40 Days Tips and Tricks: The Basics

The idea of Forty Bags in Forty Days is to "cleanse" your house of all clutter during the forty days of Lent.  It is a manageable, easier way to do spring cleaning than all at once, especially since most of us have little ones that we need to care for all day.

The first step is to make a little schedule for yourself.  I use a simple piece of notebook paper.  (Here is a cute free printable schedule one of my blog readers made.)

I divide my house into forty areas.  My schedule might look like this:
Day 1: Master Bathroom Cabinet
Day 2: Master Bathroom Drawers
Day 3: Vanity Area
Day 4: Our Closet
Day 5: Master Bedroom
Day 6: Desk in Study
Day 7: Study
till I have 40 small manageable areas to work on each day.  Some days I can plow through four areas and buy myself some time, which allows me to skip a day when I just can't meet my goal.  (And remember last year I skipped this entire process because I had baby Janey and I had enough on my plate.)

There is no right way to purge your home, some work better in bursts, some work better in tiny chunks-do whatever is not stressful and works for you at this time of your life.

My Supplies:
Black garbage bags. You can use any kind you want-even small grocery bags, but I use black because kids can't see through them, and the size works well for me.

Sneaky purger that I am, I don't want my decisions questioned. No, I don't ransack my
children's bedrooms and throw away all of their beloved treasures, but it's better if that plastic
broken battery-hogging toy that my son hasn't touched in 5 years magically disappear without
rearing it's ugly head to be seen and desperately missed by all.

I also have Magic Erasers, paper towels (or rags), spray cleaner and my vacuum.

I wipe down counters, wipe out cabinets, shelves, and countertops while I'm purging. I go through packs of Magic Erasers. (I can do this because I only have one little one home all day-if you have a baby or babies, maybe just stick with the purge, and not with the spring clean.)

I keep in mind that my goal is to touch everything in the room or area that I am working on. If I
have boxes, clothes, books, toys...no matter what, I go through each item and make a decision to
keep, give away, throw away.

I figure out what I am going to do with the bags once full. I give books away to a local foundation that resells them, I pitch the garbage, I give the rest to Goodwill  because they have a drop-off station 2 minutes away. I don't do resale shops or garage sales, because for me, it's just too much work. I throw the Goodwill bags right into the back of my van, and make the run as soon as I get a chance.

I work really quickly. Obviously, the bigger and the more complicated the room, the longer it takes,
but I don't puzzle over decisions, or get distracted by other things...besides Patrick of course. I
don't answer my phone...my goal is to get the job done as quickly as possible.
I keep a visual in mind. How do you want I my house to look?  For me it's clean, sparse, and organized:

I always go back in my head to the first months we moved into this house. I had really wanted to start fresh. I had given away a lot of stuff from our old house...I purged like crazy when we moved. We had no closet or
storage space in our old 1840 house either...so when we settled into this house it was very simple, very
empty, very refreshing. I filled one drawer where there was now 5. The kids used just tiny bits of their
closets. Some rooms had just a few items of furniture. It was so easy to keep clean and I felt so energized
without so many belongings. Sometimes I get out my old photos from when we first moved in, and that
motivates me to bring my home back to where I loved it.

The other visual: What if I had to show my house in minutes as if we were selling it? I know this is hard core...but I learned my lesson once with my first house...we put off all these little projects that we wanted to do forever, lived with them forever, inconvenient and all, and when we went to sell our house, here we were running around getting it all done for SOMEONE else to live in and enjoy! Ridiculous!  I make a list of those little projects, and work on them later in the year.

So it helps me to think, even though we will never move, that is my ideal for this space/room to look like? Sometimes we get used to things and don't realize how cluttered up, or inconvenient they are. Trying a fresh eye...a "perspective buyer's eye" has helped me.


  1. Hi Sarah
    While writing a post today for my blog about spring cleaning, decluttering and decorating, I came across your great blog and this post. I have linked this post in my article as I think my readers will enjoy it and your blog, and just thought you might want to know. I can't wait to start filling bags!
    Here is the URL to my article in case you are interested!
    Happy Spring!