7 Ways to Declutter You Probably Haven’t Tried

Tired of feeling weighed down by your possessions? Here are seven ways to declutter painlessly and effectively.


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.

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.

When the box of usable items 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. According to Heasley:

Don’t focus on the bags. Focus on getting all of the unnecessary stuff out in one spot per day. Don’t go nuts and tackle five spots because you want to prove something. Don’t get all bummed out because you missed a day (or ten). Just focus on one. spot. per. day.

3. 2016 in 2016

If you need extreme decluttering, the 2016 in 2016 challenge may be right for you. This system requires — you guessed it — that you get rid of 2,016 items during the current year.

Blogger Rachel Jones first used this technique eight years ago. She says that last year, more than 12,000 people downloaded the decluttering chart found at her website. According to Jones:

The rules are your own: If you have a stack of magazines to get rid of, you may count it as one item, or you can count each magazine as an item. You may even guess the number! The point is just to get rid of it.

4. 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 make up rules that suit your family.

5. 12-12-12

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. Becker says:

On more than one occasion, this challenge actually became a quick competition between my wife and me… and your kids don’t have to be too old to participate as well.

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