ten top tips for letting go and decluttering

Reading Camilla Long in The Sunday Times I came across this gem  “…I may never be as tidy as my mother, whose Christmas afternoon treat is a full assault on the downstairs loo.”  I wondered briefly if Ms Long’s mother and I share similar genetic make up.  It is a standing joke that my idea of the perfect Mothering Sunday is to be allowed to gut my entire wardrobe from pyjamas to coats and everything in between without anybody mentioning the word “obsessive” once.

The reason for the outing of Mrs Long was the discussion of Marie Kondo a Japanese organisation and decluttering expert.  Always keen to see how other people approach the process I duly googled said expert.  I am now convinced that I share genetic backgrounds with both Mrs Long and Ms Kondo.

Her top ten tips are:

1. DO IT ALL AT ONCE, AND DO IT NOW
I have never subscribed to the slowly but surely approach to decluttering.  It has never worked for me for the simple reason that it is too slow.  I want to see results and I want to see them now.  Clearly if you live in a  house the size of ours you can’t do the whole thing in 24 hours but you can do a whole wardrobe or even a whole room.

2 DISCARD FIRST, SORT AND TIDY LATER
Empty out the whole cupboard sort it out and only put back what you are going to keep.  Put the rest in the bin/recycling/bag for the charity shop IMMEDIATELY and put them in the car the same day.  So long as it stays in the house you will be tempted to retrieve something you don’t need.  I find the pulling it all out and strewing it across the floor very satisfying, it is also an excellent shock reminder of how much rubbish you have.

3 START WITH THE EASY STUFF
Don’t start with the box of unsorted photos.  Start with something you know is due a serious clear out.  For most of us that’s the wardrobe.  Once you get into the swing of things letting go becomes easier.  I speak from experience, we are almost one year into our declutter and now hardly a day goes by when I don’t fill at least one small bag, if not a bin bag every day.  This is the result of a quick sweep this afternoon.

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4 PUT EVERYTHING IN EACH CATEGORY IN ONE PLACE FIRST
You cannot sort your wardrobe if half of it is in the dirty washing basket/ironing pile/dry cleaners/back of the sofa.  Get everything together at once.  This is the only way you can spot duplicates or a disturbing fondness for electric orange tee-shirts.

5 THROW AWAY EVERYTHING YOU DON’T LOVE
You’ve heard it before a million times.  If you don’t use it (don’t throw out your toothbrush) or love it then why is it taking up space in your house?  It is hard at first, I know.  But it really does work.  I finally got rid of three sarongs today.    There is nothing wrong with them but I don’t wear sarongs anymore, I prefer to throw  kaftan over my swimming costume (I think this is something to do with age and size :) )  I kept them because they were perfectly good and quite pretty.  But I don’t need them and they certainly don’t make me smile when I see them.  Well they didn’t until I saw them in the charity pile.

6 DITCH YOUR PAPERWORK
There are some things that you have to keep.  Legal documents (birth, marriage, divorce certificates)  Insurance polices, tax returns and supporting papers for 7 years etc.  You do not need to keep your credit card statements and bank statements for the past 10 years or more.  You really don’t need to keep all the paperwork that comes with electrical goods.  If  you don’t know how to use something there is more information on the internet than there is in the multilingual pocket sized guide that comes with your phone.  Where and how you keep them is up to you.  Marie Kondo says keep them in upright containers to avoid the collection getting too big.  Having seen the size of some magazine files I think it is possible to let a collection get to gargantuan proportions.  My preferred method is to put the paperwork loose in a dropfile in a filing cabinet.  You can’t fill a dropfile to bursting point.  It just falls apart.  Find what works for you but do not EVER use box files or magazine files.  You can get far, far too much in them.

7 LET GO WITH LOVE (GIFTS AND KEEPSAKES)
Why?  Why are you filling your house with guilt?  Do you like feeling guilty?  Yet every time you see that vase, or that book or that scarf you never wear you are filled with a huge sense of guilt that you hate  something that a loved one chose for you.  Hey, we have different tastes, that’s what makes it interesting to meet new people.  Just because your mother loved the purple Angora stole doesn’t mean you have to.  But somebody else will.  On that basis surely it is more wrong to keep something that is never going to be loved or used than to give it away and let somebody who really does love it use it on a daily basis.  I let go of a shoulder bag that my father brought back from Australia  THIRTY YEARS AGO!  Today I finally looked at it and knew that my father would be laughing his socks of if he knew how long I had been carting that bag around the country.

8 DON’T BUY EXPENSIVE OR COMPLICATED STORAGE EQUIPMENT
Because you will just fill it up.  You already  have cupboards, drawers, coat hooks.  Use them.

9 LEARN HOW TO FOLD CLOTHES – THEN STORE THEM ‘STANDING UP’
This is the first time where Kondo and I part company but that may be because in our house I have far more hanging space than drawer or cupboard space.    I’ll leave this one up to you.

