throw out 100 things challenge

ThrowOut100ThingsChallenge I’m having an informal Chicago meet-up for dinner/drinks on Monday, July 21st @ 7:00pm — at one of my favorite spots in Lincoln Park!  If you would like to attend, please RSVP by emailing me at jess(at) by Sunday, July 20th.   : ) 

With the movers coming in less than two weeks(!), rather than packing, I’ve spent the last week focused on exfoliating items I don’t want to take with me to Austin. Though moving may never be a “simple affair,” having less stuff means less boxes. Less hassle. Less packing time. Less cost. Just less. So, this weekend I did what I always do: I did a Throw Out 100 110+ Things Challenge. To be honest, this is only a portion of the items that I exfoliated this weekend – and it does not include the art or furniture we are also selling (including our dining table, dining chairs, brown vintage living room chairs, black dresser, pink Be Present print, hot pink masking tape art, gold and white floral canvases, and metal counter stools). In addition, many items photographed below represent a larger exfoliation of multiple items. For example, I exfoliated many extra hangers, items of food, pinecones, and cans of paint than photographed. But you can get the idea from the pictures below. Now, let’s chat about how to can create your own 100 Things Challenge.

The Throw Out 100 Things Challenge


Going through our stuff and identifying what we don’t need, use, or love is a lot like giving our home a facial.

Plus, regular exfoliations control clutter and highlight what we don’t want to acquire in the future.

Though the term “throw out” is in the challenge title, I trash as little as possible. Most items are donated, recycled, and passed on to someone new.

I believe that each item as has its own “life cycle” independent of our lives. We are simply the stewards for our items as long as we need, use, or love them. After that time has passed, it is our responsibility to take the items someplace where they can be used and appreciated again.

That said, I’m also a big proponent of the ventilator test: If you suddenly died, and your loved ones had to deal with your stuff, would they toss it out?

If so, don’t keep clutter because you are sad to see it go in the trash. It will go there eventually. Don’t let it stress you out in the meantime.

Simply bring more awareness to future purchases.

Here’s a peek at some of what I exfoliated (mostly donated):


11to20 21to30 31to40 41to50 51to60 61to70 71to80 81to90 91to100 100to110



If you are thinking about doing your own 100 Things Challenge, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Set an intention. No surprise here, right? One great place to start is to create an intention for your wardrobe and home that can help guide your exfoliation choices and shape your environment according to your vision.

2. Try to “batch” items as much as possible. For example, I batched several instruction manuals (#37) and three workout tanks (#92) as single items. Batching really helps you make significant progress.

3. Take photos of emotionally important items. Sometimes we keep items we don’t need, use, or love because they are tied to a memory we are afraid we might forget. Rather than save the item itself, take a photo (or make a video!) and create a memory book so the memory stays and the clutter goes.

4. Box it. If you are unsure about some items, put them in a box and mark it with a date 1-3 months out. If you haven’t thought about or needed the items in the box by the marked date, donate the unopened box.

5. Test travel size products first. When trying new products use samples or purchase mini-sizes first. I did this with some hair products in my last exfoliation which I ended up hating. Because I bought the little sizes first, I saved a bunch of money, product, and packaging.

6. Check your condiments and medicines. A great place to look for exfoliations is to go through your condiments and medicines and find expired items, like the vitamin C mixes in exfoliation #89 and old dog medications in #78.

7. Observe trends. Once you have done one or two 100 Things Challenges, you’ll start to notice trends in the exfoliations. What brands are you consistently throwing away? Why? Let these observations educate your future purchases.


Exfoliations, whether they are challenges like this or smaller routines, like The End of the Week Exfoliation, are a great way to control clutter, bring joy to others, and optimize the use and lifespan of the stuff in our lives.

If you do this challenge and blog about it, please send me a link so I can check it out!




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  1. Sara Frandina

    Jess – this is GREAT! We recently moved, and I wish I had done this prior to the move, instead of now. But it still feels awesome when we do a major declutter of a room and rid ourselves of several boxes. One question – where do you donate most of your items to? I have a great place for my clothes, but am at a loss when it comes to things like textbooks, home goods, etc. Do you have any recommendations? (I’m in NY, but I’ll take any suggestions that might spawn some ideas!)

    1. I am lucky in that we have a Brown Elephant here that takes all sorts of things – books, home goods, furniture, clothing, accessories, etc. So we just do one big drop off each time. Perhaps there is a salvation army or something similar in New York you could try?

      1. Sara Frandina

        Thanks! I’ll do some research. We definitely have at least one Salvation Army. 🙂

  2. Jennifer Snyder

    Oh man…. I’ve been going through my closet this week and have a PILE of items ready to donate/sell. I might just need to go through the cupboards as well to see if I can hit the 100 mark. Thanks for the inspiration, Jess!

    1. Have fun with it! I hope it goes well. And remember, the more you can batch similar items, the more progress and editing you can do. : )

  3. I was just thinking that we need to do “one of Jess’s 100 Things Challenges” in preparation for our August move! Great inspiration, and I’ll send along the link when I blog about it soon!

    1. Yay! I hope you have fun with it. It can be quite liberating to find all the things you don’t have to pack and take with you!

