A declutter is good for you! But where to start?

Gill Harvey - 27 May 2022

Decluttering Decluttering

Decluttering may well bring joy, but it’s also hard graft. Here are some top tips for clearing your space in a practical way…

Feeling stressed? Want to improve focus? Improve your wellbeing? Decluttering could be the answer. According to science, clutter in the home is not only unsightly but can cause stress, reduce focus, and even make us ill.

With 54% of Brits admitting to holding on to belongings they no longer need, and 61% of households arguing about the problem at least once a month, maybe it’s time to give our homes a good clean out.

Sort it out

Forget about finding joy, or folding your socks into wonderful shapes – if you really want to ditch the mess then it’s time to get practical. Whack on some loud music and get going!

Tempting as it is to throw everything into a bin-bag and be done with it, taking some time to work out what items are cluttering your home and what to do with them will increase your green credentials, reunite you with lost or loved items, and might make you a little extra cash to boot.

Categorise

Whatever your clutter and wherever it accumulates, it probably falls into one of a number of categories:

• Items left out that need to be returned to their rightful place
• Broken items that could be fixed
• Items of value that could be sold on
• Clothing, books, and other items suitable for the charity shop
• Rubbish and recycling

Rather than drive yourself crazy considering each category at a time, or dedicating whole days to your clean-out, try marking up some bags or boxes (depending on the amount of clutter you’re dealing with) and creating clutter categories.

You can then work through your clutter in your own time, in an organised, practical way. Or sling things in as you go along, as a king of filing system.

Set the scene

Unless you have a completely blank diary and endless energy, this probably isn’t going to be a ‘whole house at once’ job. So divide your house into rooms – or even spaces within rooms – and tackle them one at a time. Make sure you stick to the categories and label each new box or bag, so you don’t lose track.

Make a plan

Very few people leap out of bed in the morning excited at a day of decluttering ahead. But if you’re serious about banishing your unused possessions, you need to make sure you stick to a plan. Blocking out afternoons, evenings or even odd hours in your diary to create the time and space for decluttering will help you stay on track.

Once you’ve categorised that clutter, it’s time for phase 2 – deciding what to do with it all.

Reorganise

Once you have your clutter categorised, it’s time to consider storage. If items are repeatedly left out, are they being kept in the right place, or should they be moved? Do you have storage boxes, or furniture in which you can store the items you need? Ought you to change things around or repurpose? Organising your storage will reduce the risk of clutter building up again.

Make do and mend

We’ve all put something aside from time to time determined to stitch a hole or glue on a broken piece. When you tackle your ‘broken items’ bag, make sure you’re honest both about your abilities and your motivation to fix an item. If in all honesty, you don’t think you’ll get around to it, it might be time to consign the broken object to the recycling pile.

Let it go

Ill-fitting clothes, clothes you’re holding onto ‘just in case’, clothes you’re determined to fit into once again – there are all sorts of reasons to hang on to clothes. But be honest about the chance you will actually wear an item again, and if in doubt, it’s time to visit the charity shop.

The same goes for books. If you’ve loved a book, it’s tempting to want to keep hold of it. But if you’re finding your shelves are stacked too high, have an honest think about the books you’re hanging on to. If you’re genuinely likely to re-read a book at some point, then keep it. But if you loved it but don’t intend to revisit, why not pass it on to a friend and share your enjoyment? Or pass it to a charity shop where it can be bought and loved all over again.

Get selling

These days, many of us are feeling the squeeze. So if you have items you no longer want, but are too good to be thrown away, why not think about passing them on… for a fee? Online selling can be a great way to make a little extra money – and it also means the item you no longer need will not be wasted. Give online sites a go – it’s easier than you think.

If online selling isn’t for you, consider booking a space at a car boot sale. Even if you sell unwanted items for a few coins each, it can add up to a tidy sum at the end of a day. Plus boot sales can be brilliant fun.

Visit the tip

Finally, let’s have a look at that rubbish box. If you’re sure none of the items could be enjoyed again, then it’s time to see if they can be recycled. Plastic items, glass, cardboard… many things can be broken down and reused. Set yourself a challenge to see how little trash you actually clear out at the end of the process.

Break the habit

Once your home is clutter free, pay attention to the areas where items accumulate. Think about how you organise your day-to-day items – where do you put the post, what about kitchen items? – if clutter starts to build again, consider whether you can change your habits or reorganise your possessions.

Or keep a few boxes handy, just in case!