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3 Guerrilla Tactics to Get Rid of Clutter

Last updated by on January 17, 2016

Getting Rid of Clutter

Why is getting rid of clutter so dang hard? For starters, we tend to get emotionally attached to things. We tend to think that all of these material possessions symbolize a piece of us. And if we get rid of them, we are ‘throwing our past away’. We can even hear a faint, fading, yet hideous scream, “NOOOO!!!!” as we toss our Mr. T air fresheners, M.C. Hammer pants, and Metallica t-shirts into the trash.

Each of the last 2 times I’ve moved dwellings, I’ve had to upgrade to a bigger truck. That is ridiculous.

Because it’s a constant personal struggle, I’ve covered this topic in the past pretty extensively (see links at the bottom of this post), but I’m afraid that I may have been a little too simplistic in my de-cluttering strategies. Until now…

De-Clutter Requires Guerrilla Tactics:

declutter tactic

You wouldn’t defend your house from invading Guatemalans with a Smith & Wesson pistol, would you? Heck no, you’d want to pull out the big artillery. I’m talking Tommy Guns, grenades, and rocket launchers.

Simply going through your things and saying ‘yes, I’ll keep it’ or ‘no, I won’t keep it’ isn’t going to cut it. This isn’t an exercise where you can sit back on the defensive. It’s time to take it to the enemy. So here are some guerrilla tactic approaches to de-cluttering.

Tactic #1: Buy your Clutter Back Tactic

  • clutter

    Step 1: Round up everything that you don’t use at least once a week and pile it all into one big room or in the yard.

  • Step 2: This will admittedly take an entire day to do. So find a nice CD (one that you listen to frequently, because everything else is going in the pile).
  • Step 3: Do a rough count of all the items in your pile. Write down the number.
  • Step 4: Go to the bank and get a number of pennies that is equivalent to one-quarter of the number.
  • Step 5: Buy back your stuff until the pennies are gone.

Congrats, you’ve just eliminated three-quarters of your clutter!

Why it works: The ‘Buy your Clutter Back’ tactic works because it forces you to go beyond ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and actually prioritize what you value the most. In a way, it is like you briefly do not own your stuff anymore. It makes you ask the question “if I had to go out and buy that again, would I?”. In most cases, the answer is ‘no’.

Tactic #2: The No Use, It’s Clutter Tactic

getting rid of clutter

  • Step 1: Again, round up everything that you don’t use at least once a week and pile it all into one big room or in the yard.
  • Step 2: Go to a local department store and get a lot of boxes.
  • Step 3: Box it all up. Everything. Seal it shut. And don’t label it.
  • Step 4: Live your life for 12 months.
  • Step 5: If you had to go into the boxes and get something to use, keep it. If not, get rid of it.

Why it works: The ‘No Use, No Clutter’ tactic works because it does not judge. You either had a use for something or you did not over the year. I specifically chose the year period because it allows you to get through all 4 seasons, if you life in such a climate. You can probably use a much smaller time period if you live in a different climate. If you didn’t use something over a year, you probably don’t need to keep it.

Tactic #3: The Out of Mind, Out of House Tactic


  • Step 1: Once again, round it all up, box it, and seal it.
  • Step 2: This time wait 1 month.
  • Step 3: Grab a pen and paper and a kitchen timer (hopefully you didn’t box it up).
  • Step 4: Give yourself half an hour to write down everything you want to keep that is boxed up.
  • Step 5: Get rid of all stuff you didn’t write down.

Why it works: The ‘Out of Mind, Out of House’ tactic works because it forces you to really think about the things that are important to you in a limited amount of time. If you’ve completely forgot about something after just a month, do you really need it anymore?

De-clutter Discussion:

  • What unique de-cluttering tactics have you used? Did they work?
  • Have you tried one of these clutter-busting tactics? How did it work?
  • Are you willing to try one of these tactics?

Related Posts:

About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 10,000+ others by getting FREE email updates. You can also explore every post I have written, in order.

  • Ron Ablang says:

    Another method to try is to contact MyStyle’s Clean House and let Niecy Nash get to work on all this foolishness.

  • Thomas Craig Consulting says:

    Great tips, I am definitely at the point of de-clutter, kids have out grown their toys and clothes, old computer parts that just garbage, plus all the other crap that just sits and collects dust. I am definitely trying tactic #1.

  • Joe says:

    I’ve had roommates that were TERRIBLE with clutter. I once tried to convince said roommate to get rid of an antique wooden stool (not a family heirloom or anything) because it was MISSING A REQUIRED LEG and she wouldn’t do it. She thought maybe she would find an extra leg at a garage sale somewhere and repair it. CRAZY.

  • Landon Loveall says:

    I use two guidelines for decluttering. Number one, I have not used the item in the last year. Number two, the item costs less than a $100 to replace. It is also important to keep records of your decluttering for tax purposes.

