What is decluttering and how to start

Perhaps you’ve heard about ‘decluttering’ and thought it sounded interesting. In this post I’ll tell you more about it and answer these questions:

  • Firstly, what is decluttering?
  • Then, what can decluttering do for you and your life?
  • Finally, how do you declutter successfully?

Decluttering in North Wales

What is decluttering?

Decluttering is about weeding out and only keeping those things you love, need or use.

You organise and prioritise your possessions and commitments.

You make places more pleasant and useful.

In other words, you simplify your life!

Decluttering can do so much for you and your life

It can do all the things in this list and more besides!

  • You know what’s actually in your house, your office, your car – and where it is.
  • No more buying things you’ve already got. You’ll stop thinking that thing is somewhere but where on earth is it?
  • You have a warm heart when you give things away, pass things on to charity or recycle.
  • Helping you see and appreciate your special things.
  • You have space – floor space, hanging space, space on shelves, space in the airing cupboard, space on the landing, space in the shed, space in the garage, space in the office … You get the idea.
  • There is room to think your thoughts.
  • Everyday life runs more smoothly. It’s so much easier.
  • There is calm.
  • It seems you have more time.
  • You find you have more money, or less money going out.
  • You can respond to unexpected events.
  • Somehow you feel so much lighter.
  • You’re able to move forward with your life. You feel more optimistic.

Making a start with decluttering

How do you make a start with decluttering? The short answer is however it suits you,  because if it suits you then you will carry on doing it. The key to successful decluttering is to be aware of clutter and to keep at it!

Some people like to declutter all in one go, following the celebrity declutterer Marie Kondo. (She emphasises what to keep, what ‘sparks joy’, rather than what to discard.)

Girl lying on grass cuddling teddy bear. Joy. Decluttering
Teddy bears are well known to spark joy

Another way is to declutter a bit at a time. Some people do this whenever they’ve got a moment or five minutes or half an hour.

Then there is the challenge way. Some people set themselves a challenge – decluttering 10 things every day, for example. Or just one thing every day. That’s 365 things in a year!

It’s perfectly possible to declutter on your own but it’s OK to ask for help! Working with a professional organiser and declutterer helps enormously because they keep things moving and make the process fun and productive.

Read on for some tips and tricks to help you declutter successfully.

Boxes help you declutter successfully

Set out four boxes.

woman with large cardboard box
This is a good big box
Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

Box 1 is for things you want to keep but which belong somewhere else in the house. You know, those slippers in the garage that should be in the bedroom, the toothbrush that lives in the bathroom but has ended up in the kitchen, the homework under the chair that should really be in someone’s room.

After that, there’s Box 2 for things to be mended. Be realistic about this. Do you still need this item? Are you able to mend it and – the crunch question – will you ever do it?

Box 3 is for things you no longer need that you can give to people or organisations who would appreciate them and make good use of them. For instance, someone might love your 1980s cardigans because they love ‘vintage’ clothes. Similarly, a charity shop could sell those ornaments you don’t like. That sort of thing.

Finally, Box 4 (or perhaps a bin bag) is for those broken or useless things whose time is up. The broken cardboard box that can no longer hold anything at all. An old crisp packet. The jammed stapler that hasn’t worked for years and will never work again. Old newspaper cuttings.

Cat in a box helping with decluttering
Empty boxes are best but we know that finding empty ones can sometimes be difficult …

Categories help you declutter successfully

Sort items into categories so that all similar things are together. Work on just one category at a time, using your keep/mend/give/throw away boxes.

Here are some examples of categories. And a few questions which might help you decide what to do.

All the little black dresses. Which ones do I love? Which ones don’t I like very much? Do they fit? Are any the same?

The crime fiction. Will I read any of these books again? Did some frighten me too much to finish? Are there any duplicates?

All the plastic storage boxes. Do they have lids? And do they fit? Are there lids without boxes? It’s likely that one or two are stained or even smell. 

The children’s jumpers. Do they still fit the children? Are they in reasonable condition? Maybe there are jumpers that nobody will ever wear.

