How to declutter your home

Absolutely everyone it seems is talking about how to declutter your home. Or the Middle-class tidying craze, as it was termed in The Times. Did you watch the Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo like half the country and immediately embarked on a purge? It seems you may not be alone.

By Lassen, How to declutter your home, minimalism, Tidying
Photography by By Lassen

So, it’s January. The jollity of Christmas seems a long while ago now, but if you’re like me, there’s plenty of reminders littered around your home, taking up invaluable space. Or maybe the level of the kid’s toys has reached epic proportions post-Christmas, it has in ours. Have you got so much stuff around you that it’s overwhelming? Feel you don’t know how to declutter your home? Do you wish you could find a way to use some of the things around you? Well, it’s your lucky day. This topic is very much in vogue at the moment, with the queen of organisation Marie Kondo’s hit Netflix series, Tidying Up attracting lots of viewers, it’s based on Kondo’s book, which has sold more than 8 million copies worldwide. And has as many commentators on the movement, it seems. Plus there is the uber-popular podcast by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, the hosts of “The Minimalists”. In fact, it seems that even news anchors when they aren’t talking about Brexit, they are talking about tidying up and chucking-out the clutter. Every Tom, Dick or Harriet has an opinion about how to declutter your home at the moment.

How to declutter your home, minimalism, Tidying
Photography by Ferm Living

So guess what? I am too. And just like everyone else I have some advice on how to ditch some of the Christmas clutter and reorganise. I will explain how to make the best use of what you have and how to declutter in a smart, efficient way. It’s common sense after all, but it will help you on your way to a less cluttered home so that you can keep space available for the things that are truly important to you. In my case it seems that’s more interiors books. There are creative ways you could go about re-organising and decluttering your house to make it feel more like your home again rather than a jungle. Keeping it simple is the best starting place though.

So you want to take your first steps toward living a clutter-free life?

First up let’s tackle the Christmas Clutter. It is January after all. The best thing to do is to start with the stuff that’s clearly rubbish. Go through the house and find all the boxes and other containers gifts were packaged in at Christmas, pile them up all in one place to be disposed of. Sort them into things that can be reused (my local nursery is crying out for milk bottle tops for example and shoe boxes), items to be recycled and then things that can’t be. Just you wait and see the space this alone will free up, because if you’re anything like me my understairs cupboard is filled with packaging I might find useful later, but actual is never the right size.

I find in January that my “things” have often gone AWOL or made their way to different places in my home. I blame all that Christmas decorating because if you’re anything like me it’s like Tetris to make the space to put up the tree. However, this can be a good thing, as each year it makes me reassess where I keep things and essentially I end up “shopping my own home”. Do my side tables work better in a different position? Does my cute vintage chair look better in my bedroom than the living room? Do I need my curated coffee table-scape all year round? With a little imagination and a bit of a shift around you’ve created a whole “new” look in your home, especially if you decide to move artwork and cushions too.

What to do with those gifts you won’t use or enjoy, I hear you ask?  First thing I’d say is to make plans for next year, so you don’t have to declutter your home in twelve months time. This year we instigated a no presents for adults rule and told our friends and family too. The upside of this is that we didn’t end up with gifts we didn’t want. With the problem at hand though, you can always make a plan to return the gifts, pass the gift on to a friend (hopefully not to the person who gave it to you though!) or donate them, to a charity shop for instance.  The result of this tidying trend is that there has been a surge in donations to charity shops according to the Charity Retail Association. I’m a big fan of car-boot sales, although to be honest not in the winter months where you have to wear 57 layers to brave the temperatures at 7am in a field.  If a car-boot sale isn’t your style, you can make use of technology to help you. You can do this through an app like shpock, gumtree, freecycle or eBay. Or by creating your own Facebook group to sell your things in your local community. For where I live in Brighton there are lots of selling pages on Facebook, some of them very niche such as just baby clothes. However, I’ve found for bigger items that just placing it outside my house with a sign saying please take me works wonders.

How to declutter your home, minimalism, Tidying
Photography by Mary Middleton for Hello Peagreen
How to declutter your home, minimalism, tidying, string bookcase
Photography by Mary Middleton for Hello Peagreen
How to declutter your home, minimalism, Tidying, String Bookcase
Photography by Mary Middleton for Hello Peagreen

Having a tidy room makes for a tidy mind. This is supported by a whole slew of studies showing the link between clutter and anxiety. I get that it can have a strong effect on your mind, but prevention is better than a cure. Meaning conscious consumption is the starting point.

