The Cathy Phillips tried and tested decluttering method
How often do you promise yourself you’ll have a good old clear out? And how many excuses do you find not to declutter? We all collect stuff over the years, but sometimes it becomes overwhelming. You can’t find anything, despite the fact that clothes and magazines are falling out of cupboards and the kitchen drawer contains a nest of vipers in the form of random string, rubber bands and many things that will come in useful one day …
As interior designers whose stamping ground is West London, Notting Hill, Battersea and beyond, we often find helping our clients to declutter is the first vital step to property refurbishment. And our decluttering and space-saving interior design skills are featured in a Houzz article ’10 Mini Offices Behind Closed Doors’ (see end).
So, deep breath. You don’t need half this stuff. You ARE going to sort it out. Just read this first.
1. Dedicate a whole day to your decluttering.
Yes I know you are busy and there are umpteen demands on your time. But you want to do this, right? It’s only one day. (Oh and a few hours follow up.)
2. Now, collect your weapons.
Big black bin bags. Large cardboard or acrylic boxes. A marker pen. Sticky labels. Pen. iPod/radio.
3. Start on the worst room.
Bring with you bin bags, open and ready, and at least 2 of your boxes. Label one box Keep and one Recycle. Take EVERYTHING out of cupboards, wardrobes etc and put it on the floor. Sit down in the middle of it, making sure your boxes and bin bags are within reach. Put some music on.
DECLUTTERING TIP Music can be motivational or soothing. Or try a podcast – learn something, double bonus!
4. Take each item and decide, quickly, if it’s a Keep, Recycle or Bin.
DECLUTTERING TIP My definitions are: Keep: something I’ve used/worn within the last 6 months and will use/wear again. Recycle: something I’ve not used or worn for ages but someone else might use/wear. Or something I could use in a different way if I altered it (be careful of this one, or you’ll end up with a huge pile of “projects” which you might never get round to, and no less space!). Of course if you have children, this category can apply to items you are handing down, in which case you can move them to the Keep box. Bin: rubbish. No use to anyone. Dirty, broken or obsolete stuff.
5. Do the same in every room that is afflicted.
6. Take the bin bags to the bins or the dump. Do it now, or get someone else to do it.
7. Heave all the Recycle boxes in to one room, tip out on to the floor and re-sort into
Give to a Friend and Charity Shop. Then give to friend / charity shop NOW – on no account put the boxes back in to a cupboard for later! NB some charity shops will pick up if you have enough (non-electrical normally – check) stuff.
Or if you think it’s worth it and really will DO IT NOW, sell on eBay or one of the other auction sites.
DECLUTTERING TIP If you have a lot of nice clothes in this pile, consider a Clothes Swap party with your friends. This is allowed as long as you give away more clothes than you gain!
8. Have a coffee/cigarette/pat on the back.
9. Look over the Keep stuff, making sure you really want to keep each and every item; if so, treat it kindly.
Make a list of organisey things to buy – perhaps some new hangers for your clothes; acrylic boxes for shoes / papers / jewellery; zip up boxes for just about everything.
10. Have a glass of wine and relax. It’s over for today!
11. Another day, when all the organisey stuff you ordered has arrived, put things in their designated containers, label them (I favour old fashioned paper luggage labels tied on with string), put them away.
You know how to do this, you don’t need me to tell you.
Done! It’s not easy, I’m the first one to admit. But it’s immensely satisfying to be clutter free and to be able to find things! Well done you.
DECLUTTERING TIP If after reading this you really can’t face it, enlist the help of an organised / bossy friend.
At Cathy Phillips & Co we are passionate about decluttering and storage (for example space-saving interior design for crowded West London family homes). Here is the aforementioned Houzz interior design article which features a ‘hidden’ home office. This is part of a larger whole-house interior design project for a contemporary classical apartment in Brighton.