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How do you declutter?

There are two schools of thought when it comes to decluttering:

  1. Touch everything only once, and
  2. Declutter in steps, moving piles around until it’s done.

When you touch everything only once, you pick up an item and put it in its rightful place immediately, even if it means going to the other side of the house. Sometimes you can maximize the effectiveness of this method and pick up several items going to the same room, using a basket to take your goods with you. Then you stay in that one room, reshelving everything you brought, and when you’re done, you return to the room you started in and continue on your work.

When you declutter in steps, you essentially make piles. If your dining room table is cleared off, you pile everything together that’s going to your daughter’s room, then the bathroom, and so on and so forth. When all the declutter has been transferred to their appropriate piles, you focus on shrinking the piles until they’re gone. When there are no more piles, your place has been decluttered.

Most home organizing “experts” advocate the Touch Everything Only Once method, but it doesn’t work for me. I get too distracted. If I crate up just a few items for my bedroom, before I know it, I’m perusing the magazine on my nightstand, or I’m organizing the shirts in my wardrobe by sleeve length and color (I’m a bit sick that way – ask my husband or my college roommate). The original room I started in has long been forgotten.

My method is to stay in the messy room and pile its misplaced belongings in one central location, then move on to the next room and add to those original piles. After I’ve gone through the whole house and decluttered, I should have only one big pile for each room. Now all I have to do is empty a pile at a time until it’s gone.

What do you do? Have you even thought about it before? Just wondering if I’m in the minority or the majority here.

I’m off to make some piles.

Reading Time:

2 minutes





  1. Barbara Ling

    I do neither – I simply take the nice big black plastic garage bags, bravely don on my protective suit, venture into the kids’ chaos and put everything I find into it. Then I’ll hide the bag.

    If nothing is missed in a week, I’ll put said bag at the recycling area. To date, things have NEVER been missed.

    Frustrating, ain’t it?



    Barbara Lings last blog post..Mindreading 101 – how to deliver EXACTLY what your customers crave

  2. simplemom

    @Barbara – That. Is. Awesome. I’ll have to remember that when my kids are older. 🙂

  3. Emily

    I am of the touch everything once school. I do lots of flitting. It’s in my nature to be a scattered so going room to room back and forth with little vision works for me. And I have to get black bags. My kids are always yelling when they see waht I put in there! “That was my FAVORITE paperclip!”

    Emilys last blog post..Why I Like Being Frugal

  4. simplemom

    @Emily – That cracks me up. My daughter is like that, too. They should market black bags specifically catering to moms who need to hide things from kids.

  5. Blessed

    Funny – I wrote about decluttering today too….

    I belong to the pile camp – I pile things, the only frustrating part is that once I get my piles made I’m not great about getting it all put away. But, I am getting better – there is hope!

    Blesseds last blog post..De-Cluttering

  6. Dominique

    I take it one drawer at a time. Get the baby to throw out all the clothes from the drawer and then re-fold and re pack everything. Decluttering a bit too slowly..should do a bit more each day.

    Dominiques last blog post..TT-Magazine Interview- Mother’s Day Special

  7. Guera

    I am like Blessed – I make piles, and then don’t get around to putting them away, until the piles get mixed up again and I have to sort them out again! I need to be a lot more disciplined…

    Gueras last blog post..The Piñata Report

  8. Linds

    I do the same sort of thing. I stay in the messy room and put the clutter that goes in other rooms in a central location. I like this way because it seems easier to manage when it’s all in the same place.

    Lindss last blog post..Next Week: Food Allergy Awareness Week

  9. Megan@SortaCrunchy

    I cannot do One Touch either!! I am like you – WAY too distracted. I do it the exact same way you do – I make piles in a laundry basket and when the basket is full, I deliver the items to their homes.

    Megan@SortaCrunchys last blog post..WFMW: Facial Cleansing

  10. Elizabeth

    I make piles for each room, then slowly work through getting things to where they belong. I do it with papers, toys, even laundry. Sometimes it take a while to get things put away, but at least I feel organized along the way.

    Elizabeths last blog post..This is what I was trying to say

  11. simplemom

    Hmm, sounds like there’s more Pilers in this crowd…

  12. Lynn

    I think the one touch thing would be virtually impossible for me. I am definitely a pile person and eventually it will get put away. But that “eventually” may mean anywhere from a day to a month. Usually it gets put away when my mom comes over and tells me that she will watch my girls while I put the stuff away. I have a definite paper problem and seriously can’t figure out how to solve it. (I have had it all my life and it runs in my family – my dad, my cousins etc)

  13. Katy

    Add me to the one touch type. I tried piling and like Guero, I can’t get the piles down and end up accomplishing nothing. At least with the one touch method, I get some things put away and makes me feel better.

    Katys last blog post..Encouragement to parents

  14. Alison @ This Wasn't In The Plan

    I do a bit of both actually. When the kids aren’t around, I’m usually more productive with piling, that way I can just do a room and get it done. When the kids are around, they tend to pull me away from actually putting the piles away, so a touch once system works better.

    Alison @ This Wasn’t In The Plans last blog post..Friday Night Link Love: Happy Mother’s Day!

  15. simplemom

    @Lynn – I completely understand about your kids getting into your piles. If I can’t get them put away in a reasonable amount of time, I might have well not done anything!

    @Alison – That makes a lot of sense. Sometimes one touch does work better when you’re balancing kids at the same time.

  16. Jasi

    I used to shove everything into the attic for later sorting. But this weekend we intend to empty it. So the plan would be that anything we don’t use or don’t plan to use within the year gets tossed in a collapsible bin in the laundry room for cleaning, sorting and donating on a monthly basis. So goes the plan…

  17. simplemom

    @Jasi – Sounds like a good plan. The trick I’ve heard with that one is once you’ve decided to see if you use something within a year – immediately get rid of it as soon as that year passes. If you go through it again, you’re rehashing it. I’ll bet you won’t miss that stuff too much! Hope your weekend is a success.

  18. thursday

    Oh my goodness. If I had to just touch everything once, I’d be stuck holding the first thing I picked up for days trying to figure out what to do with it!

  19. Jana

    Wonderful ideas – I do the same thing you do – clean the room, create piles, move on to the next room. I carry a laundry basket with me to put all my piles in and empty as I go, it saves so much time….loving your website.


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