Packrat to Clutter-Free

How does a major packrat transition to a clutter-free lifestyle in less than a year?

In this down-to-earth book, M.C. Starbuck shares all the messy details. Her stories allow you to journey with her, picking up practical tips that’ll have you letting go of your own clutter before you know it!

A few topics covered are:

– Ways to make decluttering fun!

– Letting go of sentimental clutter without regret

– How getting rid of clutter is like losing weight

– Five ways to keep toys under control

– Breaking tasks into manageable chunks



What People are Saying about Packrat to Clutter-Free

When I started reading this book, I didn’t really think I had a ton of clutter in my life. Now we have already cleaned out one of our closets and have talked about what we will tackle next.

Nick Spindler, Speaker & Blogger


I cannot believe how much valuable stuff was in this book. Really. And this is coming from a fairly uncluttered gal. I have learned a lot and felt super challenged too. I have a big bag by my door of stuff to donate!

– Heather Parady, The Weekly Parady Podcast


Holy cow, do you have fabulous analogies in this one!  Love the peach tree/pruning example, and the “my house was obese” statement was a hard hitter.  Wow!

– Shannon Hammar, Hairstylist & Mother of 4


You can grab your copy on Amazon to begin your own clutter-free journey!


Kindle Version

(free with Kindle Unlimited)


Packrat to Clutter-Free 30-Day Challenge



It’s the most wonderful time of the year…for a decluttering challenge.


You’ve opened all the presents, and now you need a place for everything. The house is in overwhelming disarray. The kids are still out of school, and you wonder why they even got any toys for Christmas when they still had plenty from last year.


Or maybe you don’t even have kids, but somehow your house still looks like a landfill.


The best way to make more room for all the awesome new stuff you have is to get rid of stuff you don’t even like, and that’s what we’ll do during this challenge.


Just 3 years ago, I was a major packrat. I know the struggle. But I also know that it doesn’t have to be as hard as we make it.


These challenges are always so fun for me! I’m particularly excited about this one because I’ve been trying a new idea I call the “Clear the Surface” challenge. I choose a counter or table or desk, quickly count/guestimate how many items are on it, and try to reduce the clutter on it by half. Often I’ve gotten rid of more than half. So many things sitting out in the open have somewhere else they belong.


Anyway, I’ve incorporated some of those surface challenges into these 30 days, which will begin January 1st.


A Few Other Things You Need to Know about the Challenge


  • Joining the Living Tiny, Dreaming Big facebook group will allow you to see the description of each day’s challenge as well as share Before & After pictures and any questions you have about decluttering. The pinned post has my previous 30-Day challenge, where you can click each day to read the description. So if you’re ready to start early, you could begin with those. Some of them are the same as this challenge because they are so important.


  • This challenge goes along with my book, Packrat to Clutter-Free. You don’t have to have the book to participate. The book just provides extra ideas and more of a long-term plan.


  • If you do have the book, however, you can send a screenshot of your proof of purchase (or forward your receipt) to to get a free printable copy of the 30-Day Journal I created to assist you on this challenge. It will serve as a physical reminder to declutter and establish good clutter-free habits. It has a quote of the day, room to write what you’re grateful for, your goals and reflections, and a place to check off how long you spent decluttering that day.


  • You can also receive the free challenge printable to mark off each task once you’ve done it by entering your email at the top of this page.



Don’t forget to check out my book in Paperback or on Kindle. You can get a headstart on reading it while you wait for the challenge to start January 1st! I can’t wait to see some great Before & After pictures!

Ways to Work with Me



Thank you for your interest in working with me. I’m happy to answer any questions you have. Below is an overview of ways to work with me from help decluttering your home to learning how to be a writer. To contact me with any inquiries, please download the Work with Me PDF below.


Overview of Ways to Work with Me

In-Home Sessions

For anyone within 2.5 hours of Bonaire, Ga, in-home sessions include:

  • Guidance during the decluttering process
  • Taking away up to 5 boxes for donation (as space allows)
  • The Baby Steps of Going from Packrat to Clutter-Free packet, which includes charts for tracking progress.

Pricing from $50-$350/wk.


Individual or Group Calls Online

For those who are long distance, individual and group Accountability calls* include:


  • 15-30 minute structured calls for discussing decluttering methods and struggles, such as Where to Start, How to Keep from Feeling Overwhelmed, Getting Rid of Sentimental Items, Selling Items, Dealing with Toys, and Maintaining Lasting Results
  • Long-term goal-setting and small manageable tasks that lead to achieving those end goals
  • Printables to help you stay on track
  • Life-time membership in a Facebook group to discuss problem-solving ideas and Before & After pictures and to keep each other accountable

Pricing from $10-$50/wk


*Day and time of calls will be decided on once we have a list of people interested.



