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How to Get Rid of Your Stuff: Piling Method

This post is going to show you a method called piling to help you get rid of your stuff fast.

In order to live in a tiny house or any other small space, most of us have to part with a lot of our belongings. Even if you’re not downsizing in terms of space, it can feel great to get rid of some of the clutter around you. In the end,I think you’ll feel lighter and happier. I sure did.

In particular, I’m going to show you how to organize your belongings into appropriate piles that lead to action… and maybe even a few extra bucks in your pocket! My recommendation is to do this in micro sections. What I mean by that is, instead of focusing on the entire bathroom, you’d do it one drawer at a time. So for instance, instead of worrying about an entire bedroom, you just do one drawer. If you go through it fast, you can move on to the next micro section of the area. You can do this on one hour a day or you can take a weekend and do it all day. That part’s up to you! The chunking part will just help you stay focused and be more productive.
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Here’s what you need before taking action with this post: 1) A section of stuff to de-clutter. 2) Space to create three piles.

Once you’ve picked your first drawer or section of your home to declutter you are ready to go. This is going to be easy!

1. Take everything out of the area and set it up onto one big pile.
2. The next thing we’re going to do is divide it into three separate piles so that we know what to do with each.
3. One pile is to keep, the second is sell or give away, and the last one is to throw away in the garbage.

It’s really that simple and it can actually be fun (especially when you can make a few extra bucks parting with things). Now all you have to do is rinse and repeat with one area at a time of your home. Here are some areas around your house that you might be able to start with now:

  • Bedroom
  • Bathroom
  • Closet
  • Garage
  • Shed
  • Attic
  • Laundry room
  • Kitchen
  • Entertainment center
The key is to resist worrying about an entire room or area at one time. Avoid doing it all at once and instead just one small section at a time. This will keep the project quick and easy to manage. Then when you’re done, you can move on to the next.

Bonus tip: If you feel kind of emotional while trying to get rid of something you’re attached to it can be helpful to take a photo of it. If that doesn’t help, it might not hurt to find a way to keep it if you like it so much. 🙂

If you liked this post, you’ll probably really enjoy Tammy Strobel’s new book You Can Buy Happiness (And It’s Cheap!). She and her husband have been living in a tiny house for a while now and her book talks all about it.

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Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 20 comments… add one }
  • alice h
    September 27, 2012, 12:45 pm

    I use this method but I also add the “undecided” category. Rather than dithering and slowing down the whole process,if unsure about an item I set it aside for a later decision. Not to say you should let this pile get too big, but sometimes you may need to think about it a bit or wait until you’re less conflicted or whatever. Sometimes it just takes having a break and coming back to resolve the problem but in the meantime you make good progress with the stuff that’s definite. I use cardboard office file boxes and date them using sticky notes rather than endlessly scribbling and crossing out, don’t allow them to stay around too long before final sorting. If doing a big purge it’s good to have a few of these boxes and fill them by type (craft supplies in one, clothing in another, etc) so it’s a bit easier to sort later.

    • September 27, 2012, 3:00 pm

      Thanks Alice, great idea, glad it works for you!

    • lee ann hill
      September 29, 2012, 4:40 pm

      thanks for your great insight into getting rid of stuff i am the biggest pack rat my grown son is always saying he is going to cut my tail off. thanks

      • October 1, 2012, 4:16 pm

        LOL thanks Lee! Wishing you the best.

  • Pony Rider
    September 28, 2012, 6:15 am

    Working on small sections at a time works for me too. It can be one drawer or one cupboard at a time. This way I don’t make a huge mess and I have time to finish what I started, so I don’t get overwhelmed..

    • October 1, 2012, 4:16 pm

      I totally agree, thanks!

  • sesameB
    September 28, 2012, 3:36 pm

    Nice article. I have been piling for years. (smiles)

  • jerryd
    September 29, 2012, 1:17 pm

    Sorry but getting rid of my piles hurts ;^P They have been very good to me and I have built my EV’s, tiny homes, sailboats, etc from them.

    If one has a mobile tiny home and you actually move a lot it might be worthwhile. But if not piles can save a hell of a lot of money.

    That said today, yesterday I had a yard sale just to get more space and get ready to move aboard a 32-36′ trimaran sail/solar boat after it gets built from my piles for only $3k. Without the piles my 12’x12′ cabin and tri would cost 2-4x’s as much.

