Clutter and the Rule of Ten


Every day I throw away ten things. I know that sounds like a lot, but if you look at your home, really look at it, you’re bringing in more than than ten items a day.

Some days I toss ten scraps from a handbag or ten bits from a junk drawer. Other days I’ll go through one of our closets and make a bag of ten items for a friend or a charity.

I decided on ten because it’s a workable number. Some days I spend a few moments clearing the house of junk, other days it’s an hour of organizing and finding the the ten items (maybe in a linen closet or a toybox). I like setting goals and I love being able to accomplish them.

I noticed when my kids were smaller that they’d stopped playing with their toys. They would look at the masses of stuff and become overwhelmed. As soon as I began removing some of the clutter from the playroom, the kids felt free to play.

For the past few years I’ve asked the kids to help find ten items. Every couple of weeks I’ll ask Jane or Alexander to give me ten items for charity. Sometimes I’m surprised what they give me, sometimes I’m upset that I’ve spent a lot of money on something that they don’t want or enjoy. Once in a while I believe they’re making a mistake and ask them to keep what they’d like to give away; each time that happens, I am wrong. When the kids are wanting new clothes or toys (that they don’t need) I’ll do a ten for one. If they give me ten items they’re ready to part with, I’ll buy them one new something. The kids are happy, and they tend to choose well this way.

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18 responses to “Clutter and the Rule of Ten”

  1. Lauren says:

    That’s a good idea! I’m not a pack rat and love throwing things away but there are some closets that I need to tackle.

  2. Myrinda says:

    ooooh I love this idea! I definetly moved more than 10 things today, but I bet I could easily get 5 for 1 on new goodies from my kids…they’re only 2 and 6, so 5 is probably more workable for them. But I love instilling the idea that if new things come in, old ones must go out as well.

  3. Juggle Jane says:

    This is a great idea! And Lord knows I have WAY more than 10 things I can part with. But 10 is do-able. I can do this!

  4. Katie says:

    I love this idea. I need to try this…

  5. Darryle says:

    Hope you’ll cluttercast when you find things someone else might want—and encourage others to do the same.
    Great idea—if I had done this years ago, I wouldn’t have needed to start Cluttercast in the first place.

  6. My husband and I de-cluttered all weekend…Labor Day weekend! What a way to spend the holiday, right? I love this idea and will be passing this along to my friends as well. In your honor, I am now off to bag up 10 nonperishables to take to our foodbank!

  7. Oh yes, a wonderful idea–just yesterday I threw away ten empty bottles.

  8. […] } I read this blog today and it encouraged me.  I wondered what I’d get rid of if I decluttered ten items every […]

  9. Stimey says:

    I do this too, but six items. I have a whole blog dedicated to it:

  10. Jack says:

    We do a major decluttering just before Rosh Hashanah and Pesach.

    In between there are periodic events in which things are removed. Really if the kids stopped growing that would make it easier.

    Small bodies fit bitter inside the house. But since they refuse to listen to the stop growing part I suppose I should step up the clutter, er clearing the clutter bit.

  11. Great, great idea. I’ve started watching “Hoarders” on A&E and am so horrified I’ve started seeing every innocent tangle of legos on the floor as a potential gateway to clutter hell! This is an unintimidating way to tackle every day messes before they get out of hand.

  12. Rebecca says:

    I actually sometimes do the “27 pickup” which means I run around with the garbage bag and find 27 things to throw away. This was inspired by the Flylady. I usually get it done once a month, but this is a new school year, and I’m working these types of things into my new routine!

    It works wonders when you do it regularly, doesn’t it?

  13. Zoey says:

    I also do something similar to this with Flylady routines which have saved my house from certain disaster! One of my favourite things is the declutter routine (15 minutes only, once a day). It’s amazing how quickly you’ll get through the whole house.

  14. Dave says:

    It kind of sounds like you’re missing something here.. “ten scraps from a handbag or ten bits from a junk drawer”. If the issue is that you don’t like clutter, get rid of ALL the scraps in your handbag, and get rid of the junk drawer. It sounds like you’re doing a half-assed job at tidying a mess that doesn’t need to exist.

    • How am I missing something? Not every day can be spring cleaning, but if you do a little bit each day, and find a manageable number then it’s less daunting and becomes a habit as opposed to a chore.

  15. […] fits in our life well. I’m a ten a day person, meaning I throw out ten items every day of my life. I seldom throw out tech though, which is weird […]

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