The next available group accountability sessions will begin in January during the 30-Day Packrat to Clutter-Free Challenge.


Please download the Work with Me PDF for more information and to let me know if you’re interested in participating in this one or a future round of accountability calls.


How to be a Writer

Since I’ve written my book and published it myself, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about that process. If you’re interested in learning how to self-publish a book that doesn’t look like crap without investing hundreds of dollars, please contact me so I can add you to my list.

I plan to have an email list and Facebook group where I share posts and videos that are free. I’ll also share resources that helped me as a writer. This version is perfect for people who want to write a book someday and hope to go ahead and connect with a group and start absorbing information about the process slowly. 

However, I’m also creating fast-track group for people where I’m much more available for answering specific questions and even having other authors share their experiences. This version is perfect for those who want to finish their book in 1-4 years and maybe have already started or know what topic they’ll write about. I’ll walk you through what I did step-by-step, which will save you so much time! I spent so much time and worry about whether to choose something as simple as a matte vs a glossy cover.

I’m really excited to meet all the amazing people whose awesome stories I’ll help get ready to share with the world! Whichever version you’re interested in, you can join this FB group.

Pricing: free (10-year-plan version) + $20/mo or $100 lifetime membership (fast-track version)



If you’d like to have me as a guest on your podcast or as a speaker at an event, please download the Work with Me PDF for contact information.


30 Day Clutter-Free by Thanksgiving Challenge


While this challenge can be done any time of the year, the holiday season seems to be the time my readers want to prepare for. This year, I’m giving an overview of each day’s challenge, but I’ll be posting more details about each day here on the blog. I recommend signing up for my newsletter through one of the pop up forms on my site so you receive that info in your inbox. I know some people will join a Facebook group with the best intentions but then never visit it again.


Now is also a great time to join because you’ll get the first chapter of my book that’s coming out the end of the year. Due to some changes with my email provider, I don’t know if or when I’ll offer it again after October 30th.


From Good Housekeeping Magazine


People think they don’t have time for decluttering. They don’t realize how much time it would save them in the long run.


Starting this challenge now will help keep you from having as much chaos last minute. But they are just ideas to help or inspire you. They aren’t set in stone. If you’ve done my challenges before, the first few days will be very familiar because they’re so important. If you’ve already done them, focus your time on decluttering instead. Use the challenges as a guide that you can tweak to fit your lifestyle and build good habits.


Since we’re getting ready for Thanksgiving, you might think I’d have the challenge start with the kitchen or living room, but there is a reason for the order I’ve chosen. When you’ve got your drawers and cabinets and closets decluttered, you have room to put away items that have ended up on the table, chairs, or floor.


However, since there are only 30 days, I’m leaving out things like junk drawers or pocketbooks or the office or guest room or attic. If you have an area on the challenge that’s already good, then you could use that day to focus on one of those extras. Feel free to contact me for advice about areas you’re struggling in that aren’t on the challenge. I can save you a lot of time searching for information because I’ve been researching this topic for 3 years now.



Where to Start



  • Use the Facebook group to…


-Share your struggles and questions
-Post successes and pictures
-Get to know other amazing people in the group
-Access quotes and videos from me to inspire you along the way


  • Remember to have fun! The point of this challenge is to relieve stress and help you enjoy the holidays. It’s not to add one more task to feel guilty for not completing. I recommend spending anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes on the challenge each day. This isn’t meant to be a super thorough decluttering challenge. The purpose is to quickly make things better in a way that has lasting results. My hope is that by the end, your home not only looks better, but feels better.


  • Accountability is so important. I wrote a whole chapter in my book about it. People often join a challenge but don’t follow through with it. My advice is to find a friend who will do this challenge with you. Even if they don’t need to declutter, find someone who will let you share how your day went and who will encourage you when you feel like it’s hopeless. Sometimes the person doesn’t even have to do anything. It motivates you to know they could mention it.



I appreciate the time and effort you are putting into using the challenge created for people just like you, who see the value of a calmer environment and making room for family and friends.


Thank you,


What I Learned about Writing from the Author of The Book Thief

Note: While many people see me as a decluttering expert, I see myself as a writer first. I’ve been writing almost daily for over 10 years, whereas I’ve only been decluttering for 3. That’s why I wanted to share this experience even though it isn’t what I typically write about on the blog.


