The Expert Guide To Decluttering
The Expert Guide To Decluttering

The Expert Guide To Decluttering

There are few tasks more satisfying than a good clear-out. But, faced with a lifetime of belongings, it can be hard to get started. Whether you’re looking to get more organised, downsizing, clearing out a loved one’s home or just moving on, the experts suggest taking it in stages to make it more manageable. Here’s everything else they told us…
By Sherri Andrew /

If You Want A Complete Overhaul  

“If you feel that your belongings are beginning to own you, rather than the other way around, that is your sign to declutter. A lifetime of belongings will always take time to sort through. Realising this allows you to take the pressure off yourself. It can allow you to tackle decluttering in a more methodical way rather than feeling like you need to do everything at once. Make an action plan of what you would like to sort through, breaking tasks down into manageable chunks and schedule time to action these tasks. Decluttering little and often is helpful so that possessions don’t build up and the task doesn’t feel too overwhelming. Set yourself a goal of decluttering a certain number of things a day or decluttering for ten minutes a day. Before you know it, you will be into the swing of it. You can take the same approach for every room in your home. Tackle a room in bite-size chunks – e.g. one shelf or cupboard at a time or just one category of belongings in a room at a time. Then decide for each object whether you love it and use it. If a belonging no longer serves a positive and useful purpose in your life, then it’s time to let it go. 

“The most helpful tools to have to hand when decluttering are bin bags and supermarket bags. Use a marker pen and freezer label to label a bag for each these five categories: donate, recycle, sell, gift, bin. This way you can put your unwanted items straight into the correct bag. Having unwanted things bagged up straight away makes it easier to stick to your decisions and get them out of your home. Labelling is also great for organising the items you are keeping after you have decluttered. It saves you time trying to remember what is inside storage containers. For example, if you pack up out-of-season clothes in a vacuum pack bag without labelling it, it is highly likely you won’t remember what is in there in six months’ time. If other family members live with you, having labels on shelves and storage containers makes it a lot easier for everyone to know what the organising system is and to put things back in the right place.” – Lizzie Grant, professional organiser and founder of Declutter on Demand

“The Swedish term ‘lagom’ (pronounced lar-gom) means ‘just the right amount’ or ‘not too much, not too little’. A cluttered home is a no-go when it comes to lagom. You need a space that balances and uplifts you, and endless piles of laundry, stacks of old magazines and clutter isn’t going to cut it. Take inspiration from organsing supremo Marie Kondo and hold each item to assess if it brings you true joy. Clearing items that don’t spark a positive emotion will actually improve the emotional balance of your home – physically and mentally. 

“Invest in storage containers for everything you don’t want on display – stackable drawers, baskets, boxes, zip bags, vacuum bags. All inexpensive and widely available items that will help transform your home. Go through each room to decide what can be stored away, including books, electronics, magazines, clothes, shoes, toiletries, and bedding and towels. Amp up storage wherever you can and make use of every nook and cranny. If floor space is tight, create more of it by storing shoes on a shoe rack in the hallway, remove the need for bedside tables, which use up valuable floor space, by clipping bedside lamps to a headboard or shelf. Also, you could consider hiring a carpenter to craft tailored storage solutions for alcoves, under eaves, or under stairs to help really maximise space – it can be an investment but will provide a long-term solution to clutter.” – Catharina Björkman, Scandi lifestyle expert at Contura

Decluttering LITTLE AND OFTEN is helpful so that possessions DON'T BUILD UP and the task DOESN'T FEEL TOO OVERWHELMING. Set yourself a goal of decluttering for ten minutes a day.
Lizzie Grant

