My Secret for Decluttering

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I am not really a person who intentionally holds onto a lot of stuff.  I don’t feel the need to keep every free shirt or save every Christmas card. But somehow, we accumulate so much stuff.  I don’t even know where it comes from!  I used to struggle with decluttering because I would get easily overwhelmed.  It was hard to determine a ‘stopping point,’ too.  I’d clean one closet out and feel compelled to do the next closet… and the attic… and the pantry… until it was 3 AM and I was having a mild allergy attack from all the dust.


However, about a year ago, I read about a little game called the 100 Item Toss.  The challenge – go through your closets and drawers and set aside 100 items to throw away or donate to charity.  I loved the idea for one reason: it was decluttering with a set end point.  Since participating in the 100 Item Toss, I’ve done other (naturally smaller) tosses every few months.  When you have a set number in mind, you get brutal.  You don’t really need to hang onto three pairs of worn out sneakers.


I recently did a 30 Item Toss and – man – it felt good to reduce my closet even further.  Most of the items I tossed and donated were pieces that I considered getting rid of in my last toss, and because I haven’t used them since, it was easy to sort them into the trash/Goodwill bags.


I got to 21 items and then I went on a crazy rampage, checking through storage bins and bookshelves to find 9 more items to get rid of.  And then, once I reached 30, I stopped – and felt oh-so-satisfied.

IMG_6602 IMG_6604

I also boxed up every single piece of clothing that no longer fits the baby bump.  I’ll store it in the attic until the baby is born and the weight comes off.  It was getting mighty annoying to have to dig through 15 pairs of regular pants just to locate my three pairs of maternity jeans/pants!


Ahhhhh, organization.  I love thee.


Beyond the fact that it was very easy to find something to wear today, it’s been a crazy and hectic day so far.  Thank goodness it’s Friday.


I had a mid-morning meeting with Molly at an awesome restaurant in Uptown Charlotte called The King’s Kitchen.  The King’s Kitchen donates 100% of profits from sales to feed the poor and homeless in Charlotte, the region, and the world. The restaurant also strives to provide employment opportunities to individuals who recently experienced homelessness, run-ins with the law, or rehab.  A wonderful business concept, right?


Plus, The King’s Kitchen has really, really good food.  All Southern fare!  We went to the restaurant because I had a serious pregnant hankering for deviled eggs. 


And I got the buttered beans and sweet potato mash.


So – tell me. What’s your secret for decluttering?



  • Poptartyogini February 3, 2012, 2:38 pm

    Sadly I have no strategies and we have a lot of junk. By the time the weekend rolls around decluttering is the last thing on our minds. Maybe 50 things each would be a good place to start

  • Rachel February 3, 2012, 2:42 pm

    sounds like someone is nesting! it’s a great feeling to get rid of useless junk, isn’t it? we’ve moved across the country twice, so that really cuts down on ones clutter. but i definitely make it a seasonal habit to purge things from my closet & home. i take old books to the used bookstore & sell them, put stuff on ebay or craigslist & everything else gets donated. such a good feeling!

  • Lindsey February 3, 2012, 2:47 pm

    With my clothes I do two clean outs a year, if I did not year it the past season, it goes, I used to hang on for clothes for years, but not now!

    • Alett February 3, 2012, 3:37 pm

      Great idea Lindsey – I am going to try this!

  • Caitlin February 3, 2012, 2:48 pm

    I love this method! We are having a yard sale in March and I am going to use this over the weekend to build up our yard sale pile.

  • Sarah February 3, 2012, 2:49 pm

    My secret is to stop the clutter from ever entering the house! I’ve had to be VERY firm with family members who want to give me something they are done with, thinking I’d appreciate it.

    “Thanks mom, while I appreciate you thinking of me, I don’t think I’ll get much use out of that medieval fireplace popcorn popper thingy. No. Really. I don’t want it.”

  • Annie @ Naturally Sweet Recipes February 3, 2012, 2:54 pm

    My secret is if I honestly haven’t used it in a year, it’s gone. Also- if you find something and you realized you had completely forgotten you owned it, I sometimes toss it (unless it’s a seasonal or special item). I love the comment about not letting it enter your house! I also am a fan of storage boxes that can slide under beds or in closets!

