Creating a Life Free From Chaos

40 Days of Clearing and Decluttering: A Lenten Challenge

Today is Ash Wednesday, and I always struggle with the notion that I should deprive myself of something for Lent, or at the very least, challenge myself to do something noteworthy for the 40 days leading up to Easter. In the spirit of “giving something up for Lent,” I’ve decided to try 40 days of decluttering, clearing my space and life for a more intentional lifestyle. Even if you don’t observe Lent, would you like to join me for 40 days of clearing?

40 Days of Clearing and Decluttering: A Lenten Challenge

I’m tackling the 40 days in sets of five, by category, in the spirit of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy.

Clothing and Accessories

  • Any clothes that don’t fit and that don’t spark joy when you wear them
  • Accessories you don’t wear — belts, scarves, handbags, etc.
  • Shoes you never wear, that are worn out, or don’t fit correctly
  • Coats and jackets you don’t like or wear
  • Jewelry that no longer sparks joy


  • Old magazines and newspapers — recycle anything you’re not going to read
  • Books (gasp! I know!) — unless it’s a beloved book you intend to read again or reference often, consider passing it along or donating to a library
  • DVDs and CDs you no longer watch or listen to
  • Email — if your in-box is overflowing, take some time to clear it out so you don’t miss important messages. Few things are as nerve-wracking as an overflowing in-box.
  • Unsubscribe from email newsletters and email lists you don’t love or you don’t find useful.

Decor and Furnishings

  • Excess furniture — take a fresh look around your home and get rid of any bulky furniture you don’t need. Create visual space and a lighter feeling!
  • Excess bedding — sheets or pillow cases with stains or holes, mismatched pieces you hate. I like to keep two sets per bed that mix and match well with each other.
  • Knick-knacks you don’t like or don’t want to continue dusting
  • Artwork that no longer suits your style
  • Any decor that doesn’t bring you joy. Your home should be comfort and inviting — it’s your sanctuary.

The Bathroom

  • Toiletries you don’t use or are expired
  • Make-up that doesn’t suit you or is past its prime
  • Extra towels — it’s amazing how towels seem to pile up! I like to keep 2 per person, plus a couple extra for guests.
  • Those travel toiletries and hotel soaps that pile up in the bathroom cabinet. Donate them to a homeless shelter or use some to create a hospitality jar if you have frequent guests.
  • Expired medication — give to your pharmacy for safe disposal or do what I do — dump it in used kitty litter when I’m taking out the cat box!

The Kitchen

  • Clear out your pantry for any food that’s expired or that you know you won’t eat
  • Empty your freezer of those freezer-burned mystery meats, and clean out the fridge of expired condiments any anything that smells off or looks odd
  • Cookbooks you never use
  • Specialty gadgets or appliances you never use — the pineapple corer, the yogurt maker, the snocone machine. We all have something!
  • Extra coffee cups and plastic to-go cups that seem to multiply in the cupboard

Home Office

  • Pens that don’t work, dried up markers, broken pencils
  • Junk mail and old paperwork — shred or recycle
  • Craft supplies in excess of what you actually intend to use this year
  • Your to-do list — take a long, hard look at your tasks and get rid of the fluff. Delegate what you can and get back to the tasks that mean the most to you and your goals.
  • Any obligations you have in your schedule that you don’t enjoy or feel are worthwhile to your goals. Be intentional about what you fill your time with.

Sentimental Items and Kid Stuff

  • Old photos you don’t like, are unflattering, that bring up bad memories, and duplicate copies
  • Gifts you received that you’re only holding onto out of obligation
  • Old greeting cards and notes that don’t hold special meaning to you. Likewise kid scribbles, artwork and school papers — curate the best and let go of the rest!
  • Kids’ toys that are broken or outgrown
  • Kids’ clothes that are outgrown, torn or stained beyond wearability. It’s OK to save a few special baby outfits that bring you joy, but let go of the rest.

Your Life

  • Social events you don’t enjoy — you don’t have to say yes to every invitation. Save your energy for what truly matters to you.
  • Let go of guilt over the past. You can’t change the past, so there’s no point in wallowing in regret.
  • Free yourself from worrying about the future and put your energy into living with positive intention.
  • Make a plan to clear the debt from your life as quickly as possible. Make a budget and plan where your money will go.
  • Let go of anything that clogs your schedule and prevents you from spending quality time with God, your family, and much-needed time alone to recharge.

4 Replies

  1. I like this a lot, especially the last item about anything that takes time away from God. The only one I’ll disagree with is passing on books: about 10 years ago, I donated several boxes of books to keep from lugging them around on subsequent moves (my husband was moving us a lot for his career); I’ve regretted it ever since. :/

    1. Books are definitely a tricky category! I’ve passed on a lot of books to the library, but I do still have a wonderful collection of favorites.

  2. I love the point you make about social engagements you don’t enjoy! I’ve been going to fewer and fewer of those this year and wow, it makes quite a difference in mindset. It’s a great reminder to focus on what matters and say yes and no without feeling the guilt!

    1. Definitely Angela! I’m very selective with the events I go to these days!

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