If You’re Downsizing Your Home 

“Start decluttering as soon as you can. This avoids having to make hasty decisions you later regret due to lack of time. Warm up your decluttering muscles by decluttering an easy category of your belongings to start with. Then move on to tackling priority areas such as lofts and attics – these areas usually get left until last but often house an enormous amount of clutter. If you are at an early stage in the downsizing process, consider how many rooms (or square footage) you may end up with. If you have already picked out your downsizing property, find out how much storage will be in your new home and, if possible, take measurements. This will give you an idea of how many possessions you need to get rid of and what furniture to take with you. Also, be savvy about how you are going to use space in your new home. Consider taking furniture that doubles up as storage – e.g. ottomans (seating and storage). Think about other space saving solutions such as vacuum pack bags to maximise your space.” – Lizzie 

“It may sound dramatic, but ‘dö städning’, the Swedish concept of ‘death cleaning’, advocates thinking about your things not only in terms of how they make you feel, but also how they might make your loved ones feel once you’ve passed. The idea is based on the need to change our approach to accumulating more and more stuff every year and at every stage in life. Remember that memories can be maintained without clinging onto hordes of physical things, so be strict with yourself about what stays. If you’re struggling to decide what items should stay or go, think about whether they bring you joy, conjure up a happy memory or are particularly useful to have. If the answer is no, then that item needs to go. Although decluttering is a physical process, it’s closely linked to our emotions and mindset, so by letting go of anything excess or not relevant, you’re effectively helping free up time and energy for the most important things in life.” – Catharina


If A Parent Has Passed Away

“Be kind to yourself and don’t feel like you have to bear the burden of this on your own. Ask for help from other supportive family members, friends or professionals who can make this process easier.  Find out if there are any instructions in a will as to what should happen to specific items in their home. If not, let family members and friends make requests. Try to reach a compromise if more than one person wants the same thing, remembering relationships are more important than things. Start by decluttering the easiest items first – e.g. getting rid of junk mail, donating in-date food to a food bank or toiletries to a hygiene bank, or donating/recycling textiles and linens. Decide what items truly hold special meaning to you and bring back happy memories for you of your parents and limit the number of items you keep. Consider where anything you want to keep will fit into your home before you make your final decision so that you don’t end up cluttering your space.

“If you parent was a hoarder or had hoarding tendencies, approach decluttering their home with care. It may have fallen into disrepair, have boxes piled high or have a pest infestation, all of which can be hazardous. Try not to do it all yourself. If there is a lot of stuff or it is on the more extreme end of the hoarding spectrum, then seek support from professional services. These could include specialist home organisers, junk removal companies and deep cleaning companies. Look for easy wins by ridding your loved one’s home of rubbish, such as old newspapers, magazines, food and worthless things. Start with a small area at a time and celebrate every bit of space you create. It can feel like a momentous task but celebrating small wins will keep you motivated. Part of the difficulty when sorting through a hoard is that precious things like cash, family heirlooms and paperwork can be stored in all sorts of places. Although it may feel tempting to dismiss things as rubbish, check through belongings as carefully as you can so you don’t miss anything important.” – Lizzie

Although decluttering is a physical process, it’s closely LINKED TO OUR EMOTIONS AND MINDSET, so by letting go of anything excess or not relevant, you’re effectively HELPING FREE UP TIME AND ENERGY for the most important things in life.
Catharina Björkman

If Your Partner Has Passed Away

“If you partner has passed away and you’re ready to sort through their belongings, work at a pace that feels right to you – there is no correct amount of time that this sorting process takes. Be kind to yourself and remember that getting rid of your spouse’s possessions doesn’t mean you are getting rid of the person or your memories of them. Start with the ‘easier’ categories of your loved one’s belongings – ones that you are not as sentimentally attached to. This means you can gently start to familiarise yourself with the process of letting go of their possessions. Choose a few items you love and really remind you of your loved one in a positive way. You may feel able to display these in your home in a way that brings you joy. Or you may want to keep these in a memory box to look at when you want to. These will help you feel connected to your loved one and their memory. Donate items you are letting go of to a charity or organisation which holds a special meaning for your loved one or yourself. This will give a sense of meaning to the process and make it easier to let go of any guilt or reluctance to part with their possessions.