10 TREAT YOUR POSSESSIONS LIKE PEOPLE
If you have followed the rules and only kept things you love then treat them well.  If you only have three handbags it’s easy to keep them clean, polish them and put them back in their dustbags.  If you have 23 handbags you’ll never manage that.

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S to M declutter will be coming soon.  I can’t believe I just typed that :)

In the meantime a quick wardrobe update.  The wardrobe has been my main focus of attention since the big stuff went off to auction/charity/skip earlier this month.  The Gin Gan is wonderfully empty and I am really beginning to feel the day to day difference.  I think psychologically even though I had removed so so so much from our house the fact that it was still on site was a big issue for me and I am glad it’s gone.

Living out of one medium sized suitcase for a month focuses the mind and on my return from Australia I was able to take a look at my much depleted wardrobe and  cull another 30%.  This afternoon I had an urge to do a bit more.  It is interesting that once you really get going it is much, much easier to keep going and become more purposeful.

This is what was left after the Singers and Dancer had picked out the few items that they wanted.

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I now have three full bags of clothes in the back of my car ready to be taken to The British Heart Foundation shop in town.  I was talking to a friend today who is at the beginning of her declutttering process.  She is at the overwhelmed stage.  Remember the Gaussian normal distribution bell curve?  It looks like this.

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Ignoring the statistical use of the bell curve and just looking at the shape for a moment and I think it represents our approach to decluttering.  We start with high hopes and approach the issue head on.  Then we realise just how big the job is, how overwhelming it can feel and we are tempted to give up.  Assuming we keeping going then we plough through the really hard times.  The times when we have got rid of the things that were easy to get rid of because we didn’t really want them.  Now we are faced with the things that we don’t need but somehow we still want.  Finally we get to the top and like the helter skelter rider we come racing down because now it is easy, we “get it”, we want to be unburdened.

So wherever you are on the curve, remember there is a helter skelter ride at the end and it is worth it.

 

 

reverse decluttering part one

So the reverse declutter begins.  No that does not mean I am bringing stuff in – heaven forbid.  No, this alphabetical mularky, the one that is supposed to encourage me to look beyond the easy declutter and get rid of things that I didn’t really know I had or go into boxes I would prefer were left untouched.

Z is for zips.  As it happens my haberdashery (the posh name for the boxes containing sewing sort of stuff) boxes contained no zips but they did contain a lot of dross.  All of which is now gone.

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Nice and tidy.

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Rubbish and ebay (there wasn’t much in between).

Y is for yellow.  This isn’t actually mine, it belongs to the Boss.  It’s a truly vile yellow sweatshirt.  Goodness knows what he was thinking when he bought it.   He has never worn it and if he did I would disown him.  The yellow chicken has been sitting in my study for years and gathering dust.  Out it goes

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X is for x-tra (well sort of).  Time to get rid of duplicates and things of which I have more than one.  Despite all they have done to provoke me over the years I am keeping all three daughters, dogs, cats and chickens.  Instead I hoofed out two orange squeezers (each one bought whilst on holiday to take advantage of the wonderful fruit.  We now have one small juicer living permanently in our suitcase along with a tin opener, sharp knife, corkscrew and bottle opener – the essentials of any holiday picnic :) ).

W is for wellies.  How many “spare” pairs of wellies do we need?  I used to keep them because we live in the middle of nowhere, it can get very muddy and when the girls were small and had friends over they were useful to have to hand.  I think we are past that stage now.

V is for vittels (it was all I could think of).  Combined three jars of honey into one and ditto various pasta shapes.

U is for undies.  Now there is not a lot I like more than a good clear out of my knicker drawer.  Sad I know.  This time I did underwear drawer and sock drawer and I feel very virtuous.

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Undies

 

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Socks etc.

I know.  Not quite an item a day.  But If you add up all the items going out the door they certainly exceed 365 so not bad for a fortnight I think.  Oh and the first half of the last wardrobe sale on ebay netted over £150.  Wonder what I’d get for a pair of twins and an elder sister with a clean driving licence?

 

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from zebras to aardvarks

It would be hard to even have a tiny little presence on the blogosphere and not be aware of the plethora of themed blog posting programmes around.  The most common seems to be the A to Z.  The idea is that you blog each day about a subject (about which presumably you know a little) beginning with A and then B and then C and so on.

For the most part I’m not a great fan of these because they have a terrible tendency to generate blogs about obscure and relatively uninteresting topics in which neither the writer nor the reader have a great interest.

However, it occurred to me that our decluttering journey has plateaued a little.  We have been through every room and every outbuilding.  To be honest, I think we need to go through them all again, and no doubt we will in a couple of months.  But we need a challenge to keep us on board.

Having said that we have gone from this,

 

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to this.

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And that doesn’t even include the now empty and immaculate outbuildings :)

 

I hate to follow a trend, I like to be contrary.  So I thought I would take the A to Z challenge and turn it on it’s head.  I aim to declutter at least one item a day (and hopefully considerably more) starting with an item beginning with Z and 26 days later an item beginning with A.  I don’t know if I even own anything that begins with Z, but I will have to find it and let it go.

