The Ultimate Guide to Decluttering

by | Feb 15, 2024 | Home Tips, packing service London | 0 comments

t’s one of those tasks that seems more insurmountable than longer we put it off. Accumulating possessions is inevitable, regardless of whether or not we consider ourselves materialistic people. And in the smaller living spaces in cities, we’re likely to run out of shelf and storage room even quicker than our rural counterparts. Sometimes, we try to put off the inevitable, by doing a superficial declutter, using tricks like shoving things into already-crammed drawers and under the bed. This form of self-deception can work in the short-term, but simply creates a more complicated job in the long. All sorts of beliefs can deter us from making a start on decluttering. We might see a decluttering specialist, such as feng shui lifestyle expert, Marie Kondo, on television, and despair of ever being able to live up to those ideals. Or we might tell ourselves that if we start the job of decluttering, we have to do it all in one frantic, exhausting effort, when the truth is that just making a start is enough. Just doing one decluttering task a day will eventually get us through the job and we can go at our own speed, provided we go. Here’s our concise guide to decluttering to help you make that all-important beginning.

  1. Where do I Start with Decluttering my House?
  2. What is the Fastest Way to Declutter a House?
  3. What is the Five-Year Rule for Decluttering?
  4. What are the 80/20 and 20/20 Rules for Decluttering?
  5. What is the ‘Move Out’ Decluttering Method?
  6. The Storage Solution

Where do I Start with Decluttering my House?

It’s perhaps the most important bit of the decluttering process. Making a start. Until then, decluttering is just an idea. It lives in our minds like a troubling gremlin, prodding us from time to time and making us feel guilty about our procrastination. But as much as the trouble lies in our minds, so does the answer. We start with our minds. Take out a piece of paper and put down in handwriting why it is that you want to declutter. This will help get your mindset into a suitable place and you’ll also be able to look back at the note when you feel yourself flagging. At this note-taking stage, you could also write down what obstacles you anticipate. What might get in your way and stop you decluttering? What about it worries you? Are you scared of letting go of things, even though you have a surplus of them? If you know what some of these challenges might be going in, then you’ll stand a better chance of facing up to them when they arise.

What is the Fastest Way to Declutter a House?

There’s not guarantee that one method is necessarily faster than another, but it’s a good idea to settle on a few categories. Then, once you’re going through things item by item, you can assign each one to a category. Meaningful categories might include: Keep; Throw away; Charity shop; Repair; Sell; Give away. Having predetermined categories in mind before you make a start can help with excessive sentimental attachments that keep you holding on to something you never use or wear. This sorting system will also help you power through the tougher phases of a declutter. It has a simplifying effect on the task. If you need a bit more inspiration to get moving, then it’s out with the smartphone and time to take some photographs of all the parts of your home you want to declutter. You can then embolden yourself further down the line by taking updated photographs that demonstrate your progress. A chaotic, stuffed hallway cupboard that looked impenetrable in its ‘before’ photograph can, with little effort, look completely different an hour or less later.

Now you just need to choose an area to make your start. If you’re dealing with lots of apprehension, then make it easier on yourself by choosing something manageable – a single kitchen cupboard, for example. Or a simple work surface. Another procrastination/fear hack is to set an alarm for 15 minutes. That way, you’re not asking anything Herculean of yourself. You can stop after 15 minutes when the alarm pings, or you might find that there’s now a good headwind of inspiration behind you and you can power on.

What is the Five-Year Rule for Decluttering?

The five-year rule (sometimes written as the ‘5×5 rule’) is the suggestion that, if you haven’t used an item for five years or more, then you’re unlikely to use it again and you shouldn’t spend any more than five minutes on deciding whether or not to keep it. Evaluating an item based on whether or not you’ve used it in the last half-decade can help you quickly determine which of your main categories it goes in. If an item doesn’t pass the five-year rule, then it’s chances of ending up in the ‘Keep’ category should be slim, unless there really is a compelling reason otherwise.

What are the 80/20 and the 20/20 Rules for Decluttering?

If the five-year rule doesn’t capture your imagination, then there’s no shortage of alternative systems to use during your decluttering process. The 80/20 rule is simple: the theory is that we use 20 per cent of what we own 80 per cent of the time. In other words, 80 per cent of what we own might be clutter. Keeping this in mind can help you see the needlessness of holding on to things you get nothing from and never use. Even worse, sometimes something that falls into the useful 20 per cent is kept in a stuffed cupboard along with the 80. So that unnecessary 80 is causing you complications and frustration on a daily basis by getting in the way. If you declutter according to this principle, then the 20 per cent end up being kept in a much more accessible way instead of having to compete for your attention with all the clutter.

Unlike the 80/20 rule, which emerged from economic studies, the 20/20 rule came directly from the decluttering world. It’s another idea designed to help people get over the hump of fear/procrastination. It helps people home in on all the ‘just in case’ stuff – ie the things you hold on to because, you never know, one day they might come in useful. But that ‘one day’ never seems to come. To apply the rule, take an item and ask yourself two questions: “Can I replace this  belonging for £20 or less?” and “Can I replace this belonging in 20 minutes or less?”. Answering one question with ‘yes’ certainly makes it eligible for letting go of, but answering both questions with ‘yes’ means it’s a definite for letting go of. Obviously, you don’t apply the 20/20 rule to things you’re getting daily, weekly or monthly use from. You only use it for those dust-gathering ‘just in case’ items that taunt you from the insides of cupboards or the upper shelves.

What is the ‘Move Out’ Decluttering Method?

Credited to author Katie Holdeferh and her book Embrace Your Space, the ‘Move Out’ method is part role-play. To facilitate your decluttering initiative, you act as if you’re moving out of your own home. You give yourself a deadline. You tackle each space by doing what you’d do if you were leaving for good. So, for example, a hallway cupboard should be completely emptied, top to bottom. You then sort everything into your chosen categories (e.g. keep; throw away; donate) and then move your ‘keep’ items, and only your ‘keep’ items, back into the space. It’s a simple and effective method which also saves you from the time-expensive mistake of trying to declutter a cupboard while painstakingly maintaining order within it. It’s easier, physically and psychologically, just to remove everything from it.

The Storage Solution

When there are possessions in your life that don’t simply fit into categories (for example, archives which you may not need for decades, but which you still need to keep; items you have no use of but which are important for posterity), then Ward Thomas’s safe, secure household storage can be the perfect solution, allowing you to declutter but still hold on to certain things. It’s like acquiring an additional room or several. Our courteous, experienced movers are here to help you and can also pack and prepare the items you’re putting into storage. You can visit our site and arrange access to your storage container when you need to retrieve an item. It’s the ideal finishing touch to a successful decluttering endeavour.