your home a little love by setting it up for a fresh start?

Take Reader’s Digest’s 5-Day Declutter Challenge, which tackles five of your home’s major problem areas—kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, laundry room and entryway. We worked with pro organizers Jamie Novak, author of Keep This, Toss That, and Michele Vig of @neatlittlenest to pin down the most efficient ways to spend half an hour in each of these targeted spaces.

Their expert ideas will help you clear clutter from your main trouble spots, giving you a better organized, more smoothly running home. They’ve even shared their top storage and organization essentials to keep clutter contained.

Ready? Get out your timer, cleaning kit and donation box. Let’s start organizing!

Declutter Challenge Day 1: Kitchen

5 Day Declutter Challenge Day 1, Getty Images

Choose your focus

  • Tidy that food storage container stash. Pull them all out. Match up tops and bottoms, then pare them down. Return only those that you reach for often, about three of each size—large, medium and small. If you pack lunches, you’ll likely need at least one additional container per person.
  • De-junk the junk drawer. Dump everything out of the drawer. Toss the trash and evaluate what remains. Relocate items that belong elsewhere, then group like items and return them to the drawer, ideally corralled in lidless containers or other drawer organizers.
  • Straighten out the under-sink space. Pull everything out and edit it down. Return only what truly belongs there. Consider purchasing smart space maximizations, like a lazy Susan, to make all cleaning items more accessible, or press-top containers to hold dishwashing tabs.

First: Your 10-minute quick edit

Fill a donations bag with as many kitchen items as you can in 10 minutes. Think: duplicate kitchen utensils, small appliances gathering dust, gadgets you never reach for, multiple vases, extra water bottles and travel mugs.

Pro product spotlight

“Individual drawer organizers, versus the large drop-in type, allow you to customize the drawer for your exact items and maximize every inch. I like these bamboo drawer organizers as a sustainable option for all kitchen drawers. Especially that junk drawer.” —Michelle Vig

“The two-tiered shelving on this under-sink organizer instantly creates more functional space, and its expandable track fits most cabinet widths. The slim shelves work around any plumbing—pop them on only where you need them. This is the one I use under my own kitchen sink!” —Jamie Novak

Declutter Challenge Day 2: Bathroom

5 Day Declutter Challenge Day 2, Getty Images

Choose your focus

  • Declutter the medicine cabinet. Empty it. Toss empty, unused and expired items and replace only keepers. (Find a medications and supplements drop-off option, or do as the FDA recommends: Remove from original container and mix with something undesirable, such as used coffee grounds or cat litter.) Put daily-use items front-and-center and group similar items together.
  • Lighten the linen closet. Keep just two bath towels per person in the house, plus an extra two for overnight guests. If your kids are past middle-of-the-night accidents, rethink the need for “backup” bed sheets—wash and remake instead. Double-up blankets in the guest room to free up storage here.
  • Revive the vanity. Empty it out and return items selectively, grouping like with like. Re-homing things like cotton swabs, beauty tools and dental-care items in small containers helps maximize every inch. And remember: Daily-use necessities should stay separate from backstock.

First: Your 10-minute quick edit

Let go of things like outdated makeup, old shower loofahs, ratty towels, unused bath salts, shower products you never touch and hair appliances you never reach for.

Pro product spotlight

“Plastic vanity containers in a variety of sizes help in many bathroom spaces, from vanity to medicine cabinet. I like the sets from Stori, whether you’re looking to organize makeup specifically or just need a nice variety to start with.” —Michelle Vig

“This clear caddy is just the right size for a small medicine cabinet shelf, and its multiple compartments are the perfect spot for small, easy-to-misplace items like tweezers, nail clippers and cotton swabs.” —Jamie Novak

Declutter Challenge Day 3: Bedroom

5 Day Declutter Challenge Day 3, Getty Images

Choose your focus

  • Clear the nightstands. Remove everything. Dust the top and vacuum or wipe out any drawers. Replace only essentials you use nightly. Use any freed-up drawer space to store items that formerly lived on the top of the nightstand. (Ideally, that’s everything.)
  • Target under the bed. Pull out everything that’s hiding under here. Return items to their proper homes elsewhere. Declutter any bins that are purposefully stored here. Give the floor a quick, thorough vacuuming before replacing them.
  • Declutter the dresser. Put all contents on your bed. Separate them into like categories, then pare down items within each category. Clean drawers, then return items. Tackle the dresser-top next, finding a home for all items (potentially within your newly cleared-out dresser).

First: Your 10-minute quick edit

Fill a bag with as many things as you can to donate in 10 minutes. Think: clothes that don’t fit your body or style, extra pillows and hangers, books you won’t read.

