Calm and professional advice about how to declutter. When there’s just too much stuff at home or at work; when you’re downsizing; when you’ve been bereaved or your life has changed in other ways. Tips and tricks to help you when you feel overwhelmed.
Oh, yes, we’re into autumn now. The mornings are cooler – and the nights too! Soon the clocks will be going back. A spot of autumn decluttering and organising is well worth doing to get yourself straight for whatever comes along next. That’s because:
we’ll be spending more time indoors now and we need space
the weather will be much more changeable and
you’re going to need more clothes to hand – coats, hats, scarves, brollies and the rest
it’s going to be darker
the busy festive time is coming up later in the year and you’ll need the room.
Let’s be organised and prepared so we can enjoy the autumn and handle what it throws at us. This feels good.
Autumn weather can be lovely, so get out and enjoy it when you can! This feels good too.
Autumn decluttering – put things away
It’s really worthwhile putting away your summer and holiday things before you get your autumn and winter stuff out. Put these things away and you’ll have more space.
What am I talking about here? Well, clothes, for starters.
Although I wore a sleeveless top last week I’m pretty certain that I won’t be wearing it again this year. Give the summer and holiday clothes a wash and put them away – except that now is a good opportunity for a mini declutter. Those clothes that didn’t work this year are unlikely to work next year. Recycle or rehome them.
Clean your garden furniture and get it under cover so it doesn’t deteriorate, doesn’t look a mess and is ready to go when the warmer weather returns. Bonus points for cleaning the barbecue.
Clear up the outside toys. Once again, a bit of decluttering doesn’t go amiss here. If your children have outgrown toys you could pass them on. You’ll have that warm feeling from helping someone else. If some toys don’t work any more or are dangerous, then it’s time for them to go. Feel good for thinking about safety.
You probably don’t have much time to read this so here are the basics about decluttering and organising kids’ clothes and toys.
Involve the children from the very beginning.
Give everything a home.
Label that home if necessary.
Reset (aka tidy up) every evening.
Now read on.
Give those piles of clothes a home
Drawers are a good place for clothes. Different ones for tops, bottoms, underwear, socks. You could label the drawers if that helps. Children like sorting so get them involved them.
Folded clothes take up less space. Take two or three deep breaths – not strictly necessary but it focuses your attention. Shake out each piece and fold it. It doesn’t have to be very very neat.
Outgrown clothes – put them in their new home, whether you’re keeping them for the next child, or passing them on to a friend, or giving them to charity. It’s the same routine. Shake out clean clothes, fold and put them in their new home. It could be:
• A big transparent box in the loft, labelled with something that makes sense to you. Trousers and tops 4-5 yrs. Wet weather + skiing 8-10 yrs. Something like that.
• A black bag for passing on to a friend or charity. Label it! You don’t want it going out with the rubbish.
Talk to your kids from the beginning about passing clothes on to other people. Perhaps clothes are already passed on them. ‘Passing clothes on’ is so much nicer than ‘getting rid of them’! You’ll all have a warm feeling knowing that your clothes are going to a good home and someone else (your cousin, a friend, a child you’ve never met) will enjoy wearing them. And it’s the same with toys.
Categorise and curate toys and books
Broad categories help a lot so you don’t waste time micro-sorting when you’re tidying up. Books, puzzles, building blocks, cuddly toys – that kind of thing.
Get your children (however small) involved in deciding categories that fit in with how they play. They’ll feel a sense of ownership and that will pay off further down the line.
Some kids have so many toys they become overwhelmed. And so does the room or the house. Talk to them about putting some toys away for a while and bringing others out. Rotate them.
Just like clothes, chat about passing outgrown toys on to other children who might like to play with them. Like I said, you all get a warm feeling.
Give toys and books an easy place to call home
Kids get older and their interests change so think about storage that will still work in a few years. And you might like to label where things go.
Bookshelves are brilliant for books (obviously) but are also good for toys, clothes and other things.
Open-topped boxes work well as it’s easy to fling things in when you’re tidying up. They’re not hard to find or you could make your own like this repurposed box below.