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat February 3, 2012, 3:11 pm

    I LOVE decluttering.. I don’t know why, but I just feel so…. cleansed? Usually if it’s clothing that is either 1) damaged or 2) hasn’t been worn in 2 summers/2 winters, then I either throw it out or donate it. I also stick labels on my clear bins (because I’m a stationery nerd and love all office supplies!) and organize my important paper stuff, receipts, bills etc with binder dividers.

  • Katie @ Peace Love & Oats February 3, 2012, 3:24 pm

    My secret is moving! Ever since I left for college I moved at least once a year. This is actually the first time I haven’t moved, I’ve been in my current apartment for a year and 5 months, which is crazy for me! Guess I should do some de-cluttering soon!

    • Maija February 3, 2012, 3:56 pm

      that was my decluttering catalyst too! During college I moved a total of 8 times! EIGHT! That sure taught me what I really appreciate having and what isn’t worth the space.

      • Kim February 3, 2012, 7:16 pm

        Totally agree!! I moved eight times in 3 years after college, then relocated to Chicago, where all my belongings were sold on Craigslist and whatever was left fit in my jeep wrangler! Since being married and living in the same place 2 years I have kept the same mindset. If I don’t need/use it I don’t buy it. Also, I went through each room and separated items in separated bins, this keeps each room clutter free. And with clothes, new item in-old item out. This keeps you focused on buying clothes that will last, and build around those.

        • Vikki February 4, 2012, 12:09 am

          Third! Moving is the best declutterer ever and when you stop moving it becomes a problem. I moved 17 times in 10 years during college and early adulthood. (My poor parents helped me move most of those times.) 6 years ago, I bought a house and stopped the decluttering. Big Mistake! I’ve been doing a massive declutter over the last year. I got rid of 9 garbage bags full of old clothes (some of which I’d had since college and well, that was 15 years ago.) I’m still working on it, but my house is getting much cleaner.

  • Lindsay February 3, 2012, 3:27 pm

    I would love to hear any tips on getting others to declutter…I am moving in with my fiance, and he is a serious clutter bug. Any time I bring up the topic of clearing closets out, or throwing something away he gets really upset. He feels personally attached to everything and takes it personally if I want to get rid of it. He is not a hoarder, or anything terrible like that, but he has a serious clutter problem. Any tips on how to help him clear out the unnecessary clutter?

    • Maija February 3, 2012, 4:01 pm

      Lindsay, my poor mom suffered with this same thing during her marriage. My dad was a total clutter bug! Her solution was to allow him his own space to keep everything he wanted so it wasn’t annoying anyone else. Since we lived in the middle of nowhere, my dad built himself an entire shed (crazy, I know). A shed probably isn’t the answer, however, maybe allowing him his own place to keep his stuff will create peace of mind for him but also create a finite area so once it’s full, it will force him to reevaluate what he’s holding on to before he can add more?

    • Kristie February 3, 2012, 4:12 pm

      My husband has this problem too! We kinda compromise… he keeps a couple containers of things I would throw out in a heartbeat (t-shirts from his little league days, for example), but they stay in the basement. The real problem is that both of our sets of parents LOVE to give us random… treasures. And he has a hard time saying no and feels guilty if we give them to Goodwill after the fact. 🙂

    • Marissa C February 4, 2012, 12:07 am

      Same problem here. I found going through it myself first and then giving him choices helps some. We had SO many t-shirts, so I let him choose his 20 favorites. That’s still a lot, but better than the FORTY there were before!!! It’s harder to get him to get rid of his other stuff, though…unless he can sell it on ebay and get a new “toy”

    • Caitlin February 4, 2012, 10:06 am

      I heard this good tip: Instead of keeping all those old frat shirts or race tees, take pictures of all of them and make an awesome scrapbook.

  • Laura February 3, 2012, 3:39 pm

    My husband and I have a “one item in, one item out” rule of thumb. If you buy something new, you have to get rid of something else (usually a like item). We often try to sell the item on eBay or Craigslist if it’s worthwhile, or we donate it to charity (assuming it’s not “trash” condition, of course). It works well for us and is sort of like clutter prevention!

