Declutter Like a Mother

Organized Shelves

Has clutter taken over your house? Do you feel the need to straighten the mess? Mandy Watts took on the Declutter Like a Mother Challenge after a discouraging attempt to declutter on her own. Learn how it works.

Want to sign up for the 2021 Challenge? Head to to sign up for the Facebook challenge, which starts on January 1.

January 22, 2020: with Mandy Watts

Janet Jefferson (00:14):
Welcome to Third Floor Views where we at Chesapeake Family Life talk about health, education and living with kids. I’m your host, Janet Jefferson. Today we are talking with Mandy Watts. Mandy is the author of Mommy Daze, a blog featured in Chesapeake Family Life. She is mother of three and co-owner of Happy Tails Pet Resort. She has taken on the Declutter Like a Mother challenge. So first off, Mandy, can you just tell us a little bit about yourself and your hopes and dreams in terms of organization and where you fall along the clutter spectrum.

Mandy Watts (00:48):
I definitely dislike clutter, obviously. I joined a declutter challenge. I am unapologetically an ‘A’ personality. I love my bins and my labels and my color coding. As we were talking about before, I have a very sweet husband who built me an organizer for my bins for Christmas. That shows a little bit about my style and that I do love some organization.

Janet Jefferson (01:21):
That’s awesome. What is this Declutter Like a Mother challenge and what exactly does it entail?

Mandy Watts (01:28):
Declutter Like a Mother is a free two week long decluttering challenge. It’s hosted by Allie Casazza. She does it through this private online Facebook group, and I was actually looking at how many people were in this group and it’s over 45,000 currently. It’s a lot of people and a lot of different kinds of people all coming together to declutter their home. She does this every January, she posts a new video every day explaining what areas we’re going to be decluttering, and this year particularly, she’s focused in on four areas: the bathroom, the kitchen, our clothes, and our kid’s clothes. Every day you log into this group and you watch the video where she reiterates the rules of the challenge. She has a lot of input and a lot of tips and great advice, but some of the things that I really enjoyed with this particular challenge is the number one rule is being a ruthless editor. And what that means is when you’re starting to declutter and you’re looking at everything you have, you start asking yourself: when was the last time I used this item? How many of these do I actually need? That’s a little tough sometimes when you’re going through your things. Once you look at everything and you decide, yes, this is what I’m going to keep, this isn’t, you start sorting that into three sections. She talks about having a section of things you are going to keep, things you’re going to throw away and things that you’re going to donate. She also has some rules about how long you’re going to spend decluttering. For this particular challenge, she wants us to only spend 30 minutes a day and even set a timer if you need to, which I definitely need to do that.

Janet Jefferson (03:21):
30 minutes is not much time. Has that been a challenge?

Mandy Watts (03:25):
It definitely has been a challenge, but it’s really one of the main reasons I decided to do this challenge because I know my personality and I tend to go down this rabbit hole of decluttering and think to myself “Oh now that it’s clean, how should I organize it? Or maybe it shouldn’t even be here in the first place. Let’s move it to a whole different room.” And next thing you know, I really haven’t done anything right. I knew this was for me because it forces you to just spend that 30 minutes and then walk away because you know you’re going to come back to it tomorrow. And the one rule that has really spoken to me, she talks about progress over perfection. Again, being an ‘A’ personality, I like things done perfectly and from start to finish. So this idea of just being okay with the progress and not being so focused on the perfection has been really awesome for this particular challenge. She talks about all kinds of other things that I’m definitely missing, but those were some of the main aspects of this challenge that I really liked so far.

Janet Jefferson (04:31):
Gotcha. Yeah, it is important to remember that a little bit moving forward is better than thinking a lot about it but not doing anything about it. It is for me personally too easy to get bogged down and in the thought of it all. How did you hear about this challenge?

Mandy Watts (04:49):
I have a friend of mine, she is a health and wellness nurse coach and she was telling me about Allie Casazza and how this idea of decluttering can actually be good for us physically, mentally, emotionally. There are so many benefits to decluttering your life. She was telling me and a couple of other mom friends about it and we all decided let’s just do it starting on the 1st of January, let’s all go in together. There are four of us and we all decided to do it together. I had not heard about it before she introduced me.

Janet Jefferson (05:25):
Is it something that someone could jump on midway or any time of year or is it something that it’s just happening at the beginning of January and you have to wait until next year if you missed the beginning.

