40 bag challenge

We began with the kitchen and laundry room junk drawers. The partitions are made from sturdy little cardboard boxes my husband had saved for me.  He thought they looked like pencil boxes. Yep.  I labeled the partitions in hopes that they would be easier to maintain that way.   We’ll see. We tossed probably half a kitchen bag full of odds and ends and broken bits of junk.


With that win fresh in my head, I decided to tackle our terrible linen closet.  No before pictures, sadly.  But suffice it to say it was stuffed from bottom to top with ill-folded items.  Items on the very top shelf were in perpetual danger of falling on our heads, and lower shelves were so cram-packed that it was nearly impossible to find a matching sheet set. (Though I’m not implying many of my kids actually care about such niceties.)

Sarah of the 40-Bag Challenge says she keeps exactly ONE set of extra sheets in her entire house.  That idea appealed to me in its lovely simplicity, but I just couldn’t go that lean.  We have one queen bed, one double, and 8 single beds right now. We actually didn’t have many extra sheets for the larger beds, but over
the years we had somehow collected at least 30 sets of sheets for single
beds.  Ridiculous packrat overkill, especially when you consider that
there are people out there who could actually use those sheets. I opted to keep two sets of sheets for each of the larger beds and one set of sheets for each of the singles  — not counting what is currently on the beds, of course.  So, that’s a dozen sets of extra sheets in the house.  Probably way more than we really need, but a huge reduction.

We had too many towels as well.  I tend to buy towels whenever I want to freshen up a bathroom’s decor, but in honesty they don’t get worn out that fast.  I stuck a set out in our travel trailer, put another good-sized heap out in John’s shop for rags, and tossed a few horribly torn/stained items.  Then I bagged up the rest to give away.

Altogether I ended up with four 13-gallon kitchen bags for charity from the linen closet alone.  I am amazed. We are still abundantly supplied with everything we might possibly need.  But we now have space to find what we do have.  And it won’t be so impossible for kids to find space to neatly put things away.  I’m still not really thinking I have the gumption to find 40 bags by Easter.  But after 2 hours of decluttering, I’m more than10% of the way there.   So who knows…?  And the neatness of that closet has had me peeking into it at random moments all morning.


Current declutter total: 4.5 bags


  1. We just did the attic and hauled off about 10 bags. YUCK!! but it feels so much better to know it is organized. I think I am going to join this. What a great way to get the house clean by Easter!

  2. I need some new towels, wish I lived closer 😉

    Great job! Whooot!

  3. I have a different organization scheme… a room a month… every year. There are 9 rooms which give me the last part of the year to catch up or work on Christmas presents. Feb was the kitchen (though I still have the cabinet over the fridge to go through) and March is the boys’ room. It’s worked well keeping our house in order without overwhelming me.

    A thought about the sheets: I keep 1 extra set of sheets per bedroom IN the bedroom. Now we don’t have a great linen closet so that’s the main reason there, but it works well not having to wake others up if 1 kid wets the bed. I never fold sheets. I stuff the set into 1 pillow case and throw it into the drawer. Saves on laundry time. Sheets are such a booger to fold and no one really cares if they’re wrinkled.

    Just started reading your sane woman’s guide. We only have 3 kids now, but we’re planning to adopt soon… who knows how many. Thanks for writing it!

    • I love this idea.

      I am a constant tidier…we only keep one set of sheets per bed, we have an extra twin, I just wash and use as we need.

      I don’t have much extra storage space…but…our girls closet is another matter, they have more accumulated clothes than a third world country. Any thoughts on how to tidy a clothes closet?

    • I love this idea of keeping the extra sheets in the bedroom! What a great idea and it will free up space for the bath/beach towels we have in our small linen closet.

  4. Krystal says:

    This is really getting me to think. I might be rethinking my linens and clothes. Both how many we have and how I launder and store them. As for other things I think we do pretty well with not keeping things we don’t need and not buying/bringing into the house what we don’t need. That being said, I think a room a month is a fantastic idea! It keeps it from becoming 40 bags of extra stuff in your house and just a small monthly task.

  5. LOVE THE IDEA, but would suggest you hold on to those towels and sheets and put in large plastic buckets somewhere (built a storage area over the garage accessed by fold-down stairs just for this purpose, winter/summer clothes, and christmas decorations) because you are going to want these items for kids going off to college or moving into that first apartment along with any extra dishes, blankets, cups, silverware, pots and pans.
    Buying the buckets is tons cheaper than buying these new items. Taped a sheet of paper with items that were in the ‘loft’ so I don’t have to wonder about what I kept. These buckets stack so nicely and also taped onto to the front what is in each one for easier access.
    The extra time and organization has been worth hundreds and hundreds of dollars over the years. With six kids in college, they have all ready made dibs on what they want in mom’s college stash!

