Mrs Green’s ‘5 things’ challenge

Filed in Blog by on March 30, 2010 13 Comments
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She and Me - ready for our '5 things' challenge

She and Me - ready for our '5 things' challenge

I set myself and Little Miss Green a challenge on the first day of spring.

My ‘5 things’ challenge.

LMG had spent the previous day tidying her bedroom, again. We have lofty goals of spending 5 minutes a day at the end of the day tidying up in there, to keep on top of things, but you know how it is…

So every few weeks I can’t get in there, she can’t get into her bed and mountains of stuff takes over. I really don’t know where it all comes from.

As she climbed into bed that night, with freshly cut daffodils on top of her wardrobe as a treat for doing so well, she exclaimed “This is lovely. My bed is so clean!” so at least she understood what her mother’s nagging had been about all day.

I realised, however, that among the piles of tidy stuff and the massive pile of stuff for the charity shop, there would undoubtedly still be some crap in her room.

That night I took a look at my own spaces – bedroom, office and study and realised perhaps creative messes were hereditary. Although I like order, I’m not exactly minimalist or zen like, but it’s something I truly aspire to.

One of the most powerful things I’ve learned from FlyLady is to take babysteps. This can be applied to anything in life; like reducing your waste for instance or starting a new exercise routine. So I decided to apply it to mine and LMG’s ‘hereditary creative chaos’ life too.

The following morning I told her of my ‘5 things’ challenge. In it, we have to find just 5 things each day that we no longer want. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a scrap of paper or an item of furniture, but we have to get rid of 5 things.

Well she couldn’t wait! Off she went to her bedroom and hoiked out a pile of 15 things including baby clothes, barbies and yes, lots of scraps of paper. So I too went dutifully to my bedroom and pulled out 4 magazines and a book. I then figured I could do 5 things in the office (3 magazines, a small wooden, ornamental box and a dvd) and 5 things from my study (4 books and last year’s diary). I have to tell you, it was a bit addictive and wholly liberating.

On the second day I rather exceeded my ‘5 things’ and purged 31  ‘eco’ and ‘green’ magazines such as ‘Permaculture’, ‘Ethical Consumer’ and ‘Ecologist’ which I offered on Freecycle and were snapped up within 10 minutes, while LMG found more scraps of paper and a toy she had received free with a magazine.

By day three, I was actually looking forward to my ‘5 things’ challenge and dragged 2 books and 3 magazines from my bedroom, some pastels, acrylics and artists pads from my study and some rather exciting treasures from the ‘office’ – a pack of 2 rattles (bought for LMG dolls, but she’s not into dolls anymore), a pot of patchouli and jasmine cream (can’t stand either scent),  a freaky cat piggy bank, a full Victorian outfit and some florists foam, pins and tape.  LMG found a couple of toys, a pebble and the inner from a jewellery box.

I figured out that by the end of the year, by purging 5 things daily from our environment, we could each release 1425 things into the wild – yipee! know I won’t find 1425 things in my bedroom, because there is not that much in there, but I can’t wait to see my office and study by the end of 2010!

If anyone would like to join in, let me know in the comments. You can do 1 thing if you like but the ‘rule’ is that you have to rehome these things responsibly. No landfill if you please! You need to use Freecycle, give things away to friends, donate to charity shops, sell and make yourself some money or recycle.

What about you? What tricks work for you when you declutter – do you need to do the whole job in a week or are you more a babysteps person?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (13)

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  1. Sarah says:

    Little and often with the ocassional mad blitz!
    I do like the “5 a day” thing so will try that with the kids.

  2. Debbie says:

    I have been following Flylady for a while now and although I have fallen off the wagon a little recently (the decluttering wagon, not the alcoholic one)! a lot of the routines still remain and I am still more organised than I used to be. I too crave to be organised in a ‘natural’ way as opposed to letting it taking over my life so I am defintely a babysteps person! I decluttered a cupboard over the weekend and managed to donate several kids aprons to our school which are far too small for my daughter now and I still have a bag full of placemats which are a little too scruffy to donate so they are waiting patiently in the corner until I get some inspiration!

  3. Sian Lawton says:

    Wah hey Rae you have followed what I did.

    By the way if V is getting rid of any Baby dolls I coudl really do with one for my kids work!