Mandy Watts (05:37):
She does this two week challenge in the first week of January. But I have seen quite a few people jumping in throughout, so it’s still going on for another week and a half so anyone can jump in. But I think this particular challenge she does just do at the beginning of the year. If you go to her website, she has courses, she has other ways you can declutter. But this is I think the only free two week challenge she does once a year.

Janet Jefferson (06:08):
You can also learn about it and sort of implement it yourself. You just wouldn’t necessarily have the Facebook community of 40,000 other people doing it with you. Why are you excited about this in particular?

Mandy Watts (06:25):
I have three lovely children. I have two older boys, ages eight and six and then I have a one year old baby girl. My house is a little crazy, to say the least. And last year having a new baby, I got into that nesting mode. But then I said this is the year I’m going to just get my house in order. And what happened was I would go down these rabbit holes. I would look at a room in my house or an area and think, I’m going to go in, I’m going to declutter, but then I’m also going to donate. Or maybe I’ll sell something or maybe this friend needs it. Or wait, now I have to organize it. What kind of bins should I use? And then I would spend two hours looking at reviews on Amazon. It just didn’t go very far for me last year and that was really discouraging. And I ended last year very overwhelmed and discouraged. So I’m excited about this challenge because honestly, in this first week of this year, I have done more decluttering than I did in the entirety of last year. And it’s pretty intense because I’ve been trying to do this for eight years since I’ve had children. It’s been awesome. I’m really excited.

Janet Jefferson (07:46):
There are so many different cleanup methods and theories out there right now. I did a little bit of research. I know Marie Kondo is really big with her “Art of Tidying Up.” Why Allie Casazza? What about her two-week challenges is so appealing?

Mandy Watts (08:07):
I think it really was the strictness of it. It was that 30 minutes a day and you’re pretty much going to do what she’s telling you to do. And again, maybe it’s that ‘A’ personality but I like order. I like a step-by-step and I love Marie Kondo, don’t get me wrong, I totally binge watched her Netflix shows when my baby girl was little and she’s a game changer for sure. I now do all of the kids’ clothes in that folding method that she uses and I love it. I really didn’t think that was going to stick, I thought my kids were just going to open the drawer and it was going to be over. But no, they actually keep it that way and it works great.

Janet Jefferson (08:53):
How old are your boys?

Mandy Watts (08:55):
Eight and six.

Janet Jefferson (08:56):
Listeners out there, an eight and a six year old can handle it.

Mandy Watts (09:01):
Even my eight year old wanted to know how to fold his shirts like that. I love that idea and I love some of her philosophy, but it was kind of vague and generic with phrases like “Oh you can do this.” And I thought no, I need someone to tell me: go under your bathroom sink, pull this out and throw it away. That’s kind of what I needed to keep going. And that’s what Allie Casazza does in this particular challenge. She says, you are only going to be working in the kitchen today for your 30 minutes and here are some challenges you might come up with. And so it was just a little bit more narrow for me, which is why I really like it.

Janet Jefferson (09:51):
So how is it going? It sounds good overall. What are your thoughts on it?

Mandy Watts (09:57):
It’s going so good. I am so happy with it. Like I said, I’ve done more decluttering already than I did all of last year. Maybe it’s the momentum, maybe it’s the community, the fact that I have friends who were sending each other before and after pictures and we’re accountable. Accountability is a big one and again, it comes down to fact that I’m a mom of three, I have kids that I have to get to and from school and afterschool activities, 30 minutes a day is kind of the magic number and really been working well. I personally found that when I put baby girl down for her nap that first 30 minutes I don’t do anything else. I go right to the area I need to do that day. I set my timer on my phone, I work on it and when the timer goes off, I am done. In that aspect it’s been going really, really well. But I also haven’t finished some areas too. And I’m feeling okay with that because when when I tried to do these big projects and see them from start to finish, it was hard when I had to walk away from it. And now I walk away from it knowing, wow, look at all I did in 30 minutes. I can totally come back to this tomorrow or next week and finish it. For example, my pantry. I have a walk in pantry and it’s been a mess and I’ve tried the bins, I’ve tried different things. But again, three kids, it’s a mess. And so the first day of the kitchen decluttering, I spent my 30 minutes literally just doing the first shelf of my pantry. It was a lot of throwing things out that were expired or deciding do we really need eight different kinds of cereal and stuff like that. Once that was out of there and I see what I’m left with, it’s so inspiring and encouraging to come back and keep doing it. It was hard that first day when that alarm went off and I thought, I’m on a roll, I want to keep going, but I stopped. And that was good because then the next day, I went right back to it.

Janet Jefferson (12:13):
You don’t feel bogged down and disheartened.

