40 Bags in 40 Days 2017 + Tips

Tomorrow is the first day of Lent, which mean starting tomorrow, I will be doing a 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge.
It has been 3 years since I did a 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge and let me tell you...I am WAY overdue for this challenge.
  The idea of 40 Bags in 40 Days is that during Lent (40 days) rid your house of 40 bags of "stuff".
This "stuff" can be things you don't use... junk, clothes you don't need/wear, clutter, old toys, garbage, etc.

To me, Lent is a time of prayer, self-reflection, sacrifice, self-control and renewal.
To me, a good home de-cluttering can go hand in hand with the Lenten season, just like our houses/blogs may look put together on the outside, on the inside we are a mess and need an intervention & de-cluttering ourselves.

In 2012 when I did 40 Bags in 40 Days for Lent, I gave AWAY 24 bags of stuff to Goodwill.
I threw AWAY 28 bags of stuff.
That is 52 bags of stuff we didn't use, need or wasted.

  In 2013 when I did 40 Bags in 40 days, 
I gave away 18 Bags of stuff to Goodwill.
I threw AWAY 26 bags of stuff.
That is 44 bags of stuff we didn't use, need or wasted.
 In 2014, I "kind of" did 40 Bags in 40 Days.
I didn't finish my list (oops) but I did give away 12 bags to Goodwill and threw away 14 bags of stuff that we didn't use, need or wasted.
3 years doing this project we have gotten rid of almost 125 bags of STUFF (aka "CRAP")

I learned a lot the years I did this project.
I always keep my house pretty clutter free, but doing this project makes me realize we still have a lot of stuff we just don't need.
 I realized how much CRAP we have.
I realized how MUCH we have.
It has made me think about what I buy & what I bring into our house.
I ask myself, "Do we need this?" or
"Is there room for this?"
It has drastically changed my thinking, and for that I am thankful.
But, I am still a work in progress.

And, YES....I am doing this project again this year because I haven't done it in 3 years.
Because there is a lot more stuff I know I can clean out & get rid of.

Here is my 2017 List of areas to clean out:

This printable was created for me a couple years ago by a blog reader, Jenny.
You can download it HERE.
This is my 4th time doing 40 Bags in 40 Days, so I have learned some tips & tricks along the way. 
I thought I would share them with you because this project can be overwhelming.

1. Use Black Trash Bags
When you use white or see through trash bags, your children will be able to see what you are throwing away. When my girls have seen some of their things in the white trash bags that are sitting in the garage waiting to be thrown out, they start rummaging through the bags. They cry and want to keep their things because they have "changed" their mind about giving it away. (Or, they have seen things of theirs that I have snuck in the giveaway bag) 

So, take my advice...Use black trash bags.

2. Use 2 bags per section.
This is a super simple tip. 
For every section that I clean out, I have 2 bags. 
One is for trash, one is for giveaway. 

3.  Take EVERYTHING OUT & only put back what you want to keep.
When you are cleaning out an area, take EVERYTHING out.
For example, when I clean out my pantry of shame, I take EVERY SINGLE thing out of the pantry and put it in my hallway. It is a DISASTER. (I do big areas like this at night when my kids are in bed)
Sometimes, things will get worse before they get better!
This was my pantry last year. Here is the "Before"

I literally took out EVERY SINGLE thing and put it in my hallway.
I had a huge bag for trash/expired items.
I had another bag of food to donate.
When I took everything out, that meant I had a clean slate when I put things back on the shelves.
Here was the After:

The reason I tell you to take everything out is so that you start with a clean slate.
When you take everything out of the area, you can be very conscious about what you put back in that area. You can organize and re-arrange things when you have a blank slate.
So, even though it might make a HUGE massive mess by taking everything out, it will be so much more organized.
I also do this when I clean out my closet.
I literally take out EVERY SINGLE item of clothing and dump it on my bed.
Only put back things you actually wear,  need & use.
 4. Once you have taken everything out, Wipe Down & Clean the area.  
This goes along with tip #3. As you clear out each area, then wipe it down with a clorox/lysol wipe, windex, paper towel, etc.
 If you are clearing out stuff & organizing it, you don't want to put it back on a dirty shelf. Take the few minutes and wipe down your areas!
Nothing better than starting with a clean slate!

5. Closet hangers
I think I saw this tip on Oprah 10 years ago.
When you clean out your closet and put clothes back, hang them up with the hooks facing you.
Once you wear the item, you can hang it up the correct way.

Every 3-4 months, you can look at your closet and see if there are more things you should get rid of because you never wear them. After a year, everything that is still facing the wrong way needs to be donated! If you haven't worn a clothing item in a year, it's not worth keeping! Get rid of it!
I do this with the girls clothes also and if they haven't worn something in 6 months, it gets donated!

6.   Get the bags out of your house
As soon as you clean out an area, immediately get the bags out of your house! 
Put the trash bags straight into the trash.
Take the donate bags and put them in your car so you can donate them.
Just get them out of your house!!!
(If they are out of your house, the less chance your kids will go through the bags and if you get them out of your house, the less chance YOU will change your mind about getting rid of something)

7.    Have a "Holding Area"
Our kids have lots of toys. Between Grandparents, Christmas & Birthdays, our kids have tons of "things" Kevin and I clean out their toys (without them knowing) Sometimes, when we clean out some of their toys, we put it in a black trash bag, but then put it in our shed for 1-2 months before giving it away.
This way, if they ask where that toy is, then we can give it back to them.
95% of the time, they never even notice the toy is gone.
Out of sight, out of mind.
If they don't ask for it within 2 months...BUH-BYE.

