40 bags in 40 days, in theory

At the beginning of March, I heard about this challenge to focus on 40 areas in your home over the 40 day period of Lent. The idea was to remove 40 bags (or boxes, or items, or storage totes) of stuff from those spaces in order to declutter and spend a little time each day to focus on the goal of shedding excess. These proverbial bags were to be re-homed, donated, thrown out, or otherwise removed from a place where they didn’t belong.

I was super gung ho about this. For about three days. And then, as always, I became tired and forgot and just let things get off track.

And then, I took two days off work to clean and paint my house. Oh my goodness, did I have a terrible internal project time management clock. I thought I could get at least two rooms painted AND have curtains made in two days. This is very, very false unless you are a super human who does not require sleep (or, as it turns out, fine motor skills after 20+ hours of household manual labor).

Day one of operation “Re-Do The House” found me decluttering in my bedroom for eight hours. Eight! Hours! A full day’s work spent removing probably the whole 40 bags that were meant to have been spread over the entire period of Lent. My basement has an ever-increasing garage sale pile, and my bedroom makes me happier with less clutter, though I was not able to get it painted.

I did, however, get the kitchen and dining room painted, which included 8 more hours of labor from me and my mom on Day Two of my “vacation” and an additional 5 hours on top of that of me finishing the dining room because I couldn’t bear to let the weekend end without having completed at least one part of my project. I’m determined. Or maybe stubborn. But I will call it determined.

I may not have been able to stick to my 40 bags in 40 days challenge, but I am making slow progress in this phase of the cycle of minimalism (the one where suddenly your minimalist existence is full of stuff again, what’s up with that?).

How are my redecorating schemes fitting into my budget? I am trying to be as frugal as I can, using coupons, buying things on sale, etc. While I really admire that some people can go to a Habitat ReStore for paint and curtains, I had a vision in mind and was very particular about my color choices, so I bought my paint new (but it was 10% off on sale, and the paint for the kitchen was clearance!). I bought fabric to make curtains at JoAnn fabric. Rather than make all of the curtains out of patterned (more expensive) material, I decided to do a basic white muslin curtain with a decorative valence. The muslin was the least expensive available and the print fabric I found was on sale 40% off, plus I had a 25% off coupon for the whole order. I also decided to replace the hardware on the kitchen cabinets for an inexpensive update – I got the cheapest brushed metal pieces available for under $2 each, and I also decided to replace the switch and outlet plates in the kitchen and dining room. I have a few returns and exchanges to make before I total up my spending on the project, but the goal was to keep it under $250 for the kitchen, dining room, and bedroom and I have done that (even including a couple unplanned trips to the hardware store for emergencies).

The moral of the story is: It’s nice to have a goal but it’s also okay if you fall off the wagon, as long as you still get stuff done.

Anyone else in a crazy spring cleaning mode? I have so much I want to accomplish!

22 thoughts on “40 bags in 40 days, in theory

  1. NicolaB says:

    I used to think there would be a point where the decluttering was ‘done’- I’ve realised it’s not so- it’s an ongoing process, for me at least.

    I’m impressed by your 8 hours of decluttering! Recently, I have got rid of a load of books (three large bags full!). I have gone through my books loads of times over the past few years, each time getting rid of more, and each time thinking I was left with a collection of ‘must keeps’. This time I was extra ruthless- unless I was really excited
    babout reading it/re-reading it, it went.
    I’m now left with a (small!) collection of books which represents my current interests, rather than past interests.

    I have the spring-clean urge still, though. I rediscovered two handbags that I had forgotten about the other day and I’m wondering whether to keep them..

    • Caitlin says:

      I just found my tiny purse and was so thrilled that I hugged it. I haven’t been doing well with a bigger bag as a purse. I just shove stuff in it all the time.

      Thank you for your comments – good luck with your handbagsπŸ™‚ I think if you have a couple to rotate that’s pretty acceptable. Unless you really want to pare down, then donate them if you didn’t remember they were even there!

      • Nicola B says:

        It’s more that my ‘use all the time’ handbag is great for daytime, but being a satchel it’s not really suitable if I ever have to go to nice events (like meals out, weddings etc) which I still do sometimes… so I think they will stay for now…I might only keep one, though!

  2. Scottie D. says:

    It’s still winter in Wisconsin but I love spring cleaning anytime. I still have aways to go. Sounds like your on the right track. Working on the bathroom now and trying to find deals on remodeling. It’s alot of work but the money I save is worth it..

  3. Michele says:

    I have been following you from the very start. I love your stuff. I’m from Australia and have a daughter a bit older than you and son a bit younger. I am also doing 40 bags in 40 days. This is about round 3 for me. I didn’t think I would be able to get 40 bags this time, although I probably will meet that quota and beyond.
    I love Dave Ramsay and his financial peace programme. My husband and I are now counting down until we are mortgage free whilst cash flowing a renovation on the granny flat we have on our property.
    I have passed on your blog to my daughter and son-in-law, who are doing up their own home and are sensible enough to do it with cash and have no credit cards.
    You are an inspiration Caitlin. For an old girl like me, I find your ideas a breath of fresh air.

