Decluttering and reorganising your home can be a great way to clear your mind, keep your hands busy and enjoy a satisfying end result. Following a good sort out and tidy up, many people have reported feeling motivated to declutter and reorganise their calendar, and get other areas of their lives back on track.
With many of us still spending plenty of time at home, there’s probably never been a better time to tackle the contents of your bathroom cabinet, or sort through the mound of clothes you no longer wear. But as with many important tasks in life, often the most difficult part is knowing where to start.
We’ve created a helpful guide to give you some ideas on how to make the most of your living space – and hopefully you can enjoy your decluttering and reorganising journey, just as much as the end result!
Why should I declutter and reorganise my living space?
It’s a good idea to make time to declutter and reorganise your living space, at least twice a year. Here’s why…
Decluttering and reorganising can boost your energy. Often when we start making a series of quick decisions about what to keep and how to organise things, our brains enter “doing” mode. When our productivity levels are boosted in this way, we often feel more inclined to keep working through our to-do list for that day. You might find that you finish decluttering and still have enough energy for a run, or to try that raspberry cheesecake recipe that you’ve been meaning to get round to.
When you sort through your things, you often find lost treasures. Nearly all of us have experienced the joy of being reunited with an item that we’d forgotten about, or thought we’d lost. For example, I recently found a “lazy arm” contraption which clips to any flat surface and holds my smartphone for me, for a hand-free experience. I got it for Christmas one year and had never used it, but since the lockdown began, I’ve used it daily to complete home workouts and stay connected with friends and family over video chat.
Decluttering and reorganising can help to reduce anxiety and clear your mind. Human beings are drawn to order and symmetry, so when things feel scattered, messy or out of order, we can feel anxious. So, when we take steps to restore order to our surroundings, we often feel calmer. Alan Lightman, American physicist, writer, and author, says, “I would claim that symmetry represents order, and we crave order in this strange universe we find ourselves in. The search for symmetry, and the emotional pleasure we derive when we find it, must help us make sense of the world around us, just as we find satisfaction in the repetition of the seasons and the reliability of friendships.”
Having a less cluttered, more organised living space can reduce tension in family relationships. Clutter can be stressful and can make daily living less enjoyable. Everytime you open a cupboard and something falls out, or everytime you can’t find your keys and spend 15 minutes looking for them – it can bring on feelings of tension and frustration. In these moments, you’re much more likely to snap at those you live with – especially given we’re all spending more time at home right now. Being able to find everything you need easily can help to reduce this stress.
Decluttering and reorganizing can boost confidence. As you sort through your things and try to work out how you’re going to make it all fit into a particular space, you use your problem-solving skills to make a series of quick decisions. You’ll need to work out what to discard, and how you’re going to organise the things you want to keep. This process can help you to build confidence in your problem-solving ability – especially when you sit back and admire your handy work at the end.
6 easy steps to help you declutter and reorganise your home
1. Choose an area to focus on
If your whole home needs decluttering and reorganising, then initially this thought can be overwhelming; but it needn’t be. Organising your home is something that can be done over a few weeks, months or even years and for some it becomes a regular hobby.
The most effective way to get started is to pick a single area of your home that you’d like to tackle, and leave the rest for another time. It can be helpful to start with an area that you will get the most benefit from, which are often those where we spend the most time – for example, the kitchen or bedroom. You’re much more likely to continue decluttering and organising the rest of your home, if you can quickly see the benefits of doing so, by spending regular time in your newly organised space.
If you don’t have a specific area that you think needs particular attention, but you’d still like to make some extra space in your home. Then consider using the decluttering ideas below to help you get started. There are 100 different ideas in this video, so try starting with 5-10 and seeing how you get on.
2. Let it go, let it go...
For many of us, letting go of items that we no longer want or need can be tricky. We often know that we don’t really need five pairs of sandals or that old tea pot, but we often can’t shake thoughts like, “But what if I need it again in the future?” or “But [insert family or friend’s name] gave it to me so I better keep it.” Thoughts like these can convince you that the only option is to keep things that are simply weighing you down.
Parting with items that you’ve had for a long time can stir up a range of different emotions, and some people panic at the thought of letting go. But often once you start, you’ll see that it’s okay to let go, and the rest of the decluttering process will become much easier. So much so, that many people become attached to the liberating feeling that it brings.
If you’re finding it difficult to make a decision about whether to keep something, then ask yourself whether you really need it, and whether your life would really be much different without it. What would you use it for? How often would you use it? And could you easily forget about it if it was gone? If it becomes apparent that you’re holding onto something, simply because you want to avoid parting with it, then let it go. If this is too difficult and you’re not convinced that you won’t miss it, then consider placing it in a bin liner somewhere out the way for a month. If you don’t reach for the item or you forget that it’s there, then it’s safe to say that you don’t really need it.
