reverse decluttering part two

Today I tackled R, S and T.  In the spirit of the absurdity of this challenge I set myself I began with T.

That was easy, tea-towels.  I have long noticed that I have far too many tea towels and some of them are really beyond a boil up with some bleach. Tea towels are insidious little wotsits.  They creep up on you gradually, especially whilst you have young children.  I defy any parent not to have a drawer full of the annual school fundraising tea towel, and probably several from their friends and nieces and nephews.  Three Christmases later and you have a drawer full of handprints and wonky self-portraits.  I still have a number of good quality linen tea towels that are as old as the hills if not older.  Those without holes survived the cull and linen is much better than cotton as a tea towel.  After that I kept a handful of good quality tea towels and it was “Off with their heads!” for the rest.  There are several aprons in this pile too as they were in the same drawer.  I’ll have to think of something else when I finally get to A.

 

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S had to be shoes.  It was a pair of shoes that set off this blog, and I have always had far too many.  Only a handful today.  I felt that there were several more that could go too but I was wavering and this isn’t meant to be an in depth declutter but a short sharp shock.

 

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Which leaves R.  R is for Reading Matter (it’s my challenge I can be as lateral thinking as I like 🙂 )  No problem here.  I have been eyeing up a shelf of unread and unwanted books for a while.  I hope they go to good homes where they will be loved and read from cover to cover.

 

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I have an idea for Q 🙂

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.

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.

 

do your shoes cut the mustard?

 

mustard

I am no spring chicken.  I am not yet ready to move into elasticated waist slacks (though should I live long enough it may well come and I do not knock them) but there are certain styles that would shriek “mutton” and “lamb” if I were to step out in them

But that does not mean I have to slip into cashmere twinset and pearls (on the other hand I LOVE cashmere and pearls I just need to rock them with something a little edgier  like a leather jacket to avoid looking like my grandmother).

Consequently I signed up to 40plusstyle  and the new year challenge.  Each day you are given an assignment and are encouraged to develop a pinterest and polyvore board of your fashion choices and inspiration.  Having just done a full wardrobe inventory and started recording what I was wearing each day I thought this might be a good way to help me use everything in my wardrobe and accept those things that just don’t cut the mustard.

Today was footwear day.  Make a list of all your shoes/boots (done that).  Take one outfit and change it completely by just changing the footwear, now that was fun.  Then I spent some time going through my favourite shoe shops and pinning the shoes and boots I liked.  I then compared them to what I actually own.

BIG mismatch.  Okay, not disasterous, but there are far too many mummsy shoes in there and surprise surprise, I don’t wear them.  I have five pairs of black suede court shoes from low to eiffel tower size heels. FIVE?  I love biker boots but don’t own any.  I hardly ever wear brown shoes and have 7 pairs.

As part of the learning process I am not going to purge any until I get back from Australia.  That gives me three months to give some of those shoes a chance.  It is easy to just put on the black loafers I took off last night and just about go with everything.    Then, it’s cut the mustard time.

how to save your sanity with a small box

We all  have to have one get out a gaol free card, one perfectly allowable excuse.  Unless you are so minimalist as to be able to pack your entire life into a shoebox then the same is true for your house.  It has to have it’s own get out of gaol card.

We tend to spend most of our time in one of three rooms, the kitchen, the morning room or the sitting room.  As sure as night follows day our detritus follows us.  Thus these rooms tend to have more than their fair share of clutter.  Not things that need to be got rid off, but things that belong somewhere else.  And we all know what clutter attracts … more clutter.    Leave that bottle of suncream on the coffee table and it will soon be joined by a phone, a shopping list, yesterday’s post and an empty mug.
On the other hand, even control freaks like me cannot spend all their time running up and downstairs putting things away, and what about the things that aren’t yours and you don’t know where they belong (other than not on the coffee table)?  Enter the box.The box has two criteria:

  1. it must be small enough to fit on a shelf, somewhere easily accessible, it is not a giant storage box;
  2. it must be reasonably attractive, it is on view, personally I don’t want a horrid electric pink plastic box in my kitchen.

I have a small (9″x6″x12″) rectangular wicker box that fits on top of a freestanding cupboard in the kitchen next to the radio and the spare change jar.  It is easily accessible, but not in the way.

You can put two things in the box:

  1. Those useful things that you need but don’t deserve a drawer of their own.  In our case that is my hearing aid batteries and replacement tubes, tiny screwdrivers for tightening glasses, two torches, matches/lighter, the village newsletter, a couple of penknives, letter opener, lip salve, hand cream, a small jar of Euros for when we go to Europe.
  2. Things that need to go somewhere else but I don’t have time to rehome them right now.  Recently this has included a bottle of perfume, several pairs of earrings, a pocket hairbrush, a toothbrush, a newly filled prescription and the cat worming tablets.

Once a week (and this is CRUCIAL) you must upend the box completely and sort it out, returning only the items in section one.  All items falling into section two  must now be put back in one fell swoop.  Here is my box in all it’s glory after the Friday sort out.

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And here are the two piles ready to be rehomed, one to the study

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and one to the bedroooms.

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This box is our lifesaver.

