40 Bags in 40 Days

by | Feb 5, 2010 | Organization | 30 comments

A couple weeks ago, in one of my Daybook posts I mentioned that I was “looking forward to Lent and doing another 40 Bags of Stuff Challenge.”

Here are the details from the original handout on vocations and family faith formation from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati :

Every day during Lent this year, empty one bag of ‘stuff’ that is no longer needed from your house, totaling a loss of forty bags of stuff!

1.) Taking a look at the size of your family and household, with an acknowledgement of how much ‘stuff’ is present, make a prudential choice on the size of bag to be employed during this challenge. Bag size should be small enough that the goal of 40 bags during the season of Lent is able to be accomplished, while not being too big that you are left with nothing. We must still live in the world, after all!

2.) If smaller children are a part of your family, a ‘gauge’ may be helpful to keep them engaged and help them keep track of progress. As part of your preparations, make a ‘paper chain’ of forty numbered links. As each new bag is started, place a new link in the bottom of the bag. This way, as the chain gets smaller, there is a greater sense of accomplishment.

3.) This challenge necessarily involves sacrifice. Each member of the family should be encouraged to give something to each bag, or there could be designated bags for each member of the family.

4.) Instead of just throwing things away, recycling is a great way to encourage good stewardship of the gifts we have been given, as it symbolizes that we are passing along our gifts to others. Families with children are encouraged to pass along clothes that no longer fit or toys that sit dormant in a closet to families in need instead of just throwing them away.

5.) Units of count need not necessarily be trash bags, either; however they should be equivalent. For example, a box of gently used toys or clothes could equate one bag off the chain. A stack of books donated to the parish library is another easy equivalent.

As the family accepts this challenge together, bonds will be created that will last a lifetime. Lessons are also learned not just by saying, but by putting it into practice. Here, the simple lesson will last throughout life that having fewer things can lead to a greater contentment in life.

I know Lent doesn’t start until the 17th, but this year I would like to start decluttering early so I can finish by March 20th, a couple weeks before Easter. That way I can spend the week prior to Palm Sunday Spring Cleaning our home (last year I combined the decluttering and cleaning and spread it out over 5 weeks) and then not have to worry about any decluttering and cleaning during Holy Week.  It is busy enough as it is, and I want to have plenty of time to incorporate the Holy Thursday and Good Friday Liturgical Teas in addition to all our other plans and Rose’s echocardiogram which is scheduled for March 29th.

SO, if I want to finish on March 20th, and still have a solid 40 days (not counting Sundays) I need to start TODAY!

To give myself a much needed jumpstart, I am going to count the bags I filled from the kids rooms the past couple days.  (I’m going to need all the help I can get with a newborn!)  I’m also going to keep a tally in my sidebar to keep me motivated.

Does anyone want to join me this year?


  1. Mom2Seven

    This is a great idea. I am going to talk to my husband and children about it!

  2. Lenetta

    I'm in, and coincidentally, our bible study lesson that week had a bit on detaching from material goods. My little one is spending a few days at my mom's so I've been working hard to get ahead also! I'm interested to see what you do in your sidebar, I was thinking about doing something like that, too, but wasn't sure what. Here's my post on it:

    Most of my Bible study group was interested as well, and we agreed that everything was to be completely flexible – size of bags, number of bags, what you do with it, etc. Not sure if I'll get to 40 or not, but I'm enjoying trying so far!

  3. Tiny Actions

    Count me in! I was intrigued by the idea when you mentioned it a while back. It's a good idea to keep track of it on the sidebar. I think I'll do the same. Thanks for the fabulous idea!

  4. Unknown

    I read your post last year and have been looking forward to this Lent ever since. We will be doing a spin on this, instead of bags we will just spend 40 days giving. I made bingo cards and labels each number with an item to get rid of, like clothing, a toy, your choice, ect… Although I like your idea of starting early to be done by Holy Week. I will be posting our stuff this weekend. God Bless and good luck.

  5. Julie

    I am so in. We are putting our house up for sale in a few weeks and I have to do this! I am looking forward to it.

  6. Roxaline

    YES! We are in! I was planning on doing this and you have given me the accountability that I need! Thank you!

  7. Pamela

    I have been waiting to do this since last year. We just moved in Nov and gave away so much stuff. I will be counting this towards my 40 for sure.
    We also plan on giving alot to our food pantry in our hometown. Thanks for sharing Jessica.

  8. fadfd

    We're joining. There are drawers, closets, boxes, and a whole garage to go through. This will make for a happy momma once it's done.

  9. Jessica Gordon

    Yay! It will be fun to do it together!!

    Lenetta ~ Great post! I may make changes as time goes on, but right now I am just listing how many bags of stuff, bags of trash, and other items (equivalent to a bag of stuff) in the side bar with the total and how many left to go…

    Amy ~ I will have to watch for your post! Great idea!!

