Is your home badly in need of a good declutter? Then don’t be depressed, daunted or downhearted – just be inspired by the words of that leading British philosopher... Mary Poppins.
As the relentlessly cheerful nanny put it: “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and snap! The job's a game.”
So the first rule of decluttering your home is to turn the job into a game. You can invent your own rules of course, but here are some ideas to get you started:
• Have a declutter for 10 minutes every day
• Take the 10-10-10 challenge: find 10 things to throw away, 10 to take to the charity shop and 10 to put back in the place where they’re supposed to be
• Put a charity shop bag in the spare room, which you have to fill by Saturday to deliver to your chosen charity shop
• Do the four-box game: put four boxes in the room you’re de-cluttering, marked ‘rubbish’, ‘charity’, ‘relocate’ and ‘keep’. Every item in the room must go into one of these boxes.
You see, as Guardian writer Erica Buist puts it, decluttering for adults is like bathtime for kids: you put it off, you put up a fight, you don’t want the hassle.
And then you finally have your declutter/bath and you think: “Actually, that was fun. And now I feel clean, virtuous and relaxed and can have a good sleep...”
So you’ve got your game and your motivation; now it’s time to look around the house. Where do you want to start? Let’s go for the kitchen...
Food: you’ll be amazed how many packets/tins/things you can throw away because either the sell-by date is up, it was bought for you and you never fancied it or – well – it just looks a bit manky. Chuck it – all of it.
Equipment: is there stuff in your kitchen you’ve not used for years? It could be something once pricey like a breadmaker or a sandwich toaster, or something silly like far too many empty water bottles loitering around ‘just in case’. Get rid.
Crockery: anything chipped or broken should go, as should any odd plates from a set or any weird stuff bought for you as a present. If you haven’t used it for a year, face up to the fact that you just don’t use it.
Living room next, and a clutter Catch 22. It’s the room where you go to relax. And while you’re relaxing, you casually dump stuff on every surface and over the floor. And that makes the room less relaxing.
Bring back the Zen by first of all removing excess bits and bobs – books, magazines, CDs, ornaments, even plants and furniture that are past their best.
Still got stuff you want to keep? Then be more practical with your storage; a coffee table with a built-in drawer or shelf, handy shelves in an alcove, a sideboard that can also hold your music collection.
And lastly, as the Huffington Post puts it, “de-decorate”. Tone down the riot of colours in your living room. A multi-coloured room just looks frantic and more cluttered.
On to the master bedroom now, where the ‘stuffocation’ starts with your clothes storage – the wardrobes and the chests of drawers (just because you can’t see the mess, doesn’t mean it isn’t there).
The first rule of clothes is to always put them away or in the laundry basket. Some people even have a laundry basket in the bedroom. That pile of half-worn clothing on your bedroom chair? That shouldn’t be there.
Now to sorting: this is one room in the house where it can be fun to declutter with a partner or friend. They can tell you honestly whether you should ever wear that top again.
Or try the 10-day game. Start on the first day of the month by getting rid of one item of clothing, then get rid of two on the second day, three on the third, and so on until by the end of day 10 you’ve got rid of 55 things.
Or, if you’re feeling especially determined, here’s an extreme measure: completely empty all your wardrobes and drawers and put everything in the spare room. Then put things back in your wardrobe once you’ve worn them. You’ll soon found out what’s really essential and what you can live without.
And finally, the biggest clutter store in many people’s home – a kingdom of clutter so huge that you can’t find room for the one thing that the room was built for. Yes it’s the garage – and you park your car outside, don’t you? Thought so.
So plug in the radio, drag the bins into the drive and get started.
The garage is not a half-way house between the home and the bin; throw away everything you’ve not looked at or used for a year, from second-hand furniture and old cardboard boxes to your spare bits of wood collection and half pots of paint.
Group similar items together – sports gear, gardening equipment, DIY tools etc, and store them logically in boxes, containers and on shelves.
Clean and sweep as you go – just getting rid of the leaves on the floor and the cobwebs on the windows can make your garage look more efficient.
Lose things that were there ‘just in case’, and keep things that make you happy. As Japanese writer and organising expert Marie Kondo says, you have to “truly understand what sparks joy in you”.
And remember, your goal is not perfection. Perfection is for catalogue photographs. Your goal is simply to achieve this – a tidy, well-organised home that helps you relax.