Pro product spotlight

“Once you have all the clothes in your dresser decluttered, consider adding a few expandable drawer dividers like these, made from sustainable bamboo. They come in wood-colored or white, to match your drawer bed.” —Michelle Vig

“Convert the top of the dresser from a clutter catchall to a truly helpful space with a hardworking accessory stand. Necklace hooks keep chains at the ready and tangle-free, and the tray corrals rings, hand lotion and other small daily-use items.” —Jamie Novak

Declutter Challenge Day 4: Laundry room

5 Day Declutter Challenge Day 4 Laundry, Getty Images

Choose your focus

  • General laundry room tidy-up. Find a home for all lingering clothes. Clear and clean shelves. If you don’t have them already, add a proper wastebasket and a little container to corral pocket finds.
  • Clean the machines. Remove the detergent dispenser and soak it in warm water. Meanwhile, wipe down the machines, inside and out, using a 50/50 solution of warm water and distilled white vinegar. (Refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines first.) Scrub the dispenser clean, then replace. Clean out the dryer lint trap with a rag and a paint stir stick.
  • Go through cabinets and/or under-sink space. Remove everything, group like items, then pare down. Dispose of or donate what you don’t need and return the rest to a freshly cleaned space. Add bins to contain like items and lazy Susans for the most-used ones. (Both prevent things from getting lost in the back.)

First: Your 10-minute quick edit

Discard dried-up stain sticks and broken hangers, recycle empty laundry detergent bottles and boxes from fabric softener sheets. Donate any clothes that never seem to make it out of the laundry room, and toss those socks forever waiting for their long-lost mates to show up.

Also: Animal shelters are typically happy to receive half-full detergent donations.

Pro product spotlight

“I love a lazy Susan to keep those cabinet recesses accessible. In the laundry room, choose one that prevents spills and is easy to clean, like this clear high-sided helper.” —Michelle Vig

“Hanging clothes when they’re dryer-fresh prevents wrinkles, but a pile of hangers is always a tangled mess. That’s why I like this wall-mount metal hanger organizer. It neatly keeps up to 50 hangers ready and without hogging precious laundry room space.” —Jamie Novak

Declutter Challenge Day 5: Entryway

5 Day Declutter Challenge Day 5, Getty Images

Choose your focus

  • Declutter and donate wearables. Remove jackets, shoes, hats and more from the closet. Relocate anything that’s out-of-season and put unloved items in the donations bag. Return what’s left to its proper home. Consider organizing outerwear by owner, rather than by category, so family members don’t need to dig through one another’s stuff to get to their own.
  • Pare down pet items. Group all pet gear together. Relocate or donate things you rarely use. Consider a special spot for daily-use items, such as a hook for the leash and a hanging caddy for waste bags.
  • Deal with the mail pileup. Recycle the junk and sort the rest. If mail is an ongoing cause of clutter, create a small, portable (and stashable) mail station with labeled sections for go-to categories, such as reference items, things that need immediate attention (like bills) and those that aren’t as urgent.

First: Your 10-minute quick edit

Get rid of garbage, recycle what you can and re-home all the random items that have been dropped here. After you’ve completed the task above, end with a quick wipe down and sweep or vacuum. Done!

Pro product spotlight

“Baskets are key entryway helpers, holding accessories like scarves and hats or shoes kicked off after a long day. These Natural Montauk Woven Storage Bins make an excellent choice because they’re sturdy, pretty and have a washable pull-out liner.” —Michelle Vig

“A wall-mount entryway organizer gives heavy-use items like keys, a leash and glasses a logical and central forever home. Smaller is better, so it doesn’t turn into a cavernous catch-all filled with miscellaneous stuff.” —Jamie Novak

You did it! Now share your success

Congratulations on completing the Reader’s Digest 5-Day Declutter Challenge! Be sure to share your biggest organizing wins with us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or TikTok—a before-and-after, or just a final beauty shot of your great work. Tag us and use #RDDeclutterChallenge, so we can celebrate with you! For more cleaning and decluttering tips and tricks, subscribe to our daily and weekly Read Up newsletters here.

Don’t forget to deal with the week’s donations by dropping them off or scheduling a pickup. Here are a few charities where your donations go the furthest!

And, as our parting gift to you, here are a few household tips to help keep your home calm and clutter-free moving forward.

  • Find a home for everything. Return it there as soon as you’re finished using it. Now you’ll always know where to find what you’re looking for.
  • Follow the “one minus two” rule. When you bring home one new thing, let two old things go.
  • Schedule weekly tidy-ups. Put them in your calendar! This will go a long way toward keeping the clutter under control. Remember: Organizing is not a one-time event.

The Family Handyman
Originally Published on The Family Handyman