Whether it’s the overflowing mound of clothes that has claimed your wardrobe or the garden shed that’s packed to the brim with odds and ends, most of us have an area in our home that could do with decluttering.
Around 1.2 million Australians meet the DSM-5 criteria for hoarding disorder, which include:
- difficulty discarding items regardless of their actual value
- a perceived need to save the items and associated distress at the idea of losing them
- clutter that prevents using the home being used for its intended purpose.
Health experts warn that an overly messy space isn’t just embarrassing to live with – it can also aggravate respiratory issues and put you at greater risk of house fires.
As well as being a health hazard, living with excess clutter can have a negative effect on our mental wellbeing too – a survey by lovespace.co.uk found that 80 per cent of people believe their mood is influenced by how tidy their house is, with a clutter-free space promoting feelings of happiness and positivity.
If you’re thinking of attempting a spring clean, thankfully, there’s an app for that – or a virtual assistant at least. We spoke to decluttering expert Helen Sanderson about how you can use home tech like your smartphone and smart home hub to organise, minimise and harmonise your living space.
1. Take photos of important documents and business cards
When it comes to tidying, it can be difficult to know where to begin. “Start by quickly and systematically going through your things,” advises Ms Sanderson. “Place what you want to keep in a ‘keep it pile’ and separate out what you want to ‘weed’.”
During the initial weeding stage, you’ll likely come across piles of papers that you might need to reference in the future. Instead of cramming them into a cupboard, think about filing them in the Cloud instead.
“Things like business cards, addresses and phone numbers can all be stored digitally,” says Ms Sanderson. “Simply snap a photo with your smartphone and pop it into a digital folder” – you can set these up into subcategories like bills, banking and contacts so they’re easy to find in the future.
By doing this, you can shred and recycle physical paperwork and free up the storage space for other items.
2. Go paperless
“Paperwork accumulates fast,” warns Ms Sanderson, “so avoid clutter by switching to paper-free bank and utility statements.
“The less you have coming in, the more mental space you have for being present and enjoying life.”
3. Check if your items are worth money
Do an internet search to find out more information about objects and whether it’s possible to sell it. If you’re not certain what the object is used for, you can take a picture and use Google Reverse Image Search to search the web for similar looking items.
Whether you’re looking for the name of a painting in your home or you’re wondering whether an old tea set is worth any money, it’s a great way of quickly categorising what’s worth keeping, donating and selling.
“If you’re sentimental about items but you know it’s time to let go – such as a large collection of ornaments – take photos of them and display them digitally instead,” says Ms Sanderson. The Home Hub, for instance, doubles up as a digital photo frame that can display thousands of pictures stored in your Google Photos account.
4. Tell your home assistant where you’ve placed your important things
“One of the biggest fears people have around decluttering is that you’ll move things around the house and forget where you’ve put them,” says Ms Sanderson.
Her handy tip for making sure you don’t spend days searching for your car keys is telling your home assistant where you’ve placed them. Many smart home hubs have a feature where you can ask it to remember the location of things like your passport and driving licence, so you’ll never be caught short at the last moment.
5. Have a ‘one in, one out’ rule
“When you buy something new, recycle or give an item to charity,” says Ms Sanderson. That way, you’ll be keeping up the maintenance of your home, without letting clutter stock up.
“Ask your smartphone or virtual assistant where the nearest charity shop is and when it’s open,” she adds. “You can even set an alert on to remind you to drop the clothing at the store.”
6. Set rules for the family
Most smart home assistants can be set to play reminders. This could be a timed alarm to remind little ones to make their beds each morning or a gentle note to all the family to take the bins out on collection day.
“Build your ‘organisation muscle’ by setting house rules, not just for kids, but for you too! Make chores easy and front of mind by automatically scheduling your daily tasks and this will support your wellbeing,” says Ms Sanderson.
7. Think you don’t have time to tidy? Check out your screen time
Many smartphones now have a feature which will give you a breakdown of your time spent online.
“If you don’t think you have time to tidy – check out your screen time,” says Ms Sanderson. “More often than not you’ll realise you’ve spent a couple of hours browsing the internet that you could have spent being productive.
“Once the clutter is cleared, it’s not uncommon to uncover seedlings of an aspiration that had been forgotten about, from writing a short story to finally using your art supplies and settling down to paint,” she says.
“Put your phone on ‘do not disturb’ mode so you don’t have any distractions and get to work with clearing and organising – you’ll be amazed at how much you can get done away from your notifications.”
Do you have a smart home hub? How do you keep on top of clutter? Do you take photos of important receipts to ensure you have a copy?
– With PA
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