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Create a relaxing, clutter free home 

 by Sue Kay

When you walk around your home do you feel relaxed, in control and surrounded by things you love and that reflect your life today? If not, then probably your home is being taken over by clutter.

As a clutter consultant, I work with clients to banish clutter and reorganize their homes. I believe that letting go of clutter can make your life flow so much more freely so you have more time to enjoy yourself.

So what is clutter?

Clutter is things you no longer use or love. It’s things that remind you of a difficult time in your life. It’s things you liked ten years ago but your tastes have changed. It’s those gold shoes that you wore once and can’t bear to part with because they cost ?100. It’s broken TVs. It’s piles of unopened junk mail and old newspapers. It’s hundreds of plastic yoghurt pots that might come in useful one day. It’s pots of dried up paint or nail varnish. All these things are clutter.

So how do you deal with clutter?

First don’t panic. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and to walk away and have a coffee. Here’s some tips to help you on your way.

1:  Start today

Procrastination is the major obstacle to decluttering. So start now.

2:  Choose a small area to start.

Say you decide to sort out your sock drawer. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Put on some upbeat music and you’re ready to go. Then completely empty it and give it a quick clean. As you pick up each item ask yourself why am I keeping this?

Are you keeping old holey socks you no longer wear because they used to be your favourites? Either decide to mend them or let them go. Odd socks are peculiar, I’ve had clients with dozens of these. Set aside a further 15 minutes and scour the laundry basket, the washing machine, dryer, wherever. If your can’t find the matching sock then let it go. Old textiles can be recycled, check with your council.

3:  Keep up the momentum

Well done. You've made a great start. If you feel energised then keep going. But always work on one area at a time and finish it before you start somewhere else. 

Decide to do a set amount a day such as 30 minutes. Remember one person’s clutter is another person’s treasure so get the rest of your family involved in sorting out their stuff. 

4: Letting go of old stuff 

Once you have decided to let things go, it’s crucial to get them out of the house as soon as possible. Unwanted items can be given to charity, friends or family or recycled. Or you could sell them at a car boot sale or second hand clothes shop or advertise in your local newspaper.

5: How does it feel?

As you put things in the bin or charity shop bag, you may feel great and feel a huge sense of relief. Or you may feel guilty that you are wasting money by throwing things away. You may also feel guilty that you are letting go of unwanted presents or baby clothes. I know many people feel it is wrong to ever discard a photo, even if it is blurred or brings back unhappy memories.

People are often scared that the minute they part with something they will need it and consequently hold onto copious junk. I call this the “ghost feeling”, it takes a while to get used to a newly decluttered home.

All these feelings are a completely normal part of the decluttering process. They often stem from what you were taught in your family. Many of my clients come from families where hoarding is a common problem.

6:  So how do you cope with these feelings?

i. Sentimental items Be sentimental but selective. Choose a beautiful box in which to keep sentimental items. Keep a few cherished baby clothes and give the rest to someone who will use them. Put photos into albums only keeping the best ones and let the others go.

ii. Broken things Give yourself a deadline for broken items to be fixed, if not discard them.

iii. Presents – if someone gives you an unwanted gift and there is no polite way to refuse, accept gracefully and respect the other person’s feelings. But remember it is your home and if you do not like something, it will drag your spirits down every time you look at it. So dump the guilt and let it go.

iv. Paper Be ruthless with paper. Put junk mail straight in the recycling and decide how long you will keep newspapers For example in Barnet we have kerbside recycling so every Thursday I go though my house and gather up any newspapers read or unread. Remember no-one has time to read everything.

v. Fear The “what if” thoughts are some of the hardest to deal with. I call these clutter thoughts. I recently bought a new light weight Hoover. Then the thought crept into my head, what if the new one breaks down. Perhaps I will keep the old one. But I overcame my wobble and gave away the old one. A useful tip is “one in, one out”.

If you really feel panicky about letting go of something then store it for 6 months in the loft or shed. Put the date on it. If you haven’t used it in 6 months then give it away.

7:  Storage

Once you have decluttered and decided what to keep, then it’s time to look at storage. To maintain a clutter free home it is essential that everything has a home, so it’s easy to find. So store like with like, such as all vases together. We use 20% of our possessions 80% of the time so put this 20% in the most accessible places. Treat yourself to storage items such as a filing cabinet, a shoe rack or a pretty box in which to keep sentimental items.

8: The benefits

There are so many benefits to decluttering and letting go of old stuff. A more relaxing home where you can find things when you want them. Enjoy the lighter feeling you get when you look around. Next time you indulge in a little retail therapy you’ll have a much clearer idea of what you own and what you actually need.

9: Support

If you need more support then there are web sites available and professional people prepared give individual decluttering advice.  There is, in fact, an Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers (UK). (apdo-uk)

10: Books

There are also many excellent books and e-books on the market covering all aspects of decluttering and organising which will help you get more organised.

e.g. "No more clutter – how to clear your space and free your life” by Sue Kay is published by Hodder Mobius.

No More Clutter is the ultimate guide to liberating ourselves from the tyranny of clutter. It has simple practical solutions to immediate problems as well as advice on tackling the challenge of staying clutter-free in the long term, by getting to grips with the psychology of hoarding and the ethical basis for simplifying our lives. With case studies which pinpoint common clutter triggers such as moving house or divorce and practical tips on everything from tidying the cutlery drawer to creating your ideal harmonious home, No More Clutter is the essential tool for streamlining your life.

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