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A “100 Things” Decluttering Challenge

Guest post from Deborah

My husband and I own a smaller home — around 1000 square feet with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. We don’t have children or hobbies that contribute to owning a great amount of stuff, but somehow the stuff seems to accumulate on its own!

The stuff seems to come into the home from several places:

  • I’m a librarian and my husband is a history professor — we receive many, many books that we won’t read.
  • My family is wonderful at giving items to each other for no reason — because we don’t want to throw them away!
  • As a professor, my husband often receives small gifts from students.
  • Friends often give us things that they think we’ll enjoy… and then those items sit in a closet or a cabinet for months without being touched.

I know we are blessed to receive so many free items from different people — but quite often, these items just sit around the house, gathering dust. It never seems to be enough stuff to have a yard sale, and nothing is usually worth enough to sell through Craigslist.

So once a year, and sometimes twice if I feel the house is getting cluttered, I do a “100 Things” project on a weekend.

It’s quite simple: I must find 100 things to get rid of in some way.

It might be a book I know I’ll never read. It might be a pair of holey socks tucked deep in a drawer that simply needs to be re-purposed as a dust rag or thrown away. It might be a stack of papers waiting to be filed. It might be a bunch of clothes I box up and take to Goodwill, or a box of magazines that I give away on Freecycle.

The bottom line is that 100 things need to leave my home or be put to some other use.

The last time I did this was in December of 2011. I gave away a box of 30 magazines to someone on Freecycle. I boxed up 20 books and donated them to a local organization hosting a book sale in order to raise money. I bagged up some clothing that we hadn’t worn in ages and sent them to Goodwill. When I pulled out the Christmas decorations, I went through everything and found broken items to throw away and other items to be sent to the local Goodwill store. And I always have a box in the garage ready to fill with random items to donate.

We are not big stuff collectors — but I’m always amazed at the amount of stuff I can get rid of once a year when I really try. And I always feel that my home is a little less cluttered at the end of a “100 things” weekend!

Have you ever tried decluttering 100 things?

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95 Comments

  • I am not sure I can do this on one weekend, especially this one, but I will try to get rid of 100 things this week!

  • That’s an interesting idea to get rid of 100 things. I’m trying to get rid of stuff, but it’s overwhelming sometimes. I think having a number to focus on, would make it easier and faster to get rid of stuff 🙂

    • Heather says:

      I have been decluttering one thing each day for over a year and am amazed that I can still find things that need to go… by one thing I mean one drawer, shelf, pile by the chair….. etc… It sounds like alot but I always manage to find something and can always put my hand on what I am looking for… so I guess I’ll keep it up… it only takes a few minutes daily and has wonderful results.

  • Victoria says:

    I like this idea. I plan to spend a lot of March decluttering and getting items we no longer need ready to sell in one way or another. I think 100 things is do able, maybe to do able! Perhaps I best set a minimum of 20 things per room, just to motivate me.

    • Yes, it is amazing at how overwhelming it seems to remove 100 things from your house when really it isn’t so difficult once you get started. It amazes me to see how many books, magazines, and “junk” that people have around the house including mine that can be given to a better cause like a charity or garbage can.

  • Jen L. says:

    Great post. Thanks! I am sure that I have given away 100 things before, but never as intentional, or all at once like this. We are moving in 2 weeks, to a much smaller home than we live in now, so I know that there will be plenty of things I need to get rid of. I started the packing process this weekend, and did start a “give” box out in the garage, but this post challenges me to be more intentional about giving things away that aren’t useful to my family anymore.

    Thank you!!

    • Heather says:

      What a great opportunity to declutter… don’t pack anything that you aren’t willing to pay to move… pretending to move has been one of my strategies in the past.

  • Lor says:

    I love this idea! I recently cleaned out my clothes closet and was amazed at what I found. I got rid of 4 big bags of stuff and now I can actually find something when I need it. I think I will work on the 100 items also. What a great goal.