As I pulled myself away from tasks at home and got in my car, I wondered if the hour-long drive would be worth it. I hadn’t heard how other Markus Zusak events had gone. My brother just happened to see a poster that he was coming to the library. Since it was free and I still remembered being amazed by the beautiful writing in The Book Thief, I signed up.


Due to his Australian accent, it took me a few seconds to process the first words out of his mouth: “Can you understand me? It’s always terrible to get to the end of a talk, only to find that no one understood a word.”


As he spoke, I no longer worried that it wouldn’t be worth my time. And I was suddenly very glad I’d come prepared to take notes. Yet the most valuable thing I learned about writing wasn’t anything I wrote down.


I’m not sure if I expected a man who had sold more than 10 million copies of his book to be boring or pompous, but he was neither. He was nervous but prepared, entertaining yet simple. He was less like I imagined a man with great success would be and more like a best friend.


As I’ve been writing my book, I’ve heard about how anyone can write a book these days. In a way, it’s discouraging because I feel like just another person writing another book when there are already more than anyone could read even if they lived for centuries. Yet the more time and effort I put into my book, the more I respect those who have done it before. Maybe anyone could write a book, but not just anyone actually will. They have to believe in their message enough to carve out time to get the words down and then also to learn the process of getting them published.


And with every situation or thought that comes up telling them it isn’t worth it, they somehow have to convince themselves that it will be.


It’s easy now to look at Markus Zusak and think he’s a marvelous writer and of course he was born to be a writer. That’s why I love that he shared a story about his life as a writer before The Book Thief:


At my first book reading, no one showed up…but the best part is that the librarian still made me read an excerpt from my book just to her.


He thanked us for showing up because he remembered how it felt when no one cared that he was there. That was the most encouraging part of his message…just seeing how he’s like everyone else, but he didn’t let that stop him from putting time into writing another book.


He shared some great stories from his childhood, so if you ever get a chance to hear him speak, don’t doubt that it will be worth your time! But until then, here are the bits of advice he gave to writers.



Writing Advice from Markus Zusak


  1. The easiest place to start is with yourself. He told how a part of his book is something that happened to his grandfather. A group was asked who has neat handwriting. Everyone was scared to volunteer. A man pointed at his grandfather. He was given a writing task and everyone else, including the man who had volunteered him, was sent off to their death.
  2. Small details are really important in stories because it makes them more believable. He referred back to stories he’d told earlier in the evening, asking us what color the cooler was. We all were able to remember. He also told about how he lost his coat in the airport once. He went back to get it, and the person at the desk asked him to describe it. He mentioned the basics and then added that there was a crumpled note in the left pocket. That small detail is what made them believe it.
  3. Do the unexpected. He got his idea to write from Death’s perspective from participating in an assignment he gave to a class of children.
  4. An edited story is the best story. He has told this story over and over, which is why it gets such a huge reaction the whole time. Each time he tells it, he pays attention to what works and doesn’t work, and makes changes accordingly.
  5. Stories must have at least 2 levels. The problem is when they’re linear. Backstories must be told. It doesn’t all have to be in chronological order, and it shouldn’t. You need to use the past to inform the present.


I’d heard a lot of that information before, but it was great hearing it from someone whose work I’ve read and seen that he’s capable of forming sentence after sentence into something beautiful.


If you want to learn more about how to make a living writing, one of my favorite authors has an online course to guide you through the process step-by-step. It’s the reason I’m about to publish my first book. Seriously, it’s amazing and it works. And if you try it for 60 days and decide it wasn’t what you thought or wanted, then you can get your money back. It doesn’t promise a quick and easy journey. I took the course 3 years ago! But it certainly made the process a little faster and a lot less stressful. I can’t wait to hear how it helps you gain readers for your blog or publish a book that people actually pay to read.


Sell, Trash, or Donate?


You finally take the step to go through your stuff and get rid of what you don’t want. You spend time making decision after decision and are happy with what you’ve decided to keep.


Then you piles of stuff you no longer want or like or use still taking up space in your house because you don’t know what to do with it.


Should you trash it?

I personally feel bad throwing things away. They have to be in terrible condition. If my only options are to trash something or keep it, I’d rather keep it. I’d feel so wasteful otherwise. I tell myself I could find some good use for it. I’ve gotten better about this over time. But I still think of people who go to thrift stores to shop for materials to make all sorts of crafts or themed decorations. If the thrift store doesn’t want it, I let them make that decision. I’m sure they have a plan in place to deal with stuff they don’t want. You won’t be the first or the last to donate something they decide to pass on. If you don’t have a problem throwing things away, go for it. This section wasn’t written for you anyway, but maybe the next section is.


