Here are 5 Decluttering Methods (And How to Pick 1 That Doesn't Make You Want to Stick a Fork in Your Eye)

‘Declutter your home’.

Great advice. Just throw some crap in a bag and enjoy those clear surfaces and avalanche-free cupboards. Sounds so easy, right?

But we all know it’s not that easy.

Especially if you’re a mom.

But what if you just had to find the method of decluttering that works for you?

There’s more than one way to open a bottle of wine (trust me). And more than one way to declutter a room. 

In this post I’m going to share 5 different methods of decluttering. And show you how to decide which one might work best for you.

Let’s make decluttering as easy as finishing off an entire packet of Oreos.

 Here is a helpful list of 5 decluttering methods along with how to pick one that doesn't make you want to stick a fork in your eye

The Four Bag Method

Let’s start with a classic.

What is it?

Find yourself 4 bags (or make 4 piles) and label them: Donate, Keep, Recycle, Trash. Take everything out of the space you want to declutter. Go through each item and decide which bag to put it in.

Pros:

  • It’s simple: each item must go in one of your four piles:
  • It’s efficient: you go through a space once and categorise everything;
  • It’s thorough: by taking everything out of a space, you see exactly what you have.

Cons:

  • It can result in a big mess. As moms, we rarely have the luxury of decluttering a room or large space all at once before we’re called away to do something else;
  • It can attract input from others. Family members may decide to pull out stuff you’d already categorized as ‘recycle’ or ‘donate’;
  • It leaves you with 4 bags of stuff to deal with. And they're all going to different destinations (trash, recycling points, donation centers). 

 

Who might like this decluttering method?

You are going to love this method if you've got the time and energy to work through a space all at once with minimal interruptions.

You also need to have the energy, time and motivation to deal with those 4 bags of clutter or you'll end up  tripping over them for the next 6 months.

If you're ready for a thorough clean out, this one is for you. 

 Which decluttering method is right for you? 
Kate is a work at home mom, a talented calligrapher she specialises in romantic wedding invitations. Once she’s taken the kids to school and done a few hours on her client work she’s ready to tackle her home office. She’s scheduled an afternoon of decluttering when she’s alone in the house so that she’s not interrupted. She’s decided that it’s time to get this decluttering done and she’s ready to make decisions quickly. #BringItOn

 

Pro Tips:

  1. Consider adding a ‘Maybe’ category. You can then keep your ‘Maybe’ box somewhere out of sight for a few months and see if you really do ‘need’ that stuff. Although many would argue that this is indecisive and just delays the decluttering process, I say: you be the judge of what works for you.
  2. You don’t have to start with a whole room: you could use the ‘4 bag method’ to start with a drawer or cupboard.
  3. To work faster set a timer for 20 minutes then take a quick break. 

RELATED POSTS If you think this method might work for you, I encourage you to check out this helpful post from Chrissy at Organise My House


21 Item Toss

(or 17 items, or 47, or any other random number)

What is it?

Each day you grab a bag and fill it with a predetermined number of items you want to purge from your home. The next day you do the same. And the next day. Until the challenge period is over.

There are variations of this where you declutter items according to the date. For example if it’s the 26th, you throw away 26 items.

Pros:

  • It’s simple. One number, every day;
  • It’s effective. You’ll start to see results very quickly;
  • It builds a decluttering habit. Decluttering daily will start to get easier the more you do it.

Cons

  • It’s potentially wasteful. You throw all your stuff into one bag regardless of whether it’s trash, recyclable or still useful to someone;
  • It’s completely arbitrary (and a bit bossy). You ‘have’ to throw away a certain number of items. This can make you feel anxious and under pressure to part with items you aren’t ready to part with yet;
  • It’s difficult to make time to do this everyday (especially for moms) and that can leave you feeling like a failure if you don’t meet the challenge.

 

Who might like this decluttering method?

