Need to know

How To Declutter your Home

Spring has long been recognised as a time to clean, tidy and organise the home, and it provides the perfect chance to declutter – removing unnecessary and unwanted items from your home to create a tidier and more orderly environment.

Many of us will look around the home and feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that’s filling each and every table top, shelf, drawer and cupboard. This can be more noticeable in the Spring, when, due to the winter weather, we’ve put off disposing of items to the charity shop, carboot or tip, and unwanted Christmas gifts remain sitting around.

So what’s the best way to start? Which room? What items to clear out first? How to get rid of them? Let us guide you through decluttering your home.

Choose your approach

An approach which you may not have considered is to declutter by category. Recommended in Marie Kondo’s best-selling book ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’, this approach requires you to find every item in a particular category (books, clothes, toys, DIY and tools, decorative items, kitchenware etc) from every room of the house, and lay them out together in one place. The advantage of this method is that when you see how many items you have in each particular category, it will be easier to identify which you no longer want/need/enjoy, and dispose of them appropriately. It’s great for people living on their own or as a couple in a smaller house or flat.

For many people though, the most logical approach is to tackle one room at a time. This method is great for larger homes, and families (teenagers may not appreciate having all of their beloved possessions piled up on the living room floor).

Visualise and Plan

The first step when embarking on the journey to declutter your home is to visualise how you want it to look. Try to picture each room separately and imagine how much better you would feel if they were clean, tidy and free from clutter. As well as the emotional incentives, consider the practical benefits too; the house will be easier and less time consuming to keep clean, it’ll be easier to find things, and you’ll have more space to display the meaningful items in your life which truly give you joy. Being mindful of these thoughts should help to keep you motivated when having to make tough decisions about what stuff you need to get rid of.

Once you have an idea of how much clutter you need to clear out, take some time to write a plan. It doesn’t need to be long or detailed – just some bullet points which will help you to stay prioritised.

Begin the Decluttering Process

Essentially, there’s two ways of doing this, and the method you choose will depend upon a number of factors such as the size of your home, whether you live on your own, as a couple, or as a family, and how ruthless you can be when making decisions about what to get rid of.

For those who find it difficult to part with their possessions, the ‘three box sorting’ method may work best. This requires taking three large boxes (or piles, if you have that much stuff to get rid of!) – a ‘keep’ box, a ‘get rid of’ box, and a ‘storage’ box. Okay, so storing isn’t actually decluttering, but realistically, some people really struggle to throw stuff out. With this approach, the idea is that once the items have been in storage for a length of time, it’ll be more apparent that they are of no use, and therefore make parting with them easier.

It’s important to sort, organise and itemise items that go into storage – just chucking items in a box and moving it in the garage is not decluttering (or even tidying!). Once you’ve finished decluttering and organising with the three box method, the ‘keep’ box should be empty – its items returned neatly to their place – and the ‘get rid of box’ will be ready to be thrown out/taken to the charity shop or sold online or at the carboot.

If you’re the type of person who finds it easier to let go of things that are unused, unwanted or no longer fit for purpose in some way, then a more direct approach can be taken, then the process is much easier – the hardest part is deciding how to get rid of the items.

How to decide whether to part with something

Making decisions about whether or not to let something go is a common obstacle that gets in the way of a straight-forward decluttering process. Here’s some things to consider when weighing up whether or not to keep something.

When did you last use it?

If the item in question has a practical function (clothes/tools/gadgets) and you haven’t used it in more than six months ago, you probably don’t need to keep it. The temptation to keep something ‘just in case’ is completely normal – but resist it, and remember that if you really do need that item in the future (you probably won’t) you can usually buy a replacement on eBay or from a charity shop at a relatively low cost.

How much is it worth to you today?

Many people hold on to items because of the memory of how much they paid for the item originally. But if the item adds no value to your life today, then it’s not worth keeping. What’s more, the value is unlikely to ever increase, so it could be better to cut your losses

Does the item truly make you happy?

William Morris once said “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. With anything decorative, ornamental or not in any way ‘useful’, ask you self ‘does this item bring me joy or happiness – is it beautiful?’ if the answer is no, then get rid of it, and make room for those items which you have a truly meaningful attachment to, like family photographs, heirlooms or works of art which you particularly love.

Do you have something else which does the same job?

This is often true of kitchen equipment. Got a blender and a juicer? Do you really need both? A shelf-full of recipe books when the only two recipes you actually use are available online? Carrier bags are another example – recycle those dozens of single use bags and, replace them with just a few of the sturdier ‘bag for life’ types which most supermarkets will replace once they get worn out or broken.

What to do with old stuff

Digitising documents/recipes

With the exception of a few legal documents, there’s not much we actually need to keep in paper format – so why do so many people have drawers overflowing with receipts, utility bills and other letters, takeaway menus etc? Simply use your mobile phone to take photos of these documents before organising them into cloud-based storage like Dropbox or iCloud, or downloading them onto a hard drive.

Selling online

There are myriad ways to sell online, whether large items like furniture which you wish to advertise for local collection, or small or medium sized items which you could sell on eBay and send in the post. By selling items on a worldwide marketplace site like eBay, you have the best chance of selling an item for its true value.

There are a number of websites which specialise in buying CDs, videos and DVDs, often in bulk. Generally you will be required to enter or scan the barcodes of the items on your smartphone, and the company will give you an estimated price and send arrange a courier service collect the items. More information can be found on the money saving expert website.

Car boot sales

Car boot sales are great for selling a variety of items at one time, though you often won’t get the best price, and you can end up with the hassle of returning home with unsold items. If your main aim is to get rid of the most stuff, but you aren’t worried about how much money you make back, this could be a good option for you.

Charity Shops

It can be rewarding to donate your items to charity shops. Be aware though that some shops won’t take all items, so check on the charity’s website or call them before taking the items along. On the bright side though, many charity shops can take items which are unsuitable for sale (worn clothing, damaged books etc) as they sell them on to recycling companies.

Recycling

Most local councils offer recycling services at the local ‘tip’, and some will even have collection services for larger items. Visit the gov.uk website to find out more about services in your local area.

Go forth and declutter

Letting go of possessions can be difficult, but if you’ve read this article, then you’ve made the first step in a journey towards a tidier and more organised home. Hopefully our advice will prove helpful – if you have any tips or advice that you think we should add, then please do get in touch on Twitter or Facebook and let us know!