Indecision leads to clutter

R&D indecision leads to clutter

Reflections

In our house, Saturday night is designated “Screen-free night”. No phone, no TV, no computers. It’s a guaranteed night where my wife and I get to interact without distraction. Sometimes we simply converse over dinner and before we know it it’s time for bed. Other times we play board games and occasionally we invest our precious time together in our quest for a minimalist life. Last Saturday it was our wedding that got decluttered.

Now you may wonder what is there to declutter from a wedding. Once the day is over, the gifts unwrapped, the thank yous sent, that is it right? Time to get on with the marriage (or in our case civil partnership). Well the answer in our house was a shoe box full of glass beads, 9 vases of leaves (autumnal wedding) and this!

pre wedding box

 

Being mindful and attending to the psychological process of decluttering has introduced me to my fantasy future self, my nostalgic self and now, my completely indecisive past self. Apparently anything to do with the wedding got put in this box. Goodness knows why the spare 97 invitations (complete with typo) could not go straight in the recycling. 2 wedding magazines? Why on earth have they been occupying real estate? It’s not like I’m planning another wedding.. In the end we reduced the huge hat box down to this:

post wedding box

 

We were lucky enough to write our entire wedding service as there are no obligatory words in a civil partnership ceremony. So we decided to keep that, the guest book, the table names, our place cards for the wedding breakfast, an order of service, an invitation, the gift list and the notebook we took on honeymoon.

I have no doubt other people will perhaps judge even this to be a lot to keep from a day that, lets face it, is over. However The Minimalists idea that most things can be replaced in 20 minutes for less than $20 has helped me let go of loads. What we kept can’t. I am sentimental and do like to keep some physical possessions to trigger memories. Having tackled the loft store where I had rocks in a box in a box, I am now more discerning about what I keep. These items seem sufficient without being excessive.

Most of the content and the box itself went in the recycling. Time and distance certainly helped the speed of decision, but ultimately I became aware indecision breeds clutter. The decisions I put off today simply lead to more clutter tomorrow, both physical and mental. The shoe box is more indecision: the wedding cards we received. I have no idea whether to keep them, photograph them, or simply recycle them. What would you do?

 


Discoveries

Increasingly I’ve been thinking about having a purchase pause and then Courtney Carver from Be More with Less popped up on my social media feed with a  The Power of a Purchase Pause. She outlines the benefits of having a purchase pause, saving money, limiting impulse purchases and the like, before suggesting 5 ways to adopt a purchase pause:

  1. Fake it.
  2. Buy it on paper.
  3. Identify needs and wants.
  4. Know what matters.
  5. Make rules.

I think it deserves an experiment as there is no way I’m up for a no spend year (yet!).

The Snowball Effect

R&D The snowball effect

Reflections

Last Thursday I had a day off from my paid work. I planned to do things that I considered restorative (aka have a lie in), productive (aka de-cluttering pictures in the attic), and pleasurable (aka sew a skirt). The day did not go according to plan!

I slept well so come 6am I didn’t feel I needed a lie in but I enjoyed a final coffee from Clive (the coffee machine), while finishing my book. Pleasure – check; restorationve – check. I then moved on to the attic.

I had in mind to screw a set of shelves together that the Community Furniture Store was coming to collect and move them together with a chest of drawers downstairs, before tackling the pictures/frames. That was it. However, as is usual typical minimalism spreads and soon I was in the middle of a figurative snowball!

The 3 boxes of picture frames quickly decreased to half a box. The guilt of giving away pictures other people had given as gifts was tricky, but I reasoned that they would not like the idea of them sitting in a box for four years either. At least if they go on to make someone else happy then they are bringing joy in the world. I also realised that it is really not necessary to keep a photo in the frame it’s always been in when you have no intention of displaying it. Seriously it’s not. Apparently that was a revelation to me. Not quite on the ‘why am I keeping three rocks in a box in a box?’ but close.

Decreasing the frames and moving the furniture created space which led to dismantling the cotbed in our bedroom and storing it, together with the dismantled changing table that has been squatting in there for 6 months, in the attic. My bedroom is HUGE! It also made the top of the dresser look REALLY messy and I toyed with the idea of posting a photo to encourage accountability but chickened out. I am committed to sorting it this week though.

In the attic I also ended up decluttering some spare stationery, taking about 60 black pens to work (we can never find a pen when we need one), passing folders on left, right and centre, and releasing a shoe rack. The shoe rack (and a set of drawers from the bedroom dresser) moved to lounge and resulted in munchkin’s art supplies being organised and therefore easier to get out and put away. Marie Kondo encourages  organising around ease of putting away and I have to say I’m with her on that one.

After that I realised I’d generated a pile of stuff in the attic and in keeping with my back to basics approach I decided I had better start as I mean to finish and de-own it pronto. Having recently joined a car share scheme I was able to book a car, pick it up 15 minutes later and drop a box of frames round to a friend, and a load of stuff to the local household waste centre to be recycled.

The sum total of items de-cluttered this week – 10 year old printer/scanner, 60 pens, book case, chest of drawers, 40ish picture frames, 1 whiteboard, 1 pin board, box of picture frames (approximately 40), box of lever arch files, bag of clothes to a nursery, 3 magazine files, 1 bag of assorted stuff to charity, 2  storage boxes, 1 cardigan, 1 skirt, 8 eBay parcels, 1 network card, 1 bag of padded envelopes, 1 vase, shower gel, 2 small sets of drawers, an electric blanket & the entire content of my gift drawer.

What a great snowball!

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Discoveries

This week I’ve been catching up on some of my favourite minimalist blogs. Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist has set up The Hope Effect, a non-profit aiming to change orphan care world wide from institutional care to provision that mimics family life. It is truly amazing what can happen if you remove the pursuit of material possessions.

 

Declutter 101: 7 tips to begin a minimalist journey

where to begin

This weeks post is motivated by a comment on last weeks Reflections and Discoveries: Is it fit for purpose? and gives 7 top tips to begin a minimalist journey.

If anyone ever asks me how I came to be a minimalist I blame the baby! My nesting instinct during pregnancy was to get rid of stuff. Lots of stuff! During my third trimester I embarked on 40 bags in 40 days. I was inspired by a fellow aspiring minimalist who I’m fortunate enough to now call my friend.

I lasted all of 9 days! In those 9 days I managed to create 15 “bags” albeