Win the War on Clutter the 5B Way

When Laura and I got married, my aunt gave us a piece of advice: “Don’t lose the war on paper.”

Paper, she warned — paid bills, instruction manuals, report cards, Christmas cards, essays, and every other bit of words on tree fibre — will take over your entire house if you let it.

I’m sorry to say, we’re losing the war, not just on paper, but on all forms of clutter. Much of it is hidden away, stuffed in cupboards or cardboard boxes that we carted from our last house seven years ago.

But we’re starting to make progress. I’ve been reading Marie Kondo’sĀ The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I’ve used the KonMari method to get rid of more than half of my clothes.

The KonMari method may be too extreme for some. Luckily there are simpler methods.

I recently read about a decluttering technique on the Bee Organized with Pamela blog. I’ve modified it, and dubbed my version the 5B Method because it involves three boxes and two bags.

Here’s the technique:

  1. Declutter your house one room at a time. Pick one room and give yourself a one-week time limit to get it finished.
  2. Bring three boxes and two bags (black and blue) into the room. Go through everything in the room.
  3. Box 1 is for things that are staying in the room. If you can put an item in its proper place right away, do it. Otherwise, put it in the box.
  4. Box 2 is for things that you want to keep but don’t belong in this room.
  5. Box 3 is for things you don’t want that are still in good condition. These are things to give away or sell.
  6. Bag 1 is a black garbage bag. This is for anything broken or things that nobody would want.
  7. Bag 2 is a blue recycling bag. This is to get rid of all the paper clutter. (Don’t forget to shred documents with confidential health or financial information).
  8. Before the week is over, the three boxes should be empty, because you’ve put contents from the first two boxes in the right place and given away or sold the items in the third box. And the bags should be out of your house.

Some rooms may take more than a week. In that case, Pamela recommends breaking the room into smaller more manageable sections by dividing into halves or quarters.

She writes:

Don’t get overwhelmed. Remember it’s like eating an elephant. You do it one bite at a time.


What about you? How are you managing the war on paper and other clutter? Please scroll down and share any tips in the comments!


  1. Hah… funny enough – I have similar method. It involves just one giant thrash bag… I just start filling it with things I’m not 100% sure about. And I give it a week… if after a week I don’t go and fish out something out of bag – it’s out permanently.

    Method you described is bit more subtle… will look if I can take few things and improve my own šŸ˜‰

  2. Oddly enough, I’ve been noticing more and more recently the clutter that is in both my parents’ houses. It would be nice to dedicate a couple of days to just get rid of the stuff they don’t need behind their backs. Nice post šŸ™‚

  3. Nice method! I like that you allow for a whole week. I often try to do one (or more) room in a single day and when I don’t succeed, I get disppointed and don’t feel like continuing or doing another room. ^^; I’ll have to test this!

  4. No, sad to say I’m not winning the war. today I decided to start on my sewing room — and there are so many project half finished. My bad–I think I lost that war long ago! šŸ™ But at least I can shuffle things in some better order.
    But as you say a person can decide to toss the obvious clutter, things that tend to slip in corners behind other things and hide there. Thanks for the encouragement.

    • Good luck Christine. It may take some time but you can still win the war. Something that is helping us is going from a mindset of erring on the side of keeping stuff to erring on the side of getting rid of it. That’s helping us..

      • I have heretofore, always erred on the side of keeping. šŸ™ Here’s one example: (advice solicited)

        My husband buys good thick socks and sometimes one will get a small hole — ore like a tear, that can easily be mended. And once every few years I will darn a few socks. Yesterday I uncovered a med plastic tub full of socks — and then another smaller one I’d forgotten about.

        Now I wonder: shall I give up reading and blogging and start mending these approx 60 socks? Or should I toss out socks that are basically perfectly good, when half an hour of mending could put each one back in circulation? That seems so wasteful! But this collection has been accumulating for a dozen years now.

        When I hit a dither-point like this, I just shove the stuff back in the closet with a promise of “someday.” Got an answer for me?

        • This is probably tough for you because you’re “wasting” one way or the other. Darn the socks and you’re wasting time. Throw them out and you’re wasting money. By putting off the decision and not mending the socks, you may have already made your decision. So far, you haven’t wanted to waste the time. But by putting off a final decision you’re probably causing yourself stress that is far more wasteful. My advice would be to throw out the socks and move on.

          • I never thought of it in terms of having “already made the decision” but I guess you’re right. But writing about it and opening up the can of worms, as it were, I’ve come to a decision. I’m going to give them one day next month, after I get my book off to the formatter. What I get mended that day stays and what I don’t goes out. šŸ™‚

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