January is the perfect time for a fresh start and new outlook in the home which will organise you for the year ahead. Kate Ibbotson creator of A Tidy Mind is a declutter expert, professional organiser and life simplification coach, supporting overwhelmed people across the UK and beyond to organise their homes and simplify their lives. Here Kate shares her top tips on how to live clutter-free in 2018…
Living ‘clutter-free’ will look different to everyone. After all, the number of possessions which is right for one person isn’t the same for the next. A clutter-free home simply means that every item adds value to the lives of the inhabitants in some way, either because it’s useful – like a potato peeler, or because it’s associated with a positive feeling – like a photo album.
Once a home has been decluttered, it’s much easier to organise the possessions which remain. The space feels calmer and more of a sanctuary, plus it’s easier to clean. Also time and money will be saved by knowing exactly what you own and where to find it. Once clutter is cleared, it tends to leave room for creativity so often people find they feel motivated to start new projects and achieve goals. There is even a theory that decluttering is related to losing excess weight and a healthy lifestyle. The thinking involved in considering which possessions add value to a home is not dissimilar to choosing which foods nourish the body and which to eat to which activities are beneficial.
It’s important to address ‘mental clutter’ too such as social over commitment and spending too much time on social media to truly live clutter-free. The benefits of this are decreased stress levels and improved relationships due to more of an emphasis on spending time on the important things.
1. Be a Conscious Consumer
Avoid picking up items just because they are free and be intentional about what you buy. If you have even the tiniest doubt about a purchase, don’t make it, because it will likely end up as clutter. If unsure, exercise a ‘purchase pause’ – hold off and see how you feel in a week. Whist you’re at it, reconsider buying in bulk. It may save money but the loss of space might not be worth it.
2. Have a Plan of Attack
Don’t try to declutter your whole house in a week, you’ll exhaust and overwhelm yourself. Declutter in bite-size chunks of between 30 minutes and a couple of hours. Focus on contained spaces such as a drawer, cupboard or shelf. Arm yourself with paper and a pen to make notes of ‘actions’ and designate rubbish, recycling and donation bags.
3. Start with 'Storage' Areas
Lofts, basements and garages are prime locations to stash something quickly to avoid dealing with it. If you’re serious about clearing your clutter, start with these areas first and then you’ll have enough space to store things that you actually need.
4. Make a Decision
In my industry, we say that clutter is often a result of decision delay. It can be hard to decide about what to do with some items and may seem easier to pass them by. But by pushing through that challenge, that’s how you will see real results.
5. Have a Place for Everything
Assign a permanent ‘resting place’ to each and every possession, especially for items which tend to accumulate in ‘clutter hotspots’ For example, if school stuff accumulates on the kitchen table, create a ‘homework’ box on a shelf for each child.
6. Don't Walk Empty Handed
In a modern home, things are constantly being used and moved so you need to consistently put things back in their ‘homes’ or in the recycling or the bin. The easiest way to do this is to tidy up as you move through your home. It negates the need for a big tidy up and your house will stay in order.
7. Only Handle it Once
Otherwise known as the ‘OHIO’ rule, this is great way to make sure you keep on top of post and paperwork. If you can deal with it then and there, do it. If not, file it in a dedicated area and schedule a time to look at later.
8. Don’t Let Tech Clutter Build Up
Unsubscribe from invaluable mailing lists as the emails come in. Delete digital photos you don’t want immediately. Turn off notifications where you can. Just because you can’t see virtual clutter, doesn’t mean it can’t weigh on your mind.
9. Say No
We all have the same 24 hours in the day and we owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to get the utmost value out of each one. If you won’t get much out of a social event, don’t attend. Like our possessions, how we spend our precious time is up for question. If it isn’t a useful, valuable or an enjoyable experience, consider decluttering it.
10. Don't Over Attach
Remember that memories aren’t in ‘things’, they are inside us instead. Of course, it is important to keep possessions which remind you of a loved one or a particular experience, but do you need 50 of such things? Taking a photo can help you hold on to the special memories or meanings attached to objects without taking up much space at all – you might be surprised at how much satisfaction you can get from a two-dimensional reproduction.