Written by Paisley Tedder

Decluttering: our top tips to streamline your house

Taking some time this lockdown to declutter your house? You’re not alone!

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Image:  DFS Java

Lizzie Grant, founder of decluttering site Declutter on Demand shares her top tips for having a successful sweep of your home this lockdown.

Focus on what you want to achieve

The key to deciding where to start decluttering in lockdown is to focus on why you want to declutter. Living in a disorganised and cluttered home can really take a toll on your energy levels and headspace – you may want to feel less stressed in your home, feel more organised when working from home or create a space where you can truly relax in the evenings. Whatever your reason, asking yourself what you want to achieve will mean that your decluttering projects are ones which will really make the most difference to your lockdown living.

Have a donation station

Before you start decluttering, designate a space in your home where your unwanted belongings can live temporarily until you have time to get them out of your home (a “donation station”). What you do not want to do is clutter up your space more during this time so it becomes stressful to live in. If you live in a bigger property, this area could be in a basement, attic, garage or a spare room (we are unlikely to have guests for the time being!) If you live in a smaller property, this could be in an under-stairs cupboard or the space behind a sofa or under a bed. Ensure that items are stored in labelled bags so you remember these are meant to leave your home. It is easy to forget!

Read more: 6 of the best storage solutions for decluttering

Pick your decluttering project wisely

With decluttering, things often get messy before they get organised. It is important to really consider the types of decluttering projects to begin during lockdown so you do not end up feeling overwhelmed. Break tasks down into small steps so you can fit them around work, home schooling  and other tasks in your diary. Good areas to tackle at this time include:

  • Paperwork, magazines and newspapers – shred unwanted confidential paperwork, recycle non-confidential paperwork and either file hard copies or digitise paperwork you want to keep.
  • Digital files – set up digital filing systems, reduce emails and back-up files.
  • Photos – organise both hard copies and digital copies. This is a nice project to do in lockdown as you can share fond memories with your family and friends as you come across old photos.
  • Memory boxes – each person in your household should have a dedicated box to contain sentimental items which they want to keep but do not want on display.
  • Electricals – sort out muddled, miscellaneous cables and electrical appliances and label them so you know which cable goes with which device.
  • Toiletries – dispose of and recycle those which have expired and donate unused in-date toiletries to your local food bank collection point.
  • Food and kitchenware – let go of expired foods, organise your fridge and freezer and declutter your crockery and appliances.

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Image: @DeclutteronDemand

Decisions, decisions

 When sorting through your belongings, divide them into the following 4 piles:

  1. Keep
  2. Sell
  3. Donate / give away for free
  4. Bin / recycle

Pick up and examine each item and decide which of the above piles it belongs to. The questions to ask yourself are whether you love it and/or use it and what value it is adding to your life. Say the reason out loud. Watch out for your answer starting with “I need to keep this just in case…

We often keep things for negative reasons, for example, we fear that we may come to regret our decision to let go of something. It can be easy to hold on to many unnecessary things with this attitude. Be realistic about the space in your home and the things you want to surround yourself with. Lighten the load by giving yourself permission to let go of things you do not really need. You will usually be able to borrow or buy a replacement if you later need something you decluttered.

Donate or give away

During lockdown charity shops are closed so it may feel harder to move unwanted things out of your home but there are lots of alternatives available. If you would like to donate something to a good cause, some charities are still accepting donations by post (with free postage), for example, Shelter and the British Heart Foundation.

Adhering to social distancing, contactless collections and hygiene precautions you can also still give away things to your local neighbours on Next Door, Freecycle, Olio and Facebook groups.

Textile and electrical recycling banks are still open in some places but check that they are not full before dropping off items. You can find your nearest recycling points on RecycleNow.com. Recycling centres are also open in some areas during lockdown – for some areas you will need to book an appointment so check your local council’s website before you make a trip.

Read more: Marie Kondo’s top tips on decluttering, tidying and hoarding

Make some money

There are lots of ways to sell pre-loved belongings and make a bit of extra money during lockdown. If you have furniture or ornaments, put these up for sale on Shpock. You can contribute to the circular fashion model by selling your high street clothes on an app like Vinted, designer clothes on a luxury resale site such as Vestiare Collective or handbags via Selfridge’s resale site.

Be realistic about what price your secondhand things will fetch with a quick online search to see what similar items sell for. Set yourself a deadline by which to sell and if they remain unsold when this date passes, donate them instead. Value your time and decide whether it is worth selling something for a small amount. You may be better saving yourself time and energy and brighten someone else’s day by giving that item away for free instead.

Organise your space

Once you have decluttered, decide how best to organise the belongings you are keeping. Try to store items near to where you use them and group similar things together in labelled boxes and containers. This makes it easier for everyone in the household to remember where things belong. You do not necessarily need to go out and buy lots of storage solutions – think about whether you have any spare boxes in your home that can be reused first. Sometimes the right product does make all the difference and the two organising products our clients find most useful are shelf dividers to make the most of shelf space and drawer dividers to categorise and organise objects.

Maintain changes long-term

Clutter often builds up because there are no organising systems in place for things when they come into our home. For example, what happens to the post when it comes through your letterbox – does it end up floating around and then piling up on surfaces? It is useful to have dedicated areas for these kinds of items, such as, a letter tray for incoming envelopes. Decluttering can also help make us more aware of how and why we buy things. Reducing what we buy is easier said than done but makes a real difference long-term to clutter in our homes. Before you buy something, ask yourself where it will live in your home. This can make you think twice before buying or at least motivate you to let go of some items to make space for it. This will help keep your home organised and free from clutter for longer!

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