How to declutter your home
National Organising Week (NOW) is approaching and is run by the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers. From 1-7 November, Britain’s organising experts want to motivate you to clear the clutter and show you how to declutter your home to get the most out of your space, time, and belongings!
We’ve asked CPO ® Certified Professional Organiser, Katherine Blackler of SortMySpace Ltd and Past President of APDO about how being more organised can help us live more sustainably as well as grabbing her top tips for how to declutter your home and mind!
7 minutes to read
What are the key benefits of knowing how to declutter your home?
It’s often cited that getting more organised helps you to save money, time, energy and resources and leads to a less stressful life. Decluttering and organising your environment has a strong overlap with mindfulness principles which encourage you to live in the present moment.
By following these tips on how to declutter your home, you’ll find you’re able to:
Keep track of what you already have
You can lay your hands on what you need, and when you need it. This reduces unnecessary purchases, duplicate acquisitions and less likely to buy impulsively
Save time and stress
If you’re not searching for the things you know must be “somewhere around here” you gain time to spend doing the things that are really important to you and tempers won’t be as frayed with family or housemates.
Make better decisions
If you take time to identify your priorities in life and then keep referring back to those values you can make more conscious decisions. You’ll be clearer whether something new (or even new-to-you) really adds value to your life or whether you can be content living without it.
Sell, donate, repurpose
Take a close look at what you have in your home and aim to remove anything that you don’t really need. But don’t just throw them in the bin – consider which items could be sold, which you could donate and which you could potentially repurpose or upcycle.
Produce less waste
Once you’ve pared down your belongings to what you really need and want, you can be more selective on what else you bring into your home, and in turn, what will need disposing of in future.
How to declutter your home: the kitchen
Research in 2018 by WRAP (the Waste and Resources Action Programme) showed we threw away 6.6 million tonnes of household food waste in the UK. Whilst it’s all too easy to blame the big corporations for this wastage, we can each do our part to minimise waste within our own households. As a further incentive, WRAP estimate the average UK household can save £500 each year by cutting food waste so it’s not just about positively contributing to the UK’s waste reduction targets. For more food waste tips, have a look at this post on how to cook with scraps, regrow your food scraps, and freeze food to avoid waste.
Organise the contents of your cupboards corralling like–with–like into containers that can be easily pulled down to the countertop in one manoeuvre. This helps you keep track of what’s lurking at the back of the cupboard and saves Aunt Ethel’s marmalade from perishing.
Do a stocktake of all the food that is currently in your cupboards, freezer and fridge.
Draw up a meal plan for the coming week (or weeks) that start to use up existing ingredients to stay on top of perishable items.
Take the strain out of meal planning by brainstorming with the family on their favourite meals (perhaps write down one meal idea per post-it note). Create a running pattern for each week of who’s cooking / what core ingredient or theme it’ll be (e.g. Italian, rice-based, chicken-based etc). Decide if you want a lucky dip / new recipe night each week to inject variety. Pick from that bank of post-it notes when designing your weekly meal plan to save you getting ‘chef’s block’ for meal ideas! You might also want to watch this interview that Ailuna team member Gemma did with Martyn Odell from Lagom Chef about operating a waste-free kitchen.
Batch cook and freeze the additional portions so you always have some easy-wins for days you’re exhausted or running behind schedule (and/or to accommodate the pickier eaters in your household).
Write shopping lists to minimise distraction when you hit the supermarket floor. Group your shopping list under similar headings as you’d find them in the supermarket to save you time in the store eg fruit & veg, chilled food, bakery, household, dry goods etc. Again, pack into similar categories at the check-out to save you time and ensure any frozen/chilled stuff gets put away as a priority when you get home.
Have a sealed tub in the fridge and continually add leftover vegetables into it after each meal to make a soup. If you live on your own, keep this leftovers tub in the freezer until there’s enough to blitz into a portion of soup!
Are refillable containers right for you? Having canisters of rice, pasta and pulses can look great on Instagram and be valuable if you frequent the growing number of refill / zero waste shops. The reality for many households is that it creates another maintenance task and is possibly an unnecessary use of more plastic. Unless you find filling the jars a therapeutic activity, think through the ongoing practicalities such as:
- Does each jar hold the right volume of a product? Otherwise, you’re left with the remaining plastic bag to store anyway.
- Do you want to fully empty the jar every time to ensure the food is in date (in which case you’ll probably have an unopened replacement plastic bag waiting in the wings).
- Do you and your household need to know any cooking instructions, expiry dates or nutritional or allergy info etc? If so, will you cut off parts of the packet and stick to the jar side/under the lid to retain that?
- Mark cleaning bottles/packets with a sharpie pen when they’re opened so you use up the opened packaging in order and don’t end up with 3 half-used bottles of washing–up liquid.
For more food waste reduction tips, check out the apps Olio and Too Good To Go – both amazing initiatives to save food from going to waste.
How to declutter your home: the bedroom
If you can create an effective system for using and maintaining your clothing, you’re less likely to wash things unnecessarily which can release more plastic particles into the environment (as well as using the energy of running the washing machine). Some practical suggestions for clothes organisation include:
- Factor in enough time for things to dry on a clothes airer or the outside line rather than automatically resorting to the tumble dryer.
- Create a zone within your bedroom or wardrobe for items of clothing that have been worn but aren’t dirty enough to launder yet. You might not want these items muddled in with your totally clean clothes. Give them a defined space between wears so they won’t end up in the laundry basket as default.
- Use a ‘snagging box’ to collect up any items that need something doing to them before you can wear the outfit (dry cleaning, repairs and alternations, stain removal etc). Block out time in the diary to tackle similar tasks together to save yourself time.
- Return metal hangers to the dry cleaners when you drop off your next batch to launder.
- If after reviewing your clothes you’re still tight on hanging space, you can use ring pulls from fizzy drinks cans as an extender loop on your clothes hangers to be able to double hang your clothes.
- Support physical stores (even the high street branded ones) so you can try before you buy & reduce transportation, packaging and waste for returns. Many retailers don’t justify the logistical and staff costs of sorting and reselling their home delivery returns so buying in multiple sizes or colours might well be adding to waste.
How to declutter your life and household admin
When I think about sustainability, it’s not just sustaining the environment. We need to look at our lives and how we can conserve our own energy and resources. Reflecting on our lifestyles and identifying our priorities helps us check that we’re living within our means (whether financially, materially or energetically). In turn, this helps us be the best humans we can each be and add the most value to those around us. Stephen Covey’s analogy of the activities in our lives being ‘rocks in a jar’ can be a useful visual aid to help identify what’s important in your life and therefore what you need to organise, in what order. He stresses we need to make sure there’s enough space for your ‘big rocks’ (the important things) in your life before we fill our time up with the little bitty things (pebbles and sand) which can quickly fill up the jar.
Check whether all the ‘busyness’ in your life is truly necessary and where you can simplify things to have a clearer head.
Some life admin organisation ideas include:
- Reduce your recycling bin’s content by unsubscribing from catalogues or mailing lists completely.
- Every email that’s sent leaves a carbon footprint so if you’re not in the market for somebody’s products, take yourself off their email mailing list.
- Plan your diary to allow time for cycling or walking to appointments and events rather than driving
- Review your household’s latest habits and routines to check you’re being the most efficient with your central heating cycles and any pre–programmed lighting.
About the author
How to declutter your home was written by Katherine Blackler, a CPO® (Certified Professional Organizer) running SortMySpace Ltd in London. She’s also the immediate Past president of APDO Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers with over 420 members across the UK helping people to declutter and organise their homes, workspaces and lives. Check out www.findanorganiser.co.uk to find someone near you.