Decluttering seems to be on everyone’s radar these days. One couple that I happen to know quite well — my daughter Laura and her husband Aaron — joined the “40 Bags in 40 Days” decluttering challenge they’d read about on social media. Of course I was curious to hear the details, now that the 40 days are coming to an end. What prompted them to tackle this project? What did they experience along the way?

Tired of the stuff

Laura couldn’t pinpoint a specific event triggering her desire to declutter. Rather, stuff seemed to fill every cupboard and drawer, lurk on every surface, and invade nooks and crannies. She no longer enjoyed her home, dreading the daily tidying and cleaning required to restore order.

There had to be a better way. Could she reduce the amount of time she spent tidying and cleaning? Others she’d read about did, and posted wonderful results.

So Laura and Aaron chose the “40 Bags in 40 Days” challenge. This system appealed to them as it was measurable — 40 bags — along with a set time frame — 40 days.

Super eliminator

Laura started with the master bedroom. Clothes, knick knacks, books — whatever wasn’t used or didn’t bring pleasure was sold, or thrifted, or tossed into the garbage bin. She pared her clothes down to 47 items (not including loungewear and undergarments). 47 items for ALL seasons! Impressive!

To put this in perspective, “Project 333”  is a minimalist fashion challenge, inviting participants to dress with 33 items for 3 months. That’s 132 items for the YEAR!


Kid clutter

Toys, books and games tend to creep into every living space. The amount had to be reduced. Every item was either sold or thrifted or stored temporarily in a bin. If none of the children missed the items or asked for them specifically over a period of time, then they were eliminated.

The children were part of the process. Their six year old enjoyed his tidier bedroom, playing with more contentment, as he could actually find his games and projects. However, he struggled with letting go, even items he rarely played with. But, once he understood he could sell his things and keep the money, he was much more willing to join in the challenge.

The three year old twins had a different response. One of the girls noticed her mom placing a (neglected) doll into a box and cried out, “don’t sell it Mama!” The doll was saved — for now.

Attitude shift

On a recent trip for work, Laura was surprised to feel a complete lack of interest in shopping or finding a great deal — activities she’d always enjoyed in the past. She didn’t need or want anything. In fact, the idea of bringing something into the house made her feel anxious and guilty. Instead, she relaxed with a good book and felt refreshed and restored.

Stop clutter in its tracks

A key to staying clutter free: don’t let it in the front door. This will involve re-educating family and friends. Laura’s still exploring some options such as: gifting consumables (chocolate is always a hit); purchasing experiences, not things (passes to events or kids play places or the aquarium); choosing art and craft supplies (make it, build it, create it, done).

Measurable results

Laura’s evenings of tidying and cleaning used to take up to two hours. Now, half an hour after supper is all that it takes to clean and tidy up. There are fewer dishes. There are fewer toys and games. Horizontal surfaces are clean and clear. Everything has a place and it’s easy to put things where they belong, because there is room.


With a reduced wardrobe, clothes are worn multiple times instead of being tossed into the laundry hamper after one use. Fewer dirty clothes equals less laundry which equals less time spent on washing, drying, folding clothes.

And yet another bonus when eliminating stuff: you can sell things for actual cash. The local online buy and sell, Craigslist, eBay and Amazon have netted Laura & Aaron cash sales of $600 so far. Store credit for returns and used books equals $142. A tidy sum for superfluous stuff.

Has decluttering made a difference? Absolutely!

Interested in starting your own challenge?

Resources Laura recommends:

Laura is looking forward to continuing the decluttering challenge beyond these initial 40 days. She feels lighter, freer and less stressed about the state of her environment. She has more time and energy to spend with her family.

Hearing about Laura’s success has inspired me to continue with my own decluttering efforts. I’m certainly a proud mama and even learned a thing or two from my daughter.

How about you? Want to feel lighter and more energetic? Why not take on a decluttering challenge? Kick your stuff to the curb, reclaim your space and free up your time. Then spend your energy with your loved ones and not with stuff.

Note: all photos contributed. Edits were mine.

One thought on “Decluttering Challenge: 40 Bags in 40 Days

  1. We have a great thrift store here in town that would gladly take anything deemed to go out the door! All proceeds go to health care in the community!

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