    • Eliza February 4, 2012, 5:23 am

      This is kind of the rule I follow, I am kind of obsessive with throwing things out now though. But main idea is to throw out something when you replace it, not “oh, I will just keep the old leggings for running”, then you end up with 11 pairs of leggings

  • Stellina @ My Yogurt Addiction February 3, 2012, 3:41 pm

    I feel so accomplished when I de-clutter my closet and drawers! It feels good to give away things that I no longer use, as well as looking at a clean and neat closet is so much more pleasing to my eyes

  • Sonia the Mexigarian February 3, 2012, 3:47 pm

    If i kew the secret to decluttering then i wouldn’t be overhwlemed by the volume of stuff in my office 🙁 Loads and loads of papers/articles/recipes/artwork all in the space. ugh.

    i got to try the 100 item theing, or even a smaller number.

    trouble with me, I get very sentimentally attached to a LOT of my stuff.

  • kathleen @ the daily crumb February 3, 2012, 3:48 pm

    i don’t have a secret and maybe that’s why my closets/basement are overflowing with clutter!!

    i find it so hard to part with running shoes — every pair has so many memories!

  • Cm @ Lazy Healthy February 3, 2012, 3:49 pm

    Best de-cluttering/anti-pack rat tip ever: Move at LEAST once per year! But now that MR. Boyfriend and I have recently bought a house, my secret tip has gone out the window.

    • SpaceySteph February 4, 2012, 7:20 am

      This was my method too. I moved 5 times in 4 years, which always gave me a reason to get rid of things. The less crap you move, the less you have to pay the movers. Good incentive.
      I have a house now too, which means more space for crap and no more moving. Oops!

  • Sarena (The Non Dairy Queen) February 3, 2012, 3:49 pm

    Caitlin, I am a stacker. The only way I get to the point where I declutter is when the number of stacks and the height that they get becomes overwhelming. Then, everything goes. It’s not a good method, but it’s a method…

  • Casie February 3, 2012, 3:59 pm

    Timely! One of my resolutions this year is to throw out/donate one thing per day for a month over two non consecutive months. February is the first month.

    I also like the one in, one out rule.

  • Kelley February 3, 2012, 4:01 pm

    We are turning our office into the nursery so everything in there has to go. We went paperless, scanned important things, got rid of FOUR file cabinet drawers, and consolidated/donated/threw out the rest. It’s not easy, but it feels so good!

  • Brittney February 3, 2012, 4:12 pm

    I need to do this, big time. Might be my agenda for this evening!

  • Anna February 3, 2012, 4:13 pm

    I don’t have one so I am stealing yours..3o item toss here I come!

  • deva at deva by definition February 3, 2012, 4:21 pm

    We use the 30-minute tidy: if we can’t get our house to guest-ready in 30 minutes or less, then something needs to change. We toss what we need to toss, store what we need to store, and dust what we need to dust.

    Buying a house helped A LOT with clutter. We donated three or four bags of stuff to goodwill, and got rid of about 8 bags of garbage when we moved – so we wouldn’t have it all just sitting around.

  • Kristen February 3, 2012, 4:30 pm

    Play music lound (not recommended during 3am cleaning :-)) so that you don’t get bored. I love keeping things neat so I don’t have too much trouble getting motivated…but I do associate memories to certain things which makes them hard to donate. I just try to remember that keeping sentimental items in a drawer/closet/pile in the corner isn’t really doing it any justice and that someone else will probably find better use for it. Plus clean closets are so pretty! Just try and keep the end goal in mind.

    • Caitlin February 4, 2012, 10:05 am

      yes music is def required for a decluttering!

  • Hillary February 3, 2012, 4:31 pm

    Ironically, I have three pairs of old sneakers—with holes in them—chilling in my closet. Time to get rid of them, me thinks!

    I like to clean out my drawers and closet twice a year. It feels so good to make room!

  • Laura @ She Eats Well February 3, 2012, 4:33 pm

    Gotta say, I looove mashed sweet potatoes. I could eat them all year round. As for decluttering, I imagine how nice my room/apt looks decluttered and usually that motivates me. I put on the TV really loud and watch bad TV while organizing and throwing stuff out. I like to donate my clothes, too.