  4. SEM

    Jess, I wanted to make an observation from a reader’s perspective. This post seems monumental in some ways….like I’ve seen you come full circle. When I began following your blog (then) Make Under My Life, I would complete the “end of the week exfoliation” with you. I always looked forward to the throw out challenge! As I looked through your toss/donate/recycle items this round, it truly seems like you’ve embraced the amazing things that Chicago could offer you and you are ready to move forward to your next chapter. Seeing your Jess LC bags and your Be Present print in this “throw out” mix made me feel a little sentimental because you’ve shared your career/relationship/life journey with all of us. I realize these items are just “things” but they also represent where you’ve been and who you’ve become. I remember you debuting your bags, you meeting Mr. Lively, your shop closing, and you finding your true intention. Thanks for letting us see you grow, it has reminded me of how much I’ve grown too. 🙂

    1. Aw, this is so wonderful to read, SEM!! I remember doing those exfoliations with you, too!

      I also knew that the bags being in the exfoliation pictures may raise some eye brows since I worked so hard on them and love the designs to this day. So I honestly thought about not sharing them in the pics, not to disappoint some longtime readers. But the truth is that those bags are lovely, and also a little worn and dirty… I was keeping them purely for sentimental reasons and really, I have tons of photos and lookbooks of those bags to refer back to whenever I like! So I decided to leave them in the exfoliation and I have donated them in hopes that someone may come along and give them a new life, even though they are less than pristine at this point.

      BUT, I think you might have talked me into keeping my Be Present print. I’ve kept the Just Keep Going I have, too, but was thinking about passing on or selling the Be Present since it won’t have a spot in the new place (most likely). However, once we get a home after this rental home, maybe it will work!

      So thanks for being with me on this journey and for even helping me hold onto the Be Present when I wasn’t planning on it!

      1. SEM

        Jess- I promise I wasn’t trying to get you to keep anything (but of course, I won’t suggest the contrary either…lol). I was sentimental for personal reasons and actually really impressed at how strong and wise you are. My gut reaction was “whoa, she’s getting rid of the bags!” but my next thought was, “good for her!” Talk about the ultimate lesson in practicing what you preach. You are an excellent teacher in intentional living. You know when something has served its purpose and you are comfortable when it’s time to move forward. I really admire you for that, Jess. This year I completed my Doctorate and it hasn’t really sunk in. Oddly enough, your toss out/exfoliation reminded me of that journey and how truly proud I am of my own steps forward. You rock, Jess Lively! Austin has big plans for you….I can feel it!

        1. Congratulations on the Doctorate! That is huge!! I hope it begins to sink in with you over time. : )

          You should be proud!!

  5. I love this! I try to purge my closet every 3-4 months and I am always encouraging my friends to get rid of things they don’t need but I’ve never intentionally done it in my whole apartment. I am going to get on it this month, thanks for this! 🙂

  6. I definitely did the same thing when I moved in May, but I just didn’t remember to document it. I dropped off bag after bag of items to salvation army and it felt SO good. I walked into a new place with just what I needed. Nothing more, nothing less. So excited for your move!

    1. Yes! You did a great job with that. How is the apartment coming? Is it starting to feel like home yet?

  7. Danielle

    This is such a great idea. I need to do this, like, TODAY. Our apartment feels extremely cluttered, which can be a distracting since I work from home!

    1. Yay! I hope you get a chance to do a good exfoliation soon. It feels so nice, like getting a facial… for your apartment. : )

  8. We just did a MAJOR exfoliation in preparation for our move and I’m already looking forward to letting more go once we’ve put away all the essentials. I’m sure a few things that could move on to a new home (not ours!) snuck their way into the keep pile 😉 I’m excited to share your particular phrasing with my mother in law-I think it will really help her let go of a few things that have been lingering far too long.

    Your exfoliation is going to make some people VERY happy-totally some good stuff there! They’re going to feel like they stumbled on treasure. It’s nice to be able to make someones day by letting go of these things!

    1. Lol!

      I hope that the conversation with your Mother-in-Law goes well!

      And yes, I hope that people that find these things at the Brown Elephant enjoy them. I like shopping there for home goods, too, so it’s an awesome cycle. : )

  9. I live in a small apartment that can easily look cluttered, so I’m definitely going to do an exfoliation soon with a focus on my closet. I love the idea of being able to easily pack when I’m ready to move again without having to get rid of items I have no use for first.

  10. Runwright

    you said, “Try to “batch” items as much as possible.” So throwing out a folder with 100 pages of paper inside ISN’T throwing out 100 things? Oh dear, I’ll have to rethink my whole de-cluttering plan. Seriously, I am bookmarking this post. Simplifying my life is an ongoing plan. Great ideas here.

    1. Lol, no, no reams of paper, unfortunately. ; )

      I hope this post helps you when you are ready to do your own exfoliation!

    1. That image is so lovely and beautiful! Good thing you get to keep this illustration after all the stuff is gone. : )

  11. Yeah, those guys were actually chewed up by Franklin as a puppy so they were missing a piece that needed to be there in order to be used. He went through $200 of apple cords as a puppy. Not fun.

  12. rebecca epp

    “Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful”–John Maeda.
    I have been thinking of this quote often, even though I just did an informal decluttering. This post along with the quote makes me thing maybe its time again.

  13. mleko

    Please also realize that if you can itemize your tax return (Schedule A) the value of items donated are a dollar for dollar reduction of your federal income tax liabilty.

  14. I have been following your Throw 100 Things Challenge since the beginning and I have done a few. Which I am very proud of. Recently I am taking the challenge again and I have 80 items thrown or donated, so I’m almost there. Thank you for the inspiration.

  15. One of my goals this year is to declutter and I was not sure how to start – then you mentioned this challenge on the TLS #57 podcast. Looking forward to putting it to the test.

  16. kgstyle

    I’ll be working on this challenge. Might even add it to my magazine for the Fall season issue on minimalism. 🙂

  17. Lily Ann Page

    I spent my entire sick day doing this! Lots of bagged up items ready to go away. Feeling good.

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