40 Bags in 40 Days

I’m ready to commit: 40 bags in 40 days. I can do this.

My word for 2018 was SP-ACE. The untraditional spelling signified two distinct meanings. First, I wanted to create more space in life. This incorporated a goal to discard items that no longer served a purpose, a need to eliminate negative thought patterns, and a desire to free up time on an overcrowded calendar.

In addition, the “dash” was inspired by the Dash poem which focuses on the time between our birth date and our death date. I wanted to remind myself to live life to its fullest and take nothing for granted.

While I made some strides in positive thinking and mindful living, I did very little downsizing. I reorganized and delivered a few bags of books to the half price shop within the first two weeks of January, but nothing else.

But as they say… better late than never.

When I saw this challenge offered by White House Black Shutters, I knew it was time to make a dent in the four decades of stuff we have accumulated. Not only do we have our personal “collections” – but we also have inherited items from both sets of parents as well as left-behind items of three children. The house is overflowing and it is time to start the diet.

Why Now?

While my husband is not scheduled to retire for another 2-5 years … I do not want to procrastinate. I feel if we start slowly now, it will be easier to downsize later.

In addition, I find comfort in doing an online challenge. I feel a higher degree of accountability – to do what I say I’m going to do – if I know others are struggling to do the same. I don’t necessarily plan to be an active participant in the FaceBook Group, but I may visit every once in a while for a dose of inspiration and encouragement.

Where to Start?

The Official challenge comes with a daily schedule. The idea is to declutter each room, closet, and drawer of the house in forty days. I am taking a different approach.

I plan to focus on three rooms: my “nook” which includes my books and craft supplies; the Master Bedroom where I will focus mainly on clothes, shoes, and make-up; and the Paris room which houses more books, crafts, and miscellaneous items.

I feel confident I will find more than forty bags of discards and giveaways.

Should I have more time, I will tackle the kitchen cabinets and the family room bookshelves. I will leave the basement for another time.

Baby steps are the key, as always. I don’t want to burn myself out. I have no time constraint. I simply want to release items that no longer serve me and free up some breathing room.

Plan of Attack

I have delayed this process because I fear saying good-bye to cherished items. My mother’s old cookbooks – my library of unread thrillers and mysteries – my rubber stamp supplies for all those greeting cards I hope to make one day (that day hasn’t come in over a decade)

But I’ve decided I can honor those items in three ways.

First, I plan to take pictures of the items that truly have sentimental meaning. I don’t need the entire cookbook, just a photo of the cover and perhaps a recipe with Mom’s handwritten notes. Eventually, these photos may become a cherished scrapbook.

Second, I know these items will find a good home. As the saying goes, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. My willingness to release the object will bless others as well as myself.

Lastly, focusing on this activity during the Lenten season will give me an opportunity to reflect on the Lord’s provision in my life. Rather than bemoan the accumulation of junk, I will give thanks for His abundance.

Join Me?

Forty bags will not make a dent in our need to declutter, but it is a good start. And who knows… I may have so much fun that I will want to extend the party another forty days. Anyone care to join me?



  • Donna

    Hi, Molly –
    Congratulations on your commitment to this. I agree with you about group challenges — they can provide extra encouragement and accountability.
    I look forward to reading more about your progress.
    Thank you for sharing the links. I will check them out.
    Donna #MLSTL

    • Molly Totoro

      Well, today is day 1, Donna. We’ll see how this goes πŸ™‚ I’m excited though rather than dreading it. I think the idea of releasing to others while meditating on the blessing in my life is the shift in mindset I needed to finally make progress in this area.

  • Catherine Ensley

    I’ve been de-cluttering at various times over the past few years. Last summer, i hauled about 11 boxes of books to the library where I used to work, although I still have probably twice or three times that many on shelves. And my 1800 books on my IPad, Kindle app, which take up no space at all. (Hurrah for e-books.) Like you, I have scrapbooking supplies that I don’t use (rubber stamps and ink), but I can’t bear (yet) to give them up. I’m very well organized and our house is enormous, so I don’t feel a current need for de-cluttering. We have more storage space than what we’re currently using. It’s nice to have some nearly empty closets and cupboards.

