This Free (!) Decluttering Strategy Is the Easiest One I’ve Ever Tried

published Mar 4, 2023
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I don’t know how on earth clutter keeps happening in every room of my home, in what feels like forever and ever without end, but I know I’m not alone. Despite my best and ongoing efforts to minimize our stuff in an attempt to live a simpler life with less “junk maintenance” and cleaning, I end up with small messes and larger projects to tackle. Perpetually. 

Through the years, I’ve learned and implemented many ways to declutter. For instance, I’ve adopted many strategies, such as only keeping the “best, favorite, and necessary,” restricting myself to the number of items that fit in a pre-designated amount of space, or practicing the “one in, three out” rule. But entropy happens and clutter is a fact of life. 

When faced with a room (or home!) full of clutter, there’s one first step that I never skip. It requires no thinking, costs nothing, and takes a big chunk out of the project, building momentum for the remaining work ahead: Grab a trash bag and remove all the trash from the mess. 

You may not think your home is full of actual garbage, but you’ll be surprised every time by how much you pick up and put into that bag. When you go to attack the clutter in any room, dealing with the trash first primes your eyes to see and remove what doesn’t belong, starting with the easiest stuff to spot. This instant win, which will almost always come with a visible, if subtle, reward, is such a boost to every decluttering effort.

Decluttering is ultimately a matter of editing, and eliminating trash from the picture is the best way to begin. If you’re decluttering a messy kitchen, the process might look something like this:

Toss the milkshake cups from the after-school detour to the drive-through. Sort through that paper pile, quickly, and toss the coupon flyers that are expired and the school informational papers for events that have already passed. Open drawers and throw out any disposable utensils or to-go condiments — as well as all those unnecessary receipts you saved. Pick up the empty chip bag from the counter and swoop up the scraps from the cardboard box your dogs chewed up. Take a peek in the fridge and grab the scallions that have gone bad. Toss those takeout containers with overdue leftovers, too. That scuzzy sponge that’s starting to crumble? Trash. Take it to the next level by tossing “upcoming trash” from things like the produce net bags you’re going to eventually throw out. 

Boom, your trash bag is full and you can see more clearly to put away what actually belongs (or donate what doesn’t but isn’t trash). Where will you use this trash bag decluttering method?