How To Declutter A House
Decluttering is the new black. Whether you want to make extra space or simply clear up your home, get set for a brutal experience.
There is a way of tackling tidying that lacks commitment. It involves tucking papers in drawers, putting magazines back in the rack and working on the assumption that ‘I might use it one day’.
Stop right now, thank you very much, in the words of the immortal Spice Girls. If you are going to declutter you need to approach it with dedication and verve and most importantly, with a lack of sentimentality.
Pick a room – any room – and sit in the middle. What you are about to do is remove roughly one-quarter of the contents in that space. That’s your target. (And that’s just for starters. Once you have performed your initial declutter, if you are really serious about it I want you to go back a week later and repeat the process.) In the kitchen: you are chucking out unused spices, old tins, battered bakeware, chipped crockery, fraying table linen, knackered saucepans and unused gadgets (bread makers and juicers being chief culprits). In the lounge: you are getting rid of books on the bookshelf (that’s where the sentimental bit comes in for me; I hate getting rid of books), China ornaments that were dodgy holiday mementoes or suspect gifts, dried flower arrangements, worn out cushions and old CDs. In the bedroom: you are looking to give many, many items of clothing to the charity shop. If you keep your bed linen in there, how many sets do you realistically need? If you’ve mislaid one of a matching pair of pillowcases chuck the odd one out – if you take it downstairs to the kitchen to cut up and use as cleaning cloths you are only adding to the clutter down there, so chuck it.
In the bathroom: it’s time to dispose of old make-up, old medicines, half-used body lotions and potions and towels that were stained by your last hair-dyeing experiment. It’s all very well thinking ‘I’ll use that at the beach’, but when was the last time you remembered to take a spare towel with you? It’s a process that is loosely based on the William Morris principle ‘Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’ And it makes absolute sense. Most of our clutter is just a home for dust and dirt. So here’s how to approach the job. Start in the corner furthest away from the door. If there’s a rug on the floor or a cushion that needs to go, take it out of the room and put it in a pile outside the door. If there’s a cupboard in the corner, open the door and, starting from the top, take out everything that’s on the shelf. For each item ask yourself when was the last time that you looked at it, read it, used it or even thought about it. If you can’t remember any of the above then take it out of the room and add it to the pile. If the cupboard is not sectioned off, bring in some new storage systems: box files for papers, garments bags for clothes, etc.
I should mention at this point that it might be worth having a bottle chilling in the fridge, because you will need an incentive after and hour of two of doing this. Also, in the same way that people jog to pacey music or work out to funk, make sure that you are listening to something inspirational. I mix up a bit of Barry White, some Stone Roses, very early Michael Jackson and a bit of Bruce Springsteen. It all gets me moving one way or another.
Don’t give up when you get bored: the aim is to clear the excess baggage in one sitting. You have to look on it as a job that needs completing before you are allowed that glass of wine, not reach for the bottle when you are halfway through. Take everything that you’ve removed and recycle it in the appropriate way.
Approach decluttering with the determination of a pitbull and you’ll reap the rewards in terms of tidiness, cleanliness and lots of lovely extra space.