This method is for you if you need a bit of motivation and discipline to keep you on track.  

 What decluttering method would suit you best? 
Diane is a stay at home mom to 1 year old twins and a newbie blogger. She’s feeling overwhelmed with the amount of stuff motherhood has brought and wants to see some fast results. This month she’s decided to throw away 5 items a day. Every day before the twins wake up, she grabs a cup of coffee and a bag and gets to work. Some days she doesn’t manage to get started before one of the twins wakes up. But she’s OK with that. #RealLife

Pro Tips:

  1. Don’t stick to the number rigidly. Do what you can and be proud of your achievement.
  2. Declutter at the same time everyday. This helps make it a part of your routine.

Detrash

I first heard the term ‘Detrash’ from Katie at Organizing Moms . I don’t know if she coined the term but I love it.

What is it?

This method is all about decluttering the easy stuff that you might call ‘trash’: dried up pens, stretched out hair bands, defunct technology or college textbooks.

There are lots of inspiring lists floating around Pinterest that can help you get started. I even made my own. Click HERE to download the helpful list of 198 things you can declutter without shedding a tear.  

  • Pros:
  • It’s a gentle way to start decluttering and build your decluttering muscles. No hard decisions. No Sophie’s Choices. No problem;
  • It’s easy to deal with the stuff you throw in a bag (clue: it's trash);
  • It’s methodical. Download the list and work through it until you get to the end.

Cons:

  • It doesn’t help you deal with all the rest of your stuff that isn't ‘trash’;
  • It can trigger the ‘frugal’ mindset, when you start thinking about whether you could repurpose an item rather than ‘detrash’ it.

 

Who might like this decluttering method?

This method is for you if you're dreading the whole decluttering thing and want to start easy. It's great if you've got minimal energy and close to zero motivation (but feel like you're only one debilitating illness away from appearing on Hoarders)! 

 Whcih decluttering method is right for you?
Lauren is a new mom who runs a successful freelance writing business online. She’s super tired and wants to concentrate on those squishy baby snuggles. But she’s also chosen ‘simplify’ as her word of the year and decluttering is part of that. So she’s chosen to ‘detrash’ to give herself an easy start. Every morning after breakfast she detrashes 5 items. She wears baby and talks to baby while she works, narrating her thoughts. She gives herself bucketloads of grace.
RELATED POSTS If you think this method might work for you, I encourage you to check out this helpful post: 198 Things To Declutter When You Don't Know Where to Start


KonMari

What is it?

This technique asks you to focus on what to keep. Instead of deciding what to throw away. You do this by holding each item and asking yourself ‘Does it spark joy?’

You work through your home by category not by room. For example, you declutter all your books at one time regardless of where they are kept in your home.

Pros:

  • It’s got potential to stop clutter coming back in to your home in the future. Ask yourself ‘does this spark joy?’ before you buy something.

  • It helps you deal with sentimental items. If it brings joy, keep it.

  • It’s simple: just one question: does it spark joy?

  • It’s thorough. You go through your entire house and declutter everything that does not spark joy.

  • The creator, Marie Kondo, claims that you only need to declutter once.

Cons:

  • It focuses on ‘joy’. People have argued that their toilet brushes don’t bring them joy, but they won’t throw them away;

  • It has the potential to lead to a lot of (temporary) mess as you pull things from different ends of your home to go through them;

  • It seems optimistic. Declutter once? As moms we have no end of clutter accumulating as children grow out of clothes, toys and books. And as we’re inundated with school papers, gifts and hand-me-downs.

 

Who might like this decluttering method?

This method is for you if you have time to go through your entire house with minimal distraction. It's likely you'll make a big mess while working through all your items but if you're OK with that, this method is for you. 

