Non-Stuff Things to Organize

With our 40 BAGS IN 40 DAYS decluttering challenge this year, I’ve been thinking a lot about decluttering the areas of life that aren’t stuff-ish. The stuff that nags on you like emails or your cleaning schedule that NEED to be organized and worked out.

a constantly updated list of non-stuff areas of your life to declutter, with short simple tips. via @whbsblog


For me, having a flexible schedule and check off lists helps me stay in check. Once I get away from that, I get overwhelmed and unmotivated. Short-term “baby steps” goals are better than looking at the big picture, and rewards help! I also like making goals and working towards them before I focus on the next thing.

Here are some ideas for areas of your life that you might want to think of decluttering, and some small, simple tips that might help you get that area of your life in check. At least temporarily. ;)

I’ll be adding more as I think of them and as you suggest them!


Cleaning Schedule

  • search pinterest for cleaning schedules and ideas
  • put one into place and try it out, focus on sticking to it for a week
  • re-evaluate and see what works for you

Computer Files

  • delete items out of your “downloads” folder, or put them away where you need them.
  • Set up new folders and organize, being as specific as possible.
  • Organize your photos (see below)
  • delete programs you no longer use
  • delete toolbars, cookies, your history, or your cache
  • keep only the most basic folders or programs that you need on your home screen, organize the rest.

Email Inbox

  • archive everything (or just the important stuff) so you can still find it in search. It’s a lot easier to “archive all” than to delete all!
  • use the search button to find like subjects or senders for deleting
  • when your inbox is clean, either delete, archive, or unsubscribe the new items that roll in.
  • reply immediately when you get the message. If you don’t have time to reply , delete, or unsubscribe, you don’t have time to check your email!

Financial Matters

  • have a talk with yourself or your spouse about the state of things
  • have monthly chats and talk about finances, goals, what you need to work on
  • set goals, work towards them
  • look at your bank account and add up what you are spending things on, it makes you realize what you have and how quickly things add up
  • try to have a spending freeze and limit yourself for a period of time.
  • reward yourself for sticking to goals, but not too much
  • limit the trips you make to the store, make lists

Good Habits

  • make a list of a few things you want to focus on, think small not big: taking vitamins, drinking __ amount of water, being positive, making good use of time
  • make a daily checklist and hang it where it is easily seen and can be checked off
  • frame your checklist and use a dry erase marker every day to check off your items
  • create a list in your phone (Teux Deux is a great app for lists), or alerts to help you remember key things. I have one in my phone for am vitamins, pm vitamins.


  • make more realistic goals and write them down like instead of “lose weight”, have goals like “drink more water” that will help you to get there
  • think in baby steps, what little things can you change in order to get there?
  • keep a journal or jot down notes in your phone to track progress, how you feel, what changes made you feel better or were hard to sustain
  • reach out to others for support and motivation

Laundry Schedule

  • find what works for your family: one load a day? two loads a day?
  • stick to it and make sure to fold stuff and put it away right out of the dryer
  • Here’s a look at our laundry schedule for a family of five.

Meal Planning

  • search pinterest for ideas on meal planning, freezer or crockpot meals, or batch meal planning
  • if you don’t meal plan, try to have an idea of what you’ll be making early in the morning. Do prep as you can through the day to lighten your burden.
  • Take note of what items need to be eaten, used up. Think of different ways to prepare your leftovers or freeze them before they go bad.
  • Have a few options on hand for quick, but healthy meals and snacks.
  • Have a few go-to meals that you have down and can make quickly in a pinch.

phone applications (apps)

  • check your settings to see which apps use the most space and if you don’t use them, consider deleting them.
  • organize your apps into folders based on category (games, social media, utilities, music, etc)
  • delete old text messages, voicemails, or calls.
  • go through your phone book and organize it

Phone Pictures

  • set up a file on your computer and download all of your photos to that folder
  • use online storage and download all of the images to that site, but make it private
  • have your photos printed out using an app like Walgreens, Postal Pix, etc.

Photo Storage

  • organize your photos using an external hard drive or labeled SD cards
  • upload your photos to a free storage site
  • when uploading, keep only the copy you want. Delete multiple blurry or junk copies right away.
  • create a folder in your computer and organize there, once you’ve finished the month, upload to your preferred storage method.
  • Print photos off as you need them, or monthly.