    • No worries! I’ve got my own stash of college-kid goodies in the garage -and grandbaby goodies too! 🙂

      • Wonderful.
        And boy hold on to all those baby toys, board books, and wood puzzles because they come in mighty handy with the grandbabies when they come to visit.
        Your linen closet looks amazing right now. Will be interested to hear how much ‘stuff’ you uncover you don’t use in the kitchen. A few years ago told the kids to NOT buy mom any kitchen gadgets. I don’t need a cupcake pan, a deep fryer, or a sandwich maker, among some of the latest gadgets stores and commercials claim the hip cook must have; they just clutter up my precious space. Use the muffin tins, frying pan and griddle for those items and for making other stuff too.
        I feel better when clutter is to a bare minimum, and tons and tons easier to clean.

  6. I do the same as Alison – I keep an extra set of linen in a pilowcase in each room. And wow, does it make life simpler! The other thing I have done is to roll all towels. Much less space and easy to get out.
    I am going to do this 40 bags in 40 days challenge too. I will start next Wednesday – it will take 5 days to muster the strength and make a plan!! Such a wonderful idea.

  7. Fabric is expensive! Keep the sheets in the attic. You can re-purpose them into anything. Aprons, washcloths, clothing, curtains. I try to buy up flat sheets for this purpose.
    Good luck cleaning house.

    • I kept what I think we’ll need for at least the next decade, and what I gave away can be used by someone who needs it. To a certain extent setting things away is wise, but I don’t ever want to hoard too much of something that can bless others.

  8. Instead of putting sheets into a pillow case and taking up either room in a dresser drawer, closet or in the bedroom somewhere; just fold and put under the head of the mattress when you make the bed.
    Years ago got rid of all the dressers and replaced with the cloth hanging shelf-type items you hang in the closet (keeps clothes down to what fits in each and what can be hung in closet; a small bookshelf for books, journals, hairclips, deodarant, etc. really keeps the big furniture out of the bedrooms.

  9. Katherine says:

    I am going to see how many bags I can give away. It is such a great feeling to clean out and also help someone out at the same time. I recently was able to donate some of my youngest son’s clothes he has outgrown that are in great shape and the woman who got them was so happy it just was such a joy to see her smile.

  10. Just wondering if your kids have started hoarding away their toys and cowering when you walk into their rooms. When I go on a get-rid-of-stuff streak they always worry about their things!

  11. An idea for your linen closet and it looks real pretty….roll the large towels!

  12. Great job! Keep it up!

    In terms of undone organizing, repairing and the energy/ gumption to do it all, we’re still dealing with the aftershocks of our Great House Smokeout of 4 months ago. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Sheets and towels do have a way of multiplying somehow. Not as badly as junky little plastic toys and stuffed animals from whoknowswhere, though! We love flannel sheets in winter, so everyone has a set of flannel and 1 or 2 sets of regular sheets total… but then there are also the odd ones kept around for camp. Can’t bear the thought of our “good” sheets gracing those mildewy, urine and sweat-stained mattresses! That’s a lot of sheets!

  13. Good job!

  14. That’s one of those jobs that I put off and put off and then when I finally get to doing it it feels so good afterwards – I’d be just like you – going and just looking at it afterwards! However hard it is to get down to it, decluttering is really uplifting when you’ve done it!
    Well done and keep at it!!

  15. I’m all about decluttering! When we moved last June, we had a vast amount of “bags” for give-away. As I look around the den today, I think I could come up with a few more.

    Good work!


  16. It’s like Passover Cleaning for non-Jews! I love it! good luck with the decluttering.

  17. Spring cleaning, passover cleaning, new year cleaning…I love it all. Cleaning closets and reorganizing is one of my favorite things. Friends have enlisted my help to do their rooms. I spare nothing. My motto “when in doubt throw it out.” It is the best feeling ever. Donate stuff or put it away for camp or college. The best part is looking at the results of your hard work the next day. A organized decluttered closet, draw, etc. Keep up the good work.

  18. My cousin is a vet and I donate all my extra, ripped, raggedy towels and sheets to him for the animals to lie on after surgery.

    We too have different size beds–four singles, two doubles and one queen. And in Ontario, the frigid north, where we live, we use fleece or flannel for winter and cotton poly for summer. I can’t go down to one extra set like Sarah either. I’d miss my fleece!!

  19. This is amazing and inspiring!


  20. It’s a little thing, but I see you said you have trouble finding a sheet set sometimes. When I fold my sheets I put the entire set in one of the pillow cases. That way they’re never separated. Happy organizing! 🙂


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