  • Gina @ Running to the Kitchen February 3, 2012, 4:39 pm

    I’ve heard you talk about the 100 item toss before but this really resonated this time. I need to do that. We don’t hang onto a bunch of stuff either. My husband is pretty much the definition of a minimalist but I’ve noticed keeping a lot more things than before ever since we moved into our house which has plenty of extra rooms and storage space just b/c we have the space when really, we don’t need or want it. This would be the perfect snowy day thing to do but we haven’t even had one of those this winter! (not that I’m complaining about that!)

  • shae February 3, 2012, 4:49 pm

    Fun tip for getting rid of old books/DVDs/CDs/electronics- you can trade these in on Amazon and get Amazon credit. Win win!

  • Anna P. February 3, 2012, 4:52 pm

    I do a toss every month in my closet and a toss of the rest of my house once every 3 months. First everything we don’t want goes in the garage. I ask my friends/family if there is anything they need. If not, I donate it all except for large items that we could possibly sell in a yard sale or craigslist.

    My philosophy is that if I haven’t worn it/used it in a few months…I don’t need it anymore!

  • Sneakers2Sandals February 3, 2012, 5:00 pm

    Throwing things away is therapeutic for me! Here’s a way to de-clutter: MOVE. My husband and I seem to keep moving around and every time we move we throw a lot of things away.

  • Megan February 3, 2012, 5:30 pm

    1) I like your storage boxes! Pink makes everything more fun.

    2) What a random breakfast! lol!

    3) What do butter beans taste like? I randomly picked up a can a long time ago to put in soup or something and forgot to add them and now I don’t know what to do with them.

    • Caitlin February 4, 2012, 10:04 am

      You know, the other butter beans I’ve had were big fat white beans but these kind of looked and tasted like buttered lima beans? So I’m not sure.

  • StoriesAndSweetPotatoes February 3, 2012, 5:41 pm

    I get so much satisfaction from decluttering and organizing. I do most of it when I move so it’s a lot at once and it feels so good! This post reminded me of deviled eggs…I forgot about them somehow! Making some soon! Have a great weekend 🙂

  • Meg @ My Chocolate Covered Life February 3, 2012, 5:48 pm

    My rule is that anytime I get a new piece of clothing, I need to get rid of an older one. I only have enough hangers for my closet, so if I get a new shirt I HAVE to git rid of an older one, otherwise it won’t fit. It also forces me to get rid of clothing I’m not wearing on a regular basis. And, as an added incentive, it makes me think twice before buying more clothes!

  • Kris February 3, 2012, 6:08 pm

    Unfortunately, since we’re no longer doing Navy moves, the stuff has accumulated. I’d read about getting rid of at least 10 things per day, so that’s what I’m trying to do. I find myself having a much harder time getting rid of things as I get older, but I do make a lot of trips to Goodwill.

  • Molly @ RDexposed February 3, 2012, 6:53 pm

    My secret: don’t think, just do!

  • chelsey @ clean eating chelsey February 3, 2012, 6:59 pm

    I love getting rid of stuff too – I can’t stand the clutter! I usually just can’t think about it too hard. If I haven’t used it, it gets tossed! Otherwise if I play the “if/when” game, it’ll never happen!

  • Keri February 3, 2012, 7:28 pm

    Love the idea of the 100 Item Toss. Only I don’t think I have 100 things to throw away since I moved. It’s amazing how much stuff you can collect when you live in the same place for 7 years!!

    • Caitlin February 4, 2012, 9:57 am

      YES! You just start shoving it in closets and whatnot.

  • jill February 3, 2012, 7:30 pm

    the way that kitchen place offers a place for those in hardships, etc…boy, i wish I lived near a place like that…i could use a place like that willing to employ me…

    wish i had your healthy willpower…i’m a chocolate and bread addict

  • Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs February 3, 2012, 8:35 pm

    I’m glad so many people are sharing their tips, because I don’t have any of my own, and can certainly use the help! 🙂
    Now to employ some of these tactics….

  • Kristen@Change of Pace February 3, 2012, 8:54 pm

    We have bins… everywhere. Toy bins, sock bins, craft bins, junk bins, bins under the bed, bins on shelfs, bins in drawers, bins in the tub… When you have kids they accumulate so much stuff and it’s all pretty much teeny tiny. It’s nice having each thing have it’s own bin and it just gets tossed in there. Even the kids know where certain things go.

