Part of sharing our “secrets” is sharing the tools we use, and if you want to “declutter like the pros” one of the cheapest and best tools you can have is a roll of good, high-quality garbage bags.

Most adults have purchased garbage bags at least once, but many of us haven’t stopped to think much about them. Typically we select bags based mainly on size and style – we buy “tall kitchen bags” for our kitchen, small bags for our wastepaper baskets, “lawn & leaf” bags for our fall yard cleanups, etc. We buy whatever brand seems to hold up well to our day-to-day garbage. And because those bags work great for our normal garbage, they’re our obvious go-to for things like cleanout jobs.

If you’re like many people that have tried to do a DIY cleanout, you probably quickly discovered that those bags rip and puncture pretty easily. This makes cleanouts and decluttering efforts very unpleasant, and when they rip out it typically leaves your motivation on the floor along with the trash.

That’s why professionals such as contractors and junk removal companies frequently use bags called “contractor bags”.

What’s the difference? And does it really make a difference?

The majority of the difference is in thickness, which is measured in something called “mils”. One mil equals 1/1000th of an inch. So theoretically, if you could stack 1000 layers of 1 mil plastic it would be one inch thick. For reference, your standard kitchen trash bag might be 0.7 to 0.9 mils thick. If you get cheaper ones someplace like the dollar store, you may find them as thin as 0.5 or 0.6 mil. Thinner plastic is cheaper, so you get cheaper bags – both in terms of price and quality.

That 0.7 to 0.9 thickness is perfectly fine for throwing away your food, non-recyclable packaging, and day-to-day stuff. Even thinner stuff is fine for small wastepaper bags. And using the thinnest bag that will work is good for the environment. But when you’re cleaning up something that’s sharp, jagged, or just oddly shaped (broken window / broken dishes, rock debris, broken sporting equipment, etc.) it’ll rip right through your kitchen bags.

This is where “contractor bags” really shine. They start at 3 or 4 mils thick, which means they’re 4-5 times as thick as the standard kitchen bags. And they’re specifically designed for cleaning up sharp, jagged debris and large, awkwardly-shaped items. They’re also typically large, holding 3 times what your kitchen bag holds. They’re great for large cleanup jobs, and they even work well for things like taking a large amount of clothing or stuffed animal type donations to the thrift store!

The only real downsides to them are the fact that most people don’t already have them, and they can be a bit expensive. You can expect to pay $1 to $2 per bag, and you’ll likely have to either order them from Amazon or go to a home improvement store. Here in Eau Claire, Menards is a great source for these – and they have even more heavy-duty cleanup bags if you need them. You’ll wind up buying them in quantities of 10 or 20, which will probably cover you for not only your current project, but several future projects! Just tuck the extra someplace safe and you’ll be prepared for the future.

Do you have any favorite decluttering tools? Get in touch, and maybe you’ll find your suggestion featured on our site!

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