“Think about what has sparked your desire to declutter,” advises Lizzie. “This will help you to decide which area of your home to focus on first. Are you tired of not being able to pull out clothes from your wardrobe easily? Do you want to create space to exercise in your home? Perhaps you want a dedicated working from home area which is clear and organised? Knowing your “why” will help you decide what is a priority for you. If it is not clear to you, starting with your bedroom can bring about wider health benefits, such as better sleep. Alternatively, start with items you find easier to make decisions about, such as toiletries in your bathroom. Remember there is no perfect place to start, the key is to actually do it.”
Make some quick decisions
For each item, Lizzie suggests you ask yourself “what purpose is this serving in my life?” You want to be surrounded at home by things you either love and/or use, so pick up each item and decide whether to put it in the following piles:
• Donate to charity
• Throw away
“This will help to focus your mind on the decisions you need to make and makes it easier to let things go once your decision is made,” explains Lizzie. “Have bags (such as bin bags and recycling bags) plus a marker pen and labels on hand during your sort out so you can put items straight from these piles into the relevant bag.”
Keep it small & steady
Break down your decluttering project into smaller tasks will mean it won’t feel too overwhelming, says Lizzie. “Instead of feeling like you have to tackle your whole wardrobe in an evening, why not tackle a category of clothes each day or each week?” she suggests. “Instead of trying to sort out a whole room in a day, just tackle one set of drawers that day and then move onto another small area of the room another day. Setting realistic tasks that you can accomplish will mean you can see the progress you are making without feeling overwhelmed.” This will keep you feeling motivated and energised to continue. “Also try pairing decluttering tasks with something you enjoy, such as listening to your favourite podcast or playlist so that you look forward to it,” she adds.
Donate unwanted items
If you are living in an area under lockdown or Covid-restrictions, charity shops may not be open at the moment but there are other ways to let go of unwanted items, says Lizzie. “For example, some charities are accepting donations via post (pre-paid by the charity) such as the British Heart Foundation and the Air Ambulance Service. You can also let go of items for free to your neighbours via the Olio app, Next Door and Facebook groups – just make sure to adhere to Covid guidelines.” Maybe worth mentioning Thrift too? I’ve used it and it’s brilliant – they had a partnership with Farfetch which gave you credit for your old clothes to use on Farfetch: https://thrift.plus
…Or sell them instead
There are lots of ways to sell unwanted items online. For example, Shpock is an app to sell pre-loved items (often better for furniture than clothes) and it currently provides a contactless courier collection and delivery service, says Lizzie. “If you want to try selling items, the app Vinted is great for high street clothes and accessories and the website Vestiaire Collective is good for designer items. However, do value your time and be realistic about how much items can be sold for. Also, set yourself a deadline for selling items – if they haven’t sold by then, donate them to charity. This avoids these items cluttering up your home for months.”
Take care with other people’s stuff
Sometimes we can take frustrations with our own clutter out on other people, warns Lizzie. “Before pointing the finger at someone else’s stuff, take a look at what you can do with your own belongings. In the best-case scenario, when others see how much happier decluttering has made you, they will be inspired to tackle their own items,” she advises. In the worst-case scenario, it will take your mind off their clutter (at least for a little while). “If you come across your housemate’s or partner’s clutter when sorting out your home, do not get rid of things without their permission,” she adds. “Ask them if they would like a hand to sort things out or ask if there is an organisational system which would work better for them.”
Tackle unwanted gifts
There are always items which feel harder to let go of than others – and one such category is unwanted gifts, says Lizzie. “Letting go of presents can make us feel ungrateful and in turn, guilty. However, it is important to remember that it was given as a gesture of love or kindness and the giver would not want it to burden you. They have given you full control over what happens to that item now.” If you do not want or need something you have been given, let it go to a better home by selling, donating or re-gifting. “But if you keep a box of items to re-gift, make a note of who gave what to you, so you don’t re-gift it back to them,” adds Lizzie.
Implement some new systems
Once you have let go of unwanted items, organise the belongings you are keeping. “The key to this is ensuring every item has a space where it ‘lives’ which is near to where it is used and easily accessible,” says Lizzie. Where possible, store similar items together. “Think about what the ‘problem’ items are which quickly clutter up your home. If piles of miscellaneous papers are an issue, think about how paper enters your home, where it lives until it is dealt with, how and when it is dealt with and how it leaves your home. Set up a system so that it either leaves quickly or is filed away quickly. Having organisational systems in place makes it so much easier to keep on top of clutter.”
Install storage solutions
It is easy to dive straight in and order a range of storage products to tackle your clutter. Unfortunately, these probably won’t help if the problem is you have too much stuff in the first place. That is why it is definitely worth decluttering first. Once you know what items you are keeping and where you would like to keep them, you can then look for suitable storage products. You can reuse what you have to hand e.g. clean chocolate box lids or takeaway boxes can be used as cheap and effective drawer dividers for stationery and empty shoeboxes can be used to organise clothes in drawers. If you do need to buy items, measure the space first so you know the products will work as planned.
Despite what our Instagram feeds might portray, Lizzie says it’s important to remember no-one’s home always looks perfect. However, it is possible to live in a home where it is easy to tidy up and to find things when you need them. “Habit changes can make a big difference in maintaining your space long-term,” she explains. “Reducing how much you buy has a knock-on effect. For example, try leaving items in your online shopping basket for a couple of days so you don’t succumb to emotional purchases. Other habits might be setting aside a short period of time each week to keep on top of your paperwork or having a ten-minute tidy-up at the beginning or end of each day. A good way of keeping items flowing through your home is to have a donation bag accessible so whenever you come across something you no longer need, you can pop it straight in and donate the items when it gets full.”
Lizzie Grant is the founder of Declutter on Demand – an organisational service helping people get on top of their clutter once and for all.
Visit DeclutterOnDemand.com for more information or watch Lizzie in action with the BBC here.