How to kick the clutter habit

Whether you’re downsizing or just looking to make space in your life, here is our guide to minimising the clutter. 

First things first: work out what is essential in your life. A brilliant method suggested by lifehacker.com is to work in reverse. If you lost everything, what would you replace first? They suggest removing yourself from your home to do this so that you can’t simply name the items you see around you. Take a pen and notepad down to your local coffee shop and write a list. Whether the first thing you think of as essential is your bed or if it’s that one retro vase you bought from a market years ago, whatever comes to mind first probably holds practical and emotional significance and deserves a spot on the list.

When you’ve worked out what you can’t live without, return home and see what’s left over. Each item that didn’t make it onto the essentials list will be sorted into one of three categories: keep, chuck or donate. It’s important to see the third option as a positive one, as you aren’t tossing your beloved items out into the cold, but rather offering them a second chance at bringing joy to someone new. Don’t be afraid to sell items on sites such as ebay or Gumtree if the extra cash will help you to part with your belongings. 

When dividing your items into those you want to keep and those you want to let go of, it’s important to ask yourself three questions. Does this item do for me that nothing else can do in a more practical or efficient way? Does it hold any sentimental value? And finally, in the words of decluttering guru Marie Kondo: ‘does this item bring me joy?’

Sentimental items can be the hardest to distinguish. Those meaningful items you’ve gathered through life may hold memories but also take up a lot of space. We suggest you offer them to family or friends who may understand their significance, or simply take digital photos of the items before letting them go so that their memory can’t be entirely lost. 

If you really can’t decide if an item is worth keeping, place it in a box and set it to the side. Any items that sit in this limbo space can be put there. Keep the box for a week or two. Did you think of the item in the box at all? Did you retrieve it from the box to be used or admired? If the answer is no, it’s a pretty good sign that the item can be rehomed.  

When you declutter, make sure you organise your time carefully. It’s easy to become overwhelmed if you tackle too much in one go. Instead, divide your decluttering time into smaller spaces, rooms or even single cupboards or bookshelves at a time. Set a half hour timer and take a break after it, reward yourself with tea or biscuits to get by. Decluttering is best tackled in small, fast portions rather than whole days or weeks spent dredging through clutter with waning motivation. 

Are you downsizing your home or trying to clear some extra space? Did you find this article helpful or do you have other tips for fellow readers? 

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Do you clean regularly enough?
How to clean your dishwasher 

Written by Liv Gardiner

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