Get rid of clutter one trash bag at a time
Americans have too much stuff. The LA Times reported the average American household has 300,000 items in it! This post from Becoming Minimalist has some other eye-opening clutter statistics. If you are anything like me, you would rather spend your free time doing things you enjoy rather than organizing and decluttering your home. I decided to challenge myself to eliminating clutter. We are building our dream home and I don’t want to take things with me that won’t add to our dream. I’ve started a list of items to purge before we move that you might find helpful as well. To get started with a decluttering project it can help to have a goal. Feel free to edit your goal as needed.
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I Challenged myself to declutter a garbage bag worth of items every week for 8 weeks
The challenge literally consisted of 1 rule: Purge one 13 gallon trash sack worth of items each week. I’ve written this post over the past 8 weeks as I went through this project. I wanted to track progress as I went. My hope is that you will find items to declutter in your own house by using my examples. Please leave a comment with items you were able to declutter at the bottom of this post. Best wishes on your decluttering journey.
Declutter Week 1: Magazines
I’ve moved an entire tote full of old magazines 3 times. I finally recycled all of them my first week. I cannot tell you how liberating this was. Silly reasons I was holding on to them: maybe I would finally go through them and use the recipes I marked, I might want to use an article from the nutrition journals, or other ridiculous lies I told myself. I’ve decided I will NOT be ordering any more paper magazine subscriptions in the near future. Are you holding on to old magazines in your house?
Total trash sacks to date: 1
Decluttering Week 2: Trash and Recycling
I filled 2 garbage sacks with trash and recycling just by doing a 30 minute sweep of my house. Items that I said goodbye to: tote full of scraps from a reupholstery project. From last year… Why this wasn’t tossed sooner, don’t ask. Packing materials from a delivery received a while back. Way too many empty toilet rolls to count (note to self: put a trash can in the toilet room!!). Junk mail, magazines, old receipts, empty water bottles. This list continues. Don’t judge. Consider doing a quick sweep of your own house and look for items that belong in the trash.
Also found these random items my sister had left behind when she moved (3 months ago). I ended up giving her two of my cookbooks as well. Win!
Total trash sacks to date: 3.5
Decluttering Week 3: Garage Scraps
Unexpectedly my husband lost something in the garage so we spent an hour decluttering construction materials. I asked when the last time he used any of the scraps he was holding on to. He said probably never. We filled a trailer bed full of Sheetrock, wood scraps, and even some Styrofoam. I wasn’t expecting this but I’m very happy this is out of the garage. I can actually get to all the shelving now. If most people are honest, there are probably several things in their garages or storage areas that just need to be tossed. Are you holding on to items that you “might use some day”? I recommend purging them.
Total trash sacks to date: 3.5 +scraps
Decluttering Week 4: Office Supplies and Old Papers
Office supplies were my next items to sort through. I emptied the dresser I’d been storing them inside. What’s that saying about out of sight out of mind? Yeah. Anyway, I tested all the pens and put the usable ones in our office, stuck the outdated stationary (from 2009 when I graduated college…) in the recycle, and threw away the 3 extra remotes we had accumulated. Then organized the random items I came across. After everything was either purged or organized I only had that little pink box left of items without a home or place. P.S. anyone need an almost full box of resume paper?
Since I didn’t get rid of any large items in this clean out I also went thru a box of old school projects, work materials, and random paperwork. I filled the bottom half a garbage sack with recyclable papers. Woot woot! Are you keeping excess office supplies, craft materials, or items that you once used but really aren’t useful to you anymore?
Total trash sacks to date: 4 +scraps
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Decluttering Week 5: My Clothing
Closet clean outs are daunting tasks. To make it easier I implement the hanger trick every year. I sell gently used clothing on poshmark (my closet on Poshmark). So far I’ve only made a whopping $80 but I’m optimistic. I reviewed my closet and any of the nice items I haven’t worn in a year (minus my favorite cocktail dresses) got put into my “sell tote”.
The hubs took pictures for me and I uploaded pics and specs to the poshmark app. I ended up adding a total of 7 dresses and 2 tops to the mix. I’m giving the items until next Summer. If they haven’t sold by then I’ll be taking them to a resale shop because my “sell tote” won’t be going with me to the new house. Most resale shops donate if your items don’t sell within 6 months so they won’t be coming back home with me.
Other clothing that has a lower resale value went into a bag for donations – filled the bottom half of a trash sack. Maybe 1 week I can convince the hubs to clean out his side of the closet. Easy 2 trash bags in there!
