I am a bit of a clutter clearing fanatic. I think this is because of my parents. There aren’t candidates for Hoarders or anything but the following things do exist in my parents house:
- A drawer full of every single card ever given to us
- I once ate some sugar flowers, only to find out they were from my parents wedding cake!
- A roof (it’s not an attic) full of boxes of… I don’t actually know what.
I think the problem I always had with this, is although I could see why these things were important, I couldn’t see the point in having them hidden away where literally no one could see them. What’s the point? Beautiful and sentimental things should be on display, where people can look at them.
This thinking has led me to do several rounds of clutter clearing in my adult life. Before I moved in with Mike, I went through everything I had kept from high school (diaries, notes, that book I wrote with my best friends). I threw almost all of it out. My mum is still appalled about this, but I seriously read through all the notes and all the diaries, and found nothing I:
- Wanted to remember or reminisce over
- Wanted any of my children to read. Ever.
Seriously, it was shallow, vacuous and full of boys. I could never see myself wishing I had kept them. Five years later I still feel the same.
When we moved to Brisbane I did a similar purge, except this time I extended it to include all of my belongings. I got rid of random things I had collected (statues from cheap stores, kitchen goods I never used) and did another purge of random cards, notes and letters. Again, nearly three years later I still feel no guilt.
Clutter clearing isn’t about minimalism or living with less. It’s about getting rid of things that don’t add anything to your life, and keeping things that do. Trust me, you will feel amazing.
Here are my 5 tips for effective clutter clearing:
1. Just start: Okay, this is the obvious one, this is the one that appears on any article for doing something new/difficult, but seriously, you just have to start. How? Okay, here’s the plan:
- Do not buy any organising equipment (boxes, files, folders, vacuum bags). You can once you’re done and you know what you need to store. Do have some garbage bags on hand. I got this tip from Gretchen Rubin.
- Decide who will receive any donations.
- Pick a room.
- Identify storage/clutter catching areas (cupboards, under beds, bookshelves)
- Go shelf by shelf and start making decisions; keep, donate or throw out.
- Throw out: Anything broken that you either cannot be bothered repairing or can’t be repaired
- Donate: to charity (where all of our clothes go), friends or family
- Keep: Only things that are useful, you use, you can display or you will make the effort to look at
2. Be brutal: Be honest. Sentimental things are fantastic, they connect you to the past and help give you a big happiness boost. That said, they only do this if you actually ever look at them. When I did my big clear out of my high school mementos, I thought seriously about who I wanted to read them (no one, not even me), where I would store them (in a cupboard out of sight) and whether I would seriously, seriously, ever make the effort to look at them (no, I would not). Into the bin they went. That said, I still have my senior jumper, and I still wear it ALL THE TIME in winter. Often I wonder what happened to some of the people in my class, and I often feel sad that repeated washing has removed all the paint hand prints/quotes/signatures that once covered it. Stop and think: will you ever make the effort to look at this object (and by “make the effort” I don’t mean, flip through once a year when you happen to clean out/look in the cupboard/shelf that they are stored).
One last tip: Never feel obliged to keep things that mean nothing to you because you think others will judge you (my high school diaries are a great example, but other things might be your wedding dress, Christmas cards etc).
3. Listen to feng shui: Okay, so Feng Shui is occasionally a bit hokey, but there is one tip that I think is genius, and have to share. Never store anything under your bed. Ever. From a Feng Shui point of view it’s really bad for your chi. From a – I don’t believe in Feng Shui – point of view, look at it this way: As a teen I had piles of stuff under my bed (it’s how I used to clean…) and not a week would go by when I wouldn’t get into bed without thinking about/worrying about the mess under the bed. It weighed on my mind, and stressed me out (on a low level, but it was always there in the background). It probably does the same for you too. Clear. It. Out. Find new places for the stuff. Get rid of stuff. Just keep the space under your bed clear of anything. The only thing that is under my bed is my cat (not all the time of course)
.4. Put things on display: I think the point of owning beautiful things is to use them and have them. I have a friend who has a Chanel scarf. That she keeps in a box under her bed. What’s the point? Putting things on display will imbue your house with life and memories. Once you have cleared anything you don’t want to keep, start thinking about displaying the things you do. Put photos on a shelf, mementos on a nice tray. This can extend to even the simplest things. I love our kitchen because most things are on display; my food processor is on the bench, my beautiful mortar and pestle is nestled next to the hob, and my cook books…well they take up almost one whole wall. Once you have cleared the clutter, the things you are left with should enhance your life and bring you joy, and having them on display is a great way to constantly remind yourself of that!
That said, some things are better stored, but don’t just shove them on a shelf somewhere! Mike and I wrote many letters to each other when he was in basic training. We learnt so much about each other (and ourselves) through those letters. These days I have them bundled up (one bundle for him, one for me) and in a pretty box. Yes it’s in a cupboard, but I love knowing they are somewhere safe to maybe (maybe) show our children one day.
5. Maintain: Every six months I do a deep clean. I tackle it over a few weekends, only doing one or two rooms in a weekend. During this clean I:
- Clean windows
- Dust everything
- Vacuum (with carpet cleaner)
- Mark down any repairs that need doing
- Note down decoration thoughts
- And, most importantly I do a quick clutter clear
I get rid of broken things (like our steam mop), I tidy files, I find new places for decorations and I make notes about ways to improve storage. A good example is our reading room/my study. I really need to buy some folders to store my documents and bills and work out a better, or really any method, for storing all of my seeds.