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Throw Out 50 Things: Time to Clear out Clutter

Updated on May 23, 2019
Virginia Allain profile image

Minimalism is catching on, and I'm excited about streamlining. I'm sharing what I've learned about decluttering and simplifying our lives.

Too Much STUFF


Inspired by Gail Blanke's Book on Clearing Things out

Many of us keep items long past the time when they have any value to us. It takes time and effort to move things along so they don't pile up and clutter our homes and our lives.

Whatever our reasons for hanging onto old stuff and old emotions, we all could benefit from throwing fifty things out.

In Gail Blanke's book, Throw 50 Things Out, she talks you through why and how to unclutter your life. It's not so simple as tossing out 25 mis-matched tupperware containers and 25 broken children's toys. The author insists that things count as a category of things. The children's toys only count as one thing. This forces us to look into every corner of our homes and into our relationships/ideas/beliefs to clear out things that bog us down.

Have You Read This Book?

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Here's the Book to Get You Started - throwing out 50 things

Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life
Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life
Gail Blanke guides the reader room-by-room through their home finding the unneeded, the unlovely, and the unwanted. She then coaxes and badgers you into finally getting rid of it. Each chapter tackles a different room. She tells a personal story of what she found to eliminate in that room, then challenges the reader to do the same. Probably the book could have been a lot shorter if she had just listed and described what needed to go rather than bring the reader into her personal circle. If you find you want to head directly to the core of the book, read the info in the boxed sections in each chapter and skip the charming attempts to personalize the task. At the end of each chapter, she puts the key points in a numbered list. Following that is a space to write down your score for the running total of fifty things tossed. Keep in mind that throwing out twenty half-burned candles from the drawer in the dining room only counts as one thing. In the third section of the book, the author moves from "things" to what she calls your "mental mess." Here are the topics covered: Letting go of feeling inadequate, irrelevant, and just plain not good enough -- Letting go of the type of person you think you are or aren't -- Letting go of the regrets and mistakes of the past -- Letting go of being right about how wrong everybody and everything is -- Letting go of the need to have everyone like you -- Letting go of thinking the worst -- Letting go of waiting for the right moment -- Letting go of needing to feel secure -- Letting go of thinking that you have to do everything yourself In part four, she talks about your new, uncluttered life. The topics are more on goal setting and include Your vision for the future -- Taking energy from your defining moments -- Being unforgettable -- Find your song and sing it! So when you finish getting rid of fifty things, you've really eliminated quite a bit of clutter from not only your home but also from your emotional baggage. (review by Virginia Allain)

Follow Along and Clear Out Your Own 50 Things

I'll keep adding to this webpage as I work my way through 50 things using advice from the book. You can follow along (bookmark the page so you can come back again). Clear out your own things and come back to let us know how it's going. We can encourage each other.

"Throw Out" Doesn't Mean Dump Everything in the Trash - Recycle, Sell, Donate....

There are many ways to get rid of things. Tailor your method to the item, so you don't contribute to filling up the landfills and cluttering the earth.

Yes, it takes longer to move things along this way, but it's the responsible way to do it.

We Sold Our Lake Lot

Selling a lake lot can be a lot easier if you use the internet to market it. Don't just depend on a "For Sale" sign stuck in the ground. Put the internet to work selling your waterfront property.

That counts as one of our 50 things to get rid of.

Clear out the Garage Clutter - Next item to go - a trailer

We'd used this trailer quite a bit (moving from TX to FL, getting new furniture, etc.) but now it mostly just sat in the garage taking up space. We wanted to get a golf cart, but there was little room to spare with that trailer in there. Craigslist to the rescue. I found a buyer pretty quickly by advertising the trailer on Craigslist.

Worn Out BBQ Grill

This is the new grill, but the old one was still cluttering up the garage. Tips for clearing out an old grill.
This is the new grill, but the old one was still cluttering up the garage. Tips for clearing out an old grill. | Source

Clearing out Patio Stuff - #4 of Throw Out 50 Things

My first success was finding buyers for two teak bistro tables with four chairs and also for two teak lounge chairs and a small table.

I also cleared out the defunct BBQ grill that was taking up space in the garage. It needed some repairs, so we ended up giving it away instead of selling it.