    As I sell my land and move aboard I’ll either have a workshop boat or land workshop for my piles and a place to do all that I do.

    My building style is buy the main parts cheap used, on sale, etc and then design the unit to fit them let’s me build at 10-25% of others costs buying new.

    So 3 cheers for piles !!! ;^P

    Jerry Dycus

    In a small space one way to keep things down is if one doesn’t use something in a set time, you really don’t need it.

    • October 1, 2012, 4:19 pm

      Thanks Jerry! I agree, it’s different if you plan on using your stuff for something and have the space for it. Would love to see your cabin and sailboat!

      • jerryd
        October 1, 2012, 8:35 pm

        Hi Alex and All,

        My cabin is still a shell being completed as money comes in. I’ll get some pics up once it’s more finished next month.

        My solar/sail/wind powered trimaran is still a gleam in my eye ;^P But it’ll be my 7th or so in this size of my design among the other 400 boats I’ve built. So for me it’s rather easy to do.

        I’m designing it for my old age as easy to run, stormproof, very comfortable with A/C and for low cost living, anchored out for no dock rent and have a moat between me and the rest ;^P

        I picked solar as panels are now about $1/wt so 1kw/ $1k worth will run my A/C plus all my other loads. I want 12vdc panels but they seem to be getting rare at $1/wt so likely go for 24vdc nom ones and just switch my output from 1/2-12vdc of the pack, switching it when that 12vdc section of the pack hits about 30-40% charge to the other 12vdc section.

        I’ll do this because most everything I have load wise is 12vdc as they are far less expensive boat/RV units plus the 3000wt peak inverters for A/C, power tools, etc are only $100-140 vs $1000+ for 24vdc ones of lesser power.

        Just going through my piles is about 3 liveaboard sailboats equipment, rigs, 3 EV suspensions/drives’s and 4 personal transport modules a few wind generators among other jewels, at least to me.

        I’m just 100 mile north of you south of Tampa 1 mile from I-75 so feel free to stop by if you are in the area and see my cabin, EV’s and piles ;^P.

        • October 4, 2012, 6:00 pm

          Thanks Jerry I may take you up on that soon!

  • Liz
    September 29, 2012, 1:18 pm

    Great perspective~ every small step is easier to take and adds up to create a big difference. As my MIL used to say, “life by the inch is a cinch, life by the yard is hard.”

    • October 1, 2012, 4:19 pm

      Love it, thanks for sharing Liz!

  • gail
    September 29, 2012, 1:48 pm

    I find the content of this discussion great! I have been in the process of downsizing for a while now, going from a 4 bedroom house with garage and basement, to a 2 bedroom apartment, and soon (I hope) to a tiny house.

    I just recently found the blog about Towed Haul, and couldn’t help thinking that Bob might have benefited from a local freecycle program.

    Check out freecycle.org to find a program near you. I used it to get rid of my piles, knowing that someone else would get use out of things I no longer needed. And you can often score great “new” stuff, to fit a downsized lifestyle, and it’s all free. Kinda like a thrift store, only no money changes hands, ever! Love the concept.

    • October 1, 2012, 4:20 pm

      Thanks Gail. Freecycle is a great resource. Glad you shared and hope you’ll keep us updated on your downsizing journey towards a tiny house.

  • Florence Robinson
    September 30, 2012, 11:09 pm

    Love the KISS method: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

    • October 4, 2012, 6:00 pm

      Couldn’t agree more! 😀

  • October 1, 2012, 4:21 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your poem!

  • dew
    October 5, 2012, 3:50 pm

    Caregiver guilty of stealing $1M from 100-year-old
    A former caregiver in northeast Washington state has been convicted of taking nearly $1 million from a Kettle Falls woman who was more than 100 years old.

    The Associated COLVILLE, Wash. —
    A former caregiver in northeast Washington state has been convicted of taking nearly $1 million from a Kettle Falls woman who was more than 100 years old. John “Herb” Friedlund was looking after Frances Swan, who is now 107, when authorities found her last year in squalid conditions that included rotting food and dog feces. A detective had gone to Swan’s home to investigate animal neglect allegations against the 79-year-old Friedlund after neighbors reported starving horses on the property. The detective found Swan inside and says she begged “please feed me,” saying Friedlund hadn’t given her anything to eat that day. The Spokesman-Review reports ( http://is.gd/fgiKZB) Friedlund faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced Friday after being found guilty of charges related to raiding Swan’s retirement fund.

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