If you have ever gotten a massive boost of energy and committed to cleaning or decluttering your entire house, only to lose steam halfway through, I feel you. After 20 minutes of organized chaos, you might look around and be confused as to why your house is even messier than when you started. This was my decluttering pattern for years, until I finally created a solution: 4 bin decluttering method. What originally started as piles on my floor and a garbage bag, has turned into a simple method for clearing clutter and cleaning house that my family and I use constantly! Here is the breakdown of how we have simplified our cleaning process down to 4 simple bins!
The scatter-cleaning problem
Oftentimes, the problem of scatter-cleaning as I call it, happens to people who have been diagnosed with ADHD. While this isn’t a diagnosis I have sought out, I can very much see where I struggle with the symptoms. This 4 bin method for decluttering has been my saving grace when it comes to actually clearing through clutter in my home. My hope is that it is helpful for you as well!
The main benefit of using this system is that it forces you to stay in one place rather than walking from room to room. If you struggle with other cleaning and organizational systems, this is something I go over in my ebook, The Gentle Art of Letting Sh*t Go.
You do not need bins to declutter
Before we dive into the 4 bin declutter method, I first feel the need to let you know that you do not need bins in order to make this method work. I have found, however, that having these bins on hands is very helpful when it comes to teaching kids how to declutter, especially if they have ADHD.
However, you can apply this method through creating piles, or using bags and bins that you already have on hand!
How the 4 Bin Declutter System Works
As I mentioned above, the 4 bin declutter system is so effective because it stops you from going from room to room and encourages you to focus in on one area until it has been effectively decluttered or cleaned.
While the bins have designated purposes for decluttering, you can easily apply this method to day to day cleaning and organizing as well. This 4 bin declutter system has been extremely effective for my family, but don’t be afraid to mix-and-match the bins in a way that works for you!
Bin #1: Donate
The Donate Bin sort of speaks for itself, wouldn’t you say? This is a bin that you can have on hand when decluttering for all the items you feel you are ready to donate. A smart idea for this bin might be to take your old or emptied out Amazon boxes so that you can easily transport them to your trunk and to the donation center of your choice.
Filling Amazon boxes as they come is a method that is growing in popularity these days, however, I would encourage to be mindful not to fall into the vicious cycle of buying and decluttering. Remember, if you are always needing to declutter, you are never getting anywhere. If you have fallen into this clutter cycle, check out The Gentle Art of Letting Sh*t Go for ideas on breaking the cycle.
Following through on donations
Once you are done with your declutter session, be sure to do two things right away:
- Bring your donation boxes to your trunk
- Schedule a donation day in your calendar
Scheduling a time to donate your clutter doesn’t have to be a complicated thing to do. The best method I have found for making sure my decluttered items make it to the donation center is to schedule donations during a time I’m already going to be running errands. If you have plans to drop your kids off at soccer practice, or scoop up groceries for the week, this is the perfect time to pencil in another 10 minutes for donation drop off! When you plan it into your schedule, it makes is much easier to follow through and make sure it gets done.
Don’t overthink the donation process
Another way a lot of us put off clearing clutter is because we want to make sure we are donating to the “right places.” We want to ensure that we are making good use out of our old stuff which often makes us feel we should be finding battered women’s or homeless shelters. While there are good intentions behind this belief, one thing you should ask yourself is, What is my track record for making this happen? This is something I heard on The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning and it is a beneficial mindset for so many things when it comes to decluttering.
If you are not good at following through with donating to charities or homeless shelters, this is me giving you permission to let yourself off the hook and donate to the nearest donation center near you!
Summary for donating your declutter bin:
- Sell what you can. Set a time limit (1 week is a good starting point)
- Schedule a time to donate to local shelters you support
- Be willing to donate the rest
- Some things will end up in the garbage
Bin #2: Put Back Bin
One of the biggest setbacks to getting a space decluttered or cleaned is when we come across an item that belongs in a different part of the house. For years I was stuck in this habit; if I found a sock that was in the living room but belonged in my daughter’s room, I would leave the living room to put her sock away in her room.
The second I walk into my daughter’s room, of course, I would find a new mess that I instantly felt drawn to. Before I knew it I’d be cleaning my daughter’s bedroom and the living room, where I started, sat in whatever state I had left it in. This is why the Put Back Bin is a godsend when it comes to helping you hone your focus on decluttering the space you’re in.
Instead of leaving the space you’re in to put things back in a different room, you can add items to the Put Back Bin that need to go into other areas of the house. Commit to spending 5 minutes putting things away in the other rooms even if that means throwing them in like a grenade and running for cover.
Summary for the Put Back Bin
- Place items in the bin that belong in a different room
- Commit to 5 minutes of putting items back after you’re done decluttering
Bin #3: Garbage
Don’t fool yourself, the garbage is just one more thing that can potentially pull you off course when it comes to cleaning or decluttering your space.
In order to help you effectively sort through your stuff and stay focused in one area of your house, it’s important to have a garbage on hand. This doesn’t have to be an actual garbage can, it can simply be a garbage bag that you carry along with you throughout the cleaning process.
As you clean and sort through each item, simply toss any garbage directly into the garbage can where it belongs. If you struggle with throwing things away, this is a topic I cover in depth in The Gentle Art of Letting Sh*t Go.
Summary for the Garbage
- Toss any garbage into the garbage during the declutter process
- Be mindful of items that are broken or destroyed and cannot be re-sold or used. Challenge yourself to throw away these items as well. Read: An Unused Item is Already Garbage.
Bin #4: Maybe Bin
If you are one of the bajillion people that has been too afraid to declutter an item because of the dreaded, “I might need this someday” fear, then you probably understand the importance of the Maybe bin. The topic and mindset around being afraid to declutter something for fear we might regret it is something I cover in The Gentle Art of Letting Sh*t Go, but the Maybe Bin is a great place to get started.
The purpose of the Maybe Bin is when you come across those items that you think you might be ready to declutter or donate, but you still have some fear around it. When you place things in the Maybe Bin you allow yourself to clear space without the commitment of donating.
The process of the maybe bin:
- Put items in the Maybe Bin that you’re not ready to part with
- Store the Maybe Bin away for 6 months (or whatever time frame you’re comfortable with)
- If the items have gone unused after this time, donate the entire bin
The process in action
This is the same simple method I use for all of my decluttering sessions and you can see the benefits of them in some of the before and after videos I have shared.
At the end of the day, it’s best to find a system that works for you. Hopefully this 4 bin method has given you a basic idea of what you can do to simplify your cleaning and decluttering process!
If you want more guidance on how to clear clutter and keep your house tidy after you’ve decluttered, be sure to check out The Gentle Art of Letting Shit Go!