Cube storage looks neat.
Wall-hung storage keeps things off the floor.
Dual-purpose furniture, such as beds with drawers, saves space.
Routine is your friend with kids’ clothes and toys
Have a routine where you and your child tidy up regularly at the end of every day. A five minute burst is quite doable for kids and you can get a lot done in that time.
Get a good thing going
A good system will go a long way towards keeping things going through the summer holidays and beyond.
Paperwork is the single most annoying thing in most people’s homes. In this post I’m going to tell you how to be a paper warrior and to keep it simple. We’ll cover stopping paper and paperwork getting into the house, keeping it all in one place and taking immediate action, and dealing with it once a week. We’ll also look at filing, and emergency action when it’s all got out of hand.
Paper and paperwork? It’s a force of nature. It’s often unrequested, and it gets dropped and forgotten. It ends up in piles and heaps all over the house and attracts more clutter as it goes. We’re talking about forms to sign, magazines, junk mail, bills, catalogues, newsletters, newspapers, letters, postcards, lottery tickets, raffle tickets … And all the rest.
Yes, paperwork when it’s out of control is annoying. And piles of paper are the thing we notice most often in other homes – long before dusty corners or unwashed mugs and plates.
What’s more, paper and paperwork when it’s out of control is very unrestful. That’s because it’s unfinished business. How can anyone relax with unfinished business about? They can’t.
What a long way from the paperless paradise we heard about a few years ago. Time to be a paper warrior!
Be a paper warrior and be strategic
Take control. This is the only way to prevent paperwork becoming paper clutter.
1. Stop as much paper and paperwork as possible from getting into the house.
2. Put all the paperwork that does make it inside in one place. Deal with as much as you can immediately. Put the rest in your in tray.
3. Set a regular time to deal with your in tray.
4. Have a simple filing system and use it.
1. How to stop paperwork getting into the house
Prevent junk mail
You can stop quite a bit of junk mail from getting through your letterbox by registering with these four organisations:
Mail Preference Service – a service funded by the direct mail industry to remove consumers’ names and home addresses in the UK from lists used by the industry.
Royal Mail Door-to-Door – opt-out form. (Be aware that registering to opt out means that you will not receive leaflets from central and local government and other public bodies. This includes unaddressed voting and election material, and information about local recycling and so on.)
Review and reconsider
Review your subscriptions to newspapers and magazines. If you don’t read them then it’s time to stop them coming through the letterbox. You could consider a digital subscription.
Reconsider any magazines you buy in shops and from newsstands. Are they one-off or regular purchases? Once again, do you read them?
Manage your ‘paper and paperwork’ online
This is a good idea but, of course, it can generate more email. (Keeping that under control is a story for another day!)
Online, you can, for example:
manage your bank and other financial accounts
pay your council tax through a direct debit
manage your utility meter readings and bills
read magazines and newspapers
keep a ‘look book’ for design projects on Pinterest.
2. Keep all paperwork in one place and, if you can, deal with it immediately
All paperwork in one place
This will stop it from going walkabout in the house. Choose a place and use it. It doesn’t matter what you call it – ‘command centre’, ‘landing pad’, ‘my desk’ – put all your paperwork here and do that consistently.
Deal immediately with as much paper and paperwork as you can
This takes away paperwork’s power to clog up your head with unfinished business.
Recycle immediately – junk mail flyers, unwanted catalogues, takeaway menus, other adverts, free directories, spare envelopes etc etc etc.
Shred immediately – charity request letters and other junk mail with your name and address on.
Open letters (I use an old vegetable knife to do this quickly and easily). Recycle or shred the envelopes and anything else you can.
Do what you can straightaway. Then it’s done and out of the way and out of your head! Sign school permission slips and reply to invitations, send money to school or other places. Note any important dates. Once again, recycle or shred anything you can.
Put the rest in your in tray. This will probably be paperwork to think about, file, scan and so on. (By the way, you don’t have to use a tray. I like using one because it keeps things straight and I know I’m going to go through it at the end of the week. For some people it means that things get buried. Choose what makes sense to you.)
