Why you should try the 12:12:12 decluttering challenge this weekend

It may be my favourite method yet...

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

Most people aren't strict minimalists or extreme hoarders, but simply love their 'stuff', so finding a decluttering method that allows you to keep your favourite bits but move on the mess is the dream. Enter, the 12:12:12 decluttering challenge.

The problem with a lot of decluttering advice is that they're hard to stick to, and not entirely realistic for the average person, so if you've got a huge decluttering checklist you're trying to work through then what you need are go-to easy and attainable solutions.

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 the 12:12:12 decluttering challenge may have just toppled it off its post.

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 and it boils down to 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, like myself, you're likely to find that you do indeed desire to repeat).

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

'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

Desk in front of panelled wall with shelf

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

I've been meaning to tackle the mammoth tasks of organising my wardrobe and dresser for a while now, but it always keeps getting pushed to the bottom of my list. So trying out the 12:12:12 decluttering challenge was the incentive I needed to get going.

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).

Finding 12 items to throw away was easy as I simply headed to the stack of opened boxes from packages I've received recently. 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 at first glance, so I went through my stored seasonal clothes and (just about!) found 12 items from the winter that were either trends I'm unlikely to revisit or pieces that are well loved, but no longer necessary.

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 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.

All in all I would 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.

White kitchen with blue and green pieces on floating shelf

(Image credit: Future PLC/Douglas Gibb)

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 a Junior Writer at Ideal Home. She's always loved all things homes and interiors, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Architectural Studies from the University of Nottingham where her love for journalism blossomed following her internship at ArchDaily. Now focused on home tech, Jullia works on writing features and explainers to help people make the most of their home appliance investments. When she isn't writing, she loves exploring the city, coffee shop hopping, and losing hours to a cosy game.