The garden tools. Are any broken beyond repair or downright dangerous? Are there any you don’t use at all and can never envisage using? Could a specialist charity make better use of them than you?

Decluttered garden tools donated to Workaid
Garden tools donated to Workaid https://workaid.org/ Credit: Alastair Holland

Donating and recycling your decluttered items

Recycling your unwanted items, by giving them away or donating them to a charity shop or taking them to your local recycling centre, gives you a lovely warm feeling.

Clothing and other items in good condition are welcomed by charity shops up and down the land. Many also accept clean rags if they are in a clearly marked bag. Always drop off your donations when the shop is open so they reach the right place. You could give to a charity which you support or drop donations off at a place which is easy to reach. Some charities have larger units on industrial estates or retail parks. Unopened food still in date can be given to food banks.

Depending on where you live, the waste collection service can make it easy to recycle your unwanted possessions. In other places it makes better sense to take things directly to the recycling centre. Check online what facilities your local authority provides.

Congratulations! Now you’ve decluttered successfully, what next?

What hard work! Well done! And what a great achievement! Above all, I hope you are basking in your newly decluttered environment and enjoying every moment.

Unfortunately, though, it’s all too easy for clutter to creep back into your life.

Stay alert to the dangers and be aware when clutter appears in your life. You know what to do then: put on your decluttering hat and shoes and get to it!

Woman wearing decluttering hat and decluttering shoes

Professional organising and decluttering in North Wales

Uncluttered is a professional organising and decluttering service in North Wales. Our base is Parc Menai, just beside the Britannia Bridge on the Gwynedd side, so we’re ideally situated. It’s moments to Anglesey, just a short journey to Pen Llyn and Meirionnydd and not very far along the coast to Conwy, Denbighshire and beyond.

We are also happy to work further afield. Recent clients have been in Dorset and London. Get in touch for a chat and let’s see what we can do. If we can’t help, we’ll certainly know someone who can!

Decluttering in North Wales

I think I need help with sorting, clearing and organising stuff. Oh, and paperwork! Do you do this kind of decluttering in North Wales?

We certainly do, and we work further afield as well.

Getting professional help is a great step to take. That’s because we’ll help you to decide exactly what you’re aiming for, and we’ll work with you to get there. It makes it do-able. (And we won’t be shocked or judge you.)

What sort of jobs have you worked on?

All sorts!

Firstly, helping households run more smoothly. The old saying ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’ really does makes a lot of sense. If you don’t take determined action to keep clutter under control, it has such a nasty way of building up. Yes, we’ve been there!

Decluttering in North Wales
Everything in its place. Nuts, seeds and pulses organised carefully into large bags. Photo by Frans Van Heerden from Pexels

Then, moving house. Getting ready to move, managing to sell a house and then moving into a new place takes a lot of work. In short, we can help you make the most of your old property so it sells, and organise the new property so it’s easy to live in.

Bereavement touches all of us, and affects us in different ways. Often the best thing to do is to wait a little while, if you can. There’s such a lot to do, though, after a death in the family or the death of a friend. That’s why engaging an understanding professional organiser for some (or all) of what has to be done can help enormously.

And then there is, for example, paperwork, clothes, kitchens, garages and garden sheds, books and art collections … In other words, you name it and we can probably lend a hand with it!

What do you do with everything that’s decluttered?

It depends entirely on what the client wants, but most items are usually recycled at a recycling centre or a charity shop.

Do get in touch if you think we can help you

If you think we can help you with professional organising and decluttering in North Wales and further afield, do get in touch.

You’ll find our contact details under the ‘Contact’ tab.

12 Gifts of Decluttering – what decluttering gives you

Decluttering is just one word and it can offer you so many gifts. Amazing! I’m feeling festive and thinking about  The Twelve Days of Christmas, so I’ll have a quick look at twelve gifts, but there are more. Let’s look at other gifts decluttering gives you another time.

Ready? Off we go …

Decluttering gives you knowledge, a warm heart …

1.  Knowledge. You know what’s actually in your house, your office or your car. So no more buying things you’ve already got – they are somewhere but where? Like screwdrivers, sellotape, the other sock … And that’s just S in the alphabet.