Pinterest Boards

  • organize by season, move current boards to the top and past seasons to the bottom
  • set a cover photo with a favorite pin to show pinners what your style is
  • delete unused or small boards that you don’t use


  • Make a list of what needs to get done, follow through, but don’t overwhelm yourself. Start small.
  • Use phone or online calendars, big wall calendar, or pocket calendar. Find what works for you and put everything in there. Try to stick to it, and if it doesn’t stick, find something else.
  • Put stuff on your calendar as you think of it.
  • Set alerts or alarms or timers.

    Anything I missed that you’d like to see covered or added to this list?

    Leave it in the comments and I’ll update this post. :)


    Disclosure: Please keep in mind that this list is a “do as I say, not as I do” type thing and that these are all suggestions. I do not claim to be an expert and I am working on many items on this list! :)


    1. says

      Thanks for the decluttering tips! I need to do all of these things… If I could just get started. It’s a little overwhelming sometimes figuring out where to start, because our entire home/life is cluttered! I need to tame my hoarding ways. Will you come do it for me? Ha. Good luck with your 40 Bags/40 Days challenge. I need to jump in and participate!

      • says

        Figuring out where to jump in or start is so hard – probably the hardest part. I’d love it I’d you joined us, Erin. :) We had a ton of people jump in last night, so you wouldn’t be the only one starting now. I swear if it weren’t for the challenge, with blogging my house would never get organized. Let me know if you want me to add ya, even if you just want to lurk in the group!

      • says

        that’s funny, because they really do! Thanks, Sonya :) I’m glad this list helped you too. It is going to be my go to checklist when I don’t feel like cleaning ;)

    2. Rhonda says

      I’ve been focusing also on decluttering my heart attitudes. To throw out the negative thoughts and feelings and to replace them with happy/positive. We can easily get bogged down with too much garbage in our hearts.

      • says

        I wholeheartedly agree, and I am guilty of this. I also let others’ negative attitudes get to me and change mine. No more. Nothing good comes of it, we all just get crabby and frustrated being around negativity which makes us even crabbier, haha.

        I am so glad you took the time to share your thoughts :) I will add “Attitudes” to the post and think of how I can improve my own.

    3. says

      Now you have to do a 40 digital bags in 40 days challenge! I SOOO need to clean up my computer, my flash drives, and ALL those CDs I used to stash stuff on… then I also want to create a digital portfolio of all my writing work from college and previous journalism jobs – I have PAPER newspaper clippings!! :) I need to scan and create a file just for those!!

    4. Michelle says

      I’m the family historian; genealogist. Besides taking a bag of things to Salvation Army today; I started to organize some of my genealogy work. Importing info from paper to the computer. I spent 3 hours (on & off) taking care of one family branch. Felt good to start the decluttering!! Thanks for the motivation.

    5. Suzanne says

      Thank you so much for the decluttering tips. I am also in the group where everything in my house is cluttered and unorganized that something needs to be done about it. I feel that my clutter is really negatively impacting my life…I forget things and am almost embarrassed to have people in my house. The bad part is, I can’t find the motivation to get started fixing these issues. I’m a single mother and work full time. Most days I’m away from my house for over 12 hours. I also would like to have a some semblance of a life and don’t want to spend all my free time cleaning house. Do you have any advice as to how I can handle all of this. Thank you so much!

      • Carla Glidewell says

        I have had the same issues as you express…..this is what I have done…..ONE corner at a time…..ONE small area eventually adds up to half a room….good luck

        • Suzanne says

          Thanks so much for your reply! I’m happy to hear that there is someone else that had the same problems as myself and that there is a way out of this mess.

      • Val says

        Get the children involved. Have them look at the room with you and find things that can be gotten rid of. Even little ones can help (if your little one is 3, they find 3 things to throw or give away). You may find your teens more ruthless than you are!

      • Mir says

        Set an alarm for 15 min. You will be amased what 15 min a day will do. As you look at an area ask if these items bring you joy. If not move them on

    6. Denise Daugherty` says

      I would love to be added to people who are taking this challenge. I live in a one bedroom apartment with my cat. I have so much clutter. I started with going through all my paperwork and putting it in folders. I am so glad I found you. Put me in for the challenge. Denise

    7. Judi says

      I love all tips and ideas. I have years of paperwork piling up. I know the need to keep tax iitems, contracts, real estate docs, etc. However, do you know guidelines for keeping all the other things like paid bills, bank statements, credit card statements and all that. I’d love to shred a bunch of this paperwork but I’m not sure. Any guidelines you may have are appreciated.

