When it comes to decluttering my mantra is simple – if it doesn’t serve a practical purpose or give you pleasure then you should get rid of it, or, as William Morris far more eloquently put it, “Have nothing in your house which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”.
My clients are often worried about having too many ‘things’ out on display but don’t know what to do with them. This is often the case if, as I have, you’ve inherited your parents’ possessions and feel that you should hold on to everything which, of course, is probably neither desirable nor practical. From the things you decide to keep there may be many that you don’t want out on display in your home as our parents' taste is often very different from our own. If this is the case I suggest you order a ream of white, acid-free tissue paper (I buy from www.carrierbagshop.co.uk) & carefully wrap your family heirlooms before placing them in storage boxes. I always use Really Useful storage boxes as they’re extremely sturdy, stackable, transparent and have tightly fitting clips on the lids to prevent dust or damp entering (I use one to store my wedding dress in the attic). They come in a good variety of sizes & are available from many places including Amazon, Viking etc – do look around for the best price as prices vary quite a bit for the same size of box.
Anything you don’t wish to keep, particularly larger items of furniture etc put on Ebay rather than taking to the tip. I love Ebay – it enables you to get rid of things you no longer want/need whilst enabling someone else to get use out of them, the buyer can often collect from you directly & you might even make a few pounds from your sale into the bargain. If you have a huge amount to clear approach your local auction house & send items to auction
If you have a number of items that you would like to keep out on display but don’t want the house to appear cluttered, I have a solution. Designate a single space, maybe a shelf, a bookcase, a console or display table and put all of your ‘objects d’art’ in one place. I keep my little collection of ‘curiosities’ in a bookcase (below), none of the items are of any great financial value but all hold lovely memories of our family past & present:
When our children were young I found it very hard to get rid of any of the clothes they’d outgrown (particularly the baby things!). I eventually decided this was ridiculous particularly as they were lovely quality, hardly worn & it was silly to have them stored away in the attic rather than someone else being able to make good use of them. I therefore allowed myself a single storage box for each child & sent everything else to the charity shop.
When it came to their toys & books I kept all of the wooden toys of things which were particularly good/expensive, eg, Playmobile (with the far off expectation of grand-children!). They had so many books I again kept any favourites but then donated a big box to the local primary school for which they were really grateful.
When decluttering tackle one room at a time. In the sitting room recycle any old newspapers & magazines, clear the ash from the grate/woodburning stove if you have one (the draught from the chimney wafts tiny ash particles back into the room creating lots of dust if left). If you have too many cushions or throws or they’re really past their best send them to the charity shop for recycling (charity shops sell bundles of textiles to recycling companies for which they receive an amount per kg so always send to them rather than putting in the dustbin). Look at the hard surfaces – tables, shelves, window sills - remove everything & only put back the things you love or use regularly.
In the kitchen cupboards can become full with items you no longer use – old Tupperware, the mincer you bought always intending to grind your own steak for burgers (yes, that was me), the toasted sandwich maker which makes great sandwiches but is such a faff to clean it just stays at the back of the cupboard. Take everything out and only put back the things you’ve used during the past year. If you can’t face tackling the whole kitchen at once aim to sort one cupboard/shelf/drawer each day until it’s done, this way it becomes very manageable and isn’t overwhelming.
Before tackling the bedroom have a good look through your linen cupboard. Put aside any bed linens, towels etc that are past their best & send to for recycling. In our house, a certain person (hint, of a similar age to me) is fantastic at bringing the clean laundry upstairs but then tends to dump it on whichever shelf has space meaning that when you’re looking for clean linen you have to unfold everything to find out if it’s a double or king-size duvet cover/sheet etc (or worse, you’ve wrestled the duvet into the cover before you realise it’s the wrong size). Such a problem required drastic measures & thus I’ve now labelled the shelves & whilst it might not work 100% of the time there has certainly been an improvement!
When sorting any room do so in a piecemeal manner. In a bedroom this might be one set of drawers, shelf or section of the wardrobe at a time. Choose whatever is manageable in the time you have available. Begin by removing anything which doesn’t belong in the bedroom & put it outside the door (it can’t come back in, it has to be disposed of or a home found for it elsewhere in the house). Only keep the bare minimum number of items in your bedroom, ask yourself what you really need and then get rid of anything that's not conducive to a restful, relaxing environment.
Arm yourself with a roll of black bags and designate one for rubbish, another for recycling and another for whatever can go to the charity shop (or Ebay if you’re so inclined). Remove everything from the drawers, wardrobe section etc that your clearing & put it on the bed. Vacuum drawers, shelf etc & clean with soap & water if necessary.
Then look at everything you’ve removed. Anything you’ve not used/worn for a year (OK two years if you absolutely must) should go via it’s appropriate black sack. Anything else can be put back on a hanger or in a drawer etc. When you’re putting clothes away in the wardrobe it’s useful to group items together, jackets, skirts, blouses etc and even divide them by season if you have space. Capsule wardrobes are wonderful for saving space (and money!). Look on Pinterest or Instagram for fashion bloggers who will show you how to stick to a neutral colour palette and have nudes, blacks, whites, navy and grey staples in their wardrobe to mix and match.
In the end, you should have an empty space to fill back up with only the things you love and remember, it is far easier to fall asleep in a clear space that it is in one that's cluttered and chaotic.
Finally, if you’ve finished the house it’s good to have an electronic declutter. Unsubscribe from all the emails you don’t read that full up your inbox so quickly & maybe even a ‘cull’ of ‘friends’ on social media just keeping those people whom you actually know, whose lives you enjoy following and definitely not those who make you feel inadequate, imperfect of incompetent – you’ll feel all the better for doing so I promise...
Do let me know how you get on & please leave your thoughts on this blog in the comments section below. Thank you so much for taking the time to read.