Should you sell it?

I’ve found that people usually have one of three reasons for wanting to sell items.

1. They feel guilty for how much they paid for it and want to ease the guilt by getting some of the money back. That guilt will keep you from impulse buying of something else you don’t need next time. But for now, the money is already spent. Don’t let it continue to steal space in your house and brain and schedule. Get rid of it the fastest, easiest way possible. Hint: it’s usually not by selling.

2. They need the money so they feel guilty for not trying to get money for something nice they’re getting rid of. Many people in this category have small children, so they feel obligated to bring in more money to raise those children. The catch is that most people with small children aren’t just sitting around with lots of free time on their hands to start selling stuff, at least in my experience. I don’t know anyone who consistently makes a significant amount of money from selling what they’re getting rid of. Yes, people have made a few hundred here and there, but that could be done more efficiently by taking up a part-time job. If you’re actually selling stuff, great! Keep it up until it’s no longer worth it. But if you’re always just “planning” or “trying” or “about to start” selling stuff, getting that clutter out the door might be a more valuable use of your time. You’ll feel so free. And you’ll have more time to spend on endeavors that are more important to you or on other ways to make money.

3. They just enjoy the process of selling. Not me! But if that’s you, then have fun getting rid of clutter while also earning a little cash. It isn’t worth the hassle for me. Plus, I’d rather have that stuff gone immediately. So I will sell books because the stores will take them off my hands and pay me the day I go in. It’s all taken care of at once. If someone else is hosting a yard sale and allowing me to sell stuff there, I’ll also do that. Or if it’s something I could ask $100+ for, I’ll sell it. Otherwise, selling for fun might be something better done when you’re in the maintenance phase rather than while you’re getting rid of loads of stuff.


Should you donate it?

If you haven’t noticed, this is my go-to method. I’m here to set you free from guilt and obligation. You put a lot of time and effort into parting with these items. Enjoy the feeling of having them out of the house finally. Get your space back to where it’s functional. And rest in knowing that you’re helping someone else be able to enjoy what you’ve gotten rid of.


How I Save Space in My Jewelry Organizer

I’m the girl that loves scarves and necklaces and cute belts when I see them on other people, but I hardly wear them myself.


I started hanging my scarves with the outfits they go well with.

It’s been so helpful because I don’t have a messy pile of scarves to sort through if I decide to wear one. And I no longer forget about the scarves altogether like I used to.

Another problem with how it was before was that I didn’t enjoy taking the time while getting ready to try different ones to see which scarf I liked best with that outfit.

As I wear and wash the outfit, I can put the scarf with a different shirt or dress for next time so I’m still getting some different styles in.

I realize that some people might have a different system that might work better for them, but this is the only thing I’ve found to work for me. I’m sure there’s someone else out there in the same boat as me!

Space-Saving Tip

So finally as I was going through my jewelry organizer to make room for more, I realized I could do the same thing with necklaces!

Not only does that keep them from getting tangled up, it also sparks joy when I look at it hanging with the shirt. And for some reason, I don’t love the displays of all the necklaces hanging on a jewelry holder.

I also love that the decision of what to wear them with is made ahead of time. And if I pick an outfit that doesn’t have a necklace but I’d like to wear one with it, I can grab a necklace from another shirt’s hanger. And I do have one necklace that I’m keeping in my jewelry organizer because it goes with so many outfits.


4 Benefits of Traveling Light (& How to Make it Happen)

Living tiny has affected how I travel in so many positive ways. This guest post, by Jennifer of A Life Designed, shares not only the benefits but also some practical tips to assist you in your travels.

Packing Light

If your focus is on living a life that matters, you can free up your time and energy by learning how to pack tiny while traveling.

Packing light can help you travel with less stuff so you can enjoy the people you’re with and the places you visit.

I know all too well how not to pack because I’ve been a chronic over-packer my whole life. I used to think that I needed to be prepared for every scenario while traveling, which meant lots of stuff and a big suitcase.

But after a two week trip to Ireland a few years ago, I realized that toting a huge piece of luggage around was not only impractical, it was exhausting!

Bringing so much was a big mistake, and I struggled every time I dragged my enormous suitcase up a flight of stairs or into the trunk of the rental car.

