The age-old ‘spring clean’ has been rebranded – it’s hot and hip and its new name is ‘decluttering’. And if the past couple of weeks are anything to go by, it’s highly contagious. The sight of our sons’ room was doing my head in – it wasn’t even their fault. Each school book, piece of art, toy and treasure we’d collected since they were born were contained in their space – piles and piles of it – some of it useful or loved, much of it outgrown or out-loved. Their room was hard to keep tidy or to find anything in, and I had started to worry the boys would become permanently programmed to living in a pigsty!
It was time to get in an expert – in this case, a good friend of mine. Rachel King is a reformed hoarder and has read, written and taught others about the art of decluttering. We decided to start with decluttering my wardrobe – which led to our drawers, our ensuite and then our whole bedroom. Rach and I were on a roll, with a tsunami of stuff coming out of every nook and cranny – keep, give away, chuck, repair, and sell were the piles we created, with most clutter heading out the door. We employed a simple mantra – is it useful or beautiful? I must have heard Rach say, “So, do you love it?” a hundred times that first day!
The contagious nature of it also kicked in – I started getting texts from friends who had popped over midway through the process, saying, “I’ve just come home and started to declutter, it’s amazing.” Four friends were infected with the declutter bug, a good kind of virus. There were lots of helpful ideas to make it easier to decide what to keep, such as not keeping things for your imagined future or past self, “I used to look great in this.” “I always thought I’d be a knitter, or a snowboarder” (insert your own thoughts here).
One of the best things we did was move the piles of sorted clothes just outside the room and let them sit there for a day or two. I only retrieved two or three things from those piles and the rest went – but it was comforting to know I could change my mind. A new feeling of more space and being able to access what I owned was wonderful. I now knew where everything was! It gave me a feeling of lightness – I didn’t want to bring things back.
By the time we got to the boys’ room, I was in the zone. We took two wheelie bins of the ‘chuck’ piles out of their room, and took a whole car boot full of outgrown toys to a fundraising project at a worthy primary school. Rather than being shocked and tearful at the loss of their outdated promotional characters and baby toys, the boys actually thanked me for tidying their room. Even our arts and crafts boxes got a declutter – and strangely enough, when there is less, you use it more – all because things have been simplified and are therefore easier to see and use. Having the children involved was also important – they now each have a treasure box for bits and bobs they collect or bring home, and it’s their choice what to keep and what to chuck.
We have a new system that works, and will help their roomy-room vibe last a lot longer. The truth behind all this is that the burden of our clutter had produced a kind of paralysis. It’s as if the clutter was a physical sign that my family life wasn’t as organised as it should be, and things were piling up. Seeing the mess of things that had lost their relevance was somehow causing me to stagnate and not move forward in other areas. Letting old things go has given me a clearer understanding of what’s needed now.
My trip to Nepal last year continues to have an impact on my life – it has helped ensure I don’t just buy new stuff, and has clarified what is truly important. It has also been a catalyst for decluttering – I just needed a friend to support and motivate me to make it happen. Looking back, I realised we have also been decluttering many of our activities as a family over the last few years, reassessing what’s really important and removing the activities getting in the way of our family time. Leaving Breakfast was a necessary thing to put in the ‘chuck’ pile.
Are you holding on to something from the past? Is the amount of clutter staring at you causing you to feel unmotivated to do other things? Then my challenge is this – catch the bug, give Rachel a call, clean the slate, close old doors, give away any unneeded stuff – so you can cherish the important things and simplify your home to be the sanctuary it needs to be for you and your family.