Clutter,  Organizing,  Spring Cleaning

I Decluttered and Broke Up With 500 Things. You Can Do It Too!

Feeling skeptical?

Yep—I get it. I didn’t think I had 500 unwanted things I could find either. I wanted to move toward a minimalist lifestyle though so I knew it would be a solid challenge. An impending international move sealed the deal.

Let’s be clear: my husband loves pitching clutter but has zero desire to become a minimalist or live in a tiny house, so I was on my own. Suggesting he only keep one coat, two shoes and three books would probably make him shake his head and mutter about hipster millennials and their vintage cameras.

Paring down doesn’t mean you have to become an official minimalist though.

Don’t think you possess 500 items to send packin’? Keep reading.

Motivated but don’t know where to start? Keep reading.

I’d like to say I went room to room in a methodical way, but my initial purge looked more like a I’m-late-and-where-the-heck-are-my-keys kind of purge. Dump the box, throw the clothes, toss the junk.

Here’s what got the boot:

Clothes: Too big, too small, stretched out, super faded, super pilled, stained, holey and haven’t worn since I-don’t-know-when.

Magazines: I always think I’m going to read them again. I rarely ever do. Plus they’re weighty and I refuse to move them. Bye bye.

Shoes: Do they pinch your toes, poke your arches, kill your heels, or rub your bunions? Out they go.

Mugs: You might have 19 people over, but have you ever witnessed everyone wanting something hot to drink at the same time? Plus, if you keep avoiding the “I Heart Hesperia” mug, it might be time to empty and examine the whole shelf.

Cookbooks: Since almost every recipe I look for comes from All Recipes, I cut my collection in half and now have a small, doable pile instead of a huge, mostly-ignored pile.

I easily filled a small SUV with our stuff and donated it to a Mexican woman who sells at the tianguis (flea markets) to pay bills. I felt accomplished but equally embarrassed.

  • Why did I save these stupid stickers?
  • Where are the stakes for this old tent?
  • What was I thinking when I said yes to the hand-me-down archery target?

The lady and my garage were both thrilled about the donations, and a surge of motivation kept me going. But then I didn’t know what else to look for.

So I went back to my favorite book by Kathi Lipp, Clutter Free, and found a list of not-so-obvious items. I also kept her key questions in mind while purging:

  • Do I love it?
  • Do I currently use it?
  • Would I buy it again?

Jewelry: Holding onto one earring hoping to someday find the other one? Let it go. I took up precious drawer space for years doing this with multiple pairs. As for the broken necklaces and bracelets, go get them fixed. Not worth it? Donate them to your round file.

Skivvies & Such: Keeping scratchy, too small, or falling apart items is silly. And please… for the love of everything elastic… do not donate used underclothes to missionaries. We’re poor but we have standards.

Cards: I tend to keep them. Then I wonder what to do with them. Then I feel guilty about tossing them. Then I open an old box and find my exact sentiments staring up at me:

A few notes from grandparents who aren’t with us anymore—sweet.

A few letters from Doug before we were married—fun.

The card from the lady who came to my wedding shower 23 years ago and I haven’t seen her since—adios.

Kitchen Gadgets: I found three pie servers. We eat pie approximately twice a year. Why do I need three servers? I don’t. I’m guessing you don’t either.

Crafts: Storing puffy paint, forest green yarn, a cross-stitch from 1987, and perfectly good tongue depressors? I know… I had good intentions too. But I finally admitted I’m not feeling crafty anymore and donated them to our kids’ Sunday School class.

Weak Hot Pads: Instead of stuffing your drawer with ten different lame-sauce mitts and pads, get yourself something made for high heat. I’m always afraid hot pads are going to slip or I’m going to burn my wrist, so for me, it’s mitts all the way. But only two. One for each hand, no mas.

The Ove’ Glove is great for finger function. These silicone mitts are getting a lot of attention, too.

Extra Food: If something has been sitting in your pantry for more than six or nine months, it’s lonely. Admit you’re not interested in a relationship anymore and pass it on to a hungry adult child or a food bank.

Last month Kathi Lipp started the Clutter Free Bible Study on Facebook and threw out a brand new challenge for Lent: 400 items in 40 days, gone. I almost passed it by.

