I Tried My Friend’s “Take Away 10” Method, and It’s My New Favorite Way to Declutter

published Apr 13, 2024
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Oven mit, measuring spoons, small water bottle, Dolly Wood jug, and papers laid out on counter
Credit: Shifrah Combiths

Clutter is entropy, and keeping it at bay requires continual effort. Realizing this is a huge milestone on the quest to a clutter-free home. That’s why decluttering methods, like the one-in, one-out method (or its more intense cousin, the one-in, three-out method), help you stay on top of getting rid of things that no longer serve you or your household. 

I’m always interested in how other people maintain things at home — especially how they can stay on top of clutter, because decluttering is a distinctly emotional undertaking. When I recently visited one of my oldest friends I asked her what she does to keep clutter under control. She’s always been so good at not hanging on to unnecessary possessions, and I was curious how she continued this habit as a mother. 

Her answer was swift and definitive: “Whenever I feel like the house is cluttered, I go around, room by room, with [my husband and son] and we pick 10 things, together, to get rid of.” I quickly dubbed this the “Take Away 10” method and was determined to try the strategy with my own family when I returned home. 

Because my family structure and home space are so much different from my friend’s, I had to make some adjustments. For instance, gathering my entire family of seven wasn’t a feasible undertaking — at least not if I wanted to make sure the decluttering happened quickly and with as little, ahem, fooling around as possible! 

So I snagged just a child or two per room and asked for their input. My 11- and 7-year-old boys helped me in the kitchen, my 5-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son helped in the playroom, and my 13-year-old son helped in the room he shares with his two brothers. 

Credit: Shifrah Combiths

How I Tried the Take Away 10 Method 

First I thought it would be challenging to find 10 things per room to get rid of. I like to think I keep a minimal collection of items, and I regularly declutter our spaces (please just don’t ask about the garage or the attic!). Plus, we moved just a couple of years ago and while clutter most definitely can accumulate during that timespan, we did a total comb-through of everything we own as we packed. 

I was wrong, though! Although the kitchen was the hardest for us to find extras in, we still managed to pluck out more than 10 items. In the playroom, we discovered just how much trash gathers here. From dormant chore charts that will never be used again to party favor-type toys and broken pencils, the playroom had some junky items we were all excited to remove. 

Credit: Shifrah Combiths

My kids also helped me break long-held ideas that made me cling to items we didn’t need. For example, my 11-year-old pointed out that we had too many measuring spoons. At first, I tried to explain that it was nice to have a few extra because sometimes when cooking you need to measure more than one teaspoon of different ingredients. But he was insistent and showed me that we had remnants of at least three sets of measuring spoons! I was able to get rid of several, and now the small drawer where we keep them is much less crammed. 

Credit: Shifrah Combiths

Another surprising thing I noticed was that it was so much easier to get the kids to find items to declutter as opposed to cleaning up their messes. Maybe because they didn’t have to put items away? When I first told them we had to “find 10 things we no longer need,” I was greeted with a chore of incredulous, “What?”s. But this resistance quickly morphed into an unexpected enthusiasm as our pile of discards grew. 

When my teen son and I turned to his bedroom, he was able to gather 10 items of clothing that were too small and worn out to pass down to his brothers. Although I had just recently gone through all my boys’ clothes and donated bags full of stuff, we found more items that were doing nothing but taking up space in the dresser.

After half an hour, we ended up with a whole box full of items to declutter. More satisfying than that was the fact that the effort was supported by the entire family. I also appreciate that doing the Take Away 10 method with my kids fosters a mindset of shedding excess and gives them an immediate experience of how good a cleared-out space feels when we let go of items that are no longer useful (or beautiful) to us. 

I’m excited to try this method in even more rooms in the house, and I plan to recruit the kids again in the future! Even the specific dictum of the method, to remove 10 items from a room, makes thinning out your belongings a much less intimidating endeavor than bearing the niggling burden of the nebulous need to “declutter.” 

The Take Away 10 method is versatile, adaptable, and communal — and it’s my new favorite way to subdue the unending clutter problem.