3. Set a regular time to deal with your in tray
Every successful paper warrior I’ve met sets a regular time to deal with their paperwork. It’s usually once a week and it becomes a habit. They focus on their in tray and whisk through it, quickly and effectively.
Work through your in tray.
Sort through it. I put similar things together so I’m dealing with them all at the same time and I don’t have to change gear.
Write letters and cards.
Take action on anything else that requires your attention.
Recycle or shred what you can.
File what’s completed.
Some paperwork will need more information before you can deal with it. Other papers you may be undecided about. Put those back into the in tray for next time.
4. Your filing system
Know what paperwork you need to keep and for how long.
Have a filing system. Keep it simple.
Only file what you need.
What you need to keep
There are some papers to keep because they are essential and other papers to keep because they may make life much easier for you in the future.
Papers that are essential – for example, birth and marriage certificates, insurance policies, examination certificates.
Other papers to keep (and this depends on you and your circumstances) – for example, school reports, current passports, business documents, some financial documents.
The main thing here is to make it easy for yourself, so choose a system that will be easy to use! You want to be able to file paperwork quickly and without fuss – and to find things again quickly and without fuss. Depending on your circumstances, you could choose a filing cabinet, a concertina file, a banker’s box (these are the right size for files or folders) or other boxes.
Set up simple main categories that make sense to you, and label each folder or file accordingly. You could have one for each person in the house, each animal in the house, bank and other financial institutions, health, and business, for example. And each main category can be divided into sub-categories, if necessary.
5. Emergency action
This is for when your house is awash with a sea of paper. Or perhaps it’s the house of someone who is ill or has recently died. Emergency action is required.
Walk through each room and collect all the paper and paperwork. Put it into a bag or box.
Find a space where you can sort it. Sort all the paper and paperwork into three piles:
Anything you need to keep. You can get to this later.
To shred. That’s unwanted paperwork with names, addresses or financial details.
Recycling. That’s everything else.
Good luck with decluttering and organising, Paper Warriors!
This post is a bit of fun about decluttering and signs of the Zodiac but just might offer some insights …
Aries 21 March – 19 April
Aries, you know how enthusiastic, optimistic and active you are but sometimes your energy is scattered in different directions. When you’re decluttering, turn off your phone, stay centred and focus focus focus.
Taurus 20 April – 20 May
Taurus, you don’t like change, and some call you stubborn, but you can be practical and reasonable in difficult situations. You need to be surrounded by love and beauty. Looking promising for decluttering and organising your home.
Gemini 21 May – 20 June
Gemini, you have so many things going on that you don’t always have time to plan or be organised. It’s also not unknown for you to be indecisive and procrastinate. But you are so enthusiastic that decluttering will always be fun!
Decluttering and signs of the Zodiac – the second quarter of the astrological year
Cancer 21 June – 22 July
You’re the most emotional sign of the whole Zodiac, Cancer, and very attached to your home and relationships. If you have to organise or declutter sentimental items after a bereavement or at other times, then it may be hard going.
Leo 23 July – 22 August
Leo people, you are warm, big-hearted and love to be in the limelight. Clothes and accessories are all part of that and, as you guard your possessions closely, there could be rather a lot of clothes in the wardrobe!
Virgo 23 August – 22 September
Virgo, you are organised, prepared and a good problem solver. Does that mean you’ve got too much put by ‘just in case’? (Full disclosure: Uncluttered is a Virgo.)
Decluttering and signs of the Zodiac – the third quarter of the astrological year
Libra 23 September – 22 October
Libra, it’s no secret that you seek balance and love beauty, harmony and peace. You sometimes find it difficult to make a decision, though, and that can lead to stress. Focus on beauty when you’re decluttering.
Scorpio 23 October – 21 November
Scorpio, you know what you want and you go for it. If you’ve decided to sort out your stuff then it’s going to be pretty straightforward. Put in the time, get the job done and move on to the next thing.