 Which decluttering method is best for you?
Rosie is a single mom to three boys ages 11-16 and runs an Etsy jewellery shop and . When not working or with her boys, you’ll find her creating something beautiful. Her house is bursting at the seams with craft supplies she thinks she ‘might need’ in future. She wants to move house soon but doesn’t want to take her clutter with her. So it’s now or never. She works through the KonMari process at weekends while the boys are at football practice. #DoesItBringJoy?
RELATED POSTS If you think this method might work for you, I encourage you to check out this helpful review of the KonMari process from Abby at Just a Girl and Her Blog


The Wave Technique

This is my favorite. It’s a hybrid technique, (or let’s be honest, a Frankenstein process) that I totally invented when motherhood and clutter were tag-teaming to kick my arse. 

What is it?

Working in ‘waves’ you combine the best of the other methods with an emphasis on how your unwanted items can help other people.

Wave One: Detrash. Use this helpful list and work through your home at your own pace. You can set yourself a daily target (5 items a day) or you can set a timer. Or just go at your own pace. You be the judge of what works for you.

Wave Two: Work through your home and look for items that you’d like to declutter that can be recycled.

Wave Three: Let’s make a difference.

Go through your home room by room and create gift packages for people who could benefit from your unwanted items. The key is to pick a person or cause before you start decluttering.

For example, if you want to declutter your bathroom, choose a local homeless shelter to receive your items (such as those the hotel toiletries you’ve been hoarding for the last ten years - don’t even try to deny it!)

Once you’ve donated your toiletries, pick another cause to create a package for.

Pros:

  • It’s a gentle method because it starts with detrashing but also moves on to more difficult to deal with clutter;

  • It starts with the end in mind. So you don’t have 20 bags of clutter going to 20 different destinations at once;

  • It provides a great opportunity to talk with your children about how they can help other people;

  • It’s much easier to say goodbye to sentimental items if you’re donating those items to a cause close to your heart.  

Cons

  • It can be slower than other methods of decluttering because you have to work around your house several times in waves;

  • You have to be consistent and not give up after each wave;

 

Who might like this decluttering method?

This method is for you if you struggle to part with sentimental items. You won't see super fast results but you also won't end up making a huge mess while you declutter. 

 Which decluttering method is best for you?
Holly is mom to a 3 year old boy and wife to a marine. She’s a talented photographer and just opened a stock photo shop after years of photographing weddings. She chose the Wave Decluttering method because she wants to declutter but often gets stuck when dealing with sentimental clutter. #HelpingOthers

Pro Tips:

  • The key to this method is to pick one destination for your clutter first and then only target clutter going to that one destination. Ignore everything else (unless it’s a quick win - like throwing something small into the trash or recycling).
  • Don’t feel like you have to declutter an entire room at once. Start small with a drawer or a cupboard.
     

Want to know more about how to help others and declutter?

I have created a simple, easy to follow 7-day decluttering challenge especially for busy moms. Click the image below to download now - no email required. 

 Sign up for a simple no-stress decluttering challenge. 7 Days to cut the clutter

It’s Ok to be a (decluttering) Whore

Don’t be stubbornly faithful to a decluttering method. You might Konmari your closet but 4 bag your craft room. Get out there and give them all a ride.


Creating a Decluttering System

Just image those clear surfaces, avalanche-free cupboards, and that smug feeling you'll have once you've decluttered your home. But...

...it won't stay like that. Unless you create a decluttering system. 

Here are my two favorite ways to create a decluttering system for your home (maybe one of them will work for you):. 

  1. Use the one-in-one out rule. Whenever you buy get something new, purge one item from your home;
  2. Schedule regular decluttering appointments. Once a quarter, or before major holidays. 

Which Decluttering Method Works for You?

You may have already tried to declutter many times (and failed epically).

You may even feel murderous when you see people celebrating their decluttering success in Facebook groups. 

But there is hope.

Everyone who has decluttered their home started where you are right now. 

With those same feelings of ‘where do I start?’ and ‘should I just give up and drink wine?’

So, choose one decluttering method and give it a shot.

You got this, mama.