Every few months I think, right, this is the time I am going to really get to grips with decluttering my house, but somehow I can never get started.
The reason I can’t get started is because I simply have so much stuff I don’t know where to begin. I have thought about getting a professional declutterer to help me but really I don’t want someone else going through my stuff and possibly persuading me to get rid of something I want to keep. So every few months I decide to start – and then lose heart.
But recently I saw the results of a neighbour’s decluttering session and it has spurred me on to try again. I have only just met this new neighbour – well, I say new, I actually moved here nearly 2 years ago and quickly got to know my immediate neighbours but this one lives in a side road opposite my drive so is not technically a neighbour. But she came for a chat when she saw me in the front garden one day because her daughter is about to start at the same school as my daughter.
But back to the issue of decluttering: the neighbour’s house – following what I’m told was a mammoth decluttering exercise over several week-ends – is an oasis of calm.
For all I know it may always have been a calm place even when full of stuff but, somehow, I doubt it. They have a huge hallway, tiled in large glossy white tiles, with nothing in it except a black baby grand piano. I loved it before I had even been into any of the rooms. There is plenty of storage that cleverly blends into the white walls where, presumably they keep coats, shoes etc.
What seems to work so well is that every room has these unobtrusive storage spaces but I know (because I peeked) that the storage cupboards are all neat and tidy with the right shelves, hooks, drawers etc. appropriate to the room. So they haven’t gone all minimalist; they have simply made sure there is a place for everything.
Maybe, in theory, there wouldn’t be such a thing as clutter if we all had masses of storage space, but I’m not going to follow that thought through because it would just be another excuse for me to avoid decluttering; and my neighbour has given me the encouragement to get started.
Of course organised storage is necessary but I also have to make sure I only store those things I truly need. I can see how our family life could become so much calmer if our living space was better organised. No last minute panics hunting for documents, school books, sports kit or a pen!
Ironically, decluttering is more difficult because of all the clutter around me so I’ve made a 5-step plan, which I am going to follow over the course of however many week-ends it takes but I have set myself a deadline of 2 months, just in case it drags on too long.
So here’s my 5-step plan:
Be absolutely ruthless clearing out wardrobes otherwise it’s far too easy to think you will wear that dress that is 2 sizes too small next year. Or think those uncomfortable shoes will eventually be fine to wear – if something doesn’t fit, is dated or I no longer like it then it just has to go. I will donate good quality items to charity, otherwise use a clothes recycling bank or just throw them out. There are places to sell good quality items online but I think preparing for that just adds to the pressure and I already have enough just tackling the clutter.
And I won’t forget those other items stored in the wardrobes such as handbags, belts, sports bags, suitcases etc.
Every family member, including my children, will need to go through this process.
This is by far the most cluttered and disorganised space in my whole house and, even worse, tends to be a dumping ground for all those things nobody quite knows what to do with. So it doesn’t just contain books, files etc but also board games, sports kit and assorted broken or unwanted musical instrument (a couple of guitars, a mandolin and an ancient trombone are some of the ones that are visible).
Shelves are over-flowing, filing cabinets full to bursting and opening the large storage cupboard usually results in something falling out because it is so full of stuff. I already know this will take longer than a single week-end; much of the floor area has piles of folders and books so it could well take a day just to clear the floor. I really don’t know why I have let the clutter build up.
I will now need to sort out years and years’ worth of paperwork stuffed randomly in the filing cabinets. I’m pretty sure I don’t need to keep it all but, obviously, there is plenty that I do need. One of the filing cabinets has 2 drawers that are broken inside so the hanging files no longer hang; it also has too few hanging files so items are not filed in any logical order but just squashed in wherever they will fit.
Decluttering is also the perfect opportunity to smarten up your office space. I plan to repaint my walls, storage cupboard and shelves, buy a new filing cabinet and a small sofa following the big de-clutter.
Of all the rooms to be de-cluttered this is the one I am dreading most.
3: Other Stuff
There is all sorts of stuff scattered about the house that needs a home of it’s own if I am to live the clutter-free dream. Magazines, toys, games, ornaments, vases, books, DVDs. Some of it may be good enough to donate to charity but some is simply past being of any use to anyone. I know from past failed attempts at decluttering that anything that I plan to donate to charity needs to be done straight away – otherwise I just end up with boxed labelled “charity shop” cluttering up my space.
I also know that when it comes to sorting through toys then I need to do this alone; my children are well past the playing with toys stage but I know they would persuade me to keep everything. I will hang on to a few special toys as keepsakes but the rest will go.
Unwanted ornaments, vases, board games etc will also be donated to charity – again I need to be ruthless otherwise I will be wasting my time simply moving all my clutter about and not actually de-cluttering.
It is so tempting to use the attic as a place to store all those things you want to keep but for which there is no space in the house, but I know that this space can quickly become unusable as it fills up and it becomes impossible to find anything up there when you do need it.
So I plan to keep it well-organised so I can see at a glance what I have and can retrieve any item easily. It is the perfect place for suitcases, infrequently used sports gear, out of season clothes or seasonal items such as Christmas decorations.
I can’t remember a time when I parked my car in the garage but it has always been useful for all the garden equipment, bikes, tools and car accessories. And, in the winter, the garden furniture too. But what started out as an organised space when I moved here 2 years ago has quickly become a mess with piles of boxes containing – who knows what? Probably the results of previous decluttering attempts.
There are several boxes of CDs, DVDs and books following these previous attempts so I am going to be brave and just take them straight to my local charity shop without looking inside them, otherwise I will just be duplicating my previous efforts.
In the past I have secretly wanted to keep all my clutter – much like an addict cannot give up an addiction until they really want to – I have now reached the stage where the clutter is making my life too chaotic so I can only benefit from getting rid of it.
Wish me luck!
Julie Lord writes the blog at blog.houseremoval.com about her own experiences over the years buying, selling and moving house. She loves buying old homes and renovating or refurbishing them and has recently become a fan of upcycling old furniture to do her bit for the environment. Her dream is to live an organised life in an oasis of calm but she has a constant battle with clutter.