2.  A warm heart when you recycle or pass things on to charity. You don’t need them any more but charity shops do and their clients benefit. Recycling is good for us all. Help the love go round.

Woman holding red heart-shaped cup containing warm drink Decluttering gives warm heart
You have a warm heart when you recycle or pass things on to charity (Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash)

3.  Appreciation of those special things you choose to keep. Don’t hide them away in a load of clutter. Give them room to be seen and to shine.

4.  Space. As my art teacher used to say, look at the space in between things. It has value all of its own. Luxuriate in it!

Decluttering gives you thinking room, opportunity …

5.  Thinking room to think your thoughts. When there’s clutter everywhere – or even just somewhere – it can be hard to find room to think your own wonderful thoughts.

6.  Opportunity to organise things to suit your lifestyle. Everyone benefits when everyday life runs more smoothly. Everyday life running on fumes is hard work.

7.  Calm. No more needy ‘stuff’ at home, chirruping that it needs attention. No need to think that you’ll sort it out one day. You’ve done it. (And decluttering is good at work, too.)

Peach and pink sky shading down to peaceful blue sea Decluttering gives you calm
Decluttering brings calm (Photo by Harli Marten on Unsplash)

8.  More time. What a luxury! How will you spend it? Looking after yourself is a good choice.

Decluttering gives you lightness, a springboard …

9.  More money, or less money going out, at the very least. That’s because you make fewer last minute desperate purchases, you don’t buy duplicates and you’ve got more time to plan ahead.

10.  You’re able to respond more easily to unexpected events. Whether it’s a lovely surprise or an emergency, you’ve got more in the tank.

Decluttering gives you calm Gifts Presents Space Time Christmas

11.  Lightness. You’re no longer weighed down by all that clutter. That’s got to be good for your health.

12.  A springboard to move forward. Where will it take you when you’re no longer held back by stuff?

Decluttering helps the world go round

I give presents to people I love and value, and to myself. It helps the world go round. Decluttering is a brilliant thing. It gives you so much, at this time of year and all through the year.

3 small things that really help in the run up to Christmas

Relaxed snowboarder in orange goggles, blue trousers and fab multicoloured anorak
Very relaxed snowboarder (Photo: Dana Tentis)

There are three things that really help in the run up to Christmas and, to be fair, work pretty well during the rest of the year too. (You’ve already decluttered, of course, haven’t you?) No time for fine words at this stage of the game, so let’s cut to the chase.

1. The heavy duty sellotape dispenser

Sellotape (aka sticky tape) pretends to be helpful and friendly but in the twinkling of an eye can turn any peaceful present-wrapping session into a hand-to-hand wrestling bout.

I tried all the usual self-defence methods:

  • marking the end of the tape with a piece of paper or card
  • cutting short lengths and having them hanging ready on the edge of the table
  • sticking the tape firmly to the parcel and then unrolling firmly and fairly.

These worked all right, I suppose, although I was still being ambushed by a roll of sellotape rather too often and ending up with wonkily wrapped presents and fingers tied up in those knotted sticky tape pretzels.

After years of fighting back and losing, I’d had enough. I bought a heavy duty sellotape dispenser and suddenly all the exhaustion had gone. The dispenser doesn’t move about on the table and has the end of the roll just there, ready for you to use. It has its own fierce cutter. It does the job.

In the main, present and parcel wrapping goes smoothly for me now. There’s still the odd growl from the sellotape but generally it’s all pretty relaxed.

Relaxed tabby cat under the Christmas tree between two wrapped parcels. Help in the run up to Christmas
Relaxed tabby cat under the Christmas tree between two wrapped parcels. Everything organised! (Photo: Jenna Hamra)

2. The box that is big enough for rolls of wrapping paper

This is a more recent find and it’s still going through its paces. I’m convinced, though, and this is why:

  • I know where all the wrapping paper is – Christmas, birthday and those other pieces you can use for anything.
  • I know where it isn’t and that’s in a bag which keeps falling over or rolling about in the corner.
  • There’s room for bits of ribbon and rosettes.

