Last year, I moved into a new house. Walking through the empty rooms after closing left me giddy. They represented a fresh start and a clean slate.
Then we moved all our stuff in, and the clean slate quickly looked like the same old mess of our previous house.
Like many Americans, I suffer from TMSS – Too Much Stuff Syndrome. Add in five kids and an elderly mom, and my house is a constant parade of too many items coming in and not enough going out.
While I long to declutter, the sheer amount of stuff crowding the rooms is overwhelming. Although I could certainly start from one corner and work methodically around the room, I find I’m more likely to follow through if I have a challenge to motivate me.
Here are seven systems to help you kiss the clutter goodbye:
1. Five a Day
This is a simple concept, but it gives you a daily goal and breaks decluttering into bite-size bits.
As the name implies, a “Five a Day” system involves unloading five items from your house every day. Of course, if you’re feeling more motivated, you could do a “seven a day” or “10 a day” to speed up the process.
I find it’s best to put a box in the back of my van and place usable items in the box each night. (Items that can’t be salvaged end up in the trash.) Then, when the box is full, it goes straight to the thrift store.
In my experience, packing a box in the house means you’ll have a box in the corner for weeks, if not months. Storing it in the van makes it easy to move unwanted items out of the house ASAP.
2. 40 Bags in 40 Days
The 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge is the brainchild of blogger Ann Marie Heasley. It was created to coincide with the Christian observance of Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter. However, you could do the challenge at any time that is convenient.
Heasley’s system is essentially the Five a Day challenge on steroids. Rather than unload a few items each day, you ditch an entire bag of stuff.
The 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge may have an advantage for those who are easily bored. It has an end date, unlike the Five a Day challenge, which can go on indefinitely.
3. 2015 in 2015
If you need extreme decluttering, the 2015 in 2015 challenge may be right for you. This system is built on last year’s 2014 in 2014 challenge and requires — you guessed it — that you get rid of 2,015 items during the current year.
Your initial thought might be that you don’t even own 2,000 items. But you’d be surprised. The magazines you’re hoarding could count for 50, and you likely have 100-plus items in your closet. Plus there are all those knickknacks on the shelves, seasonal items in the attic and DVDs in the basement.
Try it and you’ll be surprised to discover just how much stuff is taking up residence in your home.
4. 100-Thing Challenge
Let’s say you’ve already streamlined your possessions but are longing for even more. Then you may be ready to take the plunge in the 100-Thing Challenge.
Popularized by author Dave Bruno’s book of the same name, this decluttering method challenges you to live with the bare minimum: just 100 things.
In Bruno’s case, he distinguished between personal items and family items. Shared goods such as the kitchen table, plates and food didn’t count toward the 100 things. Instead, he limited personal possessions to 100 items. Of course, you can certainly make up rules that suit your family.
Maybe you don’t want to simply declutter, you want to organize, too. The 12-12-12 system combines both objectives.
Joshua Becker of the blog Becoming Minimalist came up with this approach. Each day, you find 12 items to donate, 12 items to throw away and 12 items that need to be returned to their proper location.
For those final 12, you could choose items lingering on the coffee table that need to be moved elsewhere in the house. Or, perhaps you could zero in on library books or other things borrowed from others that are due to be returned.