Organising consultant, Marie Kondo has a popular Netflix series – Tidying Up With Marie Kondo – which shows you techniques that you can use to decide whether to keep items or not. Especially those that hold sentimental value, as these can be particularly difficult to let go of. Marie suggests holding items one by one and deciding whether each one sparks “joy” or makes you feel weighed down. If it doesn’t spark joy (or doesn’t have a regular, practical use) then, she suggests letting it go. She explains this in the clip below, but it’s definitely worth giving the full series a watch! If you don’t have Netflix and you’re not interested in signing up, then you can still access plenty of her decluttering and organising tips and tricks over on her YouTube channel here.
3. When decluttering, sort items into piles
The decluttering process can be made much easier by sorting items into piles.
For example, you could create:
- A pile for items that you don’t need but are in good enough condition to be sold on eBay, or donated to a charity shop. Charity shops are opening up again from the 15th June, so it’s worth contacting yours from this date to find out whether they can accept donations. With many of us spending time at home over the last few months, it’s predicted that charity shops will become overrun with donations from people who have used the time to declutter their home. Whilst donations are appreciated – and are essential for charity shops to continue to run – all donations will be quarantined for 72 hours before they are sorted, tagged and put out on the shop floor to try and reduce the infection risk. So, it’s worth being selective about the items that you donate or staggering your donations, to avoid overwhelming charity shops. If you aren’t too keen about going into a charity shop right now, then you could also consider listing items on Freecycle, where you can give away items to people who need them, for free.
Alternatively, if you’d like to find out more about how your unwanted items could make you some extra cash, then check out our article, How to make money from your clutter.
- Another pile for items that are damaged beyond repair or that constitute “rubbish”. It’s worth considering which of these are made of recyclable materials e.g. plastics, glass, cardboard and placing them in the right bins accordingly. If you don’t have recycling bins of your own, or if yours are full – then you could ask a neighbour if they have space or try using this Recycling Locator to find out where you can recycle specific items locally.
- A pile for items that will be useful to you again once they are fixed or cleaned up. This pile is by far the most rewarding and will give you something to do on a rainy day. Store items from this pile somewhere with easy access, so that they don’t get forgotten about, and so that you can chip away at fixing and cleaning them when you have some spare time. There’s something very satisfying about restoring items that could start adding value to your life again with a bit of TLC.
- A final pile for those things that you know that you absolutely want to keep. This pile should contain items that you without a doubt want to keep.
Sorting things into piles can not only help to speed up the decluttering and organising process, but it can also make letting go of items you no longer need much easier. For example, if you know that certain items will be passed onto others who can give them a second lease of life, then this will hopefully help to ease any guilty feelings you have about not keeping them yourself. Similarly by placing items in a rubbish pile (because they will be of no use to anyone else) can help to remind you that these items have run their course, and that it’s okay to recycle them or throw them away.
4. Get creative with your storage space
Once you’ve decluttered, the next thing you’ll need to do is work out what to do with the space left, and how you’re going to organise the things that you’ve decided to keep. One of the best things about decluttering is that it helps you to identify the items that really matter – which are usually the ones you will use most regularly, or the ones that bring you joy. For this reason, it’s important to organise your space in a way that caters to this and allows you easy access to these items. This is your opportunity to think creatively about your storage space – which can be a lot of fun! For example, if you’re organising your kitchen cupboards, then consider inserting a piece of tension curtain rod to hang cleaning sprays or food packets from. You could also try vacuum bagging clothes that you won’t reach for this season, and storing them somewhere out the way, to make more room in your wardrobe for clothes that you know will get plenty of wear over the summer.
YouTube is a great place to look for decluttering and organising inspiration. I’ve selected a few of my favourite videos below…
Inspiration for organising a cluttered kitchen pantry
Inspiration for making the most of storage space under the stairs
In this video below, Loose Woman, Stacey Soloman shares some of her storage hacks that have begun trending across the UK. She also discusses how decluttering and organising helps to ease her anxiety.
5. Take before and after photos
One of the most rewarding things about decluttering and reorganising your home is enjoying the end result. However, throughout the course of the decluttering and reorganising process, it’s easy to quickly forget how a space looked before. A fun and useful way to keep track of your progress can be to take before and after photos of your work. This can be incredibly satisfying, and can make you feel really good about what you’ve accomplished. Hopefully once you see what you’re capable of doing with a few spare hours and a bit of determination, you’ll feel inspired to declutter and reorganise other areas of your home – or even your car, garage or shed!