  • Budgeting in the Fun Stuff says:

    My husband and I are clutter-bugs. I have been attempting to sell off a bunch of stuff on and off for a year now, but I think it’s time to just give up and donate or Freecycle it.

    Your tactics all sound great, but I’m really leaning towards Tactic #2: The No Use, It’s Clutter Tactic.

    I’ll just put all the stuff we don’t use at least once a month in the empty-ish guest bedroom. If it’s still there next summer, it’s gone for good.

    I will make one and only one exception up front though – pictures (photo albums, etc). I may only look at those every couple of years, but I don’t care, they’re staying, lol. 😛

  • Moneyedup says:

    I’m a big fan of garage sales, and giving things away to charities and second hand stores. When I do a big clean up I make three piles: Keep, throw out and give away/sell. From there, I would divide up the give away/sell pile into stuff that can be sold and stuff that can be given away to charities and second hand stores.

    • G.E. Miller says:

      @ Moneyedup – yeah, I’ve tried that before. It is effective to a certain extent, but it really does involve you going through every single item and saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on each – and the answer (at least in my case) was almost always ‘fine, I’ll keep it for now’. That’s why I wanted to go guerrilla on it. I’m going to be trying one of these three strategies in the near future and I’ll report back with results.

      @ Landon – $100 seems kind of steep!

  • Griffin T. says:

    I really need to do this with clothes – I have so many that haven’t fit me for years, but I have such a hard time giving them away.

  • Landon Loveall says:

    @G.E. I just kind of picked $100 at random. What I am looking at is that if I have not used it in the last year; I am probably not going to use it in the next. But, if it is an expensive item (>$100), and I may use it in the next few years, maybe it is worth storing. What would you suggest as an appropriate dollar value?

  • Auna says:

    One tactic with clothes is to turn all your hangers backwards. When you wash it and put it away put it in the correct way. This way you can see what you haven’t worn in awhile. I would go with 6 months to a year on this test.

  • andy says:

    For me personally, I allocate 1 hr a week to take care of items on my personal “aka Clutter” list. I really find doing it a little bit at a time is much more effective than the overwhelming feel of having to go through a lot of clutter.

  • Natalie says:

    My de-cluttering generally happens when I move. There’s nothing like packing and moving everything yourself to make you question what’s worth keeping. I don’t think I’ve ever had a period of time longer than three years between moves, but I’ll probably move less now that I have a nice house.

    However for those that have been in the same house for a long time, I would suggest the same thing. Move everything out that isn’t used regularly and move it back in one item at a time. Everything must have a place or be seasonal. Otherwise it goes to charity. This will also help you get organized and do spring cleaning.

    I frequently get hung up on keeping stuff because I know I can sell it on Ebay, craigslist, or at a garage sale, but then never getting around to selling it. I’m much more aggressive about giving stuff away now. Also if I’m on the fence about keeping an item and it is less than $20 I opt to not keep it. The amount used to be $10 for me, but I’ve upped it over the years. I’ve never regretted getting rid of something.

    I have one plastic bin for sentimental stuff like family photos. Those are the only exception to the rule, but that’s only one box.

    Another common hang up for keeping things is not wanting to “throw things away.” I counter this by donating everything to charity. I let them decide if it is useful or not. I’ve started giving and purchasing from Goodwill much more since I have a baby. I wonder how many toys they have that are recycled over and over. Another good option is Freecycle.

    I think our generation has a much easier time letting go of stuff than previous generations. The depression and wwII affected how our parents and grandparents were raised. They learned not to throw away or you will starve. We have the opposite issue.

  • Sara says:

    Our problem is that my husband inherited his great-uncle’s house and he was a very eclectic and artistic man; unfortunately I would say that he was a minor hoarder. There are items that are obviously junk and need to be thrown away but there are other “artsy” items that we haven’t been able to sell because the economy in our state is so bad and people aren’t willing to buy it for what it’s worth. Any ideas?

  • Vonna says:

    Recently started getting pretty serious about the clutter in my house, I hate it, but my husband is a hoarder. the TLC show has scared me to get into action, I dont sell anything I just take it to our local thrift shop (not Goodwill), it helps our local mentally challenged adults and gives them a job. Plus when I go down there I have found some really awesome stuff, such as a crock that fit the one I broke!! yea me!! Happy decluttering!

  • Adam says:

    I like to recommend that you go into a room and evaluate what you haven’t used in several months to a year. If you have made it that long, and you know whether you have used it or not, and the item is not seasonal (winter jacket, boots, etc) then you should go ahead and get rid of it. Donate clothing that you aren’t wearing, get rid of old paperwork that’s hiding in boxes with things you actually need. That way you don’t have to wait and go through the boxes later – I would bet that a lot of people will forget what they put in the boxes and want to re-open them “just to have a look inside”, instead of throwing them out!

  • Chrstopher says:

    Thank you for this info. It was exactly what I needed!


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