I can’t do that. I’ve already filled my friend’s SUV thrice!

Actually, we’re moving and it looks like I’ve barely made a dent. Fine—sign me up. 

I joined the online study and jumped into a community of hundreds of women slugging through the same issues I was. Kathi and her team threw out great suggestions and encouragement while we all took before-and-after pictures and asked how to get our kids and husbands involved.

Here are a few things I realized I needed to deal with:

Day Planners, Bible Studies & Yearbooks

I heard you gasp. Of all the categories, these three notoriously evoke the most emotion. Fear not–I still love myself a rad calendar, I still love Jesus, and I’m still an American who went to public school.

But the thought of taking these back to the States when we move makes me cringe. I can’t justify this 20” tower of guilt, so I’m talking myself through the process.


Day Planners – Information (I might want to refer back to something)

Bible Studies – Accomplishment (plus it feels sacrilegious to dump them)

Yearbooks – Memories (the positive ones make me feel good)


Day Planners – Storing 12 years of dates is a huge space waster.

Bible Studies – The odds of ever reading through them again are hecka slim.

Yearbooks – Dwelling on past compliments and accomplishments feeds my pride. Dwelling on past insults and hurts feeds my insecurities. Plus some are littered with colorful language and rough memories.


Day Planners – Transfer the passwords, list of movies to find, list of songs to buy, and the kids’ milestones to my computer. Then pitch ‘em all.

Bible Studies – Remember a Bible study is not a Bible. Turn to the dog-eared pages, copy a few favorite quotes, and recycle the 22 paperbacks, sans shame.

Yearbooks – Save one or two favorites. For the rest, tear out my sports teams, portraits, etc. and toss the other 1,279 pages. (Yes, I added them up.)

Weighing in at 46.5 pounds, I realized keeping these three categories would be like taking another small child with us when we move, adding to our chaos. Forty. Six. Point. Five. And I’d still have to store them when we get to where we’re going. No gracias.

Spring Fling

This week Kathi released a new challenge, starting May 1st. I’ve already taken two of her challenges and I have not been disappointed, so I’m jumping into number three.

It’s only 10 days and 200 items. Easy like Sunday mornin’! That’s 20 items a day (weekends off to rest or catch up) with room-by-room instructions for where to start, which items to fling, and how to enter to win a free book every day. Cha-Ching!

Don’t be scared, be inspired. Even if only two percent of your soul feels tempted to join me, at least do yourself a favor and look into it: Spring Fling 2017.

It’s gonna rock, and you’re gonna roll. Roll some clutter right out your door!

Ready? Yes, you are. We’re gonna encourage each other till the cows come to church. And you know how I feel about them.

Keep that grin on your face and I’ll see you soon!

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  • Julie

    I plan to continue the purging, as you’ve challenged me to do. It’s amazing how much accumulates, and I have a tendency to think it’s all super important! Thinking of the Bible Studies, I threw so many of mother in law’s away when we went through her house after she died. It’s true that they don’t all need to be saved.

    • Carrie Talbott

      I love that we’re both purging at the same time! It’s so much work, but the payoff feels incredible. I like how you said you have a tendency to think it’s all super important… that’s my problem too. Press on, amiga.

  • Lisa Galleguillos

    Love this, Carrie! I feel like I can fearlessly face my stacks of planners, bible studies and yearbooks now. Those are hard ones for me too. Right now I am in the midst of returning all the items belonging to the charter homeschool we have been in for 5 years and it’s inspiring me to continue the process in other areas. It’s so freeing to purge. 🙂

    • Carrie Talbott

      Thanks, Lisa. Glad to hear you’re digging in! Are you going to join us for Spring Fling?

  • Laura Christianson

    The hardest break-up for me would be yearbooks. I not only have my own and my sons’, but I also have 11 years of them from when I taught high school and advised the yearbook!

    • Carrie Talbott

      Yeah–that’s a doozy for me too. I went through one recently and realized there wasn’t much in there that I actually cared about. A few others might be rough, but that was an easy toss. I am keeping some individual pages though. Is that weird? 🙂 Thanks for chiming in, Laura!