Mandy Watts (12:15):
Disheartened, no. I didn’t do it and now I have to live with it. But now every time I walk in there and I see the rest of the shelves that are still cluttered that’s encouraging for me to come back to it and finish.

Janet Jefferson (12:27):
After your two weeks are up, can you go back to the projects that you feel like you didn’t get to?

Mandy Watts (12:39):
Absolutely. And she encourages sticking to the 30 minutes. But I know that there’s other people in the challenge aren’t being that strict about it. They are spending more time, but for me, the 30 minutes fits into my schedule. I’m good with it. I was telling my husband, this is going to be my new routine. I will put the baby down for her nap and then I will spend 30 minutes decluttering something. And he said, well, what happens when there’s nothing to declutter? And I said, well, the kids will be graduated from college. There will always be something that needs decluttering. I think this is a great routine. I will keep it my daily repertoire.

Janet Jefferson (13:24):
How would you define decluttering? Is that the same as picking up or cleaning? How are these things different?

Mandy Watts (13:32):
Good question. I struggled with that too in the beginning. I had my wonderful friend hold me accountable. Decluttering is literally just taking out what you don’t need. She had you either put it in a throw away pile or a donate pile. Then what you’re left with is what you can come back later to organize or move. Decluttering is literally just the act of getting rid of what you don’t need. Allie Casazza is big on minimalism and she talks a lot about being that ruthless editor because we really don’t need a lot of what we have. And so once you declutter, meaning you get rid of this excess, you’re left with a great feeling and a better outlook on what you really need for your family. I think there’s probably a lot more to declutter, but what I’ve taken out of this challenge is that it’s not go organize it now, go find a perfect bin or storage unit for it. That’s what I want to do and I’m chomping at the bit to do that, but I know that this is a great place to start and when I do go to organize, I’ll have less to organize. Win-Win.

Janet Jefferson (14:56):
What do you think has been the easiest aspect of this challenge for you?

Mandy Watts (15:02):
Throwing stuff away. I’m very good at throwing things away and so it’s really been easy to go in the areas that she’s picked for us during this challenge (the kitchen, the bathroom and the clothes). That’s been easy for me to go in and say, this is done. Don’t need it. It’s out. I’m not one of those people who gets really attached to things. So for me, that’s been an easy aspect of it.

Janet Jefferson (15:40):
What about the hardest aspect?

Mandy Watts (15:42):
The hardest aspect has really been, even though I just said it’s easy to throw things away, I’m learning that it’s easy to throw things away that is something that I use or something that the family uses. But when it’s something my kids use, I’m struggling a little bit.

Janet Jefferson (16:02):
Interesting. Why do you think that is?

Mandy Watts (16:03):
For instance, I was doing the bathroom one day and I went through things under the sinks, no problem. I threw stuff out, even on top of the sinks, like my own makeup and hair supplies. No problem. Got rid of things. It was really when I sat down and started going through the kid’s bath toys and I thought this will be easy because some of these are yucky and they’re old. I can trash a lot of this stuff. But then I found this little Thomas the Train tugboat that my eight year old used to play with when he was one year old and I sat there almost kind of frozen in this memory of him and I realized that I’ve been holding onto this memory and I just hadn’t mourned the fact that he has grown up and that he doesn’t sit in the bathtub anymore and play with this toy. I think I’m realizing that that’s where my challenge is with decluttering is that I do put that emotional connection on things that my kids play with and are fond of. When I get to their toys and their rooms, I think I’m going to have to give myself some grace there and realize that’s probably going to take maybe a little bit longer than 30 minutes.

Janet Jefferson (17:22):
That brings up a really interesting idea of this self realization that happens as you’re decluttering and you’re realizing you are struggling with some things that you didn’t even realize I you were struggling with. Does the Allie Casazza page or any place else that you’ve come across, maybe even a network of friends provide any support or suggestions for when we have those big ‘aha’ moments? Maybe it’s realizing that I really do need bins and I need to figure out what bins to get, who has good suggestions for that? Or I realized that I’m struggling with the sentimentality of certain objects so how do I move past this? Does she offer any suggestions?