Easy and straightforward, it’s the right box for the job.

3. Buying far more stamps than I need by early December

This is just fabulous and, if you’ve got the money, very easy to pull off. Christmas stamps are available in early November and can be used all year round if you really do buy far too many.

To be able to write the card, bung it in the envelope and slap on the stamp is great. With practice it can become an all-in-one movement. Granted it’s not cardio-vascular exercise, but looking at the pile of cards ready to go makes the heart beat that little bit faster. So organised! So efficient! Sling the whole pile into the post box, listen to the sshhhrrr noise as the envelopes settle into their place and move on.

Skiier in purple anorak with green ski poles speeds down the hill in low sunlight
Christmas cards make a sshhhrrr noise as the envelopes settle into their place in the post box (Photo: Terje Sollie)

Helping families and friends after bereavement

After the shock of bereavement and the condolences and the arrangements, someone has to sort out the belongings and paperwork. It’s the job of the executor of the will to do this: hard, but it has to be done.

No-one is exempt from bereavement. At Uncluttered we’ve been there, as friend, member of the family, and executor. We’ve also worked closely with bereaved clients, going through relatives’ personal belongings together.

Everyone reacts differently but here are a few pointers which might help if you’re faced with this task.

Signpost surrounded by cow parsley in full bloom. Bereavement
Deciding what to do next can be a challenge

Take your time and do what you can

◆ Think about what has to be done and draw up a plan of action.
◆  If you don’t have to empty a house or flat immediately, then take as much time as you need.
◆  Go at your own pace. Some people can sort everything out in a few weeks. Other people take many years.

Think about who could help you after bereavement

Two people talk and listen to one another
Someone who will listen can be helpful after bereavement (photo credit: Cristina Gottardi)

Clearing someone’s possessions can be too much to do alone but think carefully about helpers as this is a potentially tricky area. Everyone is sensitive after a death in the family and emotions can run high. It could be that no-one is available locally to help out or that it’s impractical for anyone to lend a hand.

Options for help could be:

◆ someone with you all the time as you clear
◆ extra pairs of hands at different points in the process
◆ talking things through with someone
◆ someone unconnected and objective.

Be kind to yourself after bereavement

Sorting through possessions and paperwork is tiring and dehydrating at the best of times. When it’s those of someone dear to you then it can be exhausting and sometimes overwhelming.

◆ Take breaks and drink water. Have a snack to keep your energy levels up.
◆ Leave the house if you feel you must – one Uncluttered client went for short walks around the block, and sometimes much longer ones.
◆ Do something else if it helps – another client read a chapter of her book.

How could a professional organiser help you?

◆  By supporting and encouraging you in a gentle way.
◆  By helping you to make practical decisions about what to keep, how to pass things on, and organising clearance to charities or recycling centres.
◆  By helping you to feel positive and that you are moving forward.

Uncluttered is available to help you sort out belongings and paperwork after a bereavement. You can find other professional organisers on the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers website.

Recycling is second nature at Uncluttered

We’re very keen on recycling here at Uncluttered. Here are some of the things we do to minimise waste, and we’re always on the lookout for more opportunities.

Local charity donations

Unless clients have another in mind, we tend to use one or two particular charities for donations. That’s because it’s easy to make deliveries to them and we know that they have a very good sorting process.

Young woman browsing in a charity shop - one way of recycling

Small electrical items

We’re talking about, for example, electric fires, music centres and other hi-fi equipment. Not to forget hover movers, hedge trimmers and toasters. If electrical items look as though they work they go to a charity shop which can test them. (PAT – portable appliance testing – is required by law if electrical items are to be sold.) If they look broken or dangerous they go to the recycling centre where the valuable parts will be stripped out.

Recycling spectacles / glasses

From past involvement with vision charities we know how glasses can transform people’s lives. Marie Curie and Vision Aid Overseas both recycle spectacles in communities abroad for people who need them.

Books

Selection of old books ready for recycling with friends or charity
Passing on books to friends or charity is a great way of recycling (photo credit: Suzy Hazelwood)

Some books go to friends and family with the request to pass them on to another friend when they’ve finished with them.