Sagittarius 22 November – 21 December
Sagittarius, you prefer leave the past in the past and to focus on things that are the most important here and now. But are you decluttering as you go? Or do you just push stuff to the back of the cupboard?
Decluttering and signs of the Zodiac – the final quarter of the astrological year
Capricorn 22 December – 19 January
Capricorn, you like to be in charge of your own environment and you’re pretty organised so you probably declutter your own space as a matter of course. It is possible to overdo decluttering. I’ve known a Capricorn buy things back from the charity shop!
Aquarius 20 January – 18 February
Aquarius, you don’t like monotony and so you can be a bit unpredictable and inconsistent. Home organisation depends a lot on your mood. You’re very sociable, though, so at least declutter so your guests have somewhere to sit!
Pisces 19 February – 20 March
Pisceans! You sweet, kind idealists. Perfection may be a little way off (as it is for all of us) but you’ll make progress with decluttering one step at a time.
A quick tidy up is simple and makes a big difference. Take 10 minutes to clear the decks and stop clutter building up. Set the timer and work through each room, clearing the surfaces and putting stuff where it should go – junk mail in the recycling, clothes in the laundry basket, crockery in the sink or dishwasher. You can get quite a bit done in 10 minutes and you’ll feel much better about how things look.
Places you can declutter in the bathroom
Declutter those small bottles of bubble bath, hand and body lotion and soap from hotels where you’ve stayed. Yes, they remind you of holidays past but you’ve probably got photos. Toiletries do go off, you know, and they also collect dust and grime in the bathroom. Have a clean sweep. You deserve it!
Do you actually like all those mugs you’ve got in your cupboard? Are there simply too many of them? Are there some that you never, ever use because they’re chipped or downright embarrassing? Wave bye-bye to mugs you don’t like and say hello to space in the kitchen.
Herbs and spices don’t last forever, you know, and fresh ones make your food taste so much better than stale ones. Go through your collection and throw away those with little or no smell, and those that are past their best by or use by date. Invest in new herbs and spices and taste the difference!
If you haven’t used those small packets of sugar and condiments from takeaways by now, then you probably don’t need them. Fish them out, chuck them in the bin and wipe the shelf or drawer clean. Trust me, you aren’t going to miss your mini soy sauce collection.
More places you can declutter quickly
Let’s face it: you don’t really need those old biros, bits of crayon, broken pencils and feeble felt pens. Crank up the music, sit down at the table with some scrap paper and find out what works and what doesn’t. Tip: include those pencils that will never sharpen properly because their lead is broken all the way down.
Is there any house without a bag of bags, often bags for life? Probably very few. Use the bags for your charity shop donations or just hand them straight over to smaller local charity shops which don’t have their own branded bags.
Declutter the bedside table so you can find things in the dark without spilling your glass of water. Give the table a dust and polish and you’ll have a much better night’s sleep.
If you love growing plants, as I do, your collection of plant pots seems to grow as well and soon becomes clutter. Luckily, more and more garden centres are recycling them. Get rid of pots which are broken, very small or an odd size or shape.
Sometimes a theme emerges from Uncluttered’s professional organising and decluttering work. Recently, it’s been cables and chargers. There have been bags, boxes and drawers of tangled cables in every home and office I’ve visited. And that’s not to mention all the loose ones lolling in corners and trailing from any surface you care to mention. And the earbuds and headphones, of course.
Different cables and their connectors
Technology continues to race ahead, leaving some devices high and dry and others deeply unfashionable. We’re talking about phones, tablets, laptops, other computers, printers, radios, televisions, videos, cameras, fitness trackers, e-readers, games consoles, bike lights …
They’ve all got cables, connectors and possibly chargers. There are the networking cables like coaxial, ethernet, HDMI, and the USB cables and all their different connectors. Somewhere you’ve probably got cables and chargers you don’t use but that you’re keeping, just in case. It’s time to sort them out.
How to declutter and recycle cables
First of all, make sure that all the working devices in the house have the necessary cables. Check with everyone else. Remember that not all new devices come with cables or a plug so some cables have to do double duty or even more.