    Pamela ~ We also give to the local Food Pantry each Lent as part of our Lenten Calendar. Every day we take an item out of the Pantry to be donated. I need to get busy making this years calendar!!

    Elizabeth ~ I agree! I'm already much happier with just the two rooms we've tackled! 🙂

  10. Susy

    Jessica, this is a great idea! Thank you for sharing it. I'm actually inspired to possibly start a 40 day collection of baby items and maternity clothes for Crisis Pregnancy centers. If I don't get to do that however, I still love the feeling of de-cluttering. It is so liberating! Thanks!

  11. gretchen

    I started this week as well. I have been going room by room…pics are on my blog…decluttering, throwing away, and simplifying. Great idea!

  12. April

    Our family is in as well. We already talked about it, and look forward to the challenge and sacrifice. Blessings to you and your family.

  13. Sweetness and Light

    This is great Jessica, and good for you for starting early 🙂 We are up for this kind of a challenge and what a prayerful and charitable way to spend Lent! Thanks for posting this today, happy First Friday!!

  14. Anonymous

    Who is reading my mind? How did they know this has been preying on my mind for several weeks to do…….how timeley is this I ask? Thank you Lord for sending me this inspiration! Amen.

  15. Kelly

    Oh, my goodness Jessica! Count me in! 🙂 This is just what I needed to give me a virtual kick in the pants. I've been needing direction and this is it. Thank you for the fantastic idea of keeping track on your side bar. This will help to keep me accountable.

    Thanks for posting. God bless.

  16. Melissa

    I'm glad to hear you're starting now. My husband and I have been itching to get going on it, but have been trying to wait patiently for Lent. Your reasons for starting early are really good ones! Thanks!!

  17. Anonymous

    That is awesome Jessica! I am wanting to do something similar this Lent, but I have too much to give away, far more that 40 bags in my garage. I think for Lent I want to get rid of our storage shed. There are things in there that we don't need (obviously) but things that will be hard to get rid of all the same! So this Lent is going to be purge, purge, purge!
    Good luck!!!

  18. Ouiz

    It may have to be small bags, but I'm in!

  19. Amy

    This is such a great idea. I wanted our theme this Lent to be Simplicity or an Undivided Heart and I think getting rid of the clutter in our house would be a great first step. Thanks!

  20. Lowly But Chosen

    Count me in! I'm looking forward to doing this challenge…and living a more clutter-free life. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  21. mel

    I'm in. 🙂 Can I use Walmart bags? lol. I'm just being realistic, if I have to do a huge bag every day it will probably not get done. I might do big bags some days…but smaller bags will make it easier for the kids to help too.

  22. Angie

    I loved the idea so much I started when you posted it a few weeks ago. I, too, wanted to start early so I could be focused on our other Lent plans, without the clutter distracting us. I'm already up to 15 bags!! Thanks for the great idea.

  23. Nicole Bradica

    This is totally on my radar this year! Excited to begin; I think I'll follow your lead to start this week so I can have Holy Week for Spring Cleaning. And I'm definitely going to take pictures this year!!

  24. Sarah

    I thought about this when I was packing up for our big move. I hope I can count the bags I've already donated and thrown away. A bit early, but significant: give away: 18; throw away: 15 (and that doesn't include the items thrown away or recycled by my husband!)

    Now that we're in our temporary home until our house is built, I think I'll end up sorting through clothes, and I have some ideas for sorting through kids' artwork and organizing recipes. Hopefully, I will be able to purge and streamline those areas quite a bit …

  25. Dianna@KennedyAdventures

    I think this is FABULOUS! I'm going to be posting about this later this weekend, and I will be sure to link up to you.

  26. Lena

    I've started this in early Jan…..it's called nesting! 🙂 I'm praying for the perseverance to see it to the end – a completely purged home with proper organization and order to help us better serve Our Lord.
    Pax Christi –
    P.S. I haven't decided if I will post before pictures. It may require too much humility for me. 🙂

  27. Hope

    I am jumping in too! Not getting a head start but nonetheless, I am excited to get started. I have been contemplating "what to do and how to do it?" in this area and you are giving me the perfect incentive! Thanks for sharing and I look forward to seeing your progress.

  28. JulieDD

    The 40 bags in 40 days is a great idea and I'm glad you shared about it.
    In fact, I liked it so much I included a link to your blog in my recent article on Associated Content, titled
    It's Lent! Activities to Celebrate Ash Wednesday & Lent. If you would like to read the article you can find it at http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2731149/its_lent_activities_to_celebrate_ash.html?cat=4.

    Enjoying your blog. Thanks for blessing us with your insights.

    Julie Darleen Durr

  29. Unknown

    This is such a great idea!
    Looking for your counter in the sidebar!

  30. Anonymous

    I know we are these getting started with the Church Christmas season,but as a Sunday school teacher ,I'm trying to get ideas for my class for the Lent season. Going to put these in my class news letter .


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