I Tried the “Snowball Method” and It Completely Changed the Way I Declutter

published Feb 15, 2024
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dresser drawer before snowball method of organizing process
Credit: Shifrah Combiths

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions — mostly because I don’t want to create big goals without a roadmap for getting there. I know that the roadmap often consists of small, daily choices that, with consistency, form habits. So near the beginning of January, you won’t find me announcing major goals, but rather considering some intentions for the upcoming year. 

Quick Overview

What Is the Snowball Method for Decluttering?

The snowball method for decluttering involves a deliberate awareness about why you decide to get rid of something and then using that reason to eliminate more things that fit the criteria. When you choose to declutter, ask yourself: “What is it about this item that makes me want to declutter it?”

But this doesn’t mean that I don’t dive headfirst into whatever the fresh-start energy of the new year inspires me to take on. More often than not, just like so many others, the new year’s turned page has me wanting to go on a major decluttering spree. 

As I often do when a decluttering urge strikes, I turned my attention to my closet and dresser. My clothing needs to be decluttered regularly, and even though I got rid of a bunch of items after getting a color analysis done last year, it was time for another session. 

I decided to implement a new strategy, the snowball method, which I learned about from Jennifer Burger of Simply + Fiercely. Other sources advocate for a version of the snowball method that echoes the debt snowball method (starting with the smallest decluttering task and working your way up to the biggest one). This is somewhat similar to the ski slope method, which involves breaking up a messy space into sections and gliding from one to the next. I’ve also enjoyed practicing completing household tasks that are triggered by other household occurrences, resulting in a kind of “snowball” effect

Credit: Shifrah Combiths

But this snowball method is different. Burger explains that the snowball method involves a deliberate awareness about why you decide to get rid of something and then using that reason to get rid of more things that fit that criteria. Burger puts it this way in an Instagram post on the topic: “Before you get rid of it, pause and ask yourself this question: What is it about this item that makes me want to declutter it? (Be as specific as possible.) … Then … look for other items that meet the same criteria.” 

Approaching my wardrobe decluttering session with the snowball method kept me surprisingly focused and made the whole process go more quickly. Rather than handling each item individually and mining each reaction to make an ultimate decision piece by piece, the snowball method encouraged me to harness the power of one decision to get rid of multiple items. 

For example, as I was decluttering my shirts, when I came across the first striped shirt that I had hesitation about, I realized that I didn’t want it because it didn’t fit the “soft” part of my soft autumn color profile (the stripes were too stark) and for that reason, I hadn’t reached for it or worn it in a year! While I’d previously decided to keep the top because I liked how it felt and the cut, I found out over the course of the year that I always opted for other tops. That striped shirt had to go, and I could also get rid of all the other shirts with the same characteristics.

Credit: Shifrah Combiths

After realizing that I was no longer wearing stark stripes, I asked myself whether I also wasn’t wearing other items I’d kept that didn’t fit my color profile. It turns out that this was the case and I was able to purge even more items. Now I’m not advocating getting rid of all clothes that don’t fit into your color season; I’m just sharing that I realized that I wasn’t reaching for these items and that this criteria could help me whittle my wardrobe down even more to items I felt truly good in. My previous color season-informed purge helped me get rid of items I didn’t like anyway, but this one allowed me to get rid of items that I did like objectively, but not for me. The best part was that the snowball method allowed me to eliminate whole categories of items at once, based on one realization and decision. 

Allowing a thought process and reasoning to inform far more than just one decision about one item of clothing completely supercharged this year’s decluttering efforts. Not only did I save time and energy by not having to reinvent the decision-making wheel as I considered each item individually, but I was also more confident than ever in my decisions to get rid of each category. This is because the method caused me to consider my reasoning more thoroughly than any other decluttering strategy. 

The snowball method has proven to be a powerful tool in my decluttering arsenal and I can’t wait to use it in more spaces around the house in 2024.

This article originally published on Apartment Therapy. See it there: I Tried the “Snowball Method” and It Completely Changed the Way I Declutter