Next, discard cables and chargers that don’t work. And discard broken headphones while you’re about it.
Then, discard cables that don’t connect to any working device. And discard non-working devices while you’re about it.
Finally, reduce the number of similar cables if you can, but make sure that there are still enough for all the personal devices in the household. This should help to avoid tension and squabbles about recharging.
Label each cable with a sticky label or masking tape.
Then wind or fold the cables loosely. You could secure them with elastic bands, wire, ribbon, string or velcro cable ties.
A further step, if you want to be very neat, is to put each one (or each type) into freezer bags, old toilet or kitchen roll tubes, or old sunglasses cases. You could also consider a cable organiser or electronics accessories case.
Where to store the cables and chargers
Where do you store your labelled and neatly rolled cables and connectors? It boils down to:
with the device
near the place you charge the device
in a central location.
It could be a basket, a drawer, slung over a kitchen roll holder or in a box with a lid. At the end of the day, somewhere that makes sense to you is the best place.
This post is about weeding books. It’s contentious, I know, but there are times when you have to do it. Let’s talk about it.
A few points about books
For me, books are not clutter. They pass on human knowledge and experience and develop ideas. They help to stock the mind. Whether fiction or non-fiction, books take you beyond the here and now.
A personal collection is just that: personal. Built up over years, it reflects your own particular interests and, to some extent, yourself. Judging by the furore that greeted Marie Kondo’s apparent pronouncement that you should have fewer than 30 books in your home, there are a lot of book lovers out there. And for that we should be glad!
One of the times when weeding books becomes necessary – and sometimes essential – is when space runs out. This is when the shelves are full and there are piles of books everywhere. You might find it difficult to move about or to sit down.
Another common time to weed is when you move. Perhaps you’re moving into a smaller home and there simply isn’t the room for all your books. Perhaps you are moving into an existing household or setting up a new home with someone else, and you want to bring your collections of books together.
Weeding books gives you …
I’ll offer you five possibilities and, of course, there are more.
Space on the shelves or the floor – don’t underrate it!
A look in the mirror, which may not always be pleasing or flattering. Be prepared for this.
Great joy on finding books once again – this can be wonderful.
Great shock on finding boring or embarrassing books.
Pause for thought and reminiscence on finding books associated with something in your life, far away and long ago.
Questions to help you weed
How obvious to say that your book collection is made up of individual books! Yet being aware of this is the way to weed. The journey starts with a single step: looking at a single volume.
Questions to have in mind as you are weeding books:
Is this book a duplicate?
Is it out of date? Learning moves on. To encourage you, I recently let the 1999 encyclopaedia with the broken spine go.
Do I feel I ought to read this book but I don’t want to? Most of us probably have books like this.
Do I have this book because someone else liked it or wanted me to read it? If I don’t like it or don’t want to read it, then it’s time for it to go.
Is this a book that was so-so and I’ll never read again? Or even a book that was simply bad? I’ve read quite a few of these and it’s one of the reasons I use the library so much.
Is this book part of my life now? Sometimes it’s very difficult to answer this question and sometimes it’s simply blindingly obvious.
Is it beautiful? I have books I keep because of their hand-drawn illustrations.
Where does a book go when it leaves?
My advice is to get the books out of the house as soon as possible but to where? When it’s time for a book to leave, where does it go? Here are some possibilities.
Pass it on to a friend or member of the family, and ask them to pass it on too.
Most charities have shelves of books in their shops. Some charities have specialist bookshops where books are sorted by knowledgeable volunteers.
Universities, colleges, schools and other libraries may accept specialist books or collections.
You could try to sell your books through a trade-in site such as We Buy Books, Ziffit or Music Magpie.
Almost two million people worldwide use BookCrossing. It’s the act of releasing your books ‘into the wild’ for a stranger to find, or via ‘controlled release’ to another BookCrossing member, and tracking where they go via journal entries from around the world.
At the end of the line, some books are for pulping. Sad, perhaps, but true.