  • deborah says:

    I try to go through stuff every so often and declutter, but the 100 things idea is fun! It gives you a challenge and a goal and some inspiration!

  • Love this idea! Sounds like a great item to add to a “spring cleaning” list. When my husband and I moved last summer I wanted to try to get rid of anything we weren’t using or didn’t really need. I was so surprised at how much STUFF we had that we could get rid of! We made over $100 at a yard sale and donated several boxes of additional items to Goodwill.

  • Marcin says:

    That’s just amazing and a very good idea. It actually forces you to choose 100 items to get rid of instead of just taking a few items. It’s forcing you to get rid of the clutter instead of becoming a hoarder. Love it! 🙂

    • Rae says:

      Just watch the show called Hoarders….that will “inspire” you for sure.

      • Ha! SO true! Every time I watch that show I’m always filling a garbage bag by the 30 minute mark! I think that the key is to emotionally detach yourself from your “stuff” and just donate it. I had so many things that I held onto just because they were “nice” and I could sell them….I never got around to that of course, so when we recently moved I just donated everything- it felt so good to have it just be gone! We’ve also been using the one it, one out rule which helps cut back!

        • kathy says:

          “B” just had to share that before there was a profession called professional organizers my father thought up the one in one out rule. Mind you this was in the mid 1960’s. He said if that rule were followed clutter could be controlled.

      • Carrie says:

        LOL

        I feel one of 2 ways after I watch that show:

        1. Great about myself because my house even 1% that bad.

        2. Urgency to get rid of stuff!

  • Cotton says:

    I started small for several reasons, one that almost everything we had I loved and didn’t want to part with. Sigh. It never is easy, is it? So….I challenged myself to 4 things a day. Put a box in a corner of a room and started with the promise I would not go back to remove anything. A couple of times I cheated and got something but I tried to get the box out of of the house once a week or every two weeks. A year later I can honestly say I only got rid of one item that I regretted. Compared to everything that left I still feel really good about it.

  • Rae says:

    I am off to find 100 things right now. I have purged rooms before, but never with an intentional number. Sounds like “fun”, and it shouldn’t be a problem because we are hobbyists and we have children (who have a grandma who loves to buy STUFF). 🙂

  • Lexa says:

    Is the kitty one of the 100 items to be decluttered? 🙂

  • Kate says:

    This is AWESOME! We are moving next month to a house less than half the size of the one we live in now. And we have a LOT of JUNK! We were planning to go through stuff and designate trash/yard sale boxes today, and I am totally doing this challenge! Can’t wait to start. Thanks for the great (and timely) post!!

    • Kate says:

      Ok, so follow-up…I went through a big box of off-season clothes and our magazine rack and found 78 items to pitch or sell in our annual neighborhood sale. Any leftover garage sale items go straight to Goodwill, so it’s good as gone! After this, I went through two boxes of paperwork. (We receive an insane amount of junk mail that needs to be shredded because it has our personal info on it.) I was able to shred/trash/file away ALL of it, with 99% of it being run through the paper shredder! I am very happy and VERY inspired! Plan to tackle another hundred items tomorrow! 🙂

  • Sheila says:

    We’re getting ready to move. Unfortunately, we’ve moved some boxes to the new town that I know has “stuff” we don’t need. But my goal is that we don’t pack any more unneeded things. Having a goal of 100 is a great idea!

  • What a great idea! Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Joy in the South says:

    When the weather gets warmer, I’m going to clean out the storage shed. I think getting rid of 100 items will be a great motivator! Thanks!

  • Kimberly S. says:

    I like this idea! We just moved, so I have just gotten rid of bags and boxes of stuff. And I have moved an average of once a year the last 6 years, so I have regularly decluttered. But we are hoping to stay in this house for a little while, so doing this every few months might help prevent the next move from being a nightmare!

  • Chelsea says:

    That’s how we get most of our stuff too!

