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.
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.
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
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
“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.