Clearing out the Clothes Closet

This is a noble goal, but fraught with angst as I faced my fat clothes, my skinny clothes, my buying mistakes and other pitfalls of a full clothes closet. To force me to get started, I'd promised Goodwill that I would have some things for them to pick up on Thursday morning.

I'm afraid my effort was mostly token, as I liberated only about six items from the closet. I know I can do better, but I get overwhelmed when faced with so many choices.

Is your closet too full? Are you really wearing all those clothes?

I'd Like to Toss out All My Clothes

No, I'm not becoming a nudist. It just that I'm so tired of the same old outfits. I'd like to just get rid of them all and start fresh.

When I look in my closet, it seems I have plenty to wear. On closer inspection, the selection isn't really that great. Here's the problem.

►Some are work outfits, but I'm retired
►Some need repairs (buttons replaced, hems tacked back into place)
►Some are faded and tired looking
►Some are too small (but I keep hoping I'll get small again)
►Some are baggy (glad I'm not that big anymore)
►Some just don't look good on me

I really do need to clear some of these out. The work clothing should go to Dress for Success to help women find jobs. I should buckle down and mend the items that need repairs. The too-big outfits and the ones that are fashion mistakes should just go to charity. Probably the too small things should go there too. The clothing that looks shabby should be turned into rags.

If I did all that, I truly would have nothing to wear. Hurrah, it's time to go shopping. (just kidding)

Giveaway Plants - Placed at the Curb for Neighbors to Take

These were all gone in just a few hours and now have new homes to beautify.
These were all gone in just a few hours and now have new homes to beautify. | Source

Get Rid of Excess Plants from the Garden

I don't mind my plants getting so thick that they spill out of the flowerbeds, but to my husband, it looks messy. Every now and then, to satisfy his need for order, I trim up the edges and remove the runners from some of the ground cover that has become too exuberant. Hating to just toss the excess plants, I try to squeeze them into other areas of the yard.

The ones I worked on today were rooted, ajuga runners. I potted them up using some rooting stimulant, a little dirt and some leftover pots from my spring planting binge. These will go to friends who can use some fresh plants for their garden. I'll feel good about finding new homes for my plants and my shade garden will look a lot tidier for a while.

Here's the product I use for encouraging rooting: Miracle-Gro Fast Root Dry Powder Rooting Hormone. It's a powder and you just dip the cutting into it, then plant it.


Getting Rid of Sports Gear

My husband got a new golf bag even though the old one worked fine. He just wanted a few more pockets and features on his bag. He set the old one out by the curb. Being of a very thrifty nature, I brought it back in and said we could sell it, not just give it away. Time went by, and I never got around to advertising it. It took up storage space and spiders delighted in making webs around it.

Finally, after a year went by, I put it out by the curb and put a FREE sign on it. Within a few days, we had a taker. It was a neighbor that we barely knew, but now he greets us heartily every time he sees us and updates us on how his golf game is going. The moral of this story is sometimes it is too much trouble to try selling something for a pitiful $10 when you can build goodwill by giving it to someone who really will use it.

My Papers Seem Overwhelming at Times

Taking up genealogy has increased my paper piles dramatically.
Taking up genealogy has increased my paper piles dramatically. | Source

I've Been Working Away on My Paper Clutter

How deep are the piles of paper on your desk? As bad as mine? Follow along with me as I apply different strategies to bring all that paper clutter under control. You can have a clean desk! Here's my project: HELP - My Desk Is Buried Under a Mountain of Paper

Getting Rid of Machines That Are No Longer Needed - A dehumidifier and a countertop wine refrigerator

We got an air conditioner for the area that this dehumidifier used to work in. Now it wasn't needed anymore. Finally I got around to looking up the original price (on Amazon). In talking to a neighbor, my husband mentioned it. Their son was looking for one, so we made a deal with them. It's gone to a good home.

The countertop wine refrigerator is still sitting in the attic though. (update August 2012: The neighbors were holding a charity event to raise funds for the food pantry. We donated the countertop wine refrigerator and someone was thrilled to get it. We feel good about helping the charity.)

Recycling Belts from Clothing

Have you looked at the belt rack lately? I was dismayed to see belts that did not match anything or ones that were getting shabby. Why was I hanging on to these?

Check out my solution below to get some further uses from those old, mismatched belts.

