Declutter for the New Year

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What could be a better New Year’s resolution for your home than to eliminate mess, create space and generally have a good sort out?

When the festive fun comes to an end, the presents are all opened and the Christmas pudding finally finished, it’s time to take a breath and assess just how much mess and clobber has built up in your home over the past year. If the answer is too much, then it’s time to declutter your stuff and sort your storage, so that your home will be mess-free and super-stylish in time for 2017.

First, grab some rubbish bags and a few boxes or baskets. Work methodically through each room (it’s boring, but necessary – try doing just half an hour a day for a couple of weeks) and sort out obvious rubbish, things that can go to a local charity shop, items that could be sold second-hand, anything that needs mending, little-used things that can be put away in the garage or loft, and genuinely great stuff that you want to keep. Try to get rid of as much as possible (let’s face it: we all have too much stuff), only holding onto things that you really need and/or love.

With what’s left, it’s now time to work out where it will go. Often, our most persistent clutter arises from the fact that we haven’t designated spaces where things can easily be put, so stuff just ends up lying around. Label your storage if necessary, and make sure the whole family knows what’s meant to go where. You’ll already have created extra storage space by having such a good clear-out; if you still need more, look for all the areas where you could fit additional storage, whether built-in or free-standing: from backs of doors to under the stairs, tops of wardrobes to under the bed. Think racks, hooks and shelves as well as conventional cabinets and chests of drawers and, where possible, ensure they co-ordinate with existing furniture, enhancing your home’s style and even adding a soupcon of on-trend glamour. You may also wish to have a rethink about the location of some conventional storage spaces. If, for example, toys are always in the living room rather than in the children’s bedrooms, how about adding a toy storage unit somewhere handy, rather than having to tidy them away upstairs every day?

There are a few rules of storage that might be helpful. Obvious, perhaps, but worth bearing in mind all the same. First, store like with like (it may take a while to go through the house and organise this, but it really is worth the effort for the ease of finding things later on). Never say: ‘I’ve got this box, what shall I put in it?’ Instead, match the size and shape of the container to what’s being kept inside (in other words, find small, lidded boxes for things like Lego and big squishy baskets for teddy bears). Store as much as possible near to where it’s most needed, but don’t store frequently used items below knee level or above shoulder height, especially if they’re heavy. Avoid storing things on surfaces such as tables or desks – they’re where you want to put things while you’re organising them, not keep them there afterwards. And allow yourself room to expand – but only within reason. If you have allowed extra space, and then filled it… it’s time to start all over again.

Easy ways to banish clutter

  • Write a list of where you want to declutter. Start with the hardest or the easiest – the important thing is that you now know what you need to do.
  • Have an intensive declutter workout and spend just five minutes clearing as much as you can in one area. You’ll be amazed at the difference you can make. Repeat as often as you can.
  • Not sure which clothes to get rid of? Hang them all with the hooks facing one way. Every time you wear something, re-hang it with the hook facing the opposite way. After, say, six months, you can easily assess which items you never wear. You could try the same idea in the kitchen (turn the handles of your mugs in one direction, put glasses upside down, and so on), the playroom, the living room…
  • Make it a family competition. Who will be the fastest to find three things to throw away, three things to give away and three things to tidy away? Offer prizes as necessary.
  • If what you need is some emergency decluttering, there’s no shame in popping everything into a big box and hiding it somewhere until you have time to go through it properly.

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