  4. Layla says:

    Ohhh!! You had a Victorian outfit!! (Why don’t I live closer to you?!! :))

    And all those eco magazines!! 🙂

    Great challenge!! 5 things is much easier than 25+ things (I think that’s the original FlyLady number?) Still to set up Freecycle-like thing here more properly (at big waste day, they took away my neighbour’s old guitar before I was able to rescue it-??!!)

    Not promising to take up the challenge but it sure looks exciting!! (So we’ll see…!!)

  5. sandy says:

    I wish I lived nearer to you, eco mags would be brillant, also we dont have freecycle here yet. good luck with the challenge, we are down to minimum, I too have followed flylady for a while now, very liberating.

  6. Deb from Boston says:

    I’ve read Flylady a number of times, but can’t say I’ve actually managed to get through one week – but now if my sink is dirty it drives me crazy. I’m up for trying the 5 a day challenge – maybe this time I can get the whole top of my dresser cleaned off it I stick to it! Could you remind us every few weeks or so?

  7. Jen CleanBin says:

    Great idea. I am definitely more of a binge and purge tidier. We pile stuff up until we can no longer see the floor and then spend a mad afternoon organizing it. It’s not the way I WANT to be, it’s just the way it IS.

    I did read somewhere about the idea of leaving each room a tiny bit cleaner than when you entered. To that end I’ve been doing little things like wiping down the bathroom counter and changing the empty toilet rolls when I notice them.

    I also have a bad habit of “purging” things from my house and putting them into a box which then sits in the hallway waiting to go to goodwill for months on end. That is until one of my roommates gets fed up and moves it downstairs where it joins the rest of the mess in the basement. Can’t wait for nice weather when we can just put things out on the curb for pedestrians to pick up.

  8. H0gg!t says:

    I am wallowing in a very cluttered home! Not knowing where to start has been putting me off for ages. My Mum and Step Dad coming tomorrow to replace a computer in an unused room, so have been going through mountains of paperwork. Will no follow this challenge to improve our family’s environment and get ontop of it all, thanks Mrs Green very, very much!

  9. Mrs Green says:

    @Sarah: talking of which, I need to send LMG to her room to tidy for 10 minutes.

    @Debbie: sounds like you are doing wonderfully, Debbie. I too fell off the flylady wagon many times, but some of the things that are important to you stick, as you have shown. Well done on a great achievement this week!

    @Sian Lawton: I’ll sort out the dolls and let you know Sian!

    @Layla: Go on, sign up! You procrastinate at most things, so this will do you good LOL!

    @sandy: Sounds wonderful that you are down to minimal stuff. I can’t wait to feel like that!

    @Deb from Boston: How is that dresser looking today? I will try and post up reminders; it would be good to check in with people to see how they are doing. Thanks for the idea!

    @H0gg!t: Oh no, H0gg!t, not knowing where to start is just horrible. How did you get on, did you manage to knock a hole in a pile of clutter?

  10. Alyson says:

    Thought I would have a go at the 5 things a day and see how I got on. Day 1 I got rid of 5 little plastic cap things that come off my husband’s diabetic pump.Afraid I had to put them in the bin,shame.I don’t know why but he always leaves them lying around and he’s usually such a tidy chap, it’s me who’s the messy one. Gave me a sense of satisfaction , ha ha ha.Day 2, well what can I say. I did go slightly over the top. I emptied 5 bins onto my kitchen floor and spent an hour,before the family were up, sorting it all out. Put about 2/3 of it in the wheelie bin.Had to put the wheelie bin out for collection on my husband’s orders, but it was 12 weeks worth.If I got my youngest daughter to jump around in there I reckon I could have got another 2 weeks worth.Day 3, the candle snuffer is back on the welsh dresser.Shall have to go and find another 4 items.I am going to take really tiny baby steps though, such alot to go through.

  11. Mrs Green says:

    @Alyson: Hi Alyson, what a brilliant start – well done you. Yes, there is a lot to get through but it feels more manageable if it’s broken down into the tiny steps. I had a few days off from the challenge (and I kept forgetting to get cardboard boxes when out and about to put things in for the charity shop which was annoying). I’m raring to get back on track tomorrow though 😉
    Keep up the great work!

  12. Diz says:

    I’ll see what I can do to join in

  13. Mrs Green says:

    @Diz: Great news Diz – remember, you can start with just one thing per day if you want to – baby steps!

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