My Friend Has Some Great Ways to Repurpose Belts

Upcycle Leather Belts - She told me, "several years back I was brainstorming on the subject of seating. I needed to redo the seat of a thrift shop chair. A bag of old leather belts, a staple gun and a bit later, voila! Enjoy these ideas!" She has some inspiring ideas and I used one to refurbish a tote bag that the handles had worn out. Now, it has handles made from a woven belt.

See How Big It Is!

Something this size becomes a real space hog when you no longer want it.
Something this size becomes a real space hog when you no longer want it. | Source

Getting Rid of an Entertainment Unit

Last winter, we painted some rooms and moved the furniture around. The entertainment unit above ended up without a place to reside.

We posted it for sale but didn't find a buyer. It shifted out to the garage and rapidly filled up with STUFF. Now, I really want it gone. The garage is feeling crowded and a simple shelving unit would work better out there than this hulking piece of furniture.

I'm going to try posting it again, but just give it away this time. I'd think there would be someone wanting it. It's a nice looking piece, but heavy as all get out. They need to bring several strong men to load it up and take it away.

I can't lift it and hubby has a bad back. Goodwill won't pick it up. It has become an albatross.

In my post, I even suggested that it might covert nicely into storage for wine and wine glasses. You could put a criss-cross wine storage rack in the big space where the TV used to sit. The shelves on the right would hold all kinds of drink glasses. The closed section below could hold bottles of gin, whiskey, etc.

SUCCESS! - I found someone who wanted it, but it took 3 weeks for her to find someone with a pick-up to take it to her house. So glad she will get good use from it.

Getting Ideas to Repurpose an Entertainment Unit

I gathered ideas on Pinterest for ways to use a big entertainment unit. These helped me give people ideas so they would be willing to take it.
I gathered ideas on Pinterest for ways to use a big entertainment unit. These helped me give people ideas so they would be willing to take it. | Source

My Vintage Books by James Oliver Curwood

Vintage books appeal to me. When I find an author that I like, I hunt down all their books.
Vintage books appeal to me. When I find an author that I like, I hunt down all their books. | Source

Clearing Out Books

I love my books but some I won't read again, so it makes no sense to keep holding onto them.

In listing my used books for sale on Amazon, it's always disappointing to see the copies listed for just a penny each. How can book dealers make any money that way?

I'm guessing they squeeze a little profit out of the postage allowed if their book isn't too heavy. It's not worth it to me to go to the trouble of listing the book, package it and make a trip to the post office for a penny.

I wanted to list 3 books about flower drying techniques, but might as well just give them to Goodwill. They pick up at my doorstep. It's a shame I can't sell them, as they are really nice books. There's just a glut of them on the market apparently.

Even some of my vintage books by favorite authors need to move on to new readers. About 35 or maybe 40 years ago, I read a James Oliver Curwood book. His novels, set in the Yukon or Canadian wilderness, glorify the hardy people who were the pioneers of those regions.

They have romance and adventure and are similar in style to Zane Grey's stories of the American West. I enjoyed them and found quite a few over the years for my collection. My dad had several on his bookshelf, so maybe that's where I first discovered the author.

These will sell for more than the penny books I mentioned above, but I'm sad to see them go. I haven't read any of them in years though, so it doesn't make sense to keep hanging onto them just for sentimental reasons.

How to Sell Used Books on Amazon

Internet Bookselling Made Easy!: How to Earn a Living Selling Used Books Online (Volume 1)
Internet Bookselling Made Easy!: How to Earn a Living Selling Used Books Online (Volume 1)
Some people get hooked on selling used books on Amazon and even make it a secondary income or eventually make it their full-time job. If you just have a few hundred books to sell, that's fine too. It's pretty easy to do. I've sold dozens of books this way. It can take a while, so this is not the best method if you want the books gone immediately. It's the best way if you want some money back from the investment you've made in books over the years. My sister makes a nice supplemental income from putting fairly special books on Amazon. She suggested this book to me so I could get better return on my books for sale.

Check Back

to see what I throw out next. Hope it inspires you to do the same. I need to re-home or get rid of a 10-year-old computer printer, a bathroom scale, and a leaking coffee maker.

My Friends Have Too Much Stuff Too

I feel guilty about having so much stuff. So, I asked my friends what they were hoarding. I thought it would soothe my conscience. Here are their answers:

Savateuse - I have a hard time throwing out things that other people have given me...

