3 Decluttering Projects You Can Tackle in 20 Minutes or Less

Decluttering and living with less is not an overnight transformation. For me, it has been a slow and steady journey and even now that I’ve gotten rid of most of my stuff, I have to watch for clutter creep.

Once you begin to enjoy the benefits of living with less, spending a little time and attention keeping clutter at bay is actually enjoyable. That said, no one wants to spend an entire weekend or even a full day dealing with clutter. There are better things to do like:

Instead of devoting hours to decluttering, take it in small, manageable chunks. Here are a few recommendations.

3 Decluttering Projects you can do in 20 Minutes or Less

3 Decluttering Projects You Can Do in 20 Minutes or Less

1. The Pantry
It’s hard to think about food as clutter, but take a look in your pantry or place you keep food. Set your timer for 20 minutes and remove anything that has expired. You might think canned food and other dry food will last forever, but it does not. Toss the old stuff.

Next remove what you don’t eat. Even though you thought it might be fun try gluten-free pasta, if you haven’t tried it yet, you probably won’t. Pack up any unopened, unused, unexpired food and set it aside to deliver to your local food pantry.

2. The Medicine Cabinet
Advil expires as does everything else in your medicine cabinet or drawer besides band-aids. Set your timer for 20 minutes and dump anything that is expired. Also toss the stuff you’ve used before that didn’t work. Check out the rules for dumping old medications, but most can be thrown away.

If you have extra time, note which OTC meds you take on a daily or weekly basis. Ask your doctor if there is a healthier way to address your ailment and pick up a copy of Mind Over Medicine by Lissa Rankin.

3. Purse/Wallet/Briefcase
Both men and women carry stuff. Chances are, there are a few Tic Tacs and some old lipstick in the bottom of your purse, old movie stubs in your wallet and pens that don’t work or a half eaten powerbar in your briefcase. Set your timer for 20 minutes and empty everything onto a tabletop. Wash out your purse/wallet/briefcase and then put the things that you actually use back in.

After 20 minutes of decluttering, celebrate by doing something you enjoy, even if that means doing nothing at all.


  1. says

    I’m an aspiring minimalist and so far this year I’ve taken six car loads to either the dump or donation box. It’s a start! :)

    Right now, I’m swamped with work. But I’ve got two teenage girls who claim they are bored. And I’ve been meaning to take care of both the pantry and medicine cabinet, so that’s their afternoon project! Thanks for the idea!

  2. says

    A nice list here. The first I actually did a couple of days ago. The second doesn’t exist in our household. Being vegan ensures it never will either :) And the third I do everytime I go out. I wouldn’t feel comfortable carrying around more than I need too.

    Another quick exercise worth doing is getting rid of old boxes or packaging. Personally I will sometimes keep the boxes of things I buy knowing that if I sell them, having the original box may increase the resale value. But they stack up and I usually end up giving away the items instead of selling them, so it’s good to get rid of these old boxes etc. The other day I even threw out a bunch of bubble wrap. I thought it would come in hand some day, but never did and was wasting space sitting there.

  3. Mary says

    My clutter doesn’t creep. It waltzes in the door, plops itself down, and makes itself at home. And it brings all of its friends.

    I like the idea of a timer, but it’s too stressful.

  4. Kelly says

    Those bandages CAN expire too! I used to buy fun ones from the dollar store bc it’s SO much less expensive. BUT I discovered that the wrappers open themselves over time (we’re talking years) and/or the adhesives don’t stick. I would probably still buy the cheapos if we blew through them, but as my kids are petrified of them, I just pay the premium for the actual “Band-Aid” brand.

  5. says

    Emptying coat and jacket pockets. It astonishes me how much clutter creeps into those things. Old shopping lists, wrappers, used kleenex, business cards, candies, money… It only takes a few minutes and coats hang better without all that stuff. Sometimes you even find treasures like lost keys!

  6. says

    Great ideas, I love decluttering by setting a timer and going for it. Another way I get rid of things in the pantry (that are not expired) is by skipping grocery shopping for a week to eat only what I have in my house already. Then I really will try that gluten free pasta :)

  7. says

    I find that doing frequent passes through the pantry actually saves time and money in the long run. Although I still feel sometimes that the grocery fairy comes through at night and deposits things that I never would have bought…

  8. says

    The medicine cabinet is a great one – there’s nothing like needing something and discovering that what’s in the drawer expired two years ago! I’m careful to do that at least once a year. Unfortunately, bandaids do expire, and I’ve had to throw them out when the wrappers open or they’re not longer sticky.

    Another area to try is your pen area. I think we all have a place where we throw extra pens, but really, how many do we need? And I bet a bunch of them don’t even work! It’s good to occasionally sort through those. And since that shouldn’t take too long, I’d throw in business cards. I have collected so many over the years. Some are good to keep, but most I don’t even remember who the person is and it’s better to throw it out. Or, ideally, one of these days I want to get all of that info on my computer and toss out the cards altogether.

    One more idea: the freezer. Most of us clean out the refrigerator regularly, but how often do you clean out the freezer? The last time I did it, I was a bit horrified at what I found. If you can’t remember the last time you cleaned out your freezer, do it now! 😉