I also gave a coworker some toddler toys that my girls outgrew. Technically they’ve been in my trunk for a couple months now so I didn’t actually “declutter” them this weekend. But apparently I wasn’t going to remember to stop at goodwill any time soon! It’s still decluttering. Just from my car instead of my house.
All in all though with the clothing to donate, the items I’m selling, and the toys gone I am over a full trash sack this week! I forgot to take pictures of the clothing and toys I purged. Whoops. I highly recommended going through your clothing at least once per year if not every season. If you haven’t worn it in the past year it’s probably time to part with it. If you haven’t been weeding out your unused clothing this would make a great first decluttering project.
Total trash sacks to date: 5.5 +scraps
Decluttering Week 6: Textbooks and Kids Clothing
I am a nerd. I do not like getting rid of textbooks. It’s ridiculous. I bought all of my college and grad school texts. I only sold back ones that weren’t relative to my degree. That was a mistake. I realize selling your books back gets you less than what you paid for them.
But waiting too long gets you $0. Yes I ran the numbers trying to sell them online. No one wants 15+ year old texts. I gathered 6 textbooks I’m ready to part with. I haven’t opened them in… 5 years? Are you holding on to textbooks or other books you don’t read anymore? What about CDs, DVDs, or other often stored items that are rarely used?
I also went through my daughters’ clothing to determine things the littlest has outgrown. I have a friend at work with a daughter 1 year younger so I filled up a grocery sack full of tiny pants and shirts to give to her.
Total = half bag books plus a third with kids clothes. Close enough to a full sack!
Total trash sacks to date: 6.25 +scraps
Decluttering Week 7: Fridge, Freezer, and Pantry
It was past time to clean out the fridge. I filled up our 13 gallon trash can with expired items such as salad dressing and deli meat, a few half empty cartons of soy milk, broth, and the like that had been sitting in there for at least 2 months, leftovers that may or may not have started to grow mold, a yogurt that had fallen behind a shelf and gotten stuck, and few other random items.
I also cleared out the pantry. Just a couple of bags of stale chips, some hot-dog buns leftover from our last camping trip 1 month ago, and an empty box of cereal (someone must have been sleepy when they put it back!).
No pictures of the trash can. I know you’re disappointed! But I also finally decided to toss our broken laundry hamper. Two of the bars have snapped so I could no longer prop it up. It’s almost the size of a garbage bag itself! I only counted it as half a bag though. When was the last time you cleaned out your fridge and pantry?
Total trash sacks to date: 7.75 +scraps
Decluttering Week 8: Miscellaneous
This week was a hodgepodge week. I got the idea to sort through my summer shoes after reading this awesome list of things to purge in the fall. I have about 8 pair I didn’t wear. Ended up donating 4 of them. The others are more special occasion wear/heels that I won’t wear for work but do wear for weddings or other special events.
I also decided to sort through my plastic containers in the kitchen. I’ve got way more lids than I do containers. I’m giving myself a week to find the missing parts and then the rest will get tossed. These are often used as snack containers for my kids and they’ll wander off with the “bowl” part and leave the lid.
I also found 4 more clothing items to sell (2 dresses and 2 shirts) as I was removing my summer clothes from the closet and adding the fall/winter clothes. I also realized I was pretty happy with my winter wardrobe. It all fits in 1 tote! I’ve really paired it down over the last 4 years of living in Arizona. Due to having family who lives out of state and enjoying camping in northern Arizona I can’t have zero winter clothing. But I definitely didn’t need as much as I had 4 years ago (2-3 totes worth). If you live in a particular climate, consider only keeping the basics for other climates.
Hopefully some of these random items sparked action in your decluttering journey. I’m sure there are many other items that I need to purge. Decluttering is definitely a process. But getting rid of a lot of easy items first has motivated me to continue the journey and hopefully a year from now when we move into our dream home I won’t have anything left that I don’t want to take with me. If you would like to learn more about our dream home journey check out this post on our first set of revisions. Considering buying or building your own dream home? Here are some questions to ask yourself first!
Total trash sacks to date: 8.5 +scraps
8 weeks and over 8 trash sacks full of items to either sell, donate, recycle, or trash!
The challenge was a success! Now that I’ve sorted through a lot of larger items and random items the next project will be focused on decluttering smaller areas in the house. We have a couple of bookcases to tackle and the kids toys need a good sorting. Of course I’ll share the outcome of that challenge as well.
What items were you able to declutter or what are you planning to declutter during your garbage bag challenge?