Helen - As a fellow librarian, you'll relate to this -- my worst clutter is my stacks of papers, boxes of old letters and journals and papers, the papers on all 3 parts of my U-shaped desk, and the newspapers and magazines that have an article I want to save.

Kathryn - I have almost all of my daughter's toys from her entire childhood. She's a teenager now and it is time to let them go.

Cyndy - I love old keys. I have a hard time getting rid of those. Then I have a LOT of stuff in different places. I plan to simplify my life soon and get rid of the junk that is cluttering my life. I once heard a success coach say that you'll never be successful unless you clear the clutter out of your life and have less to think about. He said get rid of old keys that don't go to anything anymore, clear out the junk drawer, etc.

Brita - Owning a motorhome has been useful in finding out exactly what you don't need to own on a day-to-day basis! Ebay, Freecycle, and the bins have been our friends! At this point, I've pretty well let go of excess stuff.

Souli - I am a total hoarder. Not excessive, but if anything looks useful, I tend to hang onto it. I need to start pruning some stuff that I know I will NEVER use.

Lori - I'm afraid I might be hoarding dogs but I'm not willing to give any of them up. I do have a lot of stuff in this old house that can go.

Pam - I'm getting ready to list a few things on Craigslist and have a garage sale. I'm not a big hoarder, but just not enough room in our little house.

Peggy - I have a few unpacked boxes that I've moved several times. I need to seriously sort them and get rid of the things I no longer need.

Joan - I was hoarding supplies for a now defunct hobby, just in case I ever got back to it. Now, I feel better that all that stuff is slated to be sold or given away.

Sherry - Haha, I've been hoarding bad memories. There is a very good way of putting those memories on paper. No need to hoard those, either!

Jeannie - I seem to hoard papers, notes, mail! I think they multiply during the night!

Rachel - I'm terrible. I have gotten rid of so much stuff but there is always more and it doesn't help that I'm heavily into crafts - all the bits and pieces are getting out of control!

Out with the Piano

We weren't playing the piano anymore, but it still took up valuable space in the house.
We weren't playing the piano anymore, but it still took up valuable space in the house. | Source

Finding a New Home for the Piano

Arthritis in the hands meant we didn't enjoy playing the piano anymore. There it sat taking up a whole corner of the living room. Finally, we decided that it should go. A friend seemed interested but she stalled for weeks over getting a trailer and some strong guys to move it. Her son had a keyboard already, and eventually, she decided they didn't really need the piano.

Luckily, we heard about a local high school that wanted donations of musical instruments. We contacted them and they picked it up two days later. Their practice piano at the school had recently broken down so they were thrilled to have this donation.

Hurray, one more thing gone and some space reclaimed in our living room.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Virginia Allain

Are You with Me? Let's Throw out 50 Things! - Did you clear out anything today?

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    • Wednesday-Elf profile image


      5 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      Seems that every couple years I 'begin' one of my declutter projects. Unless done regularly, clutter builds back up from all that 'stuff' we keep bringing into our lives. I'm working on clothes right

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      I desperately need to do this! Living with as much "stuff" as we do makes it overwhelming to get started, but it's time to take a first pass. Thanks for the reminder to "just do it."

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      @wrapitup4me: I have to keep going back to the book for inspiration. The stuff keeps trying to accumulate, so it seems like a constant battle to avoid clutter.

    • wrapitup4me profile image


      8 years ago

      You have some great ideas here. It's almost got me thinking about throwing out stuff - correction: it's got me thinking about it. Let's see how far I'll advance to actually doing it.

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      @anonymous: Sounds like a worthwhile challenge. Keep up the momentum.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I did the 31 day Peter Walsh challenge and got rid of loads of stuff in January, now it' s February and I have have committed to freeing myself of another 50 things! I' m so excited and energised. 25 things down, 15 to go.

    • goldenrulecomics profile image


      8 years ago from New Jersey

      We toss what we can. In the attic we have three sections marked off: garage sale (held every spring), Goodwill (we make regular trips) and eBay (whenever we get the chance). We find that being organized really helps!

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      @AlleyCatLane: FlyLady can be quite inspiring. I like her clean sink tip and the 15 minute timer.

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      @Frischy: Every little bit helps.