After a demanding day, do you return to a peaceful sanctuary or to a cluttered house? For many people, enough is enough. Suddenly, decluttering and organising is everywhere you look. Yes, decluttering in North Wales is a thing! Part of this is due to Marie Kondo, the Japanese tidying expert with a signature fringe, whose Netflix series Tidying up with Marie Kondo is sparking joy, jokes and discussions across the world.
Marie wrote the New York Times best-seller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (also in manga) and Spark Joy. It’s the Netflix series, though, scheduled to ride the New Year wave of resolutions, that’s generating so many column inches and minutes of coverage.
How simple are Marie’s ideas and the KonMari method? And what do professional organisers say?
First of all, time
Decluttering and organising take time so that you’re not overwhelmed and things can settle. Marie Kondo’s approach is to do it ‘all at once’, by which she means in no more than six months. Experienced professional organisers usually work with clients once a week for as long as it takes, which could be much longer.
Imagine your ideal lifestyle
This is one of Marie’s rules and it’s got a lot going for it. KonMari is not about minimalism (although you’ll find yourself with many fewer things, if you follow it). It’s more about learning who you are and what you like.
Imagining a fully blown ideal lifestyle is a tall order for those of us who just want something like clear floorspace in the bedroom but it’s worth playing with. Even just an outline will encourage you to move forward.
Sparking joy and other emotions
None of us need negative things in our lives and Marie Kondo has a very positive approach. Her emphasis is on what to keep and that’s why she tells you to hold an item in your hand and ask yourself if it sparks joy.
Other organisers might ask whether you need something, want it or use it.
Joy is one of the emotions that decluttering can produce but be prepared for others. Decluttering can release complicated feelings.
Follow the right order
KonMari lays down a ‘right’ order of things to work on: clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellaneous) and, finally, sentimental items. This is to build up our ability to distinguish what sparks joy. It certainly makes sense to work on things such as letters, postcards and photos last. You’ll have built up stamina from all your other decluttering.
The order sounds nice and simple but scratch the surface and you will find many more categories underneath. The ‘komono’ category, for example, is huge, running from garage to loft, from toys to kitchen.
Rather than imposing an order, most professional organisers take their lead from their clients. Some are ready to tackle the ‘worst’ area in their home. Others have to build up slowly.
Marie Kondo says to let go with gratitude
The KonMari method advocates thanking items you are discarding for their service to you. This reflects Japanese culture’s respect for inanimate objects but it may be a step too far for you. Even so, for many people it raises questions about consumerism and how we live our lives.
Piling all the clothes on the bed? Really?
The huge pile is where many professional organisers part ways with Marie Kondo. She gathers everything in a category (clothes, say, or tools) so you can see exactly how much you have. This makes great television but it’s usually not a good fit with real life. For many of us it’s far too overwhelming. What’s more, it takes time to go through everything and we need to be able to use that bed tonight!
Some professional organisers declutter by category like Marie Kondo but others work room by room. Whichever approach they take, they always try to make a task achievable by breaking it down into smaller chunks. You can focus and it keeps the motivation going! A smaller chunk might be a category like jeans or hammers, for example. Or it could be just one shelf.
Marie gives each of her possessions a designated ‘living space’. Most of us know about this already: a place for everything and everything in its place. Here we all agree.
Marie Kondo and folding
Marie is big on folding clothes and storing them vertically in drawers. You save space, see everything at a glance and nothing is squashed at the bottom of a pile.
Many people see folding as a game changer. And others feel they have better things to do with their time. It really depends on the kind of person you are and the kind of home, storage and amount of time you have. Your choice.
Tidying up with Marie Kondo is an entertaining television show and it’s certainly captured people’s attention. People are talking about how clutter makes your already busy life even more pressurised and complicated. And how it affects family, relationships and work.
Things can be different, though! If you declutter and organise, you can transform your home and make space. Home can become a sanctuary, a safe space to regroup and revitalise yourself.
You don’t have to do it all at once – do what you can, even if it’s very small.