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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Comments

  • Y2KJillian

    Don Aslett’s books such as Do I Dust or Vacuum First and Clutter’s Last Stand will walk you through every part of the process
    and help motivate you tremendously. Highly recommend.

  • Rachel Jones

    What a great list!
    Thanks for adding mine! :-)

  • Cecil Williamson

    For the freezer/ refrigerator/ pantry, every year in January is eat out of the pantry, fridge or freezer month, only perishable can be purchased. It is declutter and save money to pay those pesky Christmas bill. Works for me.

  • Journe

    my biggest problem is PAPERWORK,ARTICLES CUT OUT OF NEWSPAPERS, NOTES SCRIBBLED ETC. BOXES OF PAPERS.
    ANY LETTER, FORM THAT HAS ANY PERSONAL INFO ON HAS TO BE SHREDDED BEFORE DUMPING & OVERWHELMING TO GO THRU EACH PIECE IN EACH BOX OR STACK. Made decision
    whats really important to me to save or keep permanently or
    long term. I actually made myself think “IF SOMETHING HAPPENED TO ME & MY ADULT CHILDREN HAD TO CLEAR OUT MY HOUSE, WHAT IS IMPORTANT AND LABELED AS
    IMPORTANT ETC.” BOUGHT SOME NICE SMALLER BOXES THAT COULD BE KEPT ON OPEN BOOKSHELF IF WANTED OR
    STORED IN CLOSET. Important to me labeled: current Rent Leases or Current Home mortgage papers,financed or paid for,
    home tax papers for last 5 years with proof of paid.
    Auto, current lease, purchased paper agreements and bank.
    credit cards: Copy Picture each card, where paid.
    HEAltH: all Tests results, dates. All Surgerys, All rx Drugs , and Supplements taken & allergies last 5 years. (i keep all Health in boxe but in seperate folders.). ONE IMPORTANT:IN CASE OF
    EMERGENCY OR DEATH BOX!!CALL #’, HEALTH DIRECTIVE,
    ANY FUNERAL INFO OR PREPAID ONE, LIST OF CURRENT iNSURANCE, doctors names, Photo copies all credit cards, bank s, drivers license, Registration, Social Security card photo,
    list of utility companys u use with phone #, . Wills or trust or what you may want done in case of death. This is MOST IMPORTANT BOX TO HAVE CLEARLY MARKED.
    THEN I LIKE KEEPING “CURRENT ARTICLES ON POLITICAL THINGS GOING ON, CURRENT DRUG OR VITAMIN ARTICLES
    AND THIS MY BIGGEST MESS, BIGGEST AMOUNT OF JUNK
    PAPERS ALL THROWN IN BOXES. BIGGEST THING FOR ME TO
    JUST THROW IN TRASH BAG OR SHRED!!! IF HAVE TO SAVE
    ANYTHING, MARK SOMETHING SAYS “CURRENT NEWS ETC”.
    IF BOXES ARE ATTRACTIVE IT IS EASIER TO FIND PLACES TO
    KEEP THEM. Then IMPORTANT FAMILY, FRIEND PHOTOS!!!
    IF Not in Alblums, at least put all in a Photo Box together.
    This is My biggest mess problem and putbit off long time.
    Now I Am in middle doing it…Commited. 1. buy attractive boxes
    that u can keep visible or in closet. Lable them. 2. Tackle One
    Box of junk/papers per day minimum. Keep Black trash Bag by
    side & trash asap. 3. keep boxes visible in corner room till
    finished with all. 4. Decide where to keep stored, whether on
    visible shelving or in closet.
    note. When my mom died, she had all this done. One main box
    with copies of all banks, what was in them, copies all credit cards paid up to date $ with phone numbers call & report death & cancel , social security card with phone number to report death asap, Dmv info numbers with Auto Registration, dr.license, and Pink slip if paid for. Upon her death, i was able to quickly, easily, call all her info in to all places to report and cancel business. could go to her banks, withdraw money or just
    keep in bank but transfer into my name! She had a PREPAID
    CREMATION & SERVICE wanted, so that was easy upon us all in family. We all should know something can happen to any of us
    at anytime, any age, so make it easy on your family to have your
    Paperwork easy to access asap. Sure makes it all better, easier,
    less expensive physically & mentally. And if you need to get a
    lawyer, much cheaper if you already took care of much, cancelling cards etc. and all organized to get right away.

    • Debbie Zervas

      You can haul all types of paper items you want to vanish to a company that pays you by the pound and recycles the paper. They offer secure shredding at no charge.

      When dad died, I hauled five SUV loads to them and what I was paid was enough to cover my fuel costs and since I had ss #’s for all his employees for over twenty years it was a relief to have that certificate of secure shredding. They shredded everything while I watched and it was done quickly.

      • IBikeNYC

        When I worked for a professional-liability agency, they had an account with a company called, I believe, “Shred-It.” A truck would show up at regular intervals, and it was one girl’s job to take the papers out to it and watch and wait while they pulverized them.

    • Holly Allison

      I wish I could have read your comments but all that screaming-by writing mostly in caps straight out of the gate – was just too difficult to get through. I just had to stop reading. Please be aware that people are more likely to read what you are writing if you write it without yelling. It’s the person who is whispering that people will lean towards to hear more clearly and those that are yelling people back away from.

    • carrdude

      No need to shout!!

  • Holly Allison

    I’ve been doing a major clean out for years, it never seems to end !

  • Savannah Morgan

    I declutteered my house over two years and as I live I the country was able to leverage burn barrels. I burned new/old stuff as I chalked it up and said ‘I could have gambled all the money I bought those items with away.’ I am excited to say, I will be done purging this week. The amount of room and feeling of not being overwhelmed is amazing. Watch a few Hoarder shows and then look around your house. It maybe doesn’t have to be that extreme but it gets you wanting to finally do it. I only keep Christmas and Halloween items in select packaging…no more plastic containers or boxes…huge difference. I built large shelves in the closets so I can see what I have. I know that I have wasted at least $80k in stuff, moving it, and storing it. It really is a eye opener.

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