My De-Cluttering Experience

My De-Cluttering Experience

Hello! I am taking a break from writing about existential dread and decided to post my personal experience of embarking on an adventure this summer…

A de-cluttering adventure!

I’ve also decided to log my experience and any tips I find along the way to help anyone who is a low-key hoarder and needs some help from a real person/mental health counselor who has gone through this.

My guesses are that it won’t be glamorous, and that I won’t get as much done as I hope. But I’m going to shoot for the stars anyway.

(FYI, I wrote this blog in real-time as I went through this process but have posted everything in one blog for reader convenience.)

Here is the target:


This is my old bedroom in my parent’s house.

My strategy so far is to use the “4 box” system as detailed here . The idea is to sort items into boxes labeled:

  1. Keep
  2. Donate/Sell
  3. Store, and
  4. Trash

I think the idea here is that everything will go in one category so you can’t just keep pushing around items. I don’t have boxes for all but I will use trash bags and boxes as needed for each pile.


Day 1 update: The 4 box system is proving to be a little more sloppy than intended. This is my toss box:


It reminds me of the Pintrest Expectation versus Reality photos in a way because these “boxes” are more like piles wherever I have found space due to the size of my de-cluttering project.

I’ve decided to use 6 categories instead: Keep; Donate; Sell; Store; Trash; and Recycle. I did make labels to help keep myself organized:


Another tip I read here has helped me; this author suggests that you take pictures of sentimental things instead of keeping the physical item when appropriate. I have found that a lot of the stuff in this bedroom I have kept for sentimental reasons; namely art and old belongings.

For example, I’ve been holding onto this self-decorated backpack since high school:


I think the picture is just as good. Other artwork so far has been a little hard to put in the toss pile. I think part of this is this bizarre idea that maybe people will want to see my artwork from my early days or that I would want to see it all in order to document my progress or development. These are all things that a picture could solve. The idea of taking a picture of ALL of the artwork that I have held onto in the room is a project in itself. Not sure how I’m going to tackle that yet…

So, after about 2 hours this is what the bedroom looks like:

day 1.jpg

Not bad right? I think part of my success was:

1) I don’t live here so it’s a little easy to be diligent about a project if you’re not living in the middle of it, and

2) I went in with a game plan with my sorting piles.

For day 2 my plan is to continue to sort through the remaining boxes and shelves, and maybe make a SEVENTH category for art that I’d like to document and then toss.


Day 2 was a lot harder than day 1 emotionally and logistically. I did add the recycle and donate categories to my organization and I think that helped. The main problem I had was running into old art projects that I wasn’t sure that I wanted to throw away yet. So, I did make a seventh category to sort through later: art.

For now I have put this pile off to the side to sort through later:


And then the struggle started to hit me. It would be so easy to “put off” whole piles of items that seem like they require longer time commitments than I originally planed for. This could easily initiate the common mistake of just moving things around rather than getting rid of them. So, I really need to commit to a certain day or hour to go through that which I do not want to go through: tossing or saving art.

In case you need to catch up here is the grand total list of categories that worked for me:

  1. Keep
  2. Donate
  3. Sell
  4. Store
  5. Toss
  6. Recycle
  7. Art (for later)

Here is a progress shot after day 2 (about another hour of sorting):


My next plan of action is to finish up the toss, recycle, donate, and sell categories to make a big cleansing sweep. I think this will help me focus on the rest of the items that are proving harder to get rid of.


Day 3 is done and gone now and went surprisingly well. I’ve pretty much got my sorting piles distinguished and ready for action. It is getting to the point in the de-cluttering process where it looks like not much is getting done.

These are the toss and donate piles currently:


However, I have noticed that celebrating the small things goes a long way when you are cleaning out the junk. Some steps I’ve made since my last entry include: throwing away a load from the toss pile, recycling everything needed, selling some of my items, and I brought back some of the keep items to my home.

And, the biggest accomplishment of all:


I was able to get the mattress down!

I even swept the floor as part of celebrating this achievement of the room resembling a real guest bedroom.

The biggest challenges I’m going to face next time are 1) this pile of old artwork to sort through:


2) Something that I have been in denial of since I started this clean. The hardest thing to get rid of for me is:



There are 6 boxes of them in this closet to sort through into their own mini-category piles of recycle, donate, or keep. This means… you guessed it: an 8th category.

To be fair this 8th category has been sorting itself by sitting in the closet, hiding. But I will bring them out into the light to categorize and prioritize on day 4.


Day 4

Some unexpected news came the night before I started on day 4 of cleaning: I learned my parents were coming home from their vacation early. Something I failed to mention is that part of the impetus for taking on this de-cluttering is for want of giving them a pleasant surprise when they returned. But now I had only one more day to complete the mission if I wanted the surprise to take full effect.

So I spent 4 hours on day four completing the following projects:

I sorted my art into piles of:

  1. Recycle
  2. Store
  3. Keep

The pile closest to the camera is the recycle pile, and it ended up being the largest one, yay for small victories!


I had some ideas about how I could properly store my old art, but for now I have settled on storing it in a large portfolio.

I also went through all the 6 boxes of books and sorted them into:

  1. Keep at parents’ house
  2. Take to home bookshelf
  3. Donate

I ended up keeping the books from my childhood out on the bookshelf as a surprise for my parents too:


The final project ended up being something similar to an homage to myself in my old bedroom. It only seemed fitting.

Then I had some help from my partner putting all of the donate and toss boxes into our cars to dispose of properly.

It might have been the time crunch, but I think I was very successful at actually throwing away these items, and I NEVER went back to look through what I had already put in these piles, because that seemed like a trap to second-guess my tossing decisions.

So, after four hours of putting the final touches on this de-cluttering project on day 4, I present to you, the result:


You may notice a trunk and suitcase in the closet. I put all of the 3 items of my store pile into the closet space of the room. I forgot to take a good picture of this part, but I think it’s safe to say that a closet full of stuff is better than where I started.

I always love a side by side comparison:


With a little research, a vacation impetus, a blog to keep me accountable, and a lot of playlists and water I’ve completed this de-cluttering project.

If you have any questions about the process that I didn’t cover in this blog series, please feel free to reach out to me and I will share with you what I’ve learned.

Now it’s time to relax!


I offer an open invitation to anyone who is interested in sharing, commenting, adding, or reacting to anything they’ve read in any of my blogs. I do ask that you do so supportively of others choosing to comment, and hold yourself accountable by not remaining anonymous as a commenter.

Ready to de-clutter your head space with counseling? Contact me for a free 30-minute in-person consultation via email or phone: 512.766.4786.

Julia Stamman, M.S., LPC-Intern

Supervised by Ann Stoneson, LPC-S

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