    My clothes closet is small by today’s standards. (It felt huge when we built the house in 1979. I mean, having my own closet? Wow. What a luxury that was.) Anyway, that’s where I am particularly ruthless, and keep a small, practical wardrobe.

    There’s been times where I’ve needed to put extra clothes in other closets, but I like keeping everything in one closet better. Fall and spring, I trade out seasonal clothes, which have been stored in tubs on the floor in my closet, and hang everything on hangers by color.

    But it is such a great feeling to see bag after bag of things to be taken to Goodwill, a local school, or the dump. It’s especially great to do it in the springtime. Good luck with this endeavor. I actually LOVE to do this type of cleaning.

    • Molly Totoro

      The Kindle will help me release physical books, Cathy. Or at least that is what I’m anticipating. I’ve started using the Libby app and enjoy borrowing ebooks from the library rather than cluttering my home with physical copies. While I dream of the kind of library that houses thousands of pristine leatherbound hardbacks and requires a ladder to reach the top shelves … I know that dream will not come true.

      As far as craft supplies… I have a feeling I will hoard a few more of these. As you stated, I have the room so there is no real impetus to clear out. I just know that I use a fraction of what I own, and I wonder if shedding the excess might inspire me to scrapbook more.

      Clothing will be a two-part endeavor. I can certainly donate a few items now, but after I retire… watch out! I am looking forward to a jeans and t-shirt uniform every day of the week πŸ™‚

  • Michele

    Wow! Forty bags is a lot! It does come easily though. I have already cleaned out and downsized and then recently moved again and each time I got rid of things. I still have too much. I spent thirty minutes cleaning out a closet last week and had four bags. It is doable. I agree, books are hard, but I got rid of all the cookbooks that I don’t use. I haven’t missed them. Sentimental things are difficult too, but taking a picture is a great idea! !

    • Molly Totoro

      Well… there is no stated “official” size bag… so technically forty bags could be a manageable goal if I don’t strive to fill 13-gallon bags each day πŸ™‚
      In the past, I think I made this “declutter” job a bigger deal than it is. I envisioned hours and hours of sorting – and then dealing with a disorganized mess for weeks. I love that you were able to spend thirty minutes in a single closet and collect four bags. This gives me hope.

  • Leah

    I love this idea! I have a dear friend who moved last Fall after 15 years in the same home. They were downsizing after the kiddos left for university. It was a HUGE job but she feels really good about it. It inspired me to declutter a bit myself even though I’m not going anywhere any time soon. Good luck on your endeavors! #MLSTL

    • Molly Totoro

      Leah… I wanted to start the process before we plan to move. I think the pressure of completing the entire house in a certain timeframe would be too daunting. Also, I would probably just focus on getting the job done rather than taking my time to truly appreciate what I’ve owned. I hope to make this an enjoyable process that will encourage me to give it a go another time later in the year. We’ll see πŸ™‚

  • Natalie

    Good for you for taking on this challenge, Molly. You already have a plan of attack and the group is there for motivation if you need it so I have no doubt you’ll succeed. #MLSTL

    • Molly Totoro

      Thanks for the vote of confidence, Natalie πŸ™‚ I sure hope I follow through. I already feel lighter and I haven’t filled a single bag.

  • Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au

    What a great way to make a dent in the accumulation from all those life events. We culled big time when we moved to our current home and I’ve done a few mini culls – clothes every so often, and the back of the closet last year. Fortunately we don’t have any kids’s stuff left these days and the parents are still around – but I won’t be taking any of their stuff when they pass because it really has no appeal (I’m just not all that sentimental I’m afraid). I hope you keep us posted on your adventure – before and afters would be great.
    thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM πŸ™‚

    • Molly Totoro

      I’m hoping once I begin this process, Leanne, I will want to continue “mini culls” on a regular basis. I think that is key to maintaining manageable clutter πŸ™‚ I do want to document the process with photos. I’d be happy to share on the blog if people are interested. Thank you for the idea!

