Each season feels like a good time to start over. Fall means a new school year, a new look for the trees, and an opportunity to reevaluate, make changes, and simplify.

It’s also one of the best times of the year to focus on decluttering. Sometimes stuff just accumulates, and you don’t even realize that it’s taking up a lot of space when you could easily do without it. Plus, you know you can expect an influx of gifts, toys, guests, and probably stress as we inch nearer to the holidays...might as well be prepared, right?

When there’s so much clutter and so many different areas that need work, the key is not to let the overwhelm win. By narrowing it down to a few key areas, you can take action.

Here’s what to focus on:

The kitchen

I spend a lot more time in my kitchen during the fall months than during summer. I know I’ll be hosting more dinner guests and preparing for holidays that revolve around elaborate dinners, so it’s time to purge!

Ditch the cookware you never use. Take inventory of your pots, pans, and bakeware. Don’t be afraid to donate things you’ve never or rarely used. If you’ve done without it for this long, you don’t need it!

For whatever reason, we tend to keep way more dishes than any typical family needs. While sometimes we need a spare set for hosting, three spare sets are definitely not necessary for most people. And even if it is necessary, you don’t have to store all those dishes in your main cupboard.

You know what happens to dishes stored there? They get used, and then they get left in the sink, forming a massive pile for you to wash at the end of a long day. If you only have what your family needs during a typical day, that’s all that will get dirtied, and you save yourself time and stress. #momwin

The kids’ toys

As we head deeper into the school year, it’s a great time to put the reins on the toys. Kids play better with fewer options. Add in the expectation of keeping their rooms clean and completing homework on time, and you have all the reasons in the world to simplify here. There’s a pretty decent influx of toys when Christmas sneaks up, so simplify now and be thankful you did in a few months.

Ask yourself if the toys in your child’s room are serving a good purpose.

  • Are they encouraging him to use his imagination?
  • Are they getting him outdoors more?
  • Do they help him use his brain to build and create things?

If not, reconsider allowing the toy to take up space in your home.

Make it about something bigger than a clean space. When it comes to getting my kids involved and on board, this is key—make it about empathy by encouraging your kids to give away the excess and bless another child who has a lot less.

Make it fun, make it purposeful. Make a bet with them that they can’t find 10 toys to give away. Continue to make your kids a part of the process by taking them with you to the donation center. Praise them for making good choices, You don’t want this to feel like a random, unwarranted punishment.

The living area

Our living areas hold so much of our family time, shouldn't they feel clean, uncluttered, and cozy? So often they end up littered with school papers, toys and random items that don’t seem to belong anywhere else. There’s a definite line between lived in and disastrous—the best thing to do with main areas is to keep it simple. As a minimalist, this lifestyle has always been about so much more than having a clean home.

Decide what the purpose of each room will be for your family. Do you use the formal living room just for special occasions? If so, keep it clean and pretty and keep clutter out of there.

Is your family room a place where you and your brood collapse at the end of a long day to catch up? Then the last thing you need is to sit down on a stack of school books or find snack wrappers tucked under the cushions.

Dedicate other places for things like backpacks, school books, toys, and trash, and start setting a boundary for this important room—clean and cozy only! If it doesn’t serve the purpose of the space, then don’t allow it to be set down.

You wouldn’t store kitchen utensils in your child’s toy bin, so don’t store non-family room things in the family room. Remove what doesn't belong, make sure it has an actual home, and over time the people you live with will catch on to the new rule.

The closets

Fall brings the best clothing of the whole year— it’s time to put away your sandals and tank tops and say, “Hello!” to boots and skinny jeans. I always suggest tackling everyone’s closets at the same time, the same way.

Set aside what’s out of season and doesn’t fit. If it’s not in season anymore, and it doesn’t fit who it belongs to (or any siblings you could hand it down to), get rid of it for sure. This is an easy place to start to build momentum.

Then, decide what to keep and what to let go. If it’s damaged beyond repair, if it’s not something you really want your child (or yourself) wearing out of the house, if it’s not realistic for the climate you live in, then let it go.

Only keep items that are going to serve you and your family members well. Anything else isn’t worth the space it takes up in the drawers.

The coat closet

The weather is getting crisp and the holiday season of entertaining is upon us. You’re all prepared for your weekend dinner guests. People show up, you welcome them in feeling super on-top of things, you open the coat closet to put their purse and coat away and then it happens—they see your mess.

Maybe you’re mortified or maybe you don’t care. No matter what, we can all agree that it feels great not to have any disaster areas lurking behind closet doors.

When you’re purging, the hardest part is deciding what to keep and what to let go. Ask yourself three questions to help make the decision quicker and easier:

  • When was the last time I used this?
  • Could I live for the next 30 days without this?
  • Is this making my life easier right now?

Get intentional after the purge happens. One thing I see a lot of my students do when they first begin decluttering is: tackle an area; make piles of keep, trash, and donate; then burn out and walk away for a break... and life happens, they get distracted, and before they know it their piles are undone by a kid, husband, or pet.

So, after you declutter, take action! Bag up the trash and carry it outside, put the donations in the back of your car and set a reminder on your phone to drop them off. Then put everything you're keeping in its new home. And be sure to follow through all the way.