Since then, in my quest to live with less, I’ve pared down my wardrobe significantly and created a capsule wardrobe.

This simple change to my morning routine has taught me that less is more, and this habit has spilled over to how I travel as well.


How Traveling Light Can Benefit You

1. Preparing for a trip is easy. When you pack minimally, less time and effort is required to get ready.


2. You are free to explore without a lot of stuff holding you down. It’s much easier to navigate trains, rental cars, hotel lobbies, and airports with less.

3. Your mind and body get a vacation from taking care of stuff. We all need things. But having a lot of things drains our energy, time, and money. Taking less when you travel allows you to take a break from taking care of your belongings.

4.You have freedom to focus on where you are and who you’re with. Your memories will be about the experience of traveling and the fun you had, not about how difficult it was to get your stuff to and from the destination.

A Few practical Tips for Tiny Travel
• Bring only the essentials
• Wear items more than once
• Use a basic color palette so pieces are interchangeable
• Take three pairs of shoes (or less)
• Leave jewelry at home
• Use travel size items instead of full size products
• Take one bag (tote or briefcase) as a carry-on to hold personal items and electronics
• Pack a small purse in checked luggage to use at your destination

I’d love to hear about your experiences if you’ve tried traveling tiny! Please share in the comments.

Thanks for reading!


If you’d like to learn more about creating a simple, meaningful life, check out my blog,, to get articles sent to your inbox.

$100 Bill & other things I’ve found while decluttering

I’m not gonna lie and say it’s common to find $100 bills while decluttering, but it’s also not completely uncommon to find some cash. Yesterday I did find this $100 bill I had no clue I was missing.

Value Decluttering


I’ve also found $10 and $20 bills while decluttering before (and have clients who have done the same). Yet that’s been over the course of about three years.


I’ve found other things that were super exciting to me, like $10 worth of postage stamps (I love writing letters). But pretty much everyone gets excited about finding money! And I really didn’t think that would happen for me because I’m not the type to intentionally hide money from myself.


If finding $100 bills is your motivation for decluttering, you probably won’t stick with it for very long.


However, as I’ve been writing my book, I realized that I find more value in decluttering than even $100 a day. Meaning, even I feel someone offered me $100/day to quit decluttering, I wouldn’t do it. Especially right now while I’m in the process of moving!


And if you can gain that mindset of really valuing a clutter-free life, you’ll also be able to get rid of a lot of stuff… and maybe even find a hundred dollars along the way.


The Biggest Reason I’m Glad I Stopped being a Packrat

“You know books weigh a lot. And the military only pays for a certain amount of weight to be moved.”

That’s what my sweet fiancé said to me, a girl with an English degree, when we started moving my stuff to his house. (But it’s okay because everything else I move will be lightweight.)

Best Reason for Decluttering

I originally started this blog with the goal that before my 30th birthday, I’d own a tiny house.

Well, now I don’t need a tiny house, and I won’t be living alone in the house I move into before I turn 30.

I’m so grateful I won’t be dragging nearly as much stuff into my marriage as I would’ve had I gotten married just three years ago.

Even though there’s more I want to get rid of, I can easily do that along the way.

Now that I’m not a packrat, I have a better idea of what I like and use. I have fewer things for us to argue about. And I won’t be instantly making our lovely home look like a pigsty when I finish moving in.

Knowing that cleanliness levels can be something many couples get annoyed at each other for, I’m glad I’ve gotten to where our standards match up a lot better.

And I’m excited to reap the benefits for years to come.

We’ve now got over $150 in store credit at used bookstores from books we’ve gotten rid of. One of the things I love about my fiancé is that he enjoys reading, so now we’re able to buy books we’ll read together and it hardly costs a thing.

While I’m grateful for all the little things decluttering has helped me with…

  • being focused
  • practicing discipline
  • having space for important projects
  • being free from the concern and care of so many possessions
  • gaining new skills and interests

…those aren’t the main benefit I’ve gotten out of decluttering, although they greatly contribute to it.

The biggest reason I’m glad I stopped being a packrat is because of how it affects my relationships.

I meet so many amazing people that I get to teach about how to declutter, and I’ve learned from so many cool people that I never would’ve met otherwise.

I’ve given space back to family members whose houses my stuff had taken over.

Most of all, as I look at the ring on my finger, I’m so glad I got rid of items from my past to make room for new joys, new memories, and new people in my future.


Today’s Task: Try filling a grocery bag with items to get rid of, and think of how decluttering will slowly improve your relationships over time.