How to declutter and reclaim your space
Updated: Apr 8, 2018
There's a quote I love: "Your home is a living space, not a storage space". If your home doesn’t feel that way, don’t worry: you’re definitely not alone. Here are 5 tips to help you declutter.
But first up, let's look at some stats.
The average Briton owns 1000 items.
Over the course of our lifetime, we will spend a total of 153 days searching for misplaced items. We lose up to 9 items every day. Phones, keys, sunglasses, and paperwork top the list.
The Daily Mail
The average Brit currently owns 53 items of unworn clothing, 36 CDs and DVDs that are never played, and 7 pairs of unwanted shoes. If you placed our unworn or unused shoes in heel to toe they would go once round the world.
"Those who hoard objects and whose rooms contain a degree of clutter suffer from lower quality sleep than those who keep a clean pallet. The human response to clutter is a programmed desire to clean it up. When your mind is constantly preoccupied by the mess that’s surrounding you, the added anxiety will cause your mind to focus on what’s wrong with your environment, rather than its own fatigue and need to recharge."
2015 study conducted by St. Lawrence University via Female First
So why do we hold on to stuff?
2/3 of Brits are keeping unused items 'just in case' they need them again.
34% said they keep some due to sentimental value.
3/10 said they have clutter because they can't spare the time to try and sell it all.
Having too much stuff in our homes and work spaces seems to be a common theme, so here are a few ideas to feel good about letting go of the things we no longer need.
Tip 1: Start with where and why
Answer these questions to give you some focus:
Which specific area of clutter affects or bothers you the most each day?
What would be different if that specific area of clutter was gone? How would you feel? What would you use the space for?
How much time do you want to give yourself to clear it? When can you fit that time in?
What could get in the way of you clearing that specific clutter at that time? How could you overcome those barriers?
How do you want to book that time and task with yourself?
Try and get the task scheduled and completed within 48 hours of answering these questions to maximise on your motivation!
Tip 2: Take a photo of your room.
Have you ever moved into a new home and thought, 'I've got to fix that door handle' or, 'I'm going to clean those scuff marks off the wall right away'? Yet a few weeks later, the things that were so obvious to us are left undone, and have now become kind of invisible. We get used to the way things are.
That's why looking at a photo of your room, rather than at the room itself, can be a useful way to get a fresh perspective.
So take a picture on your phone, then ask yourself:
Which part of the room are your eyes most drawn to?
Where do you notice clutter first?
Start by decluttering that spot to make a big impact, fast. Results are motivating, so once one area is decluttered - look back at the photo to pick a new spot and keep up the momentum.
Tip 3: Find an even better home for your stuff
Your trash could be someone else’s treasure.
I googled ‘donations needed Bristol’. I got over 600,000 results.
At the time of my search:
Age UK - reuse or recycle desktop PCs, laptops, computer monitors and tablets.
Emmaus - working white goods and electrical appliances, tools, equipment, etc.
Aid Box Community - large bags, working vacuum cleaners, kitchen equipment, tents, sports kits, etc.
Julian Trust Night Shelter - need mugs, and men’s jeans, trainers and boxer shorts.
One25 - need umbrellas and deodorants.
Charlton Farm Children’s Hospice - need travel-size toiletries, particularly kids shampoo.
PDSA - accept stamps, mobile phones and gadgets by post.
Don't forget: charities often change their lists of required donations, so it's best to check with them before you drop anything off.
You might not even need a van for bulkier items. These charities may collect large items from you (depending on condition, location, etc.):
British Heart Foundation
It’s never been easier to sell stuff either. There are loads of websites to choose from, including:
We Buy Books
http://www.carbootjunction.com/ - list of local car boot sales
Freecycle and Freeloved (Cardiff, Cheltenham, Exeter) - people collect things for free
Just remember to read the small print and follow advice to keep your sales safe.
Tip 4: Take the challenge and create a habit
I'm really inspired by two American thought leaders called The Minimalists. They came up with something called the 30-Day Minimalism Game, which goes something like this:
"Find a friend or family member: someone who’s willing to get rid of their excess stuff. This month, each of you must get rid of one thing on the first day. On the second, two things. Three items on the third. So forth, and so on. Anything can go! Clothes, furniture, electronics, tools, decorations, etc. Donate, sell, or trash. Whatever you do, each material possession must be out of your house—and out of your life—by midnight each day."
Here's how I had my minimalism month:
I chose August, which has 31 days.
I did it on my own, but reported regularly to a friend.
As soon as I woke up, I selected items to be given or thrown away (recycled) by the end of each day (I used my car boot for temporary storage some days).
When I hit trickier decisions, I asked myself: Does it bring me joy? Do I use it right now?
The result? I didn't stick to the 31 days. I extended to 36 days instead. Why? Because this simple technique helped me to build a habit that became really motivating.
31 days would have seen me get rid of 496 items. I definitely ended up decluttering over 600. From chopsticks to paperwork, clothing to books - I managed to clear almost all of my storage boxes and free up a lot of space - both mental and physical.
And I haven't missed a single item. The Minimalists say that if needed, you can replace most things within 20 minutes, within 20 miles, and for under $20. That helped me to put all of those dusty 'just in case' items (spare sleeping bag, spare bike pump, spare pizza tray, etc.) in perspective.
Tip 5: Get inspired
Here are a few shows, books and apps you could tap into for a motivational boost:
Netflix documentary: ‘Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things’
Documentary: ‘The Story of Stuff’ (storyofstuff.org)
Book: ‘Eat That Frog! Get More of the Important Things Done Today’ by Brian Tracy
Book: ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying’ by Marie Kondo
App: Sortly - easily keep track of what you own, where it is and how much its worth
I wish you all the best with reclaiming your space!