6. Make your own decluttering rules that work for you
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to decluttering your home, but it can help to spend some time considering why you hang on to clutter in the first place. Does it bring you comfort? Do you simply forget to throw things away and before you know it, they’ve piled up? If you can get to the root of what causes the build up in the first place, then you can take conscious steps to prevent it from getting out of hand. When I moved into my flat, I spent a good few days decluttering and organising. I realised that I’d moved a lot of things with me that I actually didn’t need and that I didn’t have space for in my new, smaller home. Since those first few days in my new home, I have become much more mindful of the things that I bring home with me and/or hold onto. For example, I now save money because I spend longer considering whether I need to purchase something or whether it will just take up useful space, and I try to be more ruthless when it comes to letting go of things that might potentially be useful at some point in the far off future. If it’s not useful for the foreseeable future, then it has to go!
Everyone is different, so it’s up to you to come up with a method of decluttering that works for you. Perhaps you could get into a regular routine when it comes to donating to charity shops. Some people commit to decluttering and making donations every few months. Whilst others who struggle with the idea of giving away large amounts of their belongings away all at once, or who would prefer to keep on top of their clutter, might give away a few items every couple of weeks.
Expert insider tips - additional decluttering and reorganising ideas that you might find useful
Now that we’ve run through the basics of decluttering and organising your space, I thought it would be helpful to run through some of my favourite decluttering and organising tips that can really help when you get down to the nitty gritty.
View your home with fresh eyes, as though you are visiting it for the first time. It’s not uncommon to stop noticing clutter in your home when you see it everyday. Sometimes we even become used to annoying habits, like things falling on us everytime we open a cupboard, or tripping over things that are in the way. This is why it can help to take a step back and try to view your home through the eyes of a visitor. What would they think if they were viewing your home for the first time? Using this method can help you to identify areas that are in the greatest need of improvement.
Make use of labels. It can be much easier to create order at home if things live in places that are easily identifiable. You can buy baskets, hampers and boxes pretty cheaply on Amazon or eBay – which you can add your own labels to. You can use them to store shampoo in the bathroom, herbs and spices in the kitchen and/or screws in the garage. If everything has its place, then you’ll be much less likely to keep things that don’t fit into these places and will hopefully be able to avoid building up too much clutter. If you’d like to make your own labels, then you could consider purchasing a handheld label maker from Amazon.
Consider using a decluttering checklist. Sometimes the problem isn’t that you own things that aren’t useful, it’s that you own too many of a useful item. For example, things like towels and kitchen utensils are always handy, but this doesn’t mean that you need to keep three garlic crushers, and 30 towels. Donating spare working items to charity shops can help overcome the barriers to saying goodbye, knowing that you are simultaneously helping a good cause. If you have too many of lots of different items in your home, then it can help to run through a decluttering checklist, to look at where you could consider making some changes. Becomingminimalist.com has a great one here.
Make your bed. When you’re looking at decluttering and reorganising your bedroom, it’s always a good idea to start by making your bed. In many cases, a bed takes up the single largest percentage of space in a bedroom, so when it’s unmade and crumpled, it can make the room look much more cluttered and untidy. I know that when I feel that a room I need to organise is unbelievably messy, I often feel overwhelmed and want to avoid the mess rather than tackle it head on. Making your bed can make a big difference to how a room looks, and make the task ahead seem more manageable.
Always consider whether you can repurpose items. Just because an item is no longer useful in the way it was intended to be used, this doesn’t mean that it won’t be useful in another way. For example, I recently found myself with too many plant pots and nowhere to keep my washing up sponge, scourer and brushes, so I decided to use one of my disused plant pots as a holder. When I moved into my flat, I also found that my over-door hooks didn’t fit my new bedroom door frame, so I decided to hang them on the radiator instead and use them as a place to dry small pieces of wet washing. Repurposing items is really satisfying. It’s a great feeling to know that you saved money and avoided creating waste.
If you’ve got a big decluttering job on your hands, then acknowledge that you will also find yourself with a lot of cleaning to do. As clutter builds up, so does dust and dirt, so it’s likely that as you begin to sort through things, you will uncover a lot of areas that need a good clean – especially in difficult to reach cracks and crevices. There’s a great Facebook group called Mrs Hinch Cleaning Tips, which is full of cleaning tips and tricks, as well as the occasional storage solution. You can ask for advice on specific areas you’re looking to clean and share your own results and positive cleaning outcomes with others.
Always think about decluttering and storing things in a way that will save you time and money. There’s some great ideas in the video below. My favourites are using the ring of a coke can to create extra hanging space in my wardrobe, and using file organisers to store smaller items like hand towels, bags and umbrellas.
We’d love to hear from you!
Have you recently decluttered or reorganized your home? Do you have any additional tips that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you, and see some of your before and after photos. Email us at [email protected] or leave a comment below.