8. Donate your Items!
Many people have asked me where I donate all my bags to.
I donate to a variety of places.
About once a month, we get a flyer in the mail from some sort of charity letting us know they will be having a truck in our area and that they will collecting donations, just put your items on the curb & attach the postcard to your donations. 
This makes it SO easy to donate! 
For those bags, we just keep them in a corner of our garage and then set them on the curb in the morning. 
This is how we learned about tip #1....put the donations black bags.
Several times, we would have the girls things on the curb and in the morning as they were leaving for school, they would see their stuff on the curb and totally freak out. Not a fun way to start the day! 

I have also gotten bags like this in our mailbox:

I also donate to the Thrift Store in our town. We also have a Goodwill about 15 minutes away, so I will donate items to them as well. 

You could list your items on Free Cycle or sell them on Craigs List, but I don't have time for that! I don't want money for my things, I just want them out of my house and I will happily donate them. If you donate to places like Goodwill, the Cancer Society, they will often leave you a donation slip that you can use for tax write offs. I save all of my donation receipts so that I know the dates I donated and what items I donated.

And, now Amazon and Stitch Fix will let you re-use the boxes they sent you items in and you can mail donated/giveaway clothes to them for FREE and Amazon or Stitch Fix will donate them to Goodwill.
Read more about it HERE.
How awesome is that?

9. Have your kids help you with 40 Bags in 40 Days.
This is a tricky one. 
I am still trying to navigate this.
Most areas I clean out without my kids (when they are in bed) because they would just be in the way if I had them help me clean out the kitchen cabinets, etc.
And, most times I clean out their toys/clothes/books without them because I know they have a hard time getting rid of stuff.
One of our kids is a hoarder, so it is total drama when we clean out their things so sometimes it is just easier to clean out their stuff when they around because I don't want to deal with the meltdown/drama/tears.
BUT, I have realized that I need to teach them at a young age that it is good to give away things they don't need because there are a lot of people & kids who aren't as fortunate as them and it is good to give away things.
I want my kids to be generous and give things away that they don't need, so sometimes I have them help. They feel more at peace & relaxed in their rooms when it is organized and put away

10.  Clean out 1 area at a time & take it 1 day at a time.
If you don't finish by Easter.....that's okay! Give yourself grace.
Lent is actually 47 days long (for some reason they don't count the Sundays in the 40 days)
So, you really have 47 days to clean out 40 bags.
Just try and do 1 section a day. 
Some sections (like my kitchen junk drawer) only take me 10 minutes to clean out.
Some sections (like our closets) will take 1-2 hours.
Don't try and do 5 sections in a day. You will burn yourself out.
The first year I did 40 Bags in 40 Days, in 2012 it took the longest because there was just so much stuff. 
I didn't finish it until August...a few days before Luke was born! 
It took me 5 months, not 40 days! (Not to make excuses, but I was pregnant with Luke and barfing everyday) But, I gave myself grace! It's okay I didn't finish by Easter, the point is I finished!

In 2013,  I finished in June. But, hey! I finished. That is what counts.

In 2014, I never finished my list 40 bags in 40 days.  FAIL. No excuses. Just a fail. I got about hlaf of them done.

So, since it is now 2017 and over 3 years since I have last done 40 bags in 40 days, it is time for me to do it again.

This year for 2017, my goal is to finish by Easter (since my areas are not nearly as cluttered and the girls are in school until 3 so I have time each day before they get home)
But, if it takes me longer than Easter...that is okay!
Just get started....and take it one day at a time :)
Stick with it...who cares if it takes you 4 months instead of 40 days?
The point is to rid your home of clutter.

So, there you have it...my 10 tips for doing 40 Bags in 40 Days.
I am sure I am missing other tips, so if you have any other tips, please leave them in the comments below!

Like in years past, I will update so you can see my progress (and my filth) Ha!

I've got my list ready, I've my bags ready.

Take a Deep Breath.
You can do this.
Let's get rid of STUFF.
 Are you in?

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  1. You have inspired me to give this a whirl this year- God knows we have plenty to clean out but I also think it helps to remind us of the excess in our lives and how Jesus would want us to simplify and give rather than take. So, in addition to giving up sweets, I am doing this 40 bags for 40 days this lent- thanks for the inspiration Mel!

  2. This is great! We will definitely try this!

  3. I love this. I have done it in the past and it's taken me way longer than 40 days, but it's so worth it! I can't wait to get started again.

  4. I might just give this a try this year--thanks for the idea!

  5. wow this is such a great idea!! I think I may do it too! Thanks girl!

  6. I FLIPPING LOVE this idea! This is brilliant! I've been wanting to clean out and purge for months now and this is such a great reason to do it. I purged last year and got rid of probably 12 large trashbags of stuff, but we're already overflowing with more junk. It piles up SO quickly when you have little ones!

  7. I'm commenting on here because I am lazy...I want to get the Eye Cream!! I hope it's not too late!!

  8. No more kids at home but I have to do all of this when hubby is at his office! Eek! That is my hardest obstacle.

  9. You are a brave woman! I probably could get 40 bags, I just always think, "What if I need that later?" The tip about the clothing is a new one for me and I am going to do it right away today. I know there are some things that I haven't put on in years. De-cluttering makes me feel less stressed.

    Lindsey @ Nosto

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