  • Jan Wild

    What a great project. I am a pretty ruthless culler (sometimes to my peril but very rarely). My partner is hoarder but he is beginning to move things too which is great. I need to leave him to do it in his own time so I try not to hassle, but I do gently encourage πŸ˜‰

    • Molly Totoro

      I can be ruthless too, Jan. And that was part of my initial resistance to downsizing now – especially when I don’t “need” to. Many times I’ve donated a book that I later want to reference and need to repurchase. Or an outfit that I’m sure I will never wear again, and then six months later I miss it. But I’m hoping this go around I will take my time and really think through decisions to keep or to toss … rather than throwing everything in the bag πŸ™‚

  • Nancy Dobbins

    Hi Molly,
    You can do this! Dan and I downsized from a 4 bedroom home, plus a lot of stuff inherited when both my parents passed away within a year of each other. It is a process, but you seem to have a good plan in place.
    The most eye-opening thing we ran into is that no one thinks your stuff has value except you. Even your nice furniture is just used stuff to other folks. Just let it go…

    • Molly Totoro

      Ah… what a GREAT point, Nancy! So much of what I inherited from Mom had deep meaning to her, but it is not really my style. And the story of her grandparents she associated with the furniture is too far removed for me to appreciate. I keep the items to honor her… but after eight years, I think I can find another way.

  • Molly Stevens

    Hurrah for you, Molly! I’ve done a lot of cleaning out since I retired, focusing mostly on my clothes. There is a lot more I need to do, but I don’t think I can do 40 bags in 40 days. I have been thinking of ordering the Marie Kondo book on tidying up and even more interested in it since I watched her Netflix series. I love the idea of focusing on the God’s abundance and focusing on gratitude. Good luck in your endeavor! I trust you’ll keep us posted on your progress.

    • Molly Totoro

      I read the first few chapters of the book when it was first published. I had to stop after reading the chapter on socks. She seemed to love her socks more than I love my dog πŸ™‚
      BUT… I do like her philosophy of keeping only sparks joy. And I’ve heard great reviews of the Netflix series. Perhaps I will watch those episodes during this Lenten season to encourage me to push through the resistance.
      I’d love to hear your review of her book if you decide to read it.

  • Terri Webster Schrandt

    This is a great idea, Molly, and a challenge we could all embrace. After hubby and I have watched a few episodes of Tidying Up, we’ve started going through our clothing drawer by drawer and giving away things and refolding. One really has to be in the mood to do this. Best wishes to you, I’m sure you will be successful!

    • Molly Totoro

      I think a positive mood and mental attitude are more than half the battle, Terri! And time. I’m glad this is not at a critical stage. I have no deadline and can take it “one drawer at a time” if want to πŸ™‚

  • Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

    Hi Molly what a wise decision and a great challenge. I also loved your spelling of SP-ACE and the meanings behind it, I must have missed your post about that. We have just gone through the process of preparing my MILs home for sale and I’m sure she kept everything from her 92 year old life! There was so much to dispose of and it has literally taken months. We downsized 20 years ago after my husband had a triple by-pass and although I can still probably take a look at what else I can now dispose of, we aren’t too bad. You are planning in advance which I like because at least that is one thing less you will NEED to do in the future. I’ve learned that although I’m sentimental at heart, we just can’t keep everything. Our memories are our treasures. Thank you for linking up and sharing at #MLSTL and good luck with the challenge. I’m sharing on SM. xx

    • Molly Totoro

      I can’t imagine sorting through 92 years of stuff, Sue! That gives me the motivation to start now and keep going πŸ™‚
      Fortunately, Mom downsized significantly about five years before she passed. I mostly have a few antique furniture pieces and her ceramic angel collection.
      And I do believe I have finally come to the same conclusion: I can’t keep everything… and that’s okay.

  • Jennifer

    With three moves in the last two years, I thought I was downsized. Turns out I still have more things to downsize. But for now, I need to get settled. Even if that means putting up with extra stuff. My goal is always to have the least amount of dustibles as possible.

