Before I go any further can I make two things quite clear.
- There is no right or wrong way to do it
- I have still got a LONG way to go.
That was in response to all the lovely people who have asked my advice on decluttering, people who have read my blog and said, “I need to do that” and then said “but… how?” Thank you for reading, thank you for being interested and in return here is my answer to your question.
Drum roll …………… any way you want.
Really it is that simple, what ever works for you is the right way. Traditional decluttering advice is to start small, maybe empty a small drawer, or sort out a single box. If that’s the way you like to work then go for it. Personally I would (a) bore myself rigid and (b) never clear out a room let alone a house if I worked that way, but that’s okay too.
What this is not: the hard and fast rules to a good clear out.
What this is: the way I did it.
I hope you can pick out the bits you think may work for you and have a good laugh at the bits that you think are so stupid as to be worthy of a “Can you believe this” quote on Facebook.
- First empty out whole cupboards at a time, occasionally two at a time if the contents are similar (eg kitchen cupboards). Everything is dragged out and put on the floor or any available surface (watch out for small dogs, actually big dogs can be a problem too as then tend to just lie down on top of stuff. Declutter the dogs to the garden for the duration).
- Clean the cupboard. There is no point putting your nicely ordered and much reduced belongings in a cupboard that is housing Eighteenth Century dust (however lovely that dust might be).
- Survey the chaos on the floor and designate three areas BIN, KEEP, CHARITY/GIVE AWAY/SELL.
- Do not try to sort the last category right now, your priority is pare down what is going back in the cupboard, what you do with the rest of the stuff can be decided after you close the cupboard door.
- Do not spend too long thinking about something. If you have to really think about whether you need to keep it you don’t need to keep it. Interesting items that make you want to sit down and read them/try them on/look them up on the internet, are all well and good but now is not the time to do it unless you are doing the wardrobe when trying on is essential (see separate bit about clothes).
- Take a good look at your keep pile is there anything else you could take out?
- Guilt. Guilt is a great ally. If you feel the remotest twinge of guilt about not keeping something then it absolutely must go. Guilt is not a reason to clutter up your house and furthermore every time you look at that item you will feel bad. Do you like feeling bad? I rest my case.
- Just because you haven’t used it in six months is not necessarily a good reason to get rid of it. If you have a copious collection of Christmas cookie cutters but make hundreds of cookies at Christmas then by all means keep them, but perhaps you could find somewhere out of the way for them so they don’t get in the way for the rest of the year?
- Remove the discarded items AT ONCE. Stuff for the skip should be boxed up and put in the back of the car, the other pile put in another room for sorting once you have put everything else back in the cupboard.
- Before returning items take out any that need washing or small repairs. DO IT NOW. If you can’t be bothered to do it now put the items in the out pile because you aren’t going to use them if they are broken or dirty and if you can’t be bothered to do it now you are not going to do it when you need to use them.
- Tea break
- The charity/sell/give away pile. First of all take out anything you know to be of value that is worth selling. I know loads of people put anything and everything on ebay but personally I can’t be bothered to sell stuff that is only going to achieve a few pounds. I would rather give them away. Big ticket items such as antiques, furniture, sports equipment etc. may be worth approaching a specialist dealer.
- Next take out items that you KNOW somebody else would like. Don’t add to their clutter, but if you have a friend who has always hankered after your bread machine then offer it to them. Put these in the back of your car/by the front door if they can be picked up RIGHT NOW.
- Box up the rest for charity. Don’t put rubbish in the charity bags, they don’t want it either.
- Some people advocate an “I’m not sure” option too. I used to have that, but I am more ruthless now. If it gets as far as the “I’m not sure box” it is probably in there because of guilt – return to paragraph 7.
- Tea break (actually it is undoubtably wine o’clock by now).
There, that wasn’t so hard was it? I’ll look at specific issues such as clothes and books later on. In the meantime, there is no short cut. You just have to get in there and start sorting. Don’t worry about the big picture, it will take care of itself. Every single item that makes its way out of your front door is a step in the right direction and every journey starts with a single step.