  • Charity says:

    Oh gosh! I think we could do a “1000 things” weekend and still have clutter left. Our stuff likes do breed behind closed doors! 😉

    • Stephanie says:

      Oh, Charity! It is so nice to hear from someone like me! We just started in our basement and have WAY more than 1000 items and we just began. The sad thing is that we had so many yard sales last year that people stopped coming and would just go on because they had stopped before! However, we had new stuff each week!

      • Andrea says:

        Ours does too. I swear, my books are bunnies in disguise.

        My husband is off at guys’ night tonight….methinks I’ll have a beer and get 100 things while the kids are in bed. 🙂

        • Katherine says:

          I agree! A thousand would be a start! I have terrible hoarding tendencies! I think 100 at a time is a good way to start!

  • Jennifer says:

    I like the flylady. She recommends 27 things a day. It’s amazing what “treasures” go out the door.

  • Marianne says:

    I recently blogged about the beginning of my decluttering project (http://www.preservingpennies.blogspot.com/2012/02/how-we-earn-extra-money-selling-our.html). On top of selling our stuff on Ebay (you’d be surprised at what sells!) we sell bulkier stuff on Kijiji, books on Amazon and I’m going to be trying my hand at consignment as I have some fairly new clothing that no longer fits/ isn’t my style anymore after having a baby. I think I’m getting addicted to getting rid of stuff!!

  • Like a few others who have commented, we’re getting ready to move. The place won’t necessarily be smaller, but the less stuff we have, the less we have to move. I’ve decided to try every weekend (or every other) talking a project to get rid of stuff. We’re moving in 3 months so we have time. Today was books. We have way too many since both of us have been in school for nearly the past 7 years. I was thinking we were doing good until my husband says, “hey I found a whole other box of books out here.” Luckily we were able to get rid of most of them. Hopefully we’ll make some money to help with the move. Thanks for the inspiring post!

  • I loved reading this! Last year, I committed to give away one item a day for 40 days. It was a great process and it’s amazing what I could chunk out. 🙂 Love the idea of bumping that up to 100 items!

  • Marney says:

    I live in a 2 story house plus a basement. My rule is to never go upstairs or downstairs empty-handed. I have to bring something upstairs to put away or bring something downstairs to get rid of.

  • amanda says:

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this idea of focusing on a number! Sometimes decluttering a room seems so overwhelming. I’m going to challenge my kids to do 20 things also. Maybe my husband too….

  • Sarah says:

    This is a great idea! I don’t know that I could come up with 100 things… but you never know until you try!

  • Panda says:

    I have to go thought and declutter from time to time. When it comes to books and movies yes Good will is always a good way to go. But there is two sites I frequent they are swapadvd and paperback swap. Yes you pay for the shipping out, but you get a credit for each book you send out ( dvds differ but at minumim of one credit.) Now when you are looking for that certain book or movie check there and you wont have to pay a thing, just use one of your saved up credits 🙂

  • katrina says:

    After reading this a.m. i’ve gotten rid of over 100 in just a little over an hour. Where I have to focus is to try not to organize or clean while doing it and just purge.

  • sarah says:

    Our children had to get help get rid of 100 things. Before they got their Christmas gifts.

  • Jen says:

    This is a great idea. We’re preparing to put our house on the market next year, and I don’t want to bring anything to our new home that doesn’t absolutely fit into our lives. With a six month old baby, I’ll probably need a week to do this, but I think I’m going to give it a shot!

  • Gail says:

    I love the idea of 100 items. I need to downsize, and am overwhelmed. I need to get my house on the market. The hard part is getting the heavy boxes in the car to take to Goodwill.

