30 Bags in 30 Days: Places to Declutter

February 03, 2017

January is over and I'm done with my 30 bags in 30 days challenge!  I posted about that at the beginning of the year, how I wanted to clear 30 bags of donations and recycling out of our house in 30 days.


Here's some of how I did:


Particularly with recycling, I didn't remember to take a picture of every bag leaving the house (because John takes out the recycle and garbage, and he's not one for snapping pictures first), but I did well overall!  If we count trash, then I definitely hit the 30 bags.  For donations and recycle, probably not quite there.  Still, I feel really good about how much we got out.  My stuff has been very decluttered for awhile, but I always find room for improvement.  I shredded some papers and tossed some manuals we'd never use.  I donated some skincare items that were brand new but I won't be using since trying to switch to all natural items.  I even tossed some old makeup and nail polish, which is generally hard for me to let go of!  And John got on board this time around, since he realized after Christmas just how much stuff he really has, so that led to a lot of bags leaving the house - a nice change!

My thoughts overall are that I'm glad I attempted it.  Setting the 30 bags goal gave me something concrete to work towards, which is better for me than just 'oh let's declutter something today.'  Plus it made me check every where I could think of to try to get more bags going!  I definitely recommend trying some sort of challenge like this to declutter, it provides some much needed structure and motivation if Marie Kondo's 'does it spark joy' standard is a little too wishy-washy for you.  Some quick tips I'd give are (1) don't limit it to one bag each day if you're on a roll.  Maybe you have 3 bags worth of stuff in your car.  Just keep going!  Either count it for 3 that day or skip the next day if you're exhausted. (2) Get the stuff out of the house, ASAP.  You or someone in your household will second guess things if there's bags sitting around to be looked through.  Donation, recycle, whatever it is, get it out of the house as soon as you fill a bag (even if that means putting donations in the truck of your car for the week.)  And finally, (3) check more than just the obvious places.

7 Places to Declutter

I think you can probably figure out where you should personally start with your 30 bag challenge.  We all know where our own trouble areas are!  You might need to get rid of the excess of pans and measuring spoons in your kitchen, while someone else might need to sort through a whole mess of tools and garden supplies.  I always recommend you start with the area that bothers you the most, because you'll feel the best when it's finally done.  But after you tackle the glaring problems, where else would you look around for clutter?  Here's my ideas:

Holiday Decor.  Given the timing of my particular challenge, holiday decor was the best place to start.  Might as well give it a once over and get rid of stuff that you no longer need before boxing it up and storing it until next year, right?  The bag you see with the wrapping paper is full of similar items that I wouldn't need next year, which went straight to the recycle.  Mostly scrap wrapping paper and ribbon that I wouldn't reuse. It was also full of empty rolls that got used up this year, as well as some of the wrapping paper and boxes left from opening Christmas gifts.  Since we just moved in, we don't have a ton of Christmas decor as it is, let alone things we need to part with.  But my mom sure did at her house!  A good rule is that if you didn't display it this past year, it's probably time to part with it.  It might also be a good time to go through the decor for other holidays - you're more likely to be honest with yourself once you're removed from the actual holiday and memories associated with an item.

Walls.  After holiday decor, try regular decor.  And not just the things sitting on your surfaces.  When you see something every single day, you become almost blind to it.  This happens to a lot of people with wall art and picture frames.  If you've lived some place for awhile, you probably put things up on the walls and haven't looked them over in awhile.  See if those items still suit your taste and style and see if you even want everything up that you have.  Removing some pieces can make the room feel bigger and less cluttered, because there's less for your eye to try to focus on.  Clutter is not just for floors and counter tops!

Papers.  Individually, papers are so small and inconspicuous that we tend to just glance right over them.  Especially if they all fit into your particular storage system, you never need to go through and make sure you still need everything.  But it's wise to do so.  The pile really starts to stack up once you start, you'll easily have at least one full bag just of papers.  Not just junk mail and old magazines, but think expired warranties, appliance manuals (trust me, you'll end up looking it up online anyway), last year's health insurance informational packet.  Time to go.  I also got rid of old notebooks and planners in this category.

Makeup.  And I would say skin care and other personal hygiene items here as well.  The shelf life of makeup is much shorter than you think it is.  I mean, mascara is only what, 3 to 6 months?  If you have a larger collection and haven't used something in awhile, chances are it's not still good.  Powder products last longer than liquids, and definitely longer than the date stamped on it, but still.  Everything has an end date.  This is a good time to get rid of clumpy mascara, eye shadow that has hard pan, or lipstick you can't remember buying.  If you have a lot of unused hair or skin care products you're not going to use, you can donate those to a women's shelter.  If it's slightly used but didn't work for you, offer it to friends or family (I pawned a shit ton of too light for me concealers off on Betsy this way!)

Desk.  Wherever that may be.  My desk is at my office, and I definitely decluttered that.  You might have one at home, or maybe you just have a drawer or a shelf.  We have a bookcase in a spare room that houses pens and a couple of office supplies John needed while in the academy (I generally don't use these at home except pens in my planner.)  From here you can get rid of a lot of things - highlighters that don't work, paperclips you won't use, snapped rubber bands and pens without ink.  You can donate anything you won't ever use again but that's still good, like tape dispensers or hole punchers.  I'd also put craft supplies in this category, if you have them.

Junk Drawers.  I think I'll do a follow up post about how much I hate junk drawers.  Just don't have one, I don't believe in them.  You can have a drawer in your kitchen that houses office supplies and maybe some regularly used tools, fine.  But the minute you put the 'junk drawer' label on it, all hell breaks loose.  If you have one (it could also be a junk bin, a junk closet, a junk corner of your living room...) then now is the time to empty it out, get rid of everything you don't need (which is most of it if you've been labeling it 'junk' anyway) and decide from there what that drawer should actually be used for.  Maybe just pens and a pair of scissors.  Put back only the essentials that actually belong there and vow to change your junk drawer ways.

Car.  I could have gotten 30 bags of stuff just out of John's truck, I'm not even kidding.  I got an entire bag just of cans of energy drinks for recycling.  I drove my mom's car every day in high school but I've otherwise never had a car of my own, and my mother's car is always meticulous.  For people who don't live that way, cars seem to be clutter and trash magnets!  Get all the food trash out, first of all.  But even then you might be surprised how much stuff is still in there.  Clothes, accessories, kid and dog toys, office supplies, old mail, gift cards, car supplies that are empty or expired.  And unless you're Steph, you don't need 40,000 napkins in your glove box.  Say goodbye.

Hopefully some place on that list sparked an idea in you for your next decluttering day!  Have you tried the 30 bags in 30 days challenge?  Thinking about it?  Where would need to start your declutter process?


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