Week 3: The Empty & Sort method of decluttering.

At one time, I can remember wishing my garage would burn down because I was so overwhelmed by the boxes stacked to the ceiling. Not a method I would recommend for decluttering.

There are different methods of decluttering.

One of my personal favorite ways to declutter is the Empty & Sort method. The Empty & Sort method that has been modified from a U.S. television show called Clean Sweep by Peter Walsh.

In each episode of Clean Sweep, the entire contents of a room was moved outdoors. The homeowners were then helped to sort everything into one of three areas: “keep”, “sell” and “toss”. 

The Empty & Sort method of decluttering can be applied to any space, large or small…from your attic, stuffed with “treasures,” (who are you kidding?) to a single silverware drawer.

My method involves 5 steps and there is no selling involved.

  1. Empty
  2. Sort
  3. Second Sort
  4. Put Away
  5. Plan

1. Empty

  • Remove everything from your space.
  • If it’s the silverware drawer, move the stuff to a nearby table or set up a card table.
  • If it’s a small room, move your stuff to another room with extra space or outside (make sure it’s a sunny day!)
  • DON’T THINK. Just empty your space.
  • Leave only big furniture
  • Leave small furniture if you’re certain it will stay.

2. Sort into 3 categories.

~Throw away.

  • Have a large trash can ready.
  • Line it with a trash bag.
  • Put a few extra bags at the bottom of the can.
  • You don’t want anything to slow you down.

~Give Away

  • Have a large box set up and ready to toss items in.
  • When it’s full, put it in your car trunk.
  • Out of sight, out of mind.


  • This is the pile of anything you’re keeping. (Hey, it’s not rocket science!)
  • Use a large sheet on the ground or living room floor to corral it all.
  • Be really picky. Remember, you have to make a place for this stuff in your space.
  • Make it a game to  see how quickly you can move.


3. Second Sort

  • Go through your Keep pile, deciding where each item belongs in your home.
  • Create a pile for each room (you will find things that belong in different rooms than the one they came from…imagine that!
  • Move quickly. You can change your mind later.
  • Be ruthless at this point and find even MORE items to give away.

4. Put Away

  • By now, you’re exhausted. 
  • Recruit help.
  • Take each pile of stuff  in the Keep pile to the space where it belongs and stash it in the corner.
  • Get your rest and return the next day. (I’m not a slave driver!)

5. Plan

  • Map out a master plan for how to store your Keep items.
  • Store things close to where they are actually used.More to come on how to put away your “Keep items”…
Do you have a space or tiny spot you’ll use the  Empty & Sort method on?
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  1. Karen, thank you for e-mailing me your newsletter each week. I look forward to it and find your suggestions very helpful and “freeing”. I already lost 4 pounds and am gaining some
    serendity to my environment. Keep the good ideas coming…49 weeks to go!

    • Janet, I am thrilled to have you on the newsletter (ahem…magazine) list! Congratulations on losing 4 pounds…you’re only 1 pound from the recommended first goal! I’m very competitive so this can only help me. (smile)
      Yours for the Journey! Karen

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