any way you want

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.

  1. 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).
  2. 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).
  3. Survey the chaos on the floor and designate three areas BIN, KEEP, CHARITY/GIVE AWAY/SELL.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. Take a good look at your keep pile is there anything else you could take out?
  7. 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.
  8. 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?
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Tea break
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Box up the rest for charity.  Don’t put rubbish in the charity bags, they don’t want it either.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.


from the Leadmill to the pantry

Are the gigs at the Leadmill still as good?  Are the Peace Shop and The Fat Cat still on Division Street?  Is going over the top of the paternoster in the Arts Tower still the most frightening thing I have ever done?  Today I shall be finding out as I am accompanying the Dancer to Sheffield where she is going to check out the Medical School and I am going to find out how much it has changed since my student days.  Therefore I apologise but today you are getting a rehash.

This post was originally written for Susie at Let’s Get Organized.  But as I have no time to blog today I hope you don’t  mind if it comes back again.

How to tackle the kitchen…..


  1. Remove everything from the cupboard, endeavouring not to pin Newfoundland in a corner.
  2. Release cornered dog.
  3. Scrub cupboards and try not to show too much shock at the level of dust.
  4. Sit back on heels and look hopelessly at the chaos on the floor.
  5. Take a deep breath and dive in.

wall cupboard before

Wall cupboard before

Wall after

Wall cupboard after

At this point, traditional declutter divas recommend three piles.  Keep, Ditch and Maybe.  Personally I don’t hold with Maybe.  All you are doing is putting off the evil day when you have to make a decision.  As a Libran I know how hard that is so just get it over with.

Tins before

Tins before (oh my look at that dust!)

tins after

Tins after

              6. Sort into two piles.
7. Remove Ditch pile immediately to another room before you are tempted to put any of it back in cupboard.
8. Wash Keep pile as appropriate.
9. Enjoy replacing items in neat piles where you can see everything and there is plenty of space between items.
10. If (9) is not achievable go back to step (6) and repeat.

It sounds simple doesn’t it?  That’s because it is.  You don’t need fancy boxes or storage containers.  You do not need to spend the equivalent of a month’s salary at IKEA.  You just need to take command.  Whose room is it?  Yours or the Junk’s?

dresser bottom before

Dresser bottom before

dresser before

Dresser top before

dresser after

Dresser after

I can’t tell you how to approach level (6); we all have our own criteria.  But the important thing is to decide your criteria first.  I don’t necessarily go with the “if you haven’t used it in 6 months….”  Some things are only used a few times a year but are essential.  My husband wears his kilts only a few times a year but we would never get rid of them.  Our fish kettle is only used occasionally but is the only way we can cook a whole fish and as my husband is a keen fisherman we do cook whole fish.

My decision tree goes something like this:

  1. Do I use it?
  2. If no is there a reason why I should keep it?
  3. Yes answers may include family heirloom that would result in instant death and excommunication were I to ditch it/ I use it occasionally and need it for those occasions/ sentimental value.
  4. The above are all valid but the said items do not have to be kept in the kitchen cupboard taking up valuable space.  Is there somewhere else they can go?  Could they be put on display?  (Our fish kettle and wooden salad bowls live on the top of the dresser and look rather lovely but don’t get in the way.)
  1. Do I use it?
  2. If yes, are there more than one and do I need them all?
  3. I have a large collection of crockery because we entertain a lot and I don’t use anything disposable.  On the other hand I did not need 15 egg cups.  We are a family of 5, even with guests we are unlike to need more than 10.  I kept 9.  Three are family heirlooms, two belonged to my children and one belonged to me as a child.  Hit three birds with one stone.

Multiples of useful items are common stumbling blocks.  We all need mugs etc.  But how many do we need?  How big is your family?  How often do you have guests?  How many guests do you have?  Do you have a dishwasher? (Dishwashers eat crockery – if you hand wash you can get away with less).

tea cupboard before

Tea cupboard before

tea cupboard after

Tea cupboard after

I discovered we had 4 sets of bone china tea services, each contained a cup, saucer and tea plate for 8 to 12 plus two to four sandwich plates, milk jug, sugar bowl and teapot.  I had kept them for sentimental reasons and pretended I had kept them for my daughters.  My daughters will not want them and if they do they can fight over the one I will keep or do battle with my future son-in-laws’ families over their own tea services.  I don’t use coffee cups after dinner, I think they are far too small, I use the tea service.  Thus I have kept the largest service the rest will be boxed up for auction.

I did the pantry last week so there are no before and after photos.  However this is the one room I do declutter (rather than merely tidy) on a regular basis.  I am a bit anal about my pantry.  But that too turned out to require more attention than I had realised.  You will continue to buy more mint sauce if you can’t see the jar behind the rosehip jelly.  You have to inventory on a regular basis.  If you don’t you will end up making multiple purchases.



It helps if you plan your meals on a weekly basis.  I don’t subscribe to the 15 (or whatever) circulating recipes.  How boring that must get.  Instead I start my shopping in my pantry and freezer.  Then I get out 2-4 recipe books and look for new recipes to try using the major ingredients I have found on my in house shop.  I bought some mutton at the last farmers’ market so we have had several mutton/goat recipes this week (the two are easily interchangeable).  I supplement with recipes that catch my eye and then allocate them to days of the week, taking into account any evenings when one or more of us will be out late or away and to the length of time I will have available to prepare.  Baked potatoes and pasta (not together!) are our no time to chop night meals.  The shopping list is made on the basis on the ingredients I need which are not in the pantry or freezer.

This way you keep a regular eye on your store cupboard, have a menu plan for the week, buy only what you need and try out new recipes.  What’s not to like?

There is no point in getting rid of things you no longer need or want if you are just going to fill up the gaps with more of the same.  Like a dieter who drops two dress sizes you don’t want to go back.  You have to rethink how you shop.  I now have a strict one in one out policy.  I still love shopping, it’s just that I don’t buy anything.  I can enjoy and appreciate the beauty and form of everything from a dress to a vase.  But I don’t need to buy it.  I treat shopping like a trip to a museum, I admire but I leave it behind.