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Seven top tips for how to get decluttering

I’m a mega declutterer, but I didn’t start out that way.

I started out life as a hoarder, copying my mum.  It meant keeping every letter, every card, and filling my room with little ornaments and bits and bobs.  There was a huge fear of loss, and having to keep EVERYTHING just in case.

Mum was that superstitious that the last two cigarettes in her packet where always lit together and had to go in the same ash tray.  But just after my Dad died (I was 20), Mum changed the locks, and I was left without my ‘stuff’ for 6yrs.  It’s a long story as to why she did it, but lets just say that death often brings the worst out in people, and since becoming a Mum myself, I kind of understand how being a Mum messed with an already messed up head.

So after 6yrs of going cold turkey, I started to break a habit of a life time, and now many years on, I’m incredibly grateful for the present she gave me, even if she didn’t know what she was doing.

But even though I’m pretty good at it, I did spend last year doing a really big time clear out ready for Little Dimples, and I suspect that 2011 will have even more.  2010 was about the ‘stuff’ we had collected as a couple over the past 21 years or that couldn’t be used by baby, and this year is breaking things down even more to the small nooks and crannies that still have bits to be sorted in them.

A lovely friend of mine wrote a blog the other day, which sounded like she was a bit overwhelmed with where to start, so I thought I would share some tips.  I might not be a professional declutterer, but I’m pretty darn good at it!


1) The 80/20 Rule

When I worked in technical support for a big database company we used the Pareto’s 80/20 rule to get through our list of calls.  It goes like this: 80% of the calls take about 20% of the time to fix.  The remaining 20% of the calls will take 80% of the time.

So when starting out and wanting to clear the decks, go for the 80% which can be done quickly and gives the quickest results in terms of reducing the load.  Pick 1 room.  Get it sorted.

It’s only when you have a bit of space that you can tackle the remaining 20%.


2) Go With the Flow

We are girls (oops, is that a bit obvious!), and hence subject to the cycles of hormones.  Use them!  Some times of the month you will have the energy and urge to have a mega clearout.  During those times, stop everything else and use the energy.

Don’t ever do it when it feels like a drudge to do it, that’s not the point.


3) Quick ways of Disposing of stuff

If you are doing your first major clear out, then someone who sells stuff for you on ebay would be a good place to start (I have someone if you are anywhere near St Albans).  So from an 80/20 perspective, the first task would be to go round your house and make a big collection of anything not needed that might have some value, or might have some value when packaged with other things.

Charity shops are of course also great, but I have found them to not always appreciate a big load of stuff.  There is one near me in Radlett which is always happy to take things, and they will take old clothes to go to recycling too, as they get money for them.

But Freecycle (mine is a yahoo group for st albans called freegle) is fantastic, as you can get rid of just about anything, including electricals and stuff that wont go to charity.  Don’t say ‘yes’ immediately.  Wait until a few people say they want the object and then ask for dates and times of collection.


4) Memory box and Memory Photo Album

Create a memory box for keeping trinkets in.  I had 2 huge IKEA boxes, and was branching into a 3rd, which I have decided is a little much for just 40yrs as I plan on another 60yrs.  So I’m just going through my two, to cut them into one, and then have another for the kiddies.

If it is too big, create a memory photo album.  This is especially good for children’s art stuff.  Yes you can keep it all.  But for goodness sake keep it digitally, and just keep the stuff with the best memories in the box!

Oooh, but keep a backup of your computer and photo’s and put them in a fire safe.


5) Lofts are For:

Christmas Decorations, holiday stuff like snowboards, and other things that you use once per year.

NOT for storing stuff ‘just in case’.

Imagine that loft is your head.  I’m not a big Feng shui person, but for the past few years I have been able to ‘feel’ that loft sitting above us with a pile of crap in it.  The worst thing is that if it is choccer to the top, then you’ll never find what you want when you are looking for it, or remember.


6) Just In Case

Of course there are a few things that are worth keeping just in case.  I do have an old wooden ark that my kids play with, plus a huge teddy that I have a photo of me with, and a couple of little toys.  So they are good memory things.  But the other things you will probably get back if you join a yahoo freegle/freecyle group if there is another instance where you will need it.