      • Dyan says

        I don’t know the formal rule of throwing out bills and bank statements, but my mother keeps them all and at the end of a year puts them in a shoe box and labels the year. Then the next year when she fills her new box and put s it into storage, she throws out the previous year’s box.

        • Ginni says

          You need to keep anything that applies to your tax returns for 7 years – I think that includes bank statements, but not old bills.

          • Enid says

            We get all our bank statements digitally now. They will be on record at the bank whenever we need them. In fact, anything that comes in the mail, if we CAN get it digitally instead, we DO! It helps a lot.

      • Rachel says

        @ Judi: I keep the final year-end statement for things like bank statements, credit card statements, pay off statements, etc. I just file them away with our tax documents at the end of the year, and shred everything else. Ginni is right that tax returns should be kept for 7 years, even business taxes, I think.


    8. Susan says

      I have years and YEARS worth of personal mementoes, souvenirs of places I’ve traveled, trinkets that have special meaning, gifts from loved ones….(I’m not necessarily attached just because it’s a gift but if I love it then it has a double sentimental value). I have a curio cabinet with many of these things but I also have boxes that aren’t displayed. every time I look at everything and think of the boxes I feel compelled to organize, condense but I just can’t bring myself to discard things that bring back memories….. what to do?

      • Lauri Wade-Higdon says

        Hi Susan,

        How about taking a picture of your beloved items? I’ve done this with my childhood toys as well as with my kids’ art projects. Eventually I may group them into the hardcover photo books available online. Perhaps in my retirement. :)

        For smaller trinkets, I’ve made them into Christmas tree ornaments. That way I get to see them once a year. :)

        • Susan says

          Your daughter is smart! I’ve thought about giving things to friends/family with a note attached of the special meaning it brought to me. Thanks for the suggestion!

          • Carla says

            GREAT CLEAN-UP DAY The weather is awful, cold, windy and great day for spring cleaning (otherwise known to us as de-cluttering). I have a full grocery bag of to be shredded papers from nineties and early 2000’s. TIME TO SHRED. Otherwise cardboard boxes to be broken down and to recycling. How did I get started. 1. I thought about what I would do last night……MADE myself stick to the plan I put in place before going to bed. bingo it worked. More to come but this start has inspired me.

    9. Ginni says

      I have so much to get rid of that it is overwhelming. I start, and then get so distracted that I make it worse. I am going to try this plan – thanks for the lists too!

    10. Tammy says

      Declutter your Facebook friends!!! Get rid of the people that post negative posts or whine a lot!!! They just bring you down and clutter your mind with worry~ I’ve downsized my friends list to people I actually talk/email with; and as the saying goes, “If I didn’t talk to you in high school, why would I talk to you now?” LOL!

    11. Liz Stewart says

      I was starting to get that itchy feet, time to move home feeling again when it occurred to me it’s not where we live but how we live is the problem. I now feel motivated to declutter and remove all the junk so I can enjoy my home again. Thank you.

    12. says

      OH– I thought I was behind already. THEN– I remembered that on Monday morning I came in to find my freezer door had not closed tightly and all my vegetables were defrosted. I spent the day cooking to save what I could and later told a friend– as frustrated as I was about the whole thing — I’m so excited that my freezer is cleaned and organized, it was worth it. So I did not start a day late– I started two days early! Let the declutter continue! I wanna be free!

    13. Teresa says

      I am so happy my friend Julie told me about this. I am so disorganized, cluttered, and really need your help! My disorganization is so bad I can’t right now even get into my gmail account because I can’t remember my password! Please tell me why it won’t let me change my password! It just wants me to delete my account which I do NOT want to do! If you can help me with this, you will have saved my life from more clutter and disorganization! I need your help!

    14. Kathi Pollard says

      Hey Anne – love all your ideas! could you find time to make a PDF of all these non-place ideas? Would be so helpful! Thanks and keep up your good works!

    15. Jennifer Ponte says

      I’m in! (little late but no prob). I have 4 spots in my house that look like borderline hoarding. Including way way way too much furniture to try to stick all of the other stuff in. I’m feeling like I’m ready to do some letting go. I want to start with all of the clothes that were pre-baby. They haven’t fit in 4 years and they are taking up a whole closest. That will be my first garbage bag to the Salvation Army! :)

    16. Virginia Jolly says

      One thing I know I have to do all the time is paperwork. Every day there is junk mail, and I have to decide how pertinent it is, how to recycle it, destroy it, or file it. I need to create a habit of doing the paperwork when it comes in.