“Keep truly treasured sentimental items that genuinely bring you happy memories. If you find it difficult to let go of sentimental belongings, take a photo of these objects so you can let them go. If you still want a physical reminder, you can print the photos and put them in a scrapbook along with a note about what your memory is attached to each object. Just seeing a picture of an object brings back the memories but means you can let go of the physical items taking up space in your home. It is also helpful to create a ‘memory box’ for yourself so that you have a dedicated space to keep your truly sentimental possessions which are not on display in your home.” – Lizzie

“Don’t overdo it or aim to clear everything all at once. Instead, break it into small, manageable chunks. Don’t start with big tasks such as clearing out the loft or garage but, instead, set yourself small challenges that can be quickly crossed off, such as organising post or documents, or sharing treasured pictures and mementoes amongst family and loved ones. Even if it only takes you ten minutes, it will likely be an emotional experience but one that will give you a great sense of accomplishment. Having loved ones around is important during times of grief and change, so enlist help from those around you – children, siblings and friends can all be a great support system in both an emotional and practical sense. Make sure to delegate to people you trust so not everything falls on just your shoulders.

“Also, remember that different items hold different memories for everyone, so what may not be of importance for you to keep may hold a particularly special place in another loved one’s heart. Giving each child or grandchild a chance to choose an item of particular sentimental value, or that may just be of practical use to them, is a lovely way of taking some jobs off your plate while also allowing others into the process. Just remember to start small – this will help build up an eagerness to tackle bigger jobs and will keep stress levels down.” – Catharina

If You Want A Professional 

“It’s definitely worth hiring a professional organiser to help, as it will make the process more enjoyable and less overwhelming. It will also help keep you motivated and accountable, meaning you actually finish this project. Professional organisers provide both a practical helping hand and empathetic, non-judgemental support through what can be an emotional process. Their services include helping clients down-sizing to declutter and organise pre-move and then unpack and organise into their new home; helping clients or families with hoarding tendencies to declutter; working with those who have suffered a bereavement to declutter their loved one’s possessions. They help declutter and organise any area of the home from attics to basements and any category of belongings including clothes, paperwork and photos.” – Lizzie 

Ready To Get Started? Here, Lizzie Shares Her Top Five Tips For Decluttering Your Home…


Find Your Motivation 

Decide what you want to achieve with your decluttering project. You may be preparing your home to downsize or want to leave your heirs a lighter load. Whatever your motivation to declutter, write it down along with the benefits and how you will feel once it is completed. Refer back to this note to keep yourself motivated.


Slow & Steady Wins The Race

Don’t try to tackle everything at once. Instead, focus on one small space or one category of belongings at a time. Starting small and taking things a bit slower will be less overwhelming and you are more likely to continue decluttering. You will always make progress if you consistently declutter and you will find yourself building up speed as you get better and better at making decisions. 


Make Firm Decisions

To decide what to keep and let go of, ask yourself questions like: Do I love it and use it? If not, why not? Would I buy it again now? What purpose does it serve in my life? Does it make me feel positive? Do I have something else that serves the same purpose and which I prefer? Only keep objects that you really love and use. Releasing unwanted items and clearing space in your home will make you feel like a weight has been lifted.


Deal With The Emotions

You will come across a lifetime of memories and experiences as you declutter. It’s natural to want to hold onto things that remind you of different stages of your life. However, release anything that isn’t serving you positively in your life today. Remember you don’t have to keep things out of guilt, and you don’t have to be the ‘keeper of things’ for your family. Focus on making firm decisions about what physical objects are really important for you to keep.


Remove Unwanted Items Quickly 

Getting unwanted items out of your home quickly is an important part of decluttering. Donating is always a great option, especially if the unwanted things are still in good condition. Some charities, like the British Heart Foundation, will even collect donations from your home. Selling your unwanted items is another option, for example, on Vinted or eBay. This can be a great way to declutter your home and make some extra money at the same time. However, if selling feels overwhelming, find another easier option to let go of items. The key is to get them out of your home! 

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