I Tried the “Pile Method” and Decluttered a Bedroom in 12 Minutes

published Dec 15, 2023
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Messy bedroom before declutting using the pile method.
Credit: Catherine Toth Fox

It’s that time of the year when every room in my house is a mess. Right now there are dishes stacked in the sink from last night, my office looks like Santa’s workshop, and there are three loads of (thankfully clean) laundry piled on my bed. And the messier my house, the messier my mood. I need to declutter, like, now.

Quick Overview

What Is the Pile Method?

To use the “pile method” to declutter a room, start by gathering everything that’s not in its place into a basket. Then, dump it all in the living room, start sorting, and then put items away.

This year, I’ve tried several different decluttering strategies, including the Core 4 Method to tidy up my office and the Roll the Dice chore game that even motivated my 7-year-old to clean up his bedroom. They all worked — but I needed something quicker.

Then I saw something on TikTok that spoke to me. Content creator and fellow frazzled mom Sharon Johnson (@sharon.a.life) shared her technique for cleaning her home when “it’s a total disaster and I’m completely overwhelmed.” (Right there with you, Johnson.) She calls it the Pile Method, and here’s how it works.

What Is the Pile Method?

The pile method starts by putting everything that’s not in its place in a laundry basket. Everything. It doesn’t matter if these things are in different rooms. (Johnson does multiple rooms at once.) Then you dump it all in the living room, turn on Netflix, and start sorting.

Credit: Catherine Toth Fox

How I Used the Pile Method

I decided to use this method on my kids’ room, which can’t seem to stay clean for longer than 24 hours. I filled a laundry basket with everything on the floor. Discarded clothes, Pokemon cards, Lego, books — anything that didn’t have a home. I lugged the basket to the living room, turned on the latest episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and settled in. The plan was to put everything in a pile — ones that I could easily put away while watching reality TV. It sounded kinda great.

Credit: Catherine Toth Fox

I separated the items into piles that made sense: clean clothes, dirty clothes, overdue library books, books that needed to be reshelved, books that we could donate, LEGOs, Bakugan, and things that were actually mine (like a Bluetooth speaker I thought I had lost). Bonus: I found $20 that I decided to keep for my efforts. Hey, I earned it!

Credit: Catherine Toth Fox

Once the smaller piles were formed, I went one by one putting the items away. Here’s the thing: As much as I was looking forward to binge-watching RHOBH, the whole process took only 12 minutes. Yes, 12 minutes — I timed it.

So I watched the rest of the episode sitting on the couch with a Diet Coke. That — and knowing the room was cleaned — was even better than finding the cash.