Some go to charities with special book shops or special areas in their general shops. Here, volunteers who know about books sort them.

Specialist collections may go to a university or other library.

And, sadly, some books are at the end of the line and go to the recycling centre.

Recycling paper

With the client, we decide what is confidential and what is not.

We shred small amounts of confidential paperwork on site, using the client’s shredder or our portable workhorse of a shredder that doesn’t get stuck – or at least not very often! Antur Waunfawr, a local social enterprise, shreds any large amounts of confidential paperwork. These shreddings will probably be milled into tissue paper.

Some non-confidential paper, such as postcards and Christmas cards, are usually donated to a charity shop. The remainder goes in the recycling bin or heads directly to the recycling centre.

Glass

This goes in the recycling bin or directly to the recycling centre. That’s what we did with the almost 200 bottles that contained home-made wine. Yes, windows open and all emptied down the sink for safety’s sake!

Tins and other metal

If items can go into the recycling bin that’s where we put them. Otherwise, broken buckets, rusty fencing, assorted metal poles and the rest mostly go directly to the recycling centre.

Paint

Locally, our council recycling centres have a donation point for paint. It’s then re-used rather than recycled.

Partly used tins of paint on shelves, for reusing rather than recycling

Recycling is a win-win situation!

We recycle wherever we can. Not only does it help in making the most of resources, it also makes our clients feel even better about decluttering and organising.

Declutter before the festive season and avoid frazzle

Half-term’s over, Halloween’s over and the clocks have gone back. That means we’re on the fast track to dark nights and cold weather. And that’s why our ancestors had winter festivals – they met up, kept warm and generally brightened things up a bit. The festive season made sense then and it makes sense now.

Having a bit of a clearout will really help in a few weeks time. As you know, when the festive season revs up in earnest you need all the time and space you can lay your hands on.

If you do one thing to get ready, do some decluttering and make some space before the festive season starts.

Friends and family

There can be a lot of coming and going at this time of year and visitors take up a lot of space! Make room for them by finding somewhere to hang their coats and put their bags, hats and gloves. Not to mention any packages, parcels and presents they may bring.

Christmas presents under the tree during the festive season
A good clearout and there’s room for Christmas presents under the tree! (Photo credit: Markus Spiske temporausch.com)

Keeping warm over the festive season

This is essential, obviously. We all want to keep coughs, colds and the flu at bay, and shivering is no fun. So make sure there’s no clutter in between you and your chosen source of heat, and move furniture around to let the warmth get into the room.

Brightening things up a bit

Festive decorations make all the difference to how our houses look at this time of year. We often have to shift things to fit in the tree, the lights, the cards, the candles and all the other bits and pieces. It’s a great opportunity to consider whether you still actually love or need what you’re moving. You don’t have to keep everything for ever and if something’s time has passed, then give it to a charity shop and someone else will benefit. And take time to clean the space you’ve made before filling it with festive fripperies.

Avoid festive season frazzle

Being in a frazzle isn’t good for anyone. So take control and have a clearout, big or small – any size will help. If you declutter before the festive season you’ll make some space before it arrives and that can only help things go more smoothly.

Christmas wreath on a door in Lincoln. Festive season
Christmas wreath, Lincoln. © Richard Croft and licensed for reuse under CC BY-SA 2.0 licence.

 

Organise and tidy up the garden in autumn

(A version of this post first appeared on the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers’ website in September 2018.)

In the garden, we love to enjoy the beauty of the moment. The first snowdrop, a drift of daffodils, your very own vegetables, bright pots at the door or on the balcony, leaves changing colour in autumn. Gardeners, of course, are always looking down the road as well, planning for what comes next.

Tidy up now so your garden or balcony stays lovely all the way through till spring

It’s time now for a little autumn cleaning, tidying, reorganising and planting to make a difference in your garden straightaway and over the next few months. A neat and well-tended garden will lift the spirits as the weather turns nasty, play its part in sparkling winter festivities, and help to welcome spring. (Yes, spring is on schedule for 2019, however far away it feels at present!)