  • Vikki February 4, 2012, 12:21 am

    I find watching an episode of Hoarders gives me an uncontrollable urge to throw everything I own out. It isn’t the greatest method, but it is a method. Hoarders scared me straight last year when I saw it for the first time. I’d heard myself say “I might use that some day.” or “I’m going to use that when…” I also reacted poorly when people offered to help me do it. I was terrified when I saw it. I think when I see that show “There but for the grace of God goes this pack rat.” and I clean out my closets.

    • Caitlin February 4, 2012, 9:56 am

      HAHAHHA I personally like watching Intervention whilst drinking loads of wine. Hoaders makes me go crazy though.

  • Khushboo February 4, 2012, 1:25 am

    I’m such a hoarder but I love the idea of a 30-item toss…very doable! I think 100 is a bit too ambitious now ;)!

  • Jen February 4, 2012, 5:13 am

    Love the idea of having a set number of items & just going for it – I really need to try this! I am always thinking that I need to get rid of some things & this sounds like an effective way to motivate!!!

  • Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin February 4, 2012, 7:12 am

    My secret for decluttering is to shove it all in my closet and pretend it doesn’t exist. 😛 I think I need to try out this 100 item toss!

  • SpaceySteph February 4, 2012, 7:23 am

    I have a rule for clothes and shoes. When I buy new clothes, I have to throw out/donate the same number of items.
    If I buy a pair of pants, there must be a pair of pants somewhere in my closet that I no longer need. If I need new dress shoes, its because an old pair is worn out. Do it right then, when you get back from the store. Keeps the wardrobe manageable.

    • Caitlin February 4, 2012, 9:56 am

      Oh this is a good rule. I should do this.

  • shelley February 4, 2012, 8:34 am

    My biggest secret for decluttering is to move from a four bedroom house to a one bedroom! I never even realised how much crap I had until I had to pack up.

    I reckon I had an equal amount of rubbish bags to actual boxes to move by the end of it!

  • Sophie @ threetimesf February 4, 2012, 9:03 am

    Wow,I am going to do a 100 Item Toss! What a great idea!

  • Lee February 4, 2012, 10:17 am

    That is a really great idea. I’m not too bad about clutter and keeping old items, but my husband is terrible. He says that EVERYTHING has sentimental value. I finally got him to donate this ugly sweater from 1996. He said that it was holding on to it because it was his first designer (I think it was Calvin Klein) purchase when he was in high school.

  • Laura February 4, 2012, 10:32 am

    This is perfectly timed. I was just lamenting with some coworkers yesterday about how disorganized we all feel and just want to clean and organize things at home and at work. So this morning I took your advice and set a number, then pulled out lots of clothes, shoes and books to donate. Then I went past that number because I was so motivated! I feel a weight lifted off me already!

    I want to do this with every room now. Thanks for the advice!

  • Amber K February 4, 2012, 1:46 pm

    It used to be to move around, lol. I never really intended for it to be that way, but when our apartment needs kept changing we’d move. Then I’d go through everything and get rid of a bunch of stuff. But having lived in the same place for a few years now I actually need to try this!

  • Katie February 4, 2012, 2:35 pm

    I LOVE that idea! I’ve been wanting to go through and find things to donate/get rid of – that’s such a perfect idea! 🙂

  • Kristen @ semihealthy February 5, 2012, 12:04 am

    Good idea by doing this all in one day. I gave myself a 20 item rule and immediately threw out 5 pairs of underwear and then forgot about it. For me cleaning is a great way to de-clutter. I think when I am organizing and like to have everything just so I start paring away the unnecessary junk

  • Sarah February 5, 2012, 10:27 am

    I did the 100 item toss last year! Maybe I will make that my project for the day!

  • Lisa February 12, 2012, 9:19 am

    We do at least 2 donation times a year, once mid year and once before the end, to use for our taxes. But I like the idea of the “xxx item” removal. I’ll have to try that. I’m getting ready to do my closet this week, we moved in July, and I just threw things in there, so I want to reorganize, and I know I’ll find things I should get rid of.

  • Diana @ frontyardfoodie July 27, 2012, 12:13 pm

    My secret for declutter? If it doesn’t have a practical purpose for ME or my family, it doesn’t belong.

    If it doesn’t have a ‘place’ it doesn’t belong.

    If I don’t wear it, it doesn’t belong.

    You get the idea….can you tell I hate clutter? haha

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