  • Christie Hawkes

    Molly, I think this is a wonderful goal, and I love your three-step approach to letting the physical items go while hanging on to the sentiment behind them. I think this is a challenge for many of us, so I appreciate you sharing your journey. #MLSTL

  • Mary Lou

    I like the idea of taking a photo of your mother’s cookbook. I still have my own Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book from back when the children were small. I might come to do what you suggested. Every Spring I have good intentions and rarely cover all that I’d like to clear out. Oh well! I’ll try again! Thanks Molly! I’ll be sharing on Facebook and Twitter for #MLSTL

  • Janet Mary Cobb

    Molly – I’ve seen this idea on social media and shared with others who’ve expressed the desire. I tend to personally keep my belongings to a minimum – but my husband not so much. So we find a balance. I would love to join you, but I do a clear-out a few times a year. I wouldn’t have 40 bags to fill. I will consider a few spots I haven’t ‘weeded’ in a while. Cookbooks may be an area to consider given that no one in the house really uses them. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Christina Daggett

    AS perpetual travelers, we’ve been living like minimalists for about ten years, since we only own what we can carry in our suitcases. Now we are thinking again about getting a residence, and having a base to travel from, though we’ll start accumulating things, again, this time around we will keep it to a minimum, and only have things that we love and really need. Best of luck with your challenge. I always enjoy your posts.

  • Debbie

    hi Molly, I really liked the spelling and explanation of SP-ACE, it made complete sense to me and I’d not thought of it like that before. I wish you well on your challenge and look forward to your updates. Shared for #mlstl

  • Pat

    Molly, I did a huge declutter when we moved last year and am sure I surpassed the 40 bags. I had over 10 boxes of books that went to the library, multiple pieces of furniture given away or donated, bags and bags of clothes. Hubby gave up his T-shirt collection – over 200 T-shirts. (That is not a typo). Boxes of kitchen and dining stuff I never used…even some things I got as wedding presents still in the boxes (26 years later). It was hard to just get rid of some things – hand knitted sweaters from my mom and MIL, those wedding presents, clothes from special events (that I would really never wear again), art-work that we just “outgrew” in style. Now, whenever I come across something I don’t really use (pushing it aside in a drawer to get at something I do use), I put it in a Goodwill pile. Or I put on some piece of clothing and say “this really done’t look good on me”… off it goes and into the pile. Ive decided, life is too short to not wear cute clothes. I still have too much stuff in the house (hubby is a hoarder), but it’s better than it was! Spring cleaning will give me another de-clutter push. I’ll be interested to hear how your 40 days goes!

  • Deb Nance

    Everyone tells me that it is so important to declutter. My husband and I have started by choosing Wednesday as our day to clean out. So far, we’ve worked on part of the attic, and most of that ended up in the garbage can. We did reorganize our boxes and boxes of pictures, and oh-so-kindly reboxed them, one for each of our sons. If nothing else, it will be a convenience box to set at the curb one day.

    I am having so much difficulty commenting on WordPress sites today. I have tried everything I can think of and nothing seems to be working. Oh dear.

    • Molly Totoro

      My husband and I have said for years that we will devote one hour each weekend to downsize. So far… that hasn’t worked πŸ™‚ I admire your self-discipline.

      As far as Blogger and WordPress playing nicely… I have the same issues, Deb. I use Google Chrome as my default browser, and I have a feeling that is the culprit when I try to comment on WordPress blogs. I’m sure there’s a workaround, but I have not made the time to educate myself. *sigh

  • Ellen

    I agree with your assessment about Marie Kondo and the socks! Overall, though, I was surprised at how much of her stuff made sense to me. I will never, ever, take things as far as she does, e.g. worrying about my socks needing a break that they won’t get if rolled together….but her thoughts on releasing items so they can be loved by someone else really resonated with me.

    I’m doing the “after retirement clothing purge” right now–it’s tough when there are so many things I still really like, still fit, and are in good shape, but need far fewer because I will seldom have need of them.

    • Molly Totoro

      That is exactly my position, Ellen! I have the space – there is no dire need to downsize – and my clothes still fit πŸ™‚
      I plan to tackle the closet and dresser once school is out and I’m ready to transition into summer wear. Wish me luck!

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