    Blessings
    Mikki form down under

    • Caitlin says:

      Oh Mikki, thank you so much. This comment means a lot to me.πŸ™‚ thanks for passing along the blog too! I have been away for a while but I’m trying to get back in a habit of regular posts.

  4. EcoCatLady says:

    Ha! I can totally relate. I’m really good at launching into this sort of thing, but really terrible about, you know, the whole follow through part. I’ll tear the house apart in my zeal to tackle xyz project, then I run out of steam and it all ends up looking much worse than it did before.

    I’m getting a little bit better at keeping the projects to a more reasonable size and/or giving myself a more reasonable amount of time to do them, but it’s still a challenge. About a month ago I decided I was gonna try to make slip-covers, so I dug out every spare sheet, linen and piece of fabric in a frenzy, and ended up hitting my head trying to drag a trunk out from under the stairs – I nearly knocked myself out! At that point I decided maybe it would be OK to buy slipcovers, which I did… but I still haven’t been able to face the closet to put everything back into the trunk again!

    One step forward… two steps back… Well, at least the furniture looks better.πŸ™‚

    • Caitlin says:

      Slipcovers are the bane of my existence. I hate ugly couches but I also hate expensive slipcovers! Sometimes it’s worth it so you don’t knock yourself out thoughπŸ™‚

  5. starfish says:

    My spring cleaning mostly consisted of cleaning two of five windows and planting some vegetables in the kitchen so far … I know, I should get rid of so much stuff. I really need to fix our “donate” box – we have a big cardboard box in our study in which we just throw old stuff, but the box broke because of all the clothes and mugs. (The mugs and other small things ended up in front of our door for people to take them home for free – and it worked.) Had I heard of the 40 bags idea for lent earlier, I would have joined it with one item per day. I might do it for the next few weeks though!

  6. Maria says:

    Omg, I really think you got a lot done in two days! I’ve been decluttering for maybe 2 years now, and I was already living in a fairly modest one bedroom apartment (463 sf)with my sweetie, and I’ve hated shopping for most of my life. There have been lots of improvements, but I’m still not done. Sigh. It just takes a long time to decide what I actually don’t need/use you know? And as I decluttered my clothes, I realized that I didn’t actually like most of them. So I couldn’t just toss out everything but my favourites, because I wouldn’t have enough left. So my minimalist journey ironically has included some clothes-shopping, which also takes a long time for me. I don’t really feel that guilty about it though, because I’ve been undershopping in the past. My mom sometimes had to beg me to get some new clothes, lol. I’m able to declutter more and more of my closet as I’m finding some new clothes I actually like. I think you’re doing really well!

    • Caitlin says:

      Thank you! Clothes shopping is something I do very seldom as well, so I understand. I hate buying retail so I either buy off sale racks or at secondhand shops (my preferred method). I am sort of tempted to buy fabric and try to re-create a favorite dress by taking it apart, but I am 90% sure I would just ruin the dress instead of using it to create a pattern for a new one. I think I’m craftier than I really am.

      • Nicola B says:

        I’m having to stop myself from clothes decluttering at the moment- I tend to forget that we have seasons, and I am in danger of having nothing suitable for summer! I must learn to have a twice yearly declutter at the end of summer and the end of winter…

      • Caitlin says:

        I just found a bunch of shorts in a box I hadn’t unpacked. But I haven’t tried them on yet and I’ve lost about forty pounds, so I might have to replace them. The declutter struggle continues! I have identified a few seldom-worn pieces in the wardrobe that must go. Including a pair of definitely too-big dress pants.

  7. just lynne says:

    Great post, I am often very hard on myself when I get off track. I just moved and right now I am in the process of NOT bringing stuff I do not need in the house. So a lot of the stuff is housed in the garage. I am sorting through each box. It is a very slow process.

    • Caitlin says:

      I bet it’s a slow process! I finally went through the boxes I hadn’t unpacked yet from moving. Some of the stuff I really had missed, and others went right into a yard sale box. Sorting through stuff is always a challenge when there’s a lot of it. Good luck!

  8. Lois Field says:

    What a weekend! I have been in spring cleaning, decluttering and genera sprucing up lately. I couldn’t keep up with the 40 bags in 40 days as that would clean out my home, seriously.πŸ™‚ This week I sent off a paper bag full of things plus a queen-sized blanket, two books went to family who wanted to read them, two more were sold, and I’ve been painting up a storm in here for weeks now. I just painted my freezer of all things.πŸ™‚

    • Caitlin says:

      Interesting. I got burned out and need to ramp back up to paint the bedroom like I want it so I can start hanging things on the walls. I love reading about your projects, can’t wait to see what you’ve done with the freezer.

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