    • Frischy profile image


      8 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      I did not do as much today as I would have liked. I did manage to find a few pairs of shoes my daughter outgrew and put them with the items I am donating. Did I mention this is a slow process? Sometimes it is very slow! lol

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Excellent advice and well written article. My declutter guru is FlyLady. I have gotten rid of so much stuff over the years following her tips. Time to get back to it though, as I had slacked off for a year or two.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I think old tupperware is one of the things that can be discarded once the lids have been lost...I seem to have a lot of those!

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      @Frischy: It's easy to get bogged down. Your plan sounds great. Good luck with getting rid of 50 things.

    • Frischy profile image


      8 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      I need to do this. I got a good start in the beginning of the year, but got off track when the weather got hot. I realized today I need to start again with doing one thing to improve the house each and every day. This lens is inspirational. I think I will start by pulling my daughter's outgrown clothes out of her drawers & putting them into a donation bin. Thank you!

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      @mel-kav: It's not easy, but sounds like you're ready. You'll want your new house free of clutter that drags you down. Best of luck with it.

    • mel-kav profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks for the motivation. I finally have a weekend to myself with no plans or obligations and I plan on getting rid of some clutter. I recently moved, and have way too much stuff in my new house - time to get let go of it!

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      @JenwithMisty: Good luck with your efforts to declutter your home.

    • JenwithMisty profile image

      Jen withFlash 

      8 years ago

      I'm about to get started!! It will be lots of papers, broken toys and other unused or broken junk.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Not today, but I promise I will. I mean it. Really! Soon I'm sure.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image


      9 years ago

      When I separated from my husband, I threw out a lot (including him). I looked at that time as a time to purge and start anew so that's what I did.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      9 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I keep a bag in my car for items to donate. When I find something I set it by the door and take it to the car. It helps me get rid of small things that I find and am not using any longer.

    • Joan Haines profile image

      Joan Haines 

      9 years ago

      Yes. Old, old papers that I don't need.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      9 years ago from Canada

      Lol when I saw your title to throw away 50 things I was coming in to nag on how disastrous to the environmental that would be. So glad to see that you took that into consideration :)

    • Frischy profile image


      9 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      Decluttering is one of my summer projects. I have not made the progress I had hoped. Just now I am trying to arrange a charity pickup to give myself a deadline. Unfortunately, the link for arranging the pickup is broken! Of course! Isn't that always the way? I am sick of living in clutter and ready to let go!

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 

      10 years ago from La Verne, CA

      There is such a good perspective here that this deserves an Angel blessing.

    • profile image

      cherangelry lm 

      10 years ago

      Very interesting lens! My husband and I are newlyweds and have been amazed at how much stuff accumulates on it's own. We've begun our own mission to simplify our overrun apartment and already have several bags of stuff ready to go to GoodWill. Hoping one day this will become a habit as the simplicity of living clutter-free is so much more freeing than being bogged down with materialism!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I've been working on doing this very thing, its time to clear clutter. I'll be donating to a thrift store this spring or wintner yet.

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 

      10 years ago

      Just did that yesterday - must be something in the air -:)

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I am enjoying reading "50 Things" -- I have been focused on decluttering for the past 5 years or so. It seems to be a never-ending job -- and that internal clutter?? oh my!

    • LizMac60 profile image

      Liz Mackay 

      10 years ago from United Kingdom

      I've lensrolled you to my How to declutter your house, which is like your lens on a much smaller scale. It's something we all need to do if we are not to drown under all the stuff. Also see meltedrachel's lens

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Much needed info to hopefully provoke me to doing the inevitable. Thanks Virginia.

    • GonnaFly profile image


      10 years ago from Australia

      Hmmm. Only 500 papers on your desk? I should join you in this project but I seem to always have other priorities....

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      11 years ago from Central Florida

      @jptanabe: Part I in the book is getting rid of the physical stuff : Your bedroom -- Your bathroom -- Your kitchen -- Your living room -- Your dining room -- Your attic -- Your garage.

      She started with the bedroom. I'd say tackle the spot that nags you the most (maybe a box from the basement). You might find it isn't as bad as you fear.

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 

      11 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      I know our basement has boxes (some even marked "Important" or "VIP") that haven't been touched since we moved into our house 15 years ago! But maybe the basement is too scary. Maybe Gail Blanke is right to go room by room, now which room should I start on ...


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