So before you get started streamlining your possessions, there are a couple of questions I want to ask you. And the reason I’m going to ask these questions is that I don’t think anyone is talking about them. When you bought x item did you think you’d treasure it forever? I think many of us shop in a less-than-mindful-way and often out of necessity. My saucepan’s handle has fallen off, so I buy the cheapest induction hob version on my next trip to town. There’s nothing wrong with that (but it certainly has no joy about it) although I have to ask myself will it last? I can be exactly the same about most kitchen goods, yet when I buy bedlinen I actively think about it and make a conscious decision about how much I’ll love looking at it and sleeping in it. Interesting really. Will your tidying result in the need to go out and purchase lots of storage? Being tidy is a state of mind, but the reality is that you can’t get rid of everything you own, so where will you keep it “tidy”? When you buy that storage will it, in fact, take up lots of room? Did you know that on average 54% of books will fit onto bookshelves that are 240mm high and 155mm deep? Yet most bookshelves are larger than this. The ever popular and IKEA Billy bookcase is 280mm deep and the Kallax is 390mm deep – I have the Kallax in my son’s room and its great for kids toys. Books are where Marie Kondo and I really fall out, she suggests keeping no more than 30. What???? I definitely do not agree. Will your storage be plastic? Those very handy stackable crates with lids almost always are. Will you be throwing out lots of items that could, in fact, be repurposed or reused? We’re all familiar with the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra but I’m a believer that “reduce” is the greatest and most important element of the waste hierarchy (p.s. I studied Environmental Science at University in the early ’90s believe it or not). I’m not about to lecture you on the environment, I just want to highlight that the benefits of minimalism and decluttering your home can have some knock-on effects.

I’m not a fan of chucking out the baby with the bathwater, and while I want to have “joy” from the things that are around my home I don’t think a roasting tin or a pair of socks can ever bring me joy. I like my place to be tidy and everything to be in its place. Have I mentioned yet that my husband has OCD? – he really does, but thankfully it means he’s very interested in hoovering. I digress, but that doesn’t mean you need to throw them out (the roasting tin and socks, not your husband) when you declutter your home. Right? Most people aren’t hoarders but stuff gathers up over the years and I get it, it’s easy to feel burdened by actual “stuff”. But a carte blanche throw out just seems so very wasteful. I was talking about this at the weekend and it got me a little hot under the collar. Also for people who are not so well off, the idea of having even less is not really a priority or a goal. This is something I’ve had to think about from a point of privilege because if your home is “streamlined” out of necessity, and not a choice does it actually make you happy? Bring you joy? The answer may well be no. Interesting thought isn’t it?

“But minimalism is a virtue only when it’s a choice, and it’s telling that its fan base is clustered in the well-off middle class. For people who are not so well off, the idea of opting to have even less is not really an option.”

“The Class Politics of Decluttering” by Stephanie Land New York Times, July 18, 2016

Embracing the future of fully conscious consumption has to be the starting place. If your purchasing power is used with longevity in mind and in noticing how each item makes you feel then its a step in the right direction. If you can consider the social and ecological impact then the need to declutter your home will hopefully be a thing of the past.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post on how to declutter your home, it’s a little different to what I usually write about. Sometimes though I’ve just got to get things off my chest, hopefully, you’ll see the light-hearted but well-intentioned side of this subject.

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22 Comments

  1. January 28, 2019 / 1:20 pm

    I am in the process of moving flat and I am in SUPER DE CLUTTER MODE and it feels bloody amazing!

  2. January 28, 2019 / 2:03 pm

    Love having a declutter this time of year, I’m being brutal and chucking out practically everything we own but I just love getting rid of junk!

  3. January 28, 2019 / 2:21 pm

    I find tidying really therapeutic – having a tidy home and office means that I can think more clearly. We all hang on to more stuff than we actually need – so it’s great to have a clear out at this time of year.

  4. January 28, 2019 / 3:44 pm

    Completely agree, Mary! Decluttering is now a trend. But it’s only the result of unconscious consumerism. There should be no need to declutter in the first place (I say that but my house is a hot mess!)

  5. January 28, 2019 / 4:24 pm

    I watched the Marie Kondo show and then saw everyone follow suit. Great to see it’s had a positive influence, i bet the charity shops have been inundated! I’m a bit like you though, i think – more about thinking ahead as to whether i really want it. We do a wardrobe clear-out every few months when we do a seasonal wardrobe swap with the loft, so thankfully didn’t need to empty everything out on the bed! But sometimes it’s good to see everything you have in one place to really face our shopping habits!

  6. January 28, 2019 / 6:15 pm

    This is so positive ! Especially if it can take so many “middle class” people – although perhaps only temporarily – away from mindlessly scrolling through social media or watching trashy entertainment shows to take a closer look how much crap they have hoarded. Me included, I had pistachios in my pantry who went out of date about two years ago. Gross. I don’t even know how because pistachios usually *sparks joy* for me.