Mandy Watts (18:02):
She definitely does. She has resources but for this challenge, she keeps it simple. She posts a video telling you what to do. But then she also does two other posts in the Facebook group. One is just for that, for comments and for the members of this group to share with each other the struggles they’re having or the victories and resources that they have found. And then the third post she does just for before and after pictures. That was neat to watch in this group. She didn’t do that at the very beginning. The first day or two it was a free for all. Everyone could post. You had 45,000 people all sharing their pictures and their challenges. And I think it got out of hand really quick. And so within a couple of days she really made it more concise. So that’s been kind of nice. For instance, when I was having this struggle, I could easily go to that post for that day and I could have shared and said, Hey, I’m having some trouble here. Anyone else have trouble with this? Or how do you all organize your kid’s bath toys? And I’m sure I would have found plenty of resources and ideas. For me though, I tend to just go to the closest people around me, my friends and my mom friends who I trust. And so for me that’s been my outlet. And so that day that I was just sitting there on the floor looking at this tug boat thinking, why can’t I throw this away? I immediately used the Marco polo app and I shot a video of it and sent it to my mom friends, and I said this is so pathetic, I can’t throw this away! And you know, I get that encouragement and it was really nice to have that. But there’s so much out there. And I know Allie Casazza has a lot of specific courses and podcasts and things that touch on that particular aspect of decluttering. Because I get it. It’s real. The struggle is real.

Janet Jefferson (20:10):
Yeah, it definitely is. But this sounds like it could actually be fairly sustainable, particularly the 30 minutes a day aspect. Do you think it will stick? If I asked you in a month, if I asked you in three months, maybe even a year, do you think this is something that you will be revisiting?

Mandy Watts (20:28):
Absolutely. And that I think is why I haven’t really jumped into some of these challenges because I am a little skeptical about most of them. I didn’t think that Marie Kondo folding thing was going to stick at all. But you don’t know until you try. Right? So for me, yes, I think this is definitely going to stick because it’s that small increments progress over perfection, just doing what you can but making it a priority. I realized the first couple of days I thought I’ll just do it whenever I get the chance. But then I realized, no, that’s not going to happen. My toddler is completely thwarting my efforts here as I’m making my piles. She’s moving them all over the room. I realized I have to do it right when I put her down for a nap. And set that timer so that I can still do everything else that we moms do. I know that the failure aspect of doing this before was because I would spent a whole day trying to get this done and next thing you know the laundry is too piled up or everything just falls behind. So if you do it in little bits, it really is sustainable.

Janet Jefferson (21:50):
Does the whole family need to be involved? You are a family of five, that’s a lot of people under one roof and you’re only one person. Do you feel like this is something that works if you’re doing just you alone or do you really need to get everyone else involved?

Mandy Watts (22:10):
She (Allie Casazza) definitely talks about that in the beginning of the challenge, which was helpful. But I would say it depends on the family for sure. I like doing this kind of stuff on my own, I’m a little bit of a control freak when it comes to that. But I do realize that it’s important to at least talk to your family about it beforehand. They started seeing the boxes coming out and the trash bags and they got a little panicky. I think it’s important to know your family, know the ages of your kids, who is really going to benefit from being a part of this and maybe who isn’t. Right at the beginning I sat down with my husband and we talked about some of the challenges I thought were going to come up. And I said to him, I don’t want to be the bad guy in the situation. And my husband is a very different personality, had a different childhood growing up. He is much more sentimental about things and he’ll agree that he doesn’t throw away anything. And so I said, I don’t want you and the kids to be against me, but I also don’t want to get rid of something that I shouldn’t get rid of. That was an important conversation for us to have. I also think it depends on the area that you’re decluttering. My kids really could care less what’s under their bathroom sink, that was not a big thing for them. But now thinking about when we go to do their toys or their clothes, I definitely want to bring them in on that. So one, I think that they will learn the value of what they have, but then the enjoyment of getting to donate things that they aren’t playing with anymore or that they had their time with it and they’ve outgrown it, it’s time to give that to someone that could enjoy it. We do tend to do that in our family, usually before birthdays or holidays, because I know that there’s going to be a lot coming in and so we try to move some stuff out. This whole 30 minutes I think would be great for the kids too because they can get bogged down just like we do. So if they’re in there looking through their toys and I have a timer go off, then we see how what and how we did. Now it’s time to take it to the donation center and be done with it. It definitely depends on the family.

Janet Jefferson (24:31):
Well, it sounds like a really exciting challenge and it sounds like it’s going really well so far. I wish you the best of luck for the following week or so, and then hopefully it sticks in a really positive way.

Mandy Watts (24:44):
I think it will and I’m excited and I think it’s definitely something any mom could really benefit from, for sure.

Janet Jefferson (24:52):
Awesome. Thank you for coming in and sharing it all with us. We love to hear your thoughts, comments, and questions. If you enjoyed what you heard today, check out more at I’m Janet Jefferson. This is Third Floor Views. Thank you for listening.