The leaves are changing and, with their beautiful colors, comes the dawning realization that the holidays are not far behind. And the holidays are, without question, the Grand Prix of stuff. Home decorations need to come out. Dinnerware, flatware, china and crystal get called into action, not to mention napkins, tablecloths, and placemats. Plus all the utensils, pots, pans and baking sheets that might only get a workout once a year. If you have relatives coming you’re thinking about extra sheets, towels, seating and dishes. And this is all before you have bought, wrapped or mailed a single gift. Let alone received any, which means making space for new stuff. In the weeks between Halloween and New Year’s Eve it can feel like wrangling our stuff is suddenly an extra part-time job none of remember signing up for. And researchers at UCLA have proven that excess stuff raises cortisol levels. The holidays are stressful enough without adding more by having extra objects underfoot.

Which is why now is a perfect time to prepare and prep our spaces with a clutter purge. As a professional decluttering expert I encourage all my clients to take a few hours at this time of year to set ourselves up for success. This way we will head into the holidays and finish the year with less stuff and less stress.

Join me for my 10-Day Fall Decluttering Challenge. You’ll be amazed by how easy it is to declutter (and find peace of mind) when you just do a little bit at a time.

1. Take stock of the remnants of summer. Are there almost empty bottles of sunscreen and bug spray taking up precious space in your bathroom? Rinse and toss them in plastic recycling.

2. It’s the end of gardening season. Do you have cracked pots that can go? Rusted trowels? Gardening gloves with holes in them? Set yourself up for next spring by putting away what got used this summer and letting go of anything that’s fallen into disrepair. 

3. As you’re taking the Halloween spiderwebs and ghouls back down, notice what stuff isn’t in such great shape after being outside for a few weeks and toss it. What didn’t you hang this year? Let’s donate that.

4. It’s umbrella season! How many do you have and how many do you actually need? One in the car, two in the house usually keeps you covered. The rest? Donate to a homeless shelter.

5. As the weather gets chillier and you start to pull out your winter clothes, take an honest look at what you didn’t wear last year. Chances are you won’t wear it this year either. Donate it!

6. Since you’re putting away your warmer-weather clothes, let’s do a quick inventory and pull out everything you didn’t wear all summer. You know what comes next…. Donate it!

7. School’s been in full swing for two months. This is a great time to take a pass at the car interior. You, a large garbage bag and ten minutes will work miracles. P.S. Don’t use not having kids as an excuse for not doing this challenge! 

8. It turns out you don’t love the smell of those pumpkin spice candles (or maple pecan) you bought over the summer? Donate them! Trust that a true PSL lover will find and give them a great home. In some neighborhoods, you can even put them out at the end of your driveway with a sign saying, “Please take and enjoy.” 

9. Winter hats and gloves can take over a hall closet. Before the real cold snap hits, do a pass and weed out the ones you don’t love and donate them. If you’re not going to wear them, pass them along to someone who will.

10. The holiday season is about to begin! For our final challenge, let’s tackle the primary dumping ground of most homes: the dining room table. This is a great place to set up a holiday card station, or a wrapping station, but you can’t take advantage if it’s covered in half-finished projects and random detritus. Return everything that doesn’t belong there to it’s rightful home.

Once you have checked all these boxes you will feel lighter and less overwhelmed. And that truly is the best gift you can give yourself as you enter the holiday season.