Here's how decluttering could change your life

Ned Browne

Decluttering has become a buzzword. Marie Kondo, who once suggested that people should have no more than 30 books in their homes, has sold over 10 million books on decluttering. Her Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo has a huge following too. But can decluttering improve your life?

What the experts say

Research undertaken by the University of California found that people living in cluttered houses had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. They also found that a messy environment leads to disrupted sleep.

Indeed, excessive hoarding is considered a disorder. If you have an excessive number of useless items stored in a chaotic manner, this may be you.

In addition, researchers at Princeton University found clutter made it harder to stay focused on a task. Clutter can make it harder to find things, slowing us down and leading to feelings of frustration.

Jo Becker-Birck, decluttering guru and founder of jobeckerbirck.com, has seen the benefits of decluttering firsthand, "Everything you own requires your attention and energy to maintain it, this is not only physically but mentally exhausting. By gradually decluttering, you let go of stress, and start to save time and money. As you begin to surround yourself with only the objects that you love and use, you boost happiness, your energy levels and make room for personal growth."

 

Where to start

Decluttering is a prime example of having to invest time to save time. It will take time, but it should save you time down the line. So, start by allocating two hours and give yourself a clear goal. 

Alternatively, allocate five minutes a day, every day, to decluttering. But, remember, things might get worse before they get better—try emptying out a kitchen cupboard if you need proof.

Most experts say clear the surfaces first: worktops, desks and windowsills are hotbeds of clutter. They also tend to be the easiest to clear. This will save on cleaning time too—it’s much easier to wipe over an empty table. As you shed your unneeded possessions, you should also find that you spend less time having to organise your home.

 

Be ruthless (but not too ruthless)

It’s easy to get rid of old newspapers, pizza flyers and cardboard boxes. It’s less easy to get rid of the mementoes of your life. Be careful before discarding the latter—we are, after all, the memories of ourselves.

You should also discard things you have never used. When I say discard, please only throw out what can’t be sold on eBay, recycled or given to a charity shop. Some things you could consider offloading:

•    Old and expired medicines and cosmetics
•    Old technology that’s unlikely to be used again such as DVDs and VHS tapes
•    Anything that has remained broken for more than six months
•    Kitchen appliances and utensils that you don’t use
•    Clothes that you no longer wear
•    Duplicates of almost anything
•    Bed linen—two sets per bed is all you need
•    Books you’ve read but didn’t particularly like
•    Ornaments

 

Get organised

Everything should have its place. Try to store your stuff by category. For example, DIY equipment should all be in the same place. You will need to create neat storage solutions too. High up bookshelves and underbed storage will create the feeling of space.

 

Buy less stuff (and ask for less stuff too)

Buying fewer non-consumable goods will not only help you keep your home decluttered; it will also save you money. Buy only things that you need (or that are beautiful). Ask for less stuff too—experiences make great presents. Tea for two at the Ritz anyone?

 

Is decluttering always the answer?

There are functional homes and there are interesting homes. The two don’t seem to overlap. 

As Albert Einstein, who was notoriously messy once said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

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