The Best Decluttering Exercise


feb 012 008This past week my wife and I checked out smaller homes in our town to potentially move into.  Although we ultimately decided to stay in our current home (for now), we pretended we were moving anyway and decluttered accordingly.

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, we are always looking to purge unneccessary items and free up space in our home.  That said, we still found a ton of stuff to purge.

For this exercise, we pretended that we were moving to one of the homes we looked at; all of which had much less storage, which meant we had to cut things down to the essentials.  So went at a few rooms all at one, instead of just a closet or two.

Here’s how we decluttered each room, one at a time, and how you can do the same:

1. Clear a working space in the middle of the room.  Use a bed, table, or the floor.

2. Start on one side of the room and work to the other.

3. Go whole hog at one spot at a time.

4. Pull everything out of the drawer, shelf or section you chose, and pile it in the working space. Clean out the space.

5. Sort the pile into two piles: 1) what you use regularly (do you touch it at least once every 6 months? Or 2) what you’re going to get rid of. Make a pretty quick decision as soon as you touch each item.

6. When you’ve sorted through the pile, put back the stuff you love and use, neatly. Put the other pile into a box to be sold, donated, recycled or given away.

7.Move on to the next section and repeat the process until you’ve worked your way across the entire room. Do the same thing with closets: one section at a time.

It took a few hours each day to do most of the house.  It felt pretty amazing when we were done.

Any simplicity tips that you want to share?  Write a comment!

For more decluttering inspiration, check out these sites:

Miss Minimalist : You must buy her book, “The Joy Of Less”!

Be More With Less : Courtney writes an incredible blog.

365 Less Things : Great daily “mini-missions” found here.

Unclutterer : Amazing tips here.

Finally, here are some carnivals I was featured in last week:

Carn. of Financial Camaraderie at Debt Roundup
Carnival of Retirement at Master the Art of Saving
Yakezie Carnival at Debt Black Hole


  1. Gosh, how I need to do this one! Need to declutter the house as well as my head :). Thanks for the useful tips – I already tried AverageJoe’s on my running t-shirts and it is all good.
    maria@moneyprinciple recently posted…About running, money and life: lessons from Stu MittlemanMy Profile

  2. I have to congratulate you on your “de-cluttering”! I would need a dump truck and a complete empty room to stage the stuff that needs to be touched! I have started de-cluttering the garage and workshop, and raising money by selling garage stuff I no longer use!
    Jose recently posted…A Coupon for the Man (or Lady) CaveMy Profile

  3. @Maria, to me decluttering my house is decluttering my head. We have created two rooms which have, after many donations and sales, become havens for creativity and peace.

    Now we’ll have to employ Tony’s suggestions to go whole hog (love that!) on the other rooms. How does one 1,400 sq foot home become a receptacle for so much crap!?!

    Great advice always, Tony. Thank you!
    Tammy R recently posted…The Life Blood of Our MarriageMy Profile

  4. Sounds like a good list to me, but I think my wife would kill me if I started doing this. She is of the opinion that you don’t make a big mess just to clean. :)
    Nick @ recently posted…The Financial Six-Pack for the Young ProfessionalMy Profile

  5. I’m an utter hoarder Tony; in fact the only time I really do get rid of superfluous stuff is when I move – which I haven’t done for 10 years. My idea of minimalism is to stick everything in the attic. But with the ceiling bulging maybe it’s time for me to take a leaf out of your book and go window shopping for a smaller home. :-)
    Gareth Mitchell recently posted…Keep the FaithMy Profile

  6. Yay for decluttering! When the bf and I moved into our condo we had to donate, store and sell a bunch of stuff. I thought it would be really hard, but it actually was really liberating to get rid of so much stuff we didn’t need/use.
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted…A Letter to My Alumni Association AKA the BloodsuckersMy Profile

  7. I’m in the thick of decluttering for years already. It’s a funny progress, I think it gets easier and harder at the same time as you move along. It’s definitely easier now for me to decide what is necessary and what isn’t, to actually get around getting the stuff out of the house etc. But at the same time, we’re reaching the things that either I or my spouse really like or that we know of that they will come handy one day. Still, living in about 700sf and already experienced in decluttering, you notice every single thing that isn’t really that purposeful after all. I’m a little more on the side of decluttering, even if I like something, if it isn’t actually useful, too (actually useful as opposed to possibly useful, like that 12th pasta plate). However, the big rule has always been that as long as not both of us are comfortable with parting, things stay. So they stay. For now.
    I’m happy however about the progress we already made in the last years.

  8. We are on a mission to declutter this year so thanks for the tips. We also want to come up with a plan to sustain it so that we don’t have to go through the declutter process often. This I think will be the biggest challenge.
    Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter recently posted…Friday Links – Vacation EditionMy Profile

    • Yes, Miss T: That is the challenge. I don’t have much of an answer for you (yet), except that if you purge as much as possible right off the bat, then I fid that the challenge is simply maintaining.

  9. I’ve made good progress on decluttering, but I need to do so much more. I’m hoping to go from a townhouse down to a condo, and that requires me getting rid of a lot of stuff!
    Alex recently posted…Look outside your boxMy Profile

  10. Greta has recently read a book called “The Hoarder in You” by Robin Zasio. She’s put it on my required reading list for our future life together. The book get to the emotional core of why we clutter. She’s told everyone she’s talked with recently about how awesome this book is.

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