Experts reveal how to declutter your life and have a tidy home once and for all

We’ve spent more time than ever before stuck at home over the past few years, but we’re still drowning in stuff – and it’s stressing us out.

A study from Homebase has revealed the average British home loses nearly 50sq ft of space to clutter, the size of 17,000 football pitches nationwide. And our mess is more than just a nuisance.

In the same survey, a quarter of Brits admitted that when their house is cluttered, they feel like everything is getting on top of them. More than a fifth said a messy house contributes to a bad mood and anxiety.

Science backs this up. Experts say clutter impairs our ability to think clearly and perform efficiently at work, and can lead to depression.

“It can take over your home and your life,” says organisational expert Jamie Novak (jamienovak.com).

“Mess can mean you never feel at peace. What’s more, you waste time, money and effort looking for or replacing items you already own, but simply can’t find among the dross.

“Decluttering gives you back time, energy and space to enjoy what matters in life. And with spring-cleaning season upon us, there has never been a better time to start. “

Tidying up is a task that can trigger a whole raft of emotions, including panic, guilt, regret, indecision and even grief.

So, it’s hardly surprising that many of us struggle to get a grip of our stuff.

But help is at hand. Here the UK’s top experts debunk our most common excuses, and share troubleshooting tips to tidy up for good.







Where do you start?
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I DON’T KNOW WHERE TO START

This is the number-one obstacle we face, says professional home organizer Lucy Mansey (organizedbylucy.com).

“Mess can be overwhelming. If a room has become a dumping ground, it’s often difficult to have the mental capacity to walk in there – let alone sort it out. “

The answer is to focus on one area at a time. “Take a tiny section of your home in turn – a cupboard, shelf or corner. Split items into ‘keep’ and ‘go’. With the latter, lay out boxes or bags to put these in, labeled as donate, sell, recycle, upcycle or bin. “

I HAVEN’T GOT TIME

Decluttering will give you back some time – and more besides.

“Life really is easier when you know where everything is,” insists Kathryn Lord (moretoorganising.com). “Organizing and decluttering clears your mind as well as your space, but it’s a steady marathon – not a sprint.

“Practice makes perfect. By doing it little and often the easier it will become. “

“Work in 18-minute chunks,” Jamie advises. “Studies show this is the optimum time for making a start in tasks – long enough to make headway but not so long that you’ll get bored or overwhelmed.”

Set your timer for 18 minutes, and start tackling your sock drawer. When this is done, move on to your sweaters, and so on, until the time is up.

I’LL DO IT LATER

Zap procrastination by creating deadlines.

“Book appointments for drop-offs to charity shops or recycling centers,” urges Jamie.

“That way you have to act. Next, set out a reward – anything from a cuppa to a catch up on social media – as a reward for completing each task.

“Finally, pretend you’re on a game show, and use a countdown buzzer.”







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I’LL KEEP IT J FSO IN CASE

“Since we don’t know what the future holds, there’s a temptation to prepare for every eventuality,” says Jamie. “But clinging on to items ‘just in case’ means the good stuff gets swamped and lost.”

We’ve all felt that pang from letting something go. But remind yourself that you’re making the best decision with the information you have today.

“There is only so much space in your home. You have to prioritize how best to use this precious amount, ”says Jamie.

Paperwork can cause particular angst for us.

“Personal paperwork, like bank statements, only need to be kept for two years (six years for business paperwork),” says organizer Sian Pelleschi (all-sorted.co.uk).

“Keep insurance policies for as long as they are valid. Store important paperwork like birth certificates in a fire and waterproof box. ”

SENTIMENTAL VALUE

“Baby clothes, inherited items, souvenirs, even an old job outfit, remind us of years gone by and happy memories, which is why we cling on to them,” explains Jamie.

“But the memory is in your mind, not in the inanimate object.

“Seeing an item can conjure the emotions just as well as actually holding it. Try taking a photograph of it then letting it go to a new home. Storing images on a digital photo frame creates a slideshow of treasured images. “

IT WAS EXPENSIVE

“Keeping a never-used item, just because it was expensive, only serves as a continual reminder of a poor choice,” says Jamie.

“Release it. If you can recoup the money by selling it, that’s great. Otherwise let it go to someone who will love it and tell yourself you’ll make a better choice next time.

“Ironically, it can be just as tricky letting go of a bargain. So don’t pick up that freebie pen. It’s just one more item to find a home for and dispose of eventually. “

I MIGHT USE IT ONE DAY

“One day” items, such as bread makers and musical instruments, bought with the best of intentions, only remind us that we don’t feel good about who we are, says Jamie.

“By starting to accept who you are, right now, you can start to more easily get rid of items that are simply not you. “They are right for someone else, however. By selling, sharing or rehoming them the item will still get used – just not by you, and that’s OK. ” Still hesitant? “Either prioritize your dream of learning that new skill and schedule time to make it happen or admit it isn’t important to you right now and let it go,” suggests Kathryn.

A LOVED ONE GAVE IT TO ME

“If a gift is not your cup of tea, don’t feel guilty about passing it on to someone who will put it to better use,” says Nicola Lewis (thisgirlcanorganise.com).

Remind yourself that the present was given with love. But no one wants to see an item lying unused, gathering dust.

Pass it on to someone who will love it.

Alternatively, sell it, put the proceeds towards something you really do need, and think of your loved one whenever you use it.







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I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH IT

Recycling and safe disposal schemes mean you can find a home for virtually anything. See terracycle.com/en-GB for information on recycling everything from half-used cosmetics and socks with holes in to inkless pens and chipped crockery.

Log on to recyclenow.com/what-to-do-with for an AZ guide.

Find your nearest hazardous waste disposal unit for household or gardening chemicals and batteries, at gov.uk.

Some charity shops still gratefully accept working electrical items while anything with a plug, battery or cable can be recycled, says Nicola.

Visit recycleyourelectricals.org.uk.

I JUST CAN’T LET IT GO

“If it’s simply the case that you’ve spent money on a magazine and don’t want to waste it, tell yourself the money has already been spent and you won’t get that back,” advises Sian.

“Make an effort to read it within the next week, or let it go and move on.”

However, clinging on to items could be costing you far more than the price of a magazine, adds Jamie.

“Clutter is a sign that something needs to change,” she stresses.

Hoarding disorder – an illness in its own right – affects one to two people in every 100, says the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

“It’s a serious matter – affecting people both mentally and physically,” adds Sian.

“If you’re struggling, contact a qualified professional at findanorganiser.co.uk or hoardingdisordersuk.org.”

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