Autumn weather can be lovely, so get out and enjoy it when you can!

tidy up the garden

Clean up and tidy up

Get a bucket of hot soapy water ready – with a dash of bleach if there’s algae or moss involved. Autumn cleaning and tidying prevents pests and diseases getting hold and will make a difference when spring and summer roll round again.

Clean, dry and put away the garden furniture and the BBQ. And the garden toys too, unless they are an essential part of outdoors. Scrub the decking to get rid of slippery patches.

Clean empty pots, hanging baskets, canes and plant supports and store them out of reach of wind or frost. Empty the hoses and drip-feed systems and put them away so they don’t freeze and split in the cold winter temperatures.

If you’ve got them, give the greenhouse and cold frame a good going-over. Move the plants temporarily to a sheltered area, protected with fleece, and then brush out all that debris where pests and diseases love to hide. Let in as much daylight as possible by cleaning the glass, including between the panes – use something flexible like a plant label. Remember to put the plants back!

Clean out and disinfect bird boxes.

tidy up the garden

Tidy away

Head for the compost heap, garden waste bin or leaf mould container with:

  • all the faded and finished contents of summer pots and hanging baskets
  • old crops from the vegetable garden
  • fallen leaves from your lawn, path or road.

Trim the hedges and help overwintering wildlife

September is the month to give a last trim to your hawthorn, privet, lonicera, laurel, box, escallonia, holly and yew hedges. New tightly packed, healthy shoots will thicken the hedges up a little before winter and they’ll look neat and tidy for a long time. It’s probably a bit too late to trim beech and hornbeam and don’t trim conifer hedges (apart from yew) now as it encourages bald patches.

Make a place for wildlife to overwinter by creating a ‘dead hedge’ with woody hedge trimmings, tucked away behind the shed or the compost.

Declutter and reorganise the garden shed

The garden shed can become overwhelmed with things, stuffed in hastily as life rolls on through the summer. Decluttering and reorganising it will make sure you’ve got an ordered working environment for busy times ahead.

Plastic flower pots just love to fall over and roll out of reach. Ask yourself how many of these troublesome pots you actually need, and get rid of the rest. Many garden centres will recycle them. In my small shed, I’m currently trialling storing the ones I do need in horizontal stacks within box frames.

tidy up the garden

Prepare for autumn rains and gales

We all know this weather is coming so be prepared! A few quick checks and a bit of work now is certainly a lot easier than clearing up later.

Check gutters, downpipes and their hoppers for any obstructions like clumps of grass, young buddleia, leaves or moss. Make sure they haven’t come loose and that their joints are sound.

Scrub out the water butt, rinse and then let it refill. A lightproof cover will suppress any green algae. Clear debris out of your pond too, and put a net over it to stop leaves getting in.

You don’t want your plants to get waterlogged or frozen so remove and store any pot saucers, and put the pots up on ‘feet’ or stones.

Autumn wind can ‘burn’ plants, rock them about badly and even make them keel over. To prevent this, cut back shrub roses and other tall summer-flowering shrubs and herbaceous plants. Make sure young trees and shrubs are tied carefully and firmly to stakes that are also firm in the ground.

Plant and move

The soil is still warm and moist in early autumn and plants love this. It’s a great time to divide large clumps of perennials to make more plants and this is the best time to put in bare-root plants, if you’ve been thinking about fruit trees and bushes.

My pots of pelargoniums are still flowering madly but I’ll soon be planting up some autumn/winter pots. I love Sarcococca confusa, the Christmas box, with its dark-green leaves and tiny, highly scented cream flowers. I’ll also use heather and skimmia. And bright cyclamen.

Now is also the time to plant bright and cheerful spring-flowering bulbs, such as crocus and daffodils. Put them in the lawn or in pots.

Wait until late November to plant tulips. I’m a convert to this wonderful bulb and I’m delighted with the show that a few pots of them can make in the spring.

Pink tulip. tidy up the garden

Take time to wonder and admire

There’s plenty to do but do take the time to admire your garden and your hard work. Work steadily, as and when you can, and the garden will continue to bring you delight as the seasons turn.