      Oh, and my file cabinet could use a lot of work, too.

    17. Issa says

      I’m with Virginia Jolly! Do you have any suggestions for paperwork clutter? I’m constantly buried in paper!

      • Carla says

        One of the first things I did was to set up files…..that helped with the incoming mail, stacks on dining table and I even have a file with a question mark….works for me

    18. Cindy says

      i started the challenge last week and have filled 8.5 bags of clothes and 1 box to charity that will go out next week. i also, semi-organized photos into 2 tubs that i want to go through when most of my declutter is managable. I love this group as It has motivated me to do a little each day and i will get there. Now, to get my family more on board. My hubby helped a little over the weekend, so that is a start.

    19. Pam Gibson says

      I am constantly in a state of decluttering, but the older I get and the more people I see that have died and left a horror story for the children to deal with, the more motivated I am. I know that my children will not want about 99% of my stuff so I am trying to make a written guideline so they don’t sell a treasure for a quarter in a garage sale.
      My best tip, gleaned from the bible of organization as far as I am concerned, Sidetracked Home Executives, is to start at the door of a room and work either to your left or right and tackle each thing as you get to it. Don’t bounce around the house/room. Slow and steady. Touch everything and make a decision. Garbage, proper storage, sell or donate. When you run out of time or energy, quit. Go back to that same spot the next time and carry on.

    20. says

      Hmm, I thought of a few other things I would add to a non-stuff list: time commitments (i.e. do I really need to be on that committee?), and friends. I find that over the years I’ve accumulated many friends who aren’t part of my regular life but whom I like to catch up with from time to time. But when I try to catch up with them all, my calendar is madness. So I make a list of all of them and decide whom I’ll pursue and whom I’ll ‘let go’. If the friends whom I let go contact me and want to make a time, I won’t say no, but I don’t consciously pursue people whom I can see are drifting further away from my current life. And I still enjoying interacting with those people on Facebook :)

    21. Leann says

      When I upload photos to my computer (organized in folders by year and month), I have started trying to take a few extra minutes to tag the photos with people and topics. So next time I’m looking for photos or want to make a collage of a particular person or topic (like photos of my daughter from her martial arts activities), I can easily find them based on the photo tags.

    22. Regina says

      Any ideas for what to do with old photos? i have hundreds and can’t figure out what to do with them. I only see them about every 5-10 years when I “decluttter.” Trying to get it resolved once and for all.

      • Issa says

        I’m going to put mine into 4×6″ file boxes, divided by year and occasion. Then they can be taken out one small bunch at a time, looked through, and placed back in its divided spot. The work is going to be writing on the back of each picture a code of where it should go, in which box, if it gets mixed up or separated from its box. I haven’t worked out the code yet. I’ve saved many of the pictures in their envelopes which should help the sorting. I’ll probably make albums of the most special or ‘representative’ ones (one from each Easter, birthday, etc. over the years.) I’m interested in other ideas, too!

        • Carla says

          Once organized by dates I think they can be uploaded to a DVD…not sure as I am not a techie. try drug stores for more info

    23. E Bologna says

      Keep a magnetized pad of paper on the refrigerator to jot down items as you run out of them. Makes your shopping list effortlessly, and ready to go when you are.

    24. Rose Britton says

      Darling Daughter sent me a link to your very helpful challenge. We’ve already put a great portion of our goods in storage while house is on the market — but there’s still a grand opportunity in joining the challenge.

    25. Selena Kyle says

      I need to purge my iTunes. I have 10,500-something songs on there and 10,000 or them I don’t even LIKE anymore. In Fall 2009, I ended up getting that H1N1 swine flu that was going around and, even though I felt ok after a few days on Cipro, I was still quarantined in my house for a full 10 days. Suffice to say, you have NO IDEA how many Christmas songs you can download when you are bored and stuck at home. It’s mind-boggling.

    26. says

      I unknowingly started the 40 bag decrappifying Saturday. I went through and tried on all my clothes. I’m finishing a year of no buying shoes in March and cutting way back on shopping. In March, I plan on starting my second year of no shoes and add clothes, accessories, and anything that isn’t a consumable. I’m selling my clothes on Poshmark. It’s a long process, but I make my money to buy my books each semester from selling my (plus my friends, Mom’s, and sisters) clothes.

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