400 items in 40 Days – Free declutter challenge and printable

Are you drowning in stuff like me? Is your closet crammed full of clothes you aren’t wearing? Do you have stacks of paperwork shoved into drawers? You probably need to join me in a free declutter challenge.

Is your tub of random chargers and cords overflowing? Do you keep pushing the random lidless plastic containers to the back of the kitchen cabinet?  Do you just not know where to start?

And the mountains of toys in the playroom. Sigh.  That’s why I created a free declutter challenge and a free printable for you.

So, join me in the challenge to declutter 400 items in 40 days and regain some control of your home!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links; read more here.

Photo by Rick Mason on Unsplash

40 Bags in 40 Days

The 400 items in 40 Days challenge is my version of a similar decluttering challenge. If you’ve looked up decluttering on Pinterest, you’ve probably seen the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge.

It is the original idea of Ann Marie on White House, Black Shutters. Her premise was simple: declutter 40 bags worth of stuff in 40 days.

I’ve modified this idea because 40 bags was too vague for me. Does it count if I put one thing in the bag? What if I can’t fill 40 bags?

I’m a rule-follower and needed more parameters.  Thus I created 400 items in 40 days. It’s more achievable for me while still being a bit of a stretch.

Why 40 Days?

This 40 days challenge coincidences with the 40 days of Lent.  While this challenge can be done at any time, I do think decluttering for the 40 days of Lent is a nice spiritual practice for three reasons.

1. Makes space for God

Having a bunch of unnecessary stuff takes time to manage. That time could be better used with your spiritual practices like prayer, worship services, or time spent in nature.

Excess stuff also takes considerable head space. How often do you walk around thinking, “I need to get rid of this” as you look at stuff you don’t use?  You could use that mental energy for more important things like being extra patient with the people in your life.

Clutter distracts you from your priorities whether that is your family & friends or your faith. By decluttering stuff, you make physical and emotional space for your priorities.

2. Give generously

Decluttering gives you the opportunity to be generous with others. There are numerous ways you can connect your excess stuff with the people who need it.  By sharing your items with others, you can cultivate a sense of generosity in your families.

Similarly, your high quality stuff can be sold for a profit.  When you donate your clutter to a charity that has a thrift shop to resell it, that charity has more income to put towards its mission.

Likewise, if you choose to sell it yourself, money can be generated. You can choose to donate the profit towards charities you care about.

3. Reorders our priorities

Certainly you’ve heard about the famous book about the “life-changing magic” of decluttering or seen the show on Netflix. While I don’t embrace that author’s process, it is true that clearing clutter can shape your live for the better.

A decluttering challenge requires a focus and commitment that lends itself to reflection.  It provides a space to consider how you got to this point in the first place. This examination about your relationship with stuff can help reshape your priorities.

Coincidentally, this year Ash Wednesday comes the day the release of Outer Order, Inner Calm. Gretchen Rubin is my practical happiness guru having written The Happiness Project and Better than Before .  I can’t wait to get my hands on this book, and it will be a big source of motivation.

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How to Get Rid of Your Clutter

Have you seen this meme on Facebook about driving around for weeks with bags for Goodwill in your car? It’s funny because it’s true.

Before you start this 400 items in 40 Days Declutter challenge, you need to consider the your exit strategy for your stuff. Don’t be that person who just relocates all your stuff from inside the house into the garage for a yard sale you’ll never have.  Free yourself from the stuff.

Possible exit strategies:

  • Throw away and recycle what’s really trash
  • Schedule a pick up with a charity
  • Commit to taking it to a charity every week
  • Sell the high value stuff on Facebook
  • Post it in your local Buy Nothing group
  • Enter it in a consignment sale

If you choose to attempt to sell your stuff, you really need to consider if you have the time and energy to attempt to follow through. Be honest with yourself.  The goal of this challenge is to get it out of your house to give yourself space, not make tons of cash. You don’t want to heap more guilt on yourself for more unfinished tasks.

Nonetheless, it you decide to sell your stuff, I recommend you give yourself a cut off date.  For example, I plan to sell some things and my cut off date will be Easter.  Whatever hasn’t sold by then will be dropped off a charity.

Gather your supplies:

You need to decide where you’re going to put your things to sell or donate. You’ll need boxes or bags if you plan to donate. If you’re selling your items on Craigslist, Facebook or a consignment sale, lidded tubs or boxes work best.

Areas to declutter

Take stock of all the areas you want to declutter.

There are obvious places like closets and cabinets you’re having a hard time closing. Anytime you’re cramming something shut means it’s time for stuff to go.

Then look at all the surfaces in your home that are covered with items: bathroom and kitchen counters, the tops of end tables and nightstands, and any other flat surface in your home.  Give yourself breathing space by clearing those off.

Last, consider less obvious places like kitchen and bathroom drawers, filing cabinets, under the beds, and in the tubs and boxes in your garage. These clutter-catching zones can still cause stress when you can’t find what you need.


How do we declutter 400 items in 40 days?

As usual at Printable Parents. you start by printing a free printable. Then, you get to filling out the printable.

1. If you’re a planner, you can brainstorm the clutter zones in your house using my suggestions above. Then use the bags icons as check boxes to mark it off.  Remember you get credit when you’ve decluttered ten items.

Or if you’re more spontaneous, record the general area of house where you declutter each day and write the number of items in the bag. This way if you find 15 items one day, you can feel okay about just doing 5 the next day.

2. Schedule 10 minutes to work on this challenge every day. If you’re selling on Facebook or Craiglist, schedule 30 minutes. It takes longer. Write it at the top of your to-do list or add it to the reminders app on your phone.

3. Make it fun by listening to a book on Audible (affiliate link), a podcast, or some music.

4. Put your stuff to be donated in the box or bag and schedule your pick up or drop-off day.

If you’re listing it on Craigslist or Facebook, take the photo and list the same day.

5. Celebrate having more mental and physical space.

Be sure to come back to Printable Parents and share what you’ve decluttered and see a weekly update from me.

Why Does a Free Declutter Challenge Work?

Often we underestimate what we can do in small amounts of time.  This is why a free declutter challenge works.  In a small amount of time, done 10 items at a time for 40 days, we will notice a big impact.

We also underestimate the impact of doing just a little bit towards big goals.  I’ve felt paralyzed with overwhelm before, too, and so I developed this strategy to help both of us.

Recapping 400 Items in 40 Days: Free Declutter Challenge

  • Commit to the 400 items in 40 days Decluttering challenge.
  • Make a plan to get rid of your stuff: when will you declutter the 10 items each day?
  • Decide on an exit plan for your stuff.
  • Get the free printable
  • Declutter your different trouble areas for 40 days (catch-up days are okay!)
  • Celebrate the physical and mental space for what’s really important to you!

*These printables were made with Smarty Symbols.

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