How to Declutter WITHOUT Making a Bigger Mess (Bonus Videos!)

I often hear people say that they put off decluttering because it makes a bigger mess.

It can certainly be frustrating because a lot of times in the middle of decluttering we get interrupted and it looks so much worse than when we started. It would have been easier to just leave it alone!

So I decided to try out a method of decluttering without making a mess by Dana K. White from A Slob Come Clean. She is a pro at decluttering and is SO relatable– she gets that this isn’t easy!!

What you can find in this post:

  • A video interview with Dana from A Slob Comes Clean and Author of Decluttering at the Speed of Life
  • A follow-up video by myself with a few more thoughts why I think this method is SO magical!
  • A written description of how this method works
  • A YouTube video that I created where I tried out this system on our front closet

Did you get all that?? Ha! This must be good!

Video: Dana & I discuss decluttering without making a bigger mess

We were fortunate to do a Facebook live with Dana and were able to ask her more questions about this decluttering method.

Questions we cover:

  • What if I have health issues that make it difficult to make multiple trips?
  • Does this work for those with anxiety? ADHD?
  • How do you keep family from “undoing” it all?
  • How do get kids to help?
  • What about helping teens declutter their bedrooms?
  • How do you keep up the areas you’ve decluttered?
  • What if I’ve always had good intentions, but never can get started or stick with it?

I think you’ll find Dana to be incredibly relatable and helpful!

Video: Why I think this method is SO powerful

It’s easy to say “well, that’s pretty much what I do”, but until you actually try this and take EACH item to its home, I don’t know if you’ll be able to experience how powerful it really is!

This is specifically for those of us who think:

  • But really, wouldn’t making a pile be faster??
  • Isn’t it a waste of time and energy to make a trip for EACH item??

Decluttering without Making a BIGGER MESS

I decided to experiment with our front hall closet. It still had all of our winter gear in plus LOTS of random remodeling supplies, and anything else the kids would shove in while “cleaning.”

And while the appeal of this decluttering method is that you’re never making a big mess, I also like that it requires very little materials, planning or forethought. In other words, its a simple process with simple materials!!

The only THREE things you’ll need:

1. Black trash bag – black so no one else in your family sees what you’re throwing away ;)

2. Donation box – for all the things that will be leaving your house!

3. Your feet – this is the magic behind this process: you actually put stuff where it goes right away!

Here you go, everything you need right here:

The whole premise behind Dana’s method is we put things away as we come across them and that’s how we don’t make a bigger mess. If I’m in the middle of decluttering and get interrupted and have to run, all I have is my garbage bag and donation box to put away and I’m back where I started. I have not made a bigger mess!

Step 1 – Start with the easy stuff. Is there obvious garbage or easy stuff that needs to get re-homed?

Step 2 – Put the item where it goes. Right away. Literally, walk there right now with it!

For example, in our closet I found some things that belong in the garage. So what I need to do is literally take it out to the garage. Right now.

Initially I’m thinking, Walk all the way to the garage with just one thing?? Why not just make a pile and go later?

What you can do: I can glance around and see if there’s anything else that needs to go in the garage and take that too, but yes, I am going to take this out to the garage right now.

What I CAN’T do: I’m not going to put it on a pile, I’m going to put it away right now.

At first I thought this would be annoying or frustrating to be constantly leaving the space, but after just one trip out to the garage it already felt nice that I didn’t have a pile of stuff to put away later. I’ve actually made progress now and I’ve totally finished that task!

So, this is what our entryway looked like the ENTIRE time I was decluttering:

MIND BLOWN!! No piles of stuff that STILL had to be dealt with. With each trip of putting stuff away, I was COMPLETELY dealing with that item– and it felt AWESOME!

Next, tackle the next layer of obvious stuff.

In our closet, it’s the winter gear. I didn’t put it away because it’s nearly impossible to get to the basement where I have totes to store our seasonal clothes. We still need to put the stairs back in after our remodeling project!

So I’m going to put everything into a garbage bag, drop it down and climb down the ladder and put it away right away. I want this closet clean so I’m going to fully take care of it and that will feel really good. Turns out it took about 10 minutes to get it down there and all put away. For how long I’ve been putting it off, and how much space it was taking up in the closet, it feels really silly that I didn’t do it sooner!

More things I decluttered…

  • Shawl I never wore – donation box
  • Draw string bags we got for free – donation box
  • Knee pads – back in the closet
  • 3 bags of items to return – walk out to the car
  • Case of DVDs – off to the TV room
  • Work gloves – stay in the closet
  • Reusable bag and library books – out to the car
  • Dirty sock – laundry room
  • Hardware hook that needs to be returned – another trip out to the car
  • Tom’s really dirty shoes – just throw them away ;)

This is a great way to get a lot of steps in too, so it’s a double win!

Every time I return from putting something away, I’m back to square one and I don’t have a big mess at my feet. If I had to walk away right now I’d be totally fine!

The Two Decluttering Questions (you only need TWO!)

Two questions to ask yourself when it comes to decluttering:

  1. If I were looking for this item, WHERE WOULD I EXPECT IT TO BE? – For example, we store our paint in the basement, not in the closet. So I need to put it back in the basement!
  2. If I needed this, would I REMEMBER THAT I HAVE IT??? – If I don’t remember that I have this, I’m not going to remember it again! Do I want something to take up space if I forget it’s even there? Nope!

Our final donation box didn’t have too much, but it was surprising how much stuff there was to throw away! This space stayed cleaned the entire time and that feels AWESOME!

I think this decluttering method is a winner and definitely want to keep using this method moving forward.

I will admit there were times I was tempted to make piles to go to the basement or the garage or the car but I’m really glad that I resisted and just made those trips each time. There’s nothing worse than to be working hard and getting it all organized, but when you turn around there are still huge piles that you still have to deal with.

So even though it took a little more time while I was doing it, in the end it was worth it!

Video: Testing this method on my front hall closet

(Or watch this video on YouTube here!)

If you’re interested in learning more, check out Dana’s book Decluttering at the Speed of Life. I definitely think it’s worth reading, or listening to while you’re going through specific areas of your house. She also has a podcast and other helpful tools that you might want to explore!

I would love to know if you think this No Mess Decluttering Method could work for you too, or if there are any modifications you would need to make.

Let us know in the comments!
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