There is a little secret I have for you.  I can’t explain it all in a blog.  But it is ‘Nothing is Missing’.  Nothing ever disappears completely.  Look at water.  It can turn into ice or steam.  But it doesn’t go away.  With some help I could show you that as things or people left your life, one or many things appeared that together could do the same job.  If you ever get yourself into a big panic about losing something, I can definitely sort it out for you, so don’t worry.


7) It Doesn’t Matter How Long It Takes

You are probably tired, after all you are a Mum.  So don’t kill yourself doing this.  Make a list, which is really detailed so that you can tick lots of things for a little effort, and just start doing it bit by bit.  It doesn’t matter if it takes a year.  In fact, this is a constant job anyway, because if you end up loving it like me, you will be decluttering for the rest of your life.

Plus, the most important part of the decluttering is the emotional and mental effects.  So remember to leave some space for you to declutter your brain noise (fear, guilt and worry), your body (detox, exercise, and pamper) and your life (work/life balance and relationships).


Let me know how you do.  Now I’m off to finish those Ikea boxes of mine!

Oooh and a quick p.s. to another Mummy blogger friend of mine.  No it is not possible to have a totally tidy house (you are like me, so the kind of perfectly tidy), plus work half/full time, plus do everything else; so stop feeling guilty about those people having a go about you having toys everywhere.  If you ever come round and my house looks tidier, it’s just because I work less days, and have probably cut back on work a little for a week or so to get it back into order (like at the moment).  Or you happened to just turn up when I was at the right point in my cycle!


26 thoughts on “Seven top tips for how to get decluttering

  1. So relevant to me right now:) thanks … I think I will go unpack some boxes now:) It also got me thinking on the mind-body connection (you know me, lol) and how decluttering has such parallels with detox and getting rid of old congestion. Decluttering the mind AND body, like a two for one deal.. hahaha. Today I am tackling the keep-sake boxes (thanks for the inspiration:):) and I am very sure that that will bring up plenty of emotions that could do with a declutter too.

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you. The 80/20 rule will be something that I can apply to so many things. I also love the idea of a memory box, i think this may be the solution to a lot of my childhood clutter, just keeping a few the of the small meaningful bits.
    Great to note about the cycles too, I am convinced I am governed more and mroe by hormones, I feel you have given me permission to go with the flow and not feel obliged to do it when I dont have the energy.
    C xx

    1. Oooh, I really hope it helps. It’s funny how stuff I learnt as a computer programmer is still useful to me today! There’s a bit in the online program you have got about problem solving which is totally from there!

  3. I am a big fan of decluttering. In fact, I do this every week in my home office to avoid a build up so it always stays a small task.

    As I run a business from home, the house being clutter free and organised is important to me as it impacts my mindset as I work. Having said that, it is our family home first and foremost and with a lively 6 year old boy it isn’t always exactly as I would like it. But I am OK with that as I always keep in my mind my motto “family first” so sometimes I just have to accept that there will be some clutter somewhere and be at peace with it.

    1. It’s an interesting balance isn’t it! I too know when I’m clear on what is going on in my life, when my desk is clear. But you are right, the family area can’t be that strict. Sometimes big hairy northern hubby mentions how nice it is in other people’s houses where there is nothing on the kitchen worktops; I smile sweetly and ignore it to the most part!

  4. Create a list of necessities:

    Replace all media with a handheld computer.

    Living room: Couch, chair, 2 floor lamps
    Kitchen: One set of pots / dishes / utensils
    Bedroom: bed, pillow, 2 sets of sheets, blanket, quilt, floor lamp
    Wardrobe: 2 weeks of outfits
    Bathroom: 3 sets of towels, one set of cosmetics

    Extra tables and bureaus are not really needed.

    1. Blimey @Di, that’s a short list! I agree about using a computer though – all our films, music & soon it would seem books are on there!

  5. Yes! I agree with the “Go With The Flow” thing as I am can usually organize my things effectively when I am on my mood. And it feels more achieving when I do it with my own will. Thanks for your blog! Very informative.

    1. Ah @ClearShoeStorageBoxes, you are just trying to tempt me knowing my love of boxes …. too late, I’ve already given in to the love of shoe storage boxes!!

  6. Everyone wish to have clean and beautiful home. For this one needs to have good management skill for home. The way you astute the information about DE-cluttering tips is really awesome. It really feel good to read your article. Thanks for sharing these information.

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