Fear not, gentle reader.  I will not post every day for the next 26 days on my progress.  I will give you an update every now and then, and FB friends will be subjected to a daily post.  In the meantime I have just packed up a van in the pouring rain to take stuff to the auctioneer.  By the time the van was full the rain stopped and my lunch was yet another burnt offering to the Aga god.  Only we about one more van load to go and then we are really down to the small fry.

Now to find something beginning with Z.

 

from haybox to wonderbag

Those of you old enough to remember the three day week and the oil crisis will remember sudden and unexpected power cuts and half cooked dinners.  My mother overcame this by making a haybox.  To be fair rather than using hay she used a sturdy wooden box and a selection of cushions.  The idea was that you brought the meal (usually, but not always, a soup or casserole) to the boil, popped it in the box, surrounded on all sides, top and bottom by cushions and left it to cook.

Fast forward some 15 years and I went out to work as a health education volunteer in Umtata in the Transkei with Project Trust.     It was an amazing experience, I hope as much for the people we worked with as it was for us, the volunteers.  As a side line if you are or know somebody who is looking for a volunteering experience in the developing world PT is not only one of the oldest, but also one of the best in the business.  They are not, unlike many, in it to make money.  They have been going since 1967 and have sent over 6000 carefully selected volunteers overseas.  But I digress.

One of the issues faced in the Transkei was the lack of fuel.  We built a simple haybox (this time using hay!) and with our trusty three legged potiji

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we went out to show people how to save on fuel and still have a hot meal at the end of the day.  We used it ourselves and it failed us only once, a particularly stringy goat at Sitebe.

Recently I came across this.

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My newly arrived Wonderbag.   Essentially it works in exactly the same way as my mother’s cushion box and our haybox.  But there are three fundamental differences:

  • For every Wonderbag purchased another bag is donated to a family in Africa.
  • The Shwe-Shwe bags are made by women in South Africa creating jobs and income.
  • The World Wildlife bags generate a donation to WWF for every bag purchased

It’s also great for:

  • Camping
  • Picnics
  • Students
  • Bulk cooking
  • Working families – cheaper than the slow cooker and no worries about leaving the slow cooker on whilst you are out.

If you are still unsure have a look at this.    What are you waiting for?

creeping out of the corner

Way back here I rather piously blogged about decluttering my wardrobe.  Then here I made an inventory of all my clothes.  Then I went and hid in the corner for a while and now I am back on the wagon.

For most of us decluttering is an ongoing process.  Most of us have accumulated so much stuff that it just cannot be excised in a flash.  There is also a psychological and emotional element.  Much as we want to let go it is hard, or at least it is at first.  Believe me, it becomes much, much easier with time.

For charity

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For Ebay

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This is the latest wardrobe cull.  Six  months ago I could never have believed I would be getting rid of these items, but I have learned that I don’t wear them.  I don’t wear them because I don’t know they are there, I don’t wear them because either they don’t feel right, or my lifestyle no longer needs them.  And therefore I don’t need them either.

This afternoon I am going through the t-shirts and accessories and then tomorrow I will do a new inventory.  It has not been all one way.  I have bought clothes.  The clothes I have bought have all been similar in style, cotton jersey/bamboo/linen and very relaxed and easy to wear.  Easy mix and match and easy to layer.  I have noticed a general trend towards similar colours and no patterns on my main items, using scarves and jewellery to add colour.

My next step is to start making my own clothes using ethically sourced natural fabrics.  I have made up a few toiles and am waiting for the first fabrics to arrive.  I’m no great seamstress, so it is fortunate I don’t need to wear a fully fitted suit every day.  But fortunately I can make the kind of simple clothes I do like to wear, and like the food I make or grow myself I know where it has come from and how it was made.

raw chocolate

In my determination to reduce our waste I am reducing what we buy and looking at ways to reproduce products at home.  So today I made chocolate.  Well, I might as well practice on something I eat a lot of!

I  have a school friend Sarah Wheeler  who set up Pure Melt Chocolate in Mulumbimby.  I bumped into her whilst I was in Australia (as one does) and she inspired me to have a go at making our own chocolate.  I purchased the cacao butter, agave syrup, pure cacao powder and dried vanilla and off we went.

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First melt the cacao butter.

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Then add the cacao powder

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Then add the vanilla.

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Finally the agave syrup.  According to the instructions it would take approximately 100 stirs to incorporate.  That was about right.  It became the most beautiful shiny mixture.

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Then into the moulds and the fridge.

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Less than an hour later we had this.

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Oh my goodness, it is the most delicious chocolate I have ever tasted.  Even the Singers and the Dancer are converted.  I am never going to buy chocolate off the shelf again.  I have a head full of ideas to try.  Ginger is close to the top of the list, I may crystallise some orange peel, or add some cacao nibs for cruch,  chilli is an option.  Too many to list.