When clearing out clutter, taking a quick and drastic approach can sometimes be favored to help get the task over and done with. The decluttering burst method, where you get rid of 100 things in one hour, is a good example of this.
However, while the burst method works for some people, these types of approaches to decluttering often leave professional organizers divided, even those who favor drastic decluttering strategies minimalists swear by.
We asked them for their thoughts on the decluttering burst method, when it might be useful, and which other approaches may work best.
The 'decluttering burst' method
The decluttering burst method, as mentioned, is a process where you give yourself a set amount of time to clear out as many things as possible – usually around 100 things if you are really throwing yourself in. It usually doesn't involve having a detailed decluttering checklist, but blitzing through your home as quickly as possible and clearing as you go.
‘I have a love-hate relationship with the decluttering burst method (getting rid of 100 things in an hour, or of an increasing number of things on consecutive days such as the Minimalist game, etc.),’ begins Amélie Saint-Jacques, a professional organizer at Amelie Organizes.
‘I think it can be a good way to get you started and get motivated to clean if you are overwhelmed, but getting rid of things just for the sake of it doesn't address the root cause of the clutter, so you risk ending up in the same situation again a few months down the road.’
Amélie Saint-Jacques is a certified KonMari Consultant and professional organizer based in San Antonio with years of experience in professional tidying.
‘I am not a fan of gimmicks and games when it comes to decluttering,’ she says. ‘As quick and simple as they may appear, they don't get at the root of the problem, and in my opinion, create more chaos than efficiency.’
That is not to say that the method doesn't work for everyone, she adds. ‘It is possible to get to 100 items in an hour but placing the goal and reason to downsize on the prospect of winning this competition is not a true way of decluttering your home or your mind or learning from past mistakes. But yes, it can be done.’
You just have to follow some rules to help get the most out of your session and don't end up with declutter regret.
Bonnie Borromeo Tomlinson is the author of Stop Buying Bins & other blunt but practical advice from a home organizer. She was the principal of Bonnie Lia Interiors, a home organizing and interior decorating firm with clients in MD, VA, DC. She has also held positions as a senior national media buyer, museum store retail buyer, and home decor account manager. Since 2020, she has focused her attention on writing full-time.
For efficiency, you should separate what you are downsizing into categories.
‘For example, with clothes, I would separate them into seasons and then within the seasons into types like shirts, pants, skirts, etc. This will give you an even playing field for deciding what you have and what you can get rid of. For example, if you have four black sweaters, are they all different enough to keep? Do you wear each one equally? Are any in disrepair? You can weed from there,’ Bonnie suggests.
‘Have a large opaque bag for all castoffs. Immediately put items in the bag to help declutter without making a mess, and put it in your car to take to the donation location. Do not leave the pile out or visible.’
Millie Hurst, Solved section editor at Homes & Gardens says it really depends on the scale of the task. 'If you were taking on a big whole-house clear out, then I think the "decluttering burst" would be a really valuable tool,' she begins. 'It's a useful way to get the ball rolling because it sets the bar high and creates an element of time pressure.
'With the clock ticking, we are less likely to hesitate on whether to keep that vintage armchair we were one day going to reupholster and just decide that actually, it's better to get rid of it because we'll never find the time. Also if you really dislike decluttering, a burst of quick decluttering will mean the task is done faster, ripping the band-aid off.'
Millie Hurst is Section Editor at Homes & Gardens, overseeing the Solved section, which provides readers with practical advice for their homes. Millie has written about and tried out countless cleaning and DIY hacks in the six years since she became a journalist, and has worked in both London and New York.
What is the best method for decluttering?
There is no one best method for decluttering as there are hundreds of approaches, each one suiting a different personality and lifestyle better than another. The easiest way for you to find the best decluttering method for you is to try a few different approaches around your home and see which one sticks, feels the easiest to you and provides you with the best results.
What should you not do when decluttering?
When decluttering, it is important to not bite off more than you can chew. It is important to have a plan with staggered tasks to ensure that you take adequate breaks between areas to prevent burnout and loss of motivation.
One of the major downfalls of the decluttering burst method is the inability to keep up a routine to stay on top of clutter, which is why many organizers, like Amélie Saint-Jacques, can't recommend it for everyone:
‘For long-term change, it's better to figure out why things accumulate. What types of items are ending up in your home? Why are they cluttered? How can you stop them from coming in or better manage them once they do?
'It's only when you take the time to reflect on your stuff and to consciously declutter, that you can change your mindset and then your behavior. The same goes for creating a system to maintain order – yes, it's easier with less stuff, but without a home organizing system, it'll be chaos again soon enough!’
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Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for a year, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.
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