How to curb clutter and create a happier home
PUBLISHED: 13:22 22 January 2019 | UPDATED: 15:11 23 January 2019
Get your home fit for 2019 with a much-needed clutter diet. Gabrielle Fagan asks calm queen Debora Robertson for some expert tips.
A new year isn’t just the time for a new look for you - it can also be the perfect opportunity to transform your home, and rid it of the clutter that may be clogging up space and ruining its appearance (and adding to daily stress).
“It’s the nature of modern life that new possessions flood into our homes all the time,” says Debora Robertson, author of DeClutter: The Get-Real Guide To Creating Calm From Chaos.
“Clutter drains you of energy, steals your time, robs you of storage space and fills up your weekends with things that need cleaning, mending or putting away,” Robertson adds.
She promises that, with a bit of planning and a new approach, it is possible - and even quite simple - to achieve a smart, organised haven. To imagine what it would feel like, she suggests recalling the sense of calm and relaxation experienced when staying in a hotel, where there are “just enough” possessions for your needs (felt good, right?).
Here’s Robertson’s guide to transforming four key zones in your home...
Conjure kitchen calm
“Believe me, if you get your kitchen right, everything else will flow from there,” says Robertson. “It’s the room a lot of use the most, and getting this right prepares us to work a similar magic on the rest of our homes, one bit, one bite, at a time.”
Step 1: Do the 15 Fling! Take a rubbish bag and set your kitchen timer for 10 minutes. Fill it with 15 things you don’t love or don’t need. “Don’t think too hard about it, otherwise you’ll remember you have some emotional attachment to something that will make you indecisive,” she says. “Don’t, whatever you do, look back into the bag. As soon as that buzzer goes, seal the bag, put it in the outside bin. Do this once a day and do it in other rooms too.”
TIP: You can do the ‘15 Fling’ with possessions that are in good condition and useful but just not for you, and recycle them at charity shops. Oversize appliances and gadgets gobble up space, so confront the truth about who you really are. If you’re not a person who’s ever going to make your own yoghurt, ice cream or bread, get rid of those gizmos.
Create a stairway to a clutter-free haven
“Hallways, staircases and landings can evolve into a lively obstacle course of casually discarded shoes, coats, bag, sports equipment - and heaps of things which are on their way into your house, and heaps of things which are on the way out,” says Robertson.
“They’re also the first areas you see when you come home, so it’s worth making an effort to keep them looking neat and welcoming, to avoid that just-walked-in-the-door heart sink of doom.”
Step 1: Limit what you keep in the hall to the stuff you’ll be using this season to give yourself a fighting chance at order. Wellingtons, winter boots and heavy coats take up a lot of space, so try and find storage for them when they’re not needed.
TIP: A basket or two makes a great place to keep things you are de-cluttering until you can get them out of the house (Make a note in your diary of exactly when you plan to do that!). Make room for a mini-recycling spot, so you can open post and dump anything you don’t want so it’s ready to go out.
Reclaim that living space
“Living rooms can very easily become stuffed to the gills with unloved bits of inherited furniture, ‘it’ll-do-for-now’ pieces, family memorabilia, half-done craft projects you’re going to do one day (newsflash: You’re not),” says Robertson.
“Papers and magazines sit fatly on tables, books spill off shleves, remote controls seem to have undertaken their own breeding programme somewhere in the corner. Yet this is a space where you’re supposed to slough off the physical and emotional pummelling of the day and relax”
If you can afford a big room revamp, invest in a Selecta Storage System, from £1,500-£25,000 depending on units and length, Lema.
Step One: Start by considering what you mainly use your living room for - is it entertaining, reading or relaxing? This will help you prioritise your possessions. Remove what’s no longer needed for other purposes.
Step Two: Edit sofa cushions, cut them to a realistic number and donate the rest to the charity shop. Go through ornaments and photos on mantelpieces and decide on those you really want to keep and move the rest on.
Step Three: Choose furniture that has built in storage, such as console units with shelving, ottomans and footstools with removable tops, or vintage trunks that can double as a coffee tables.
Store away for a serene sanctuary
“Often, the room in your home that should be the most nurturing and restful is the source of most anxiety,” says Robertson. “Clothes burst out of wardrobes, second-best bathrobes slump gloomily on hooks, unread magazines clutter nightstands, and chairs groan under the weight of clothes.
“But your room doesn’t have to look like something from Pinterest. Order has its own beauty. A clean, aired, well-organised bedroom with clear surfaces and a freshly-made bed is one of the most soul-pleasing and nurturing places on the planet. You can create this for yourself.”
Step One: Pare back bedlinen - you only really need three sets per bed. Store by folding a fitted sheet, top sheet, duvet cover and pillowcases, so they fold up into one pillowcase from the same set.
Step Two: Start with a 10-minute cull of underwear - put everything that’s worn-out into a bag and get rid of it. Next look at clothes - but do not, whatever you do, dump everything on the bed at once. You’ll feel overwhelmed and probably give up - and have more mess, not less. Instead, set a timer to give you a set period to sort out what you like and wear from what you don’t.
Step Three: Get rid of any item that doesn’t make you feel good when you put it on. Think whether you would buy it again if you saw it in a shop, if not, recycle it. Cut down on multiples - no one needs 20 white shirts - discard any which are past their best.
TIP: When you’ve been through your wardrobe and pared it down, make a note in your de-cluttering journal (this is a must-have item which will help you keep on a de-cluttering track) and make a note anything that would genuinely fill a gap and give the clothes you already own a new lease of life. It might be a new jacket or jeans - and by identifying what you really need, you’ll avoid impulse buying and wasteful duplication.
Declutter: The Get-Real Guide to Creating Calm From Chaos by Debora Robertson, is published by Kyle Books, priced £12.99 (kylebooks.co.uk). Available now.