  • stephanie says:

    I love this idea, although don’t think 100 would even come close maybe a 100 a day for the next 100 days 🙂 I’m getting married and have to make room for someone else and his stuff. Went to the store today and got some cute organizing stuff, hoping it will make it a little more fun, so far today, got 2 bags of garbage and 3 boxes of stuff and that’s just from my 4 year old’s room

  • Gina says:

    Our family set a goal of getting rid of 1000 things this year. I’m keeping count on my blog. So far, we’re over 200 items. With a family of eight, it’s pretty easy to purge stuff such as outgrown clothing, books, old toys, and knick knacks. 🙂

  • Leighann says:

    I’m a book hoarder; when I was working as a librarian, I used to get all sorts of ARCs, and I would pick up books from the book sales and bring home the weeded books. They just piled up. I wouldn’t even read half of them; heck, I wouldn’t even read 90% of them. I just wanted them.

    When my youngest was born, my mom came to stay with us for two weeks in our tiny little place. While dealing with a 2 year old, a newborn and a cranky teen (and recovering from a 2 week old c-section!), I de-cluttered the entire place and got rid of over (literally) 1,000 books.

    All you have to do is put your foot down and do it. Stop making excuses. Put up reminders. And remember, you own your things, your things do not own you.

  • Michol says:

    I love it!!!! I hate clutter and it’s a perfect idea, yay!!!! I’m gna do it.

  • Nicole says:

    Our family of four (plus one on the way live in 950 square ft – and that includes all our storage space etc). I feel as though I try hard to keep things simple and decluttered but it always creeps up – I’m going to go through today and try the 100 things idea – thanks 🙂

  • Heather says:

    Been working on this this weekend. Just gave a friend two bags of good (but not usable for me) bags of clothes, shoes and scarves. Have another bag to list on ebay, and still another two for garage sale items. I love this concept!

  • Tori Walker says:

    I am sick of my clutter and have been working on it. Just last week, we took four large boxes to Goodwill. That was probably at least 100 things, but so much more to do.

  • Malissa says:

    What about thinking twice before we buy anything especially in this recession and then we won’t have to throw out 100 things that was a waste of money to but to begin with? Whenever I finish buying groceries I look into the buggy again and ask myself do I really need this and invariably I put back 5 items at least usually the ones that are not healthy for me anyway.

    • C M says:

      I really like that idea! It’s so tempting sometimes in the stores, especially when new things come out, to buy. Or when we need a ift to our spirit. Making sure I need whatever I am about to buy will help the budget too.

    • Jessica says:

      Not everything in a home is “wasted money”. My 19 mo son is getting into size 3t clothes. He’s a big boy, off the growth charts. The newborn-2t clothes he wore were not a waste of money, but I did declutter my house by donating them to a maternity resource center.

      Likewise, my 5yo daughter’s clothes. And the clothes that no longer fit me due to having two kids!

  • Mel says:

    My New Year’s resolution this year was to throw away (or give away) 10 things every day. And it’s going great!! Not only have a found that I have thrown away tons of OLD stuff that we no longer need, I’ve also thrown away tons of NEW items that are brought into our house (like happy meal toys, etc.) before they even begin to clutter up my closets, drawers and cabinets. I can easily say that by the time the year ends, our house will be much lighter, but still no where near bare. It’s given me a much better view of how very blessed I am to have been given so much. We truly do live a life of excess.

  • Ginger M. says:

    At the beginning of the year, I set a February home-making goal to declutter and organize both my bedroom closets. I’m about one-third the way through the worst of the two. So far I have three bags full of clothes that are going to a woman’s shelter. This is to be added to the bags *I still have in my car trunk from when I decluttered the other closet about nine months ago.* 🙂 Yes, I just outed myself… for accountability’s sake.

  • missey says:

    i’ve been doing the purge thing: donate, sell, trash. i moved from a whole house to a bedroom & storage unit to an apt and now moving (possibly across country) but def. into a dorm room.

    only problem is that i’d rather sell it, i need the $ towards paying off my car loan.

    now if only the current STUFF would sell so i can list the things underneath!

