40 bags in 40 days: Island woman takes part in decluttering challenge

A P.E.I. woman is taking part in a challenge, which lasts for the 40 days of Lent. Participants are encouraged to declutter one area of their house a day, with the goal of finding at least one bagful of things per day to give away.

'I think maybe we're getting back to basics to lighten up our lives'

Natasha Gunn-Doiron on day 1 of this year's decluttering challenge. (Submitted by Natasha Gunn-Doiron)

Every day until Easter, Natasha Gunn Doiron is getting rid of a bag of clutter she doesn't need — with a total of 40 bags of stuff she doesn't need leaving her house.

This is the second year she's done the The 40 Bags in 40 Days Decluttering Challenge.

"I looked around my house and I thought, I have more than 40 bags and I just started," she laughed. 

"Last year I did give away more than 40 bags, I stopped counting at 40."

'Not only did I fill 2 bags (and a 1/2 of another), but I also found things that we could use and I totally forgot about!' says Natasha Gunn Doiron on day 2 of the 40 bags challenge, bringing her total to 15 bags. (Submitted by Natasha Gunn Doiron)

Examining your 'stuff'

The challenge was created by an American blogger, Ann Marie Heasley, in 2011, and has grown dramatically, with close to 50,000 people now taking part in the Facebook group. 

The challenge is connected to the 40 days of Lent, and this year runs from March 1 until April 15. The goal is to declutter one area of the house a day, collecting at least one bag of things to get rid of per day.

"The more we have simplified our life, the better it gets," writes Heasley on her blog

"It is an ongoing process and you may have to do hard work and make tough decisions. I like how 40 Bags in 40 Days gives my home a refresh. I can see what's working (and what's not working), and look at our "stuff" in a new light."

Natasha Gunn-Doiron looks for items that her family no longer uses or needs. (Submitted by Natasha Gunn-Doiron)
It's a lighter way to live when you aren't overwhelmed with stuff—Natasha Gunn Doiron

'It is life-changing'

It's an idea that has hit home for Gunn Doiron.

"I don't have that big of a house, and I am not that much of a clutterbug, but I just don't want stuff that we don't use or can't use," she explained.

For example, she and her son were just diagnosed with celiac disease so she has lots of cookie sheets and other kitchen items to give away. 

"It sounds really dramatic but it is life-changing, you feel so much lighter and your soul feels good that maybe you helped someone, and you don't need to know who it is," said Gunn Doiron.

This body pillow is being decluttered as part of the 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge. (Submitted by Natasha Gunn-Doiron)

Parting with her purses

The clothes closet, Gunn Doiron admitted, was the toughest challenge for her last year. She's an "avid thrifter" and used to bring a lot of clothes in and out of the house on a regular basis.

Last year, as part of the challenge, she substantially trimmed down her closet.

"Get rid of it, if you haven't worn it in six months," she said.

Purses are another challenge. 

"I have a love of purses and I realized I don't need three black leather purses," she said.

"So I gathered them up and kept my favourites and sent them off to women who can't have a good quality purse but need it for a new job."

'It becomes a habit'

Gunn Doiron shares her decluttering photos on social media and has had lots of positive reaction from friends, and some have even joined her in the challenge.

The challenge, she said, has changed her, far beyond the 40 days.

"There's a lot more thought into what I bring into my house and when I do bring something into the house, I do like to take something out," she said.

"It goes way past the 40 days, it becomes a habit."

She recently picked up a purse, a great deal at a bargain price, at a store.

"I walked around the store and asked myself do I need this? So I walked it back over and I put it down," she said.

"It's a lot lighter, it's a lighter way to live when you aren't overwhelmed with stuff."


Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water or in the gym rowing, or walking her dog.