Things I have learned from the Great Declutter (and beyond):
- Have receptacles handy – by which I mean binliners, boxes, carrier bags, whatever. You need to put the stuff you are getting rid of in something, not just pile it up somewhere, creating more clutter.
- Take it away as soon as possible, the next day at the latest. It isn’t just so you won’t change your mind, it is about creating space. You can’t create space if the stuff you are getting rid of is still around. So it has to leave the house, pronto.
- Avoid the temptation to give things away to friends. That sounds callous and there are of course exceptions (I’ve given my unwanted perfume and make up to a very appreciative 16 year old for example) but generally, don’t be trapped into making piles for so and so who loves shoes, or such and such who would really appreciate the frames on those pictures you’re throwing out. No! Get rid ASAP or, once again, you are creating more clutter.
- Don’t involve the kids. It feels like the right thing to do but honestly, they want to keep the cheap tat that you hate, the broken toys and the ginormous game that is so big and complicated no one ever plays it. They will put the lovingly collected cars in the bin and demand more Lego sets. Kids are terrible at decluttering so save them the bother. Trust me on this. Also points 1 and 2 are important here, because if your four year old is anything like mine, they will be unpacking boxes and destroying piles (of anything folded, preferably) before you can say “Now, where did I put that….”.
- Be ruthless. Yes the dress was wonderful and you looked a million dollars in it and you had that amazing night when you got chatted up by like a gazillion people and felt like Gisele but really, you haven’t worn it in 5 years and it has had it’s time. I repeat, the dress and you had your moment and now it’s time to let go. And think of it like this, you are setting it free to be loved and enjoyed by someone just as appreciative as you.
- Declutter the real you, not your ideal you. Let me explain. Before my sister arrived, I had a LOT of pencil skirts. Now I love a pencil skirt and I aspire to be the woman who spends her days in a beautifully crafted pencil skirt and heels, looking all sexy, elegant and efficient. Am I that person? Not for a minute! Heck, I used to be the Imelda Marcos of Yorkshire, now I rarely even wear heels. Pencil skirts? You must be joking. And yet. Recently I bought a navy leather pencil skirt and love to see it hanging in my wardrobe. Is it comfortable? Does it go with anything? Do I even have shoes to wear with it? Ummm… that would be a No. Sigh. Similarly, I seem to have an inner longing to be a B&B landlady, hence the mountain of bedding I have acquired. It’s true, in my fantasy world hordes of friends and relatives descend on our massive house and stay a while on my totally bargainous 100% cotton IKEA sheets. In reality? We’re in a 3-bed semi and at least one flight away from most people. So that would be a No. It does however tie in with the ruinous amount of entertainment I will be doing in my ideal life, according to the vast amounts of wine glasses, decorative bowls and er, picnic/partyware I have accumulated for just such occasions. Right.
- Coasters. Just, why?
- Sentimental items. Well, we all have our own take on nostalgia but it’s bloody heavy and generally takes up a lot of space. I have a dedicated ‘Nostalgia Box’ containing things I simply can’t bear to sort out – yet. Then there is the genuine nostalgia, like Grandad’s ration book and letters from the war, Nannie’s quilting and Mormor’s crocheted masterpieces. But it’s taken the Big Declutter to make me realise I am still lugging my Dad’s art portfolio around and he’s been dead ten years. He was a prolific pet portraitist and I’m happy to report that most of them have gone to a local animal charity, to be loved and appreciated by new people. Some sentimental items however, have no place in our new space, and these are often gifts given generously by people we like but which, perhaps, are not the most practical; the funky wine rack stays, the designer beer glasses go. Then there’s tourism nostalgia; the rattan treasures acquired in Asia stay, the leather goods from Africa go. Our new place will still look like a junk yard of global souvenirs – because that’s how cosmopolitan we are, people – but at least it’s down to manageable proportions. No-one needs more than one Ethiopian coffee pot anyway.
- Enlist help. You may think your partner is objective, but s/he’s not. Neither are you. So get a good friend or relative to ask those pertinent questions, like “When do you ever wear pencil skirts?” and suddenly it seems so simple. Add a glass of wine and it can be fun too!
- If in doubt, get rid. The doubt is there to tell you that no, you don’t need to keep that. Like Marie Kondo says, sort of, you already know if this will be something you have to have in your life (sparking joy, as she puts it) but chances are, you will have forgotten about it the moment it’s left at the charity shop. This is something that gets easier with practice, so get practising! And yes, there will be items you regret giving away because we are humans and life is a long time. But really? It’s only stuff.
- Leave Ron and Justin out of it. Holding on to stuff for Later Ron and Justin Case is a mug’s game, so don’t do it. See 3 and 10 above.
- Take action. Stop reading about decluttering and how to do it and – do it.