I tried the 12:12:12 decluttering challenge and I'm never looking back

The results had me pleasantly surprised...

Wooden dresser with artwork leaning, decorative home decor items
(Image credit: Future PLC)

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a new decluttering method to help me keep on top of storage and organisation as much as the next person, but admittedly they never tend to stick. Why? You may ask. Well, it's because they're not realistic.

If you've got a huge decluttering checklist you're trying to work through but are finding it hard to clean because you feel overwhelmed, let me tell you now that what you need are go-to easy and attainable decluttering methods.

One of my favourite organisation methods I've tried is the tidy toss, and I can safely say that I've kept that in my Sunday reset routine since. However, I think I might've just found another method to add to my decluttering arsenal.

Enter, the 12:12:12 decluttering challenge.

Blue fluted dressers in bedroom alcove, decorated with personal items and home decor

(Image credit: Future PLC)

What is the 12:12:12 decluttering challenge?

The 12:12:12 decluttering challenge was created by Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist, whereby the challenge-based task entails locating 12 items to throw, 12 to donate, and 12 to be returned to their proper home.

'That's it,' writes Josh. 'Repeat if desired.' (And I did indeed, desire).

Commenting on the decluttering method, Amanda Biggs, APDO's membership director and founder of Professionally Organised says, 'The 12:12:12 method can be a great way to kickstart your decluttering project.'

'Breaking down the task into manageable steps with a defined beginning and end will always help you to feel less overwhelmed. This simple formula can be repeated as often as you have the energy to complete it.'

How I tried the 12:12:12 decluttering challenge at home

Artwork hung above white and cane dresser decorated with houseplant and decorative objects

(Image credit: Future PLC)

I've been meaning to tackle the mammoth task of organising my wardrobe and my dresser for a while now and I'll be so honest, it just hasn't been touched at all. However, trying out the 12:12:12 decluttering challenge was the incentive I needed to finally break the ice.

I created three piles: items that weren't in their rightful place, items to throw, and items to donate; and thus began my personal 12:12:12 decluttering challenge.

Wooden dresser with artwork leaning, decorative home decor items

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles)

It was actually pretty easy to return more than 12 items back to their rightful place (I've been taking cluttercore a little too literally nowadays).

For the second pile, I've been receiving a lot of packages this month, and I keep forgetting to bring the boxes out to the bins so they've just been accumulating in my small bedroom. So, finding 12 items to throw was easy. In fact, I had even more. At that point, it almost looked like I was partaking in the 'move out' decluttering method.

Admittedly, I was a little short in the last department as I haven't been living in my London flat for long. However, with autumn on the horizon, I did store my seasonal clothes in a separate storage box and am planning to send them back with my parents when they next visit me. So, I consider those items 'donated' for the time being.

Rattan and white wardrobe and petal cane armchair

(Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young)

Before I knew it, I had handled over 36 different items in my room and I was feeling a million times lighter already. To finish off the challenge, I threw all my 'kept' items into new SKUBB boxes I had just bought from IKEA as an ode to the tidy toss method and I was set.

Therefore, I'd consider the 12:12:12 decluttering challenge a success! I find that challenge-based tasks, similar to the 10-minute declutter, help keep me focused on the task at hand and cleaning becomes enjoyable rather than feeling like a chore.

Dark wood dresser unit with mirror, books, and houseplant, artwork hung above

(Image credit: Future PLC/Bee Holmes)

On the flip side, if you feel like 12 items for each category feels like a lot, Siân Pelleschi, president of APDO and founder of Sorted! suggests 'reducing the number by half and starting there.'

'Ultimately, if you find the rule gives you focus and purpose then you’ve got nothing to lose!' adds Gillian Gudgeon, APDO member and founder of Restore the Calm.

'Just don't be bound by the rules and if you end up achieving 10-2-15, then it's still a win!' 

Jullia Joson
Junior Writer

Jullia Joson is Ideal Home’s Junior Writer. She’s always loved all things homes and interiors, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Architectural Studies from the University of Nottingham in 2022. Previously, she was an Intern Editor for ArchDaily. Now focused on news stories, Jullia can be found down the TikTok and Pinterest rabbit hole scrolling through any new and upcoming trends, hacks, and home inspiration.