  • If somebody has lost something there is a 99% chance somebody else has put it in the box.
  • Little things do not get left on surfaces and lost.
  • I don’t lose my temper half as much with my appallingly untidy family 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

why you can’t declutter without a hairbrush

The decorations are down.  You have finished almost all of the leftovers.  The alarm clock is your new best friend.  And the house is a tip.  There is the little pile of presents you don’t really know where to put.  A pile of chocolates and other “interesting” delicacies that nobody wants to eat.  Worst of all there is all that stuff you hid in cupboards and under beds before Christmas because you hadn’t got the time to sort it out then and you didn’t want it cluttering up the house over the holidays.

So what do you do?  You start decluttering.  You hit IKEA or the Pound Shop for interesting storage ideas that will help you be more organised.  You spend hours on FlyLady (which is excellent btw) and realise that the reason you are in such a mess is that you don’t have the right cleaning tools.  You invest a small fortune on house planners and organisers.  And by the end of the week you are (a) poor (b) knackered (c) the owner of clutter in boxes as opposed to clutter on the floor.

So I introduce you to the essentials for a good house declutter and start to the new year.

Hairbrush

hairbrush

 

Do not attempt to declutter in your pyjamas.  I am right there with Flylady on this.  This is a job.  Would you go to work in your onsie?  Get up, get dressed, brush your hair (and tie it up if it is long like mine, it will just keep getting in the way), clean your teeth and address your clutter from a position of organised superiority.  If you feel clean and organised you have already won half the battle.  If you feel grubby and unkempt you are not going to be in the right mindset.  Get the mindset and the body will follow.

Shoes

shoes

 

You will be taking stuff out to the rubbish, to the compost, to the car.  It is winter (well for half of us anyway) it is wet, cold and even snowy.  You do not want to be wearing slippers.  Also see above (1) above.

Once you are up, dressed, shiney and ready to go you can assemble the following.  I’ll take you through  each item day by day over the next week.  I am not going to go over the sorting process (keep, bin, donate) you are all grown up.  You know how to actually do the decluttering, you do not need a book or a blog to tell you what to do.  This is about how to keep you on the ball, how to change little things in your daily life that can help all that stuff getting through the door in the first place

  • A house walk
  • The fridge and larder
  • 12 dividers and a simple ring binder
  • A blackboard
  • A small box
  • An apron

See you later 🙂

 

 

 

the dead zone

The presents have been sort of put away.  The fridge is full of leftovers, not enough for a whole meal on their own but little bowls of stuff.  Your Christmas guests have departed and even the dogs aren’t trying to eat the last chocolates.  What do you do between Christmas and New Year?

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In some countries it is business as usual, 26th December isn’t a public holiday and everybody troops back to work until 1st of January when the hangover cures come out and regretful memories of jaegerbombs and advocaat bang around sore heads.  However, for some, particularly large parts of the UK the holiday starts on the evening of 24th December and stretches out until the alarm goes on 2nd January.

I have to admit I love the long Christmas holiday.  I have my family around me, I can have a lie in, I don’t have to cook much as we have a long list of family traditional leftover meals that would spark a revolution if we didn’t prepare, I have lots of books to read, I can plan for 2014 and the dogs get long and wet walks.

But that time is also a great gift and it is easy to squander it, to look back at that fortnight and wonder what on earth you did. So, why not shift that backside, shake those legs and try something different….

  • Go to a local attraction, you know, the one you never go to because you live next door.  Better still go to one aimed at children and families and let your inner child out playing the treasure hunt or working out why ice is solid, feed the reindeer and make a paper snowflake.
  • Play one in one out with your christmas presents.  Unless you were given a Picasso for Christmas the chances are that you already have several of whatever you were given, but the new ones fit/work/go with your decor.  Throw or donate the grey knickers, the books you have read the scarf you never wear, the shoes that don’t quite fit.  This isn’t a clear out it is a single swap.
  • See if there are any matinee tickets for the local panto.  The evenings will definitely be sold out but trying to feed everyone and be in your seats for 7.30 can be a pain anyway.  Far easier to have an early lunch and work it all off with Widow Twankey (UK readers only I am afraid 🙂 )
  • Get out that book you keep meaning to read but never have the time.  Maybe it’s a heavy duty history book, an esoteric guide to comparative religion, a thumping great biography or a cookery book you have never had the time to try out.  You have the time now.
  • Bake.  Yes I know you were cooking right up until midnight on Christmas Eve.  But this is fun cooking, not mass catering I am talking about.  Bake cookies and decorate them with wild and ridiculous colours.  Have a go at making your own croissants or brioche, or bourbon biscuits, or custard creams….
  • Go to the garden centre and search out the “scratch and dent” corner.  They all have them, the corner where the dead looking plants are.  Most of them aren’t dead just hibernating but you can get fantastic bargains and now you have the time to bring them home and give them a little tlc before planting them out.
  • Paint.  No I do not mean redecorate.  This is most certainly NOT the time for that.  If you have always wanted to have a go at painting, palmistry, papier mache, pottery, philosophy then get out a book from the library, go online and have a go. This isn’t a full on course, this is spend an afternoon doing something simple you always said you would but never have.   Not everything has to begin with P by the way.

 

Decluttering is not just about getting stuff out of your house, it’s about getting stuff out of your life so that there is room in your life for the stuff that you love and that really matters to you.  If you are fortunate enough to have time off this Christmas, then why not use some of that time to find out exactly what it is that you love and matters to you.  It isn’t always as obvious as you think.

 

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.