Your Strategic (and Almost Painless) Plan For Decluttering and Deep Cleaning One Space a Month in 2022

No more chaos in the new year—here’s how.

Every January, we take the holiday decorations down and look forward to a fresh start. As we head toward 2022, this feeling is stronger than ever. After spending the last two years at home, we just can't wait until spring cleaning season to get our houses in order. Instead, we're starting in January and continuing all year long, focusing on one space a month. There's a lot of deep cleaning tasks that apply to all rooms, like sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, and wiping down walls, baseboards, and doors. Dusting and cleaning everything in sight, including things you normally don't pay attention to like lamp shades and curtain rods, is also key. But don't let this list tire you out before you've even begun. After all, you have a whole month to tackle each room, and once you get started, the results will be all the motivation you need to keep going. As you work your way through the house, knock some things off your maintenance list and test and replace smoke alarm batteries, replace air filters and light bulbs, clean air vents and registers, and sanitize door handles and light switches. And of course, don't forget to kick your feet up and enjoy the fruits of your labor like dust-free doors and the freshest of linens.

January: Kitchen

The kitchen is the heart of every Southern home. It's where we spend most of our time—and make most of our messes. After spending the holidays playing hostess and baking endless peanut butter kiss cookies, our kitchens are ready for a little TLC. Start by throwing out past-their-prime leftovers and expired foods in the fridge, cabinets, and pantry. This will give you the opportunity to wipe down surfaces before putting the food back (don't forget to defrost the freezer). After you've conquered the food, it's time to take stock of your kitchen supplies like silverware and storage containers, again simultaneously wiping down surfaces. The biggest focus should be on the appliances, pulling them out to clean the floors and zeroing in on stubborn nooks and crannies like door seals. Make sure you also deodorize and degrease the sink drain and clean any rags or sponges.

February: Living and Family Rooms

If we spend most of our time in the kitchen, then we spend the rest of it in the living and family rooms. In addition to decluttering, your top priority in these rooms is attending to the fabrics, which are often neglected in daily cleaning. Give your slipcovers, pillow covers, and blankets a good wash, and once that's underway, you can focus on spot cleaning and vacuuming the sofa and chairs. Other things to consider: dusting electronics and sanitizing remote controls.

March: Bathrooms

Unless your name is Marie Kondo, you're probably not 100% sure what will be in your bathroom cabinets and drawers. Start by emptying them out completely, then wipe them down inside and out. As you're organizing their contents, keep an eye out for expired medicine and makeup, any replacements needed like toothbrushes and towels, and things with an inexplicable layer of grime (you know the kind). Make sure you scrub and reseal any grout lines that need some love, strip your towels, replace the shower curtain liners, and clean your makeup brushes.

April: Outdoors

Before it gets too hot, turn your attention to the outdoors so you can enjoy porch cocktails, patio fires, and grilling ASAP. Take a broom to all the cobwebs you can see, then power wash your patio, porch, and deck, as well as your exterior, driveway, and sidewalk. After that, clean the gutters, outdoor furniture, cushions and pillow covers, windows and tracks, and screens. Finally, check for damaged screens, hoses, and structures. Before you turn your attention to the yard, set up the grill and refill your propane tanks. Once that's done, clear out the weeds and dead foliage, trim and prune the plants, add fresh mulch and soil to the beds, and decide what plants need to be replaced.

May: Garage

It's tempting to ignore the garage and just accept the cobwebs and clutter, but the end result is so worth it. To begin, open up the garage doors and take out as much as you can to start the decluttering process and make cleaning easier. Once that's done, it's time to scrub the space down from top to bottom, doing the usual dusting and wiping down of surfaces as well as mopping the walls and garage doors. Once you dry them with a microfiber cloth, sweep the floor to get rid of all the dust and dirt before mopping and hosing it down. While the floor is drying, decide what you want to keep, grouping everything by category. Once they're fully dry (after about two to four hours with a floor fan), use shelving units, pegboards, and wall hooks to get organized. Before you head back inside, don't forget to replace the batteries in your garage door openers.

June: Primary Bedroom

Now that we have the communal spaces and outside taken care of, it's time to focus on you. Pull out everything in your closet, dressers, and nightstands, discarding or donating whatever hasn't been used, doesn't fit, or is simply creating clutter in a space that's supposed to bring calm. Once you know what's left, it's time to start organizing to maximize space and make everything easy to find. After that's done, head to the bed and remove all the bedding (bed skirt included) to be washed and clean the mattress.

July: Office

Sometimes the most cluttered spaces are home offices, because it's so easy to shove things in your desk while vowing to address them later. Go through your documents, shredding what you no longer need and scanning the essentials. After, tackle your junk mail—not just recycling it, but contacting the senders to be removed from their lists. Take a look at your supplies, checking for things like dried out pens and an overabundance of notecards, to figure out what to replace, donate, or throw away. Once your space is fully decluttered, see if you can further optimize your organizational system for maximum efficiency. On the tech side, make sure to dust the electronics, sanitize your keyboard and mouse, and if you haven't yet, tame your cords with a cord cover kit or cable management box.

August: Dining Room

Depending on how often you host, the dining room will either be a breeze or especially tedious. First do an audit of your linens and cushions, looking for stains and holes. Once they've been treated or trashed accordingly, launder and press the leftover linens, taking special care with any heirlooms. After, hand wash your china and polish your silver so they're ready to go the next time guests come over.

September: Entryway and Mudroom

Summer's over, which means school has started and colder weather and holidays are on their way, making September the ideal time to get your entryway and mudroom in top shape. This is probably the easiest month of the whole year, given the small spaces and uncomplicated cleaning. Give most of your attention to things like shoes, jackets, and mats. What needs to be cleaned, patched up, donated, or trashed? Once you take care of those items, you're all done.

October: Laundry Room

The laundry room: a space we all know we should clean more often, but ultimately end up neglecting. The first step is to move your washer and dryer. Gather up any lost socks or washcloths prior to washing your lint trap filter and dryer vent, which will prolong your dryer's heating abilities, ultimately resulting in faster dried clothes and a lower energy bill. Before putting your washer and dryer back into place, clean the floor and the back of the appliances. Finish the job by cleaning your washing machine and taking stock of your laundry supplies.

November: Storage Areas

The basement, attic, and closets are likely the least visited places in your home. Your missing glove, old yearbooks, Aunt Lucy's broken china you can't bear to part with—who knows what you'll find? Storage spaces are all about maximizing efficiency, so your focus here is on decluttering and reorganizing to ensure the things you actually need are easy to find.

December: Kids' Bedrooms

As the year winds down, the gifting occasions ramp up—which means the clutter does too. Stay ahead of the mess by partnering with your kids to purge clothes that don't fit, neglected toys, and knickknacks that should have never made it into the house in the first place. Once that's done, work with them to reorganize their closets, sanitize plastic toys, and wash stuffed animals and soft toys. You also want to give all bedding, including bed skirts, a good clean, including the mattresses. Before you check this final month off your list, do a thorough audit of everything in the room, looking for things like water marks on the nightstands, drawings on the closet walls, and broken slats on the bed (because kids will be kids, and Mom should know what's up).

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