The 1 Minute Declutter Trick

Happy Playing Kids + Dog = Clutter. Photo © Liesl Clark

Happy Playing Kids + Dog = Clutter. Photo © Liesl Clark

According to The Story of Stuff, we consume twice as many material goods today as we did 50 years ago. An independent study in the UK revealed the average 10 year old owns 238 toys, but only plays with 12. We’re drowning in our stuff.

Is the clutter and chaos in your house getting you down? Have an unexpected visitor arriving in 1-minute? Here’s a quick fix that’ll solve your clutter calamaties:

A box.

Have clutter troubles? Think inside the box. Photo © Liesl Clark

When I’m overwhelmed by accumulated surface clutter atop counters and other furnishings in our house, I find the nearest empty box and quickly fill it with the items covering my table tops and horizontal surfaces. Even the children’s floordrobes get the box treatment. The items in question have been sitting there, I oft realize, because there’s just no obvious place to put them. A box is as likely a place as any.

The clutter box. Photo © Liesl Clark

And where does the box go? In our storage room (husband’s gear room, our workbench, and small storage space for things in transition) for a few weeks to see if anyone missed any of the items in said box. If the items disappear without notice or family grumblings, GIVE THEM AWAY.

Don’t ask yourself whether the items bring you joy.

Think of the joy you felt when they were off your counters, no longer between you and the front door. No, get rid of them quickly, but thoughtfully, without throwing them away. Feel the joy in giving them to another loving person before you change your mind and bring them back into your house to start the colossal closed-loop clutter cycle all over again.

This clutter-free surface is brought to you by "the clutter box." Photo © Liesl Clark

And you can thank me in the comments below.

24 thoughts on “The 1 Minute Declutter Trick

  1. I’ve lived life as a hoarder. But two years ago, we were forced to change tack, to recognise that the contents of a large house wouldn’t go into a small house. So we gave away, or sold, hundreds – yes I do mean hundreds, if not thousands – of books, some of which I’d owned for more than 50 years, and a lifetime’s ephemera. And against expectations, I don’t miss any of it. No, that’s not true. Oddly, only yesterday I announced I was sorry I’d thrown away all my old school reports. Still, that’s just one thing. Not a bad result

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  2. I love hearing this, Margaret! It’s a testimony to letting go. How is it that consumption has come to define us and our habitation of this planet? I’m stunned by the statistics, and the best-selling books that tell people to rid of their stuff, but without any guide toward stewardship of where it goes. Yes, simplicity, downsizing, selling, giving away, but throwing away items like toys and clothing? There just is no away.


  3. I went through a stage where I couldn’t find anything… matter where I thought I had put it. I ended up buying it again, only to find it some time later – arrgh! Finally I got rid of things via freecycle, or ebay (for pennies, I might add), but walking into a room where everything is in its place, is priceless! 🙂 Loving the before and after pics!

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  4. I can soooo relate to many of the comments here. When I have decluttered my livingroom, I could actually breath better. My bad habit is that any open, flat space is like a vacuum for stuff. I lay things down because I don’t know where else to put it and might forget where I put it, but of course I can’t find it in the pile either. Thank you for posting this.


  5. I am organized and, though I have lots of things around me that I cherish, I do not have clutter per se. However, when my kids were young and believing in Santa Claus, I would give one box, two, maybe three to each kid around Thanksgiving time to fill with unwanted items in good shape. They had between Thanksgiving and Christmas to discard stuff. Then, on Christmas eve, they put the filled boxes by the fireplace and hung their stockings. Mysteriously the boxes disappeared but their stockings were filled. I then hid the boxes and brought them the next fall to a depot for a Toy Drive; once treasures would become others’ treasures!

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  6. Nothing feels better for me than to lift that large bag filled with stuff onto the leaning out shelf thingy on one of those big metal box depositories for the Salvation Army. You know when you let go of the handle and you hear a two step noise. First the slam of the metal to metal and then when your bag of stuff hits the bottom. It makes me feel great to know my stuff is being sent out into the world to help someone else.
    I don’t want to sound too syrupy but I want to share this. My husband died two years ago from a rare head and neck cancer and after he was gone I went through all of his clothing and passed it on. At the time, a woman I knew asked me how I could do that, as though I should keep his shirts hanging in the closet? I told her Doug was the kind of guy who would give a stranger the shirt off his back, so I though he would thoroughly approve of me passing his stuff along.
    I imagine that just maybe some guy, somewhere out there in the world is wearing or using ‘happily’ some of Doug’s stuff, and that makes me feel pretty good.
    BTW, love the box idea.

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  7. Pingback: The 1 Minute Declutter Trick – 20mugs

  8. I have no problem decluttering newspapers, magazines, old clothes – but these have to be several years old and too dated or no longer fit – but I can’t get rid of my now grown-up children’s paintings, school exercise books, reports, anything they made or bought me, or my own school reports – it took many years to finally throw out all my lecture notes/essays from uni only to repace them when I did an Open University Degree in my 40s. I still have clothes I wore on significant occasions in my youth amd the shirt I wore to my daughter’s beach wedding etc. I have a whole extension full of stuff I made with the younger members of the family, my children’s old games, books, lego etc which still get used as new young ‘uns arrive or visit. I also have boxes of stuff from my dad and grandparents that have historical significance as well as sentimental value. And photos!!! I’ve told my children that when I’m they will have to build a whole new wing to their houses just for all my keepsakes but I know that they will really build is a bonfire!


    • Hahaha! I doubt they’ll build a bonfire out of your keepakes. They’ll become their keepsakes, too. My father is a bit of a hoarder, so we’re working on going through his special things with him and asking him to write about them, especially the family heirlooms and antiques so we know the stories behind them. It’s a wonderful family project to do together.


      • You don’t know my daughter! She has a hard and fast rule: one in two out! She once took advantage of my having to be flat on my back to go through all my bookshelves, wardrobe etc. Any hesitation and it was gone! When she left I hobbled out to the bins and found she had even thrown out her older brother’s faded and worn teddy bears, which we very smartly rescued! Anything significant will go to my son who whisks away anything I do decide to oust – I discovered recently he has all the vinyl albums we consigned to our garage years ago!


  9. Thank you! It sounds like a good idea, but this would make me incredibly anxious. I hate the clutter in the house, but I need to be careful about what I get rid of. Maybe I could do a modified version where everyone in the family gets to go through the box before it’s disposed of. Or maybe the box is only for things that I know are not important.


    • Yes! Of course. Once you’ve cleared your space then you can go through the box and sort out what stays and what is given away. This is how we do it. But if it stays, I find a logical storage place for it (everything has a place) and get it out of sight.


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