  • Kayla says:

    We are moving in April or May to a bigger place. I know we will have more room but I look forward to not moving as much. We always seem to de-clutter and throw things away AFTER moving. I look forward to doing it prior to moving this time. I’ve already started!

  • Tyler S. says:

    I”ve been thinking recently about finding more space, and I think I’m going to donate some clothes and shoes that I have not even seen in months, let alone worn!

  • Rachel H. says:

    Think about the fact that most things are pretty much worthless as soon as you buy them. Trying to sell many knick-knacks, clothing, art, etc. will show you real quick just how worthless something is that you spent real money on! I like candles and candle holders but as soon as I pay $xx for that holder and take it home I can’t get a dime for it on ebay or craigslist…unless it is really a unique item of some sort.
    Keep THAT in mind when you buy! 🙂

  • I’d settle for being able to get rid of 100 pieces of paper! We got rid of MOST of our stuff before our recent move, yet that darned paperwork keeps multiplying.

  • Anna says:

    What inspires me to get rid of my stuff is seeing those news clips of people’s homes after floods. It’s all damaged. It has helped me detach from some of my much loved stuff. You could call me a recovering pack rat!

    Also I have a secret for anyone living in the DFW area 🙂 It’s called the Cotton Closet and it’s a consignment store I love. Tell Mary (the owner) that Anna sent you, if you decide to go. I bring my stuff there because now that I have a baby, time is precious. I make just as much money as if I were having a garage sale or selling it on Craigslist, but I don’t have to store it in my home all winter for a Spring garage sale or have strangers into my home.

  • I read this SURE that I couldn’t get rid of 100 things – we have very little stuff and still have a rule of getting rid of 2 things/day (whenever I remember).

    But, then I trashed/recycled ten things just from my desk without even getting up. Yikes.

  • Collette says:

    I don’t need to stop at 100. Maybe I should do this once a month until I am uncluttered.

  • We did something very similar to this back in January. We purged the house of all the un-needed and unwanted items. The garage could use a little more purging – maybe one of my weekly goals for next week. Looking back, I think around 100 items, give or take a few, left the house. Great article and definitely inspiring me to mark the 100 day on the calendar for July!

  • Stefanie says:

    We got rid of TWO HUNDRED tonight…me and my two year old son (he clapped and yelled “yay” every time I carried a box into the room we were doing it at, lol! I’m 5 months pregnant, and get tired easily, so I’m pretty proud of myself right now. We always take our things to a local auction that sells anything and everything. we get 75% of what it sells for, and all we have to do is drop it off then puck up a check a week later!

  • chrissy says:

    Haha!!! I have spent the past three days doing this. My husband is on a short hiatus from work and I view it as time for me to get things done because he is really enjoying the time with our three kids…something I enjoy…or not….every day. 😉 So far I have filled three boxes and three LARGE bags for Goodwill, two boxes and two bags for our local kids resale shop and a large box of warm winter stuff for our local refugee assistance organization. A couple of our friends work there and evidently it is typical for families to arrive in nothing but shorts, t-shirts and flip flops in December. Not such a good thing in Indiana! With three growing boys we have no end of outgrown coats, mittens and hats to share with others. The bonus/guest room in the basement was literally stuffed to the ceiling…I can now see the floor! lol There is a long way to go yet, though, I still can’t see the back wall at all. Plus….I think there is furniture in there…..

  • Amber says:

    I have to be honest, when I first saw the number 100 I thought that was a HUGE number. I am totally shocked at how little that was. I was able to get rid of 100+ things just from my book/desk/dvd corner! I’m inspired to keep going. 🙂

  • Melissa M. says:

    I will try this. We have lots of rooms that need to be decluttered. Thanks for sharing this idea.

  • Susan says:

    I inadvertantly did that today. I’m moving in a few weeks and started packing. But, before I just box everything up, I decided to pair down my ‘stuff’. So, I took a bunch of stuff to the Salvation Army. Well, like the good itemizing tax person I am, I wrote down everything I donated. After seeing your post, I counted what I had on the sheet of paper and it was over 106 items. (I also threw out probably that many things today too.)

