Brits hoard. It’s what we do. You may believe you are a neat and tidy person, but the truth is no matter how orderly you are, clutter still piles up. Clothes, gadgets, old furniture, unread mail, books you read years ago: the list is endless! Like death, taxes, queues and washing dishes, you might think it’s just one of life’s unavoidable things. However, clutter can have a major impact on mental health. There have been innumerable studies on the subject, and they all point to the issue increasing anxiety levels while decreasing motivation and damaging your sleep. Simply, the more clutter you have, the more miserable you are. It’s time to take out the trash, and here are 8 easy steps to your new clutter-free life.
Adopt The Right Mindset
‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful’ might be a 19th Century quote, but it is even more relevant today. While a minimalist approach might be a little extreme for you, it will certainly get you thinking about what you want the end result to be. Keep the final goal in mind at all times; decluttering is much easier when you focus on this and how great you’ll feel when you are finished. Take a photo of the areas you are going to tackle, it’ll come in useful at the end.
Don’t Do Everything At Once
Unless you are completely gripped by declutter fever, don’t try to do everything at once. It is likely to be a big job and motivation can quickly flag when you feel overwhelmed. A series of small, easy-to-do goals will keep energy levels up and deliver an ongoing sense of satisfaction as your house becomes tidier and more spacious.
A major hurdle to overcome in the process is knowing where to start. It can help to start with the area that grinds your gears the most. For many of us, that’s going to be the kitchen, with cupboards packed with out-of-date packet sauces, appliances, gadgets and 10-year-old pans. Do a drawer at a time; start with the one with all the old mobile phones in, as you’ll be surprised how much they’re worth. Even the ones with cracked screens and the one that dropped in the toilet when you were texting while brushing your teeth! Hop online and you’ll find great deals on your old phones – you’ll be making some easy cash while decluttering. It helps the environment too!
Sort Everything Into Piles
Whatever you are clearing out, sort everything into 3 piles. Things to keep, things to send to the dump, and things to sell or donate. Think back to when you last used an item or wore it. Are you glad to see it again and will it have a use now? It might be hard deciding at first; but it gets easier.
Keep your discipline – it is so easy to start off well and then come across something and say “I’ll keep this, it might come in useful one day”. Once that is in your head, you are going to be keeping a lot of stuff you don’t need anymore. This thinking is the death of decluttering – avoid it at all costs.
Don’t Keep Duplicates
Do you really need two blenders, two Christmas trees, three corkscrews and thirty knives and forks? It’s so easy to buy something new then keep what it’s replaced as a ‘back-up’ too. In reality, you’ve just got a 10-year-old steamer in a cupboard that’ll never see the light of day again. Unless you really need two of something, you shouldn’t have two of anything.
This is where nostalgia and the “it might come in useful” feelings can really start to mess with your head. Garages and attics are full of broken tools and implements and cracked crockery. Fix them straightaway or take them to the tip.
When you’ve finished, take photos of the spaces you have cleared and compare them to the ones you took at the start – I guarantee you’ll feel a great sense of satisfaction. They will also be useful as a benchmark to stick to, ensuring you don’t let things become cluttered again. Be in no doubt, unless you stay vigilant, you’ll be back at square one before you know it. Understand that it’s a natural process and diarise times to go through the process again – it could be once a month, or even once a year, whatever works for you. The last piece of advice: whenever you buy something new, resolve to get rid of something old, it is a brilliant natural declutterer.