  7. January 29, 2019 / 12:03 pm

    I love the Mari Kondo book. However I don’t get how she says you only need to do it once as I need to do it at least twice a year. I love those colour styled shelves they are so pretty.

    • mary
      Author
      February 21, 2019 / 7:30 pm

      Thanks Fiona, the shelves are from the String stand at Designjunction a couple of years back. As for Marie Kondo, I agree that things like clothes, kids toys and magazines are so easy to build up. But realistically your home décor shouldn’t be on the purge list, we should be making the right choices in the first place, although its easy to buy the cheap vase or the cheap print and not necessarily “love” it.

  8. January 29, 2019 / 8:20 pm

    Official obsessed with that Just Kon Maried video!!!

    I read the book about 3 years ago and found the struggle with “Does it bring me joy!” when it comes to life’s necessities like socks. I think the way she puts it is, does having warm feet “bring you joy”, then socks “bring you joy”. The idea of mindful consumerism is possible where we should be asking the question of does it “bring me joy” while shopping, that way nothing enters our home that doesn’t bring us a real sense of please in owning it.

    • mary
      Author
      February 21, 2019 / 7:27 pm

      You’re my inspiration here to be honest Phoebe. When I watched your Tedtalk about how we need to evaluate our design choices in a more meaningful way from the very beginning, it just makes so much sense. Interior renovations are expensive and disruptive, there is sentimental significance in what we decide to keep and what we are prepared to let go of. Although I do worry about the overtly manicured looking homes that Instagram is packed with.

  9. January 30, 2019 / 9:43 am

    This is a fab post and I totally agree – I need things from a practical point of view that will never give me joy (like cat litter tray!) so I think there’s room for practical order rather than impractical clutter. Definitely need to have a sort out in our kitchen though very soon

    • mary
      Author
      February 21, 2019 / 7:21 pm

      I agree Lins, we need to evaluate our design choices in a more meaningful way from the very beginning….. but maybe the cat tray needs a redesign! A project to get your teeth into maybe? 

  10. January 30, 2019 / 10:19 am

    Decluttering is such a good thing to do! Good for the mind and helps you focus and de-stress when at home. Great article! 🙂

    • mary
      Author
      February 21, 2019 / 7:19 pm

      Agreed but there is a big difference between designing your interior and just de-cluttering your home.

  11. Nicola Capper
    January 30, 2019 / 8:42 pm

    Fab post Mary! I watched the Minimalist documentary last summer and it totally changed my mindset x

    • mary
      Author
      February 21, 2019 / 6:13 pm

      I strongly believe we need to evaluate our design choices in a more meaningful way from the outset.

  12. February 1, 2019 / 12:44 am

    Great post Mary and lots of helpful tips. We agreed with friends and family not to do presents for adults this year and it was such a relief. I’m definitely keeping that up. I often feel like I’m drowning in stuff. This spring were going to have a massive purge and I can’t wait. I’ve not read the Marie Kondo book or seen the show. Maybe I should.

    • mary
      Author
      February 18, 2019 / 8:00 pm

      It was the biggest relief to do this. Not only did it cut down on my own trooping around stores looking for Christmas presents but it was a weight off my shoulders about receiving “stuff” too. I think that the book/show highlights how easy it is to acquire things but I don’t think it focuses enough on the beginning of the cycle – deciding not to buy things!

  13. February 2, 2019 / 5:22 pm

    What a great thought-provoking post Mary! I can honestly say that I did buy the book years ago when it first came out and to be honest found it hard to adhere to. Time is always against me lol. I do, however, believe that we need to buy with more conscientiously especially when it comes to our homes. There’s a tendency to buy cheap (which doesn’t always last) and like anything in life, it’s only by the lessons learnt that we hopefully end up changing our habits. For example, one of my was saucepans. As an avid cook, I went through so many that we ended up biting the bullet and invested in le Creuset and haven’t had to replace any for over ten years.

    • mary
      Author
      February 18, 2019 / 7:19 pm

      This is the thing, we rarely regret the thought through purchases. Especially where we’ve weighed up the pro’s and con’s. I’ve dropped my MIL’s Le Creuset on my foot before – couldn’t walk for about a week!

  14. February 3, 2019 / 10:46 am

    I’m building up to it! Feeling inspired after watching a couple of episodes and know it needs to be tackled in earnest.

    • mary
      Author
      February 18, 2019 / 7:17 pm

      I’m a bit more stealthy about clearing out. I have a recently imposed rule that every time I leave my home office something has to leave the room to be recycled, donated to charity or shredded. It’s working albeit slowly……

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