  • lise says:

    Great idea!

  • diane says:

    Will be doing this Monday! Gave 2 bags of unwanted items away today…some new with tags on them!

  • Jessica says:

    I unclutter at least 10 items a day this year. I”m doing the 2012 things in 2012 challenge.

    My decluttering is a mix of throw away, recycle and donate / Freecycle, because my street does not get enough traffic for a garage sale and the tax write off is helpful to us. If I could get my DH on board, to go through his stuff, I’d be thrilled! He has boxes unopened from when we moved into our house 8 years ago. Obsolete college texts, cds he doesn’t listen to, broken electronics, broken cameras, books he doesn’t read and doesn’t plan to.

    Freecycle is great, but it is frustrating when you get no shows. I also only allow people to pick up items when my DH is home and during the daylight, for safety reasons. And I put the item on my porch so I don’t have to come to the door. My home was burglarized last summer and I am concerned for safety.

  • Alexis says:

    I like this post alot! Having just moved into a new townhome, I didn’t realize how much stuff I have. And a lot of it is just…stuff! Double, sometimes multiples of items that prove not useful. It feels good to make a trash pile and a donation pile!!! I even make some good cash selling to consignment and ebay 😉 Even better for when there’s a baby on the way!

  • Emily says:

    My rule is that if it hasn’t been used or worn in the past year it needs to either be donated or pitched. This does not include seasonal items or tools/hardware. I do try to reuse and recycle as much as I can, however I have a low tolerance for clutter and have been accused by my family many times for throwing away things that weren’t supposed to be thrown away. I warn my kids not to leave their “treasures” (usually paper airplanes and trinkets) on the kitchen counter or floor, otherwise they might disappear. 🙂

  • Jessica says:

    I had decided to get rid of 100 things recently, but yesterday as I was cleaning out preparing for the arrival of our first child, I realized that that number should be more like 500 things. It seems like a lot, but since I haven’t decluttered much in the past year, it will probably be fairly easy.

  • Mrs Sunshine says:

    I can’t dream of even considering getting rid of 100 things! I was out of work for almost 2 years, started back at part time (at minimum) and only at the first of this year went to full time—but at a v-e-r-y low rate. When I possibly get back to going well again I know there are boxes and bags of things I want out of here. Right now my stash is keeping me from stressing-out over low income.

    Has anyone else ever been in this boat?

    • sara says:

      Mrs. Sunshine- I DEFINITELY have, and partially still am. I say be gentle with yourself and declutter at a comfortable pace. In my opinion, if keeping a few things can prevent some of the stress and anxiety that comes with job loss, then it’s a small sacrifice to make. Obviously you don’t want it to get out of hand, but you will know when that happens. I was in the middle of my underemployment phase when some friends came to my house to help us paint our kitchen. Every last one of them had an extremely high-paying job; every last one of them had enough discretionary income to pay someone to clean for them. There were some snarky comments made about my well-stocked couponing pantry, my desire to re-use Mason jars, etc. They really did permanent damage to our relationship. Point is, sadly enough not everyone can understand how, in some cases, a little bit of clutter is worth keeping around.

  • Mary says:

    I never tried decluttering 100 things at a time but have had fun with FlyLady’s 21 Fling Thing. It’s so easy that 100 items shouldn’t be too hard! Thanks for the push!

  • D says:

    This inspires me again to get rid of clutter and items that I no longer use or need. Last year I kept a list of items I donated or sold and I got over 700 items! That felt so good, to know that there was more ‘breathing’ room in the house! 🙂

  • Seetha says:

    I recently did a big declutter in my house and everything is quite organized. When something is given to us, the kids and I ask ourself, if we really will use it and want to find a place for it. If we don’t love it enough, we give it away. I have a thrift store basket in my house, so the kids can put stuff in easily.

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