10 Tried-and-True Ways to Increase Your Discard Pile

When I first started decluttering, I had no idea of the time and effort it would take.  I don't think I realized how much extra stuff I had squirreled away in my home!  It was like getting ready to move house, except I had to make decisions about whether or not to keep each item.  Pretty soon, I started getting bogged down.  

I wish I had known then what I know now.

all the stuff

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10 decluttering methods (at least one will work for you!)

If you've decided you want the space and freedom of an uncluttered home, you'll be happy to have ideas on how exactly to start reducing what you own.  The good news is that there isn't just one way to go about this task.  You're facing a large project, but there are multiple strategies that could work for you.  

1.  One-a-Day

Make or buy a small calendar and mark each day as you remove one unneeded or unloved item.  If you buy something new, you must discard two belongings so that the number of your total possessions continues to decrease.  Keep the tally going for as long as necessary.

2.  Hot Spot

Hot spots are places where clutter doesn't belong but tends to gather.  Counters and tables are some of the obvious possibilities – for me it was the kitchen table.

Notice piles of mail, magazines, purses, backpacks, keys, and dirty dishes.  Maybe there are baskets of laundry, whether dirty or clean, in the hallway.  Do cases of toilet paper or soft drinks never make it past the entry hall?  Does the living room floor host discarded toys, scattered shoes, and pillows that are supposed to decorate the couch but actually crowd it?  Start your work in one of these areas.  Clear it completely, and practice keeping it uncluttered.

3.  Ten Minute Tidy-Up

With three bags (trash, donate, put away/make a home), tackle one small area for ten minutes.  Do the same or a different area tomorrow, and the next day, and so on.

4.  Worst First

Instead of starting with a small area, take a day or a weekend and tackle the area that feels the worst.  It might be your kitchen (no counter space), your guest bedroom (everything that doesn't have a specific spot to belong migrates there), or your garage (which hasn't had room to park a car since you moved in).

Get the tough stuff out of the way and you'll feel invigorated!  Ask a friend for help and declutter fearlessly.  Who knows?  You may feel so energized you won't want to stop.

5.  The Combination

Make decluttering part of your daily routine by combining it with a regular task.  For example.

  • As you put away freshly laundered towels, remove frayed and stained towels.  
  • As your child puts toys away or gets ready for bed, remove outgrown, damaged, and rarely-used toys and clothing.  
  • As you put away the groceries, toss outdated items and the seven jelly jars with only a teaspoon of jam in them.  Wipe the shelves before you restock.

6.  Before and After

Sometimes, what looks "cozy" is revealed by a photograph to be "wildly cluttered."  Take some pictures with your phone, and notice which areas need the most attention.  They might not be where you think they are!

Be sure to take more photos as you continue to work, and watch the chaos become order.  If you ever feel discouraged, revisit the photos and celebrate how far you've come.

7.  Set a Deadline

Pretend you have to move by the end of the month.  Consider the item you're touching.  Would you bother to 

  • wrap it
  • pack it
  • load it
  • haul it
  • carry it
  • unpack it
  • find a place for it in your new home?  

If the answer is no, declutter it now.

8.  Choose a Theme

Declutter one category of items, such as:

9.  Keep Current

Speaking of hobby items, such as the quilt you barely started, the dresser you've been meaning to paint and restyle, and that old bicycle you planned to refurbish....

Here's the question:  Do you want to work on this project right now?  Will you schedule time during the next month to work on it?  If not, abandon it and donate the stuff without guilt.  What you paid for it is already gone, so put it behind you.  Now you're free to consider a new project that actually excites you.

10.  Curate

To curate is to select, organize, and present items in a way that increases enjoyment and understanding.  Museums do it, and so can you.  

We all store stacks and boxes of mementos we never actually look at, but it's better to choose a handful of keepsakes to display.  Instead of getting lost in a crowd, a special piece will be able to get the attention it deserves.  So fewer mementos may actually help us enjoy more memories!  

You might be surprised what you find squirreled away, but you can do this.  Your cleaner, more spacious and peaceful home is worth the effort.

Want a kick start to decluttering?

Subscribe to receive my free printable

The Declutter Dare

and declutter 100 (or more) items in just one hour!

Updated September 2022


  1. I’m at the start of cleaning out parents old house, been at it for a week, this article is a lifesaver and has definitely given me fresh eyes on ‘stuff’ I was and planned to pack away for when nieces and nephews move out.
    I can’t tell you how much this has helped.
    I feel like I’m drowning in old memories and just plain stupid stuff.
    Garbage man won’t be happy but I have neighbors for overflow, and I’ll feel better.
    My mother grew up in the depression and saved like her life depended on it.
    My life now depends on pitching it all.
    Maybe I’ll have room for an actual Christmas tree this year as she hadn’t in years.
    Thank You so much!!

    1. Thank you for reading and for your comment. Good luck as you continue this difficult task. You will feel so light and invigorated as you accomplish it! Best wishes.

  2. I have been trying to get the strength, energy and motivation to start decluttering the mess that I live in for over a year. It's like waiting for the planets to align. This sounds like an excuse but I'm disabled and live with chronic pain along with anxiety and depression. On the day that I feel motivated, I'm also in so much pain that it isn't physically possible (just going to the bathroom is excruciating and barely possible). On a day that my pain is more tolerable, I lack the motivation. I have managed to start a bag of items to be donated as well as a bag of trash. These bags have been sitting idle for a month but I have them placed where I can see them. I try to use them for motivation. I tell myself that I accomplished that much and I can do more. I know the clutter contributes to my anxiety and depression. I'm starting a new medicine next week that I pray will help and maybe "planets will align " soon. I'm trying to stay positive and keep a sense of humor. I really want to escape the prison that I have created. Good luck to anyone else in my place. Try to stay positive and focused on what you want.

    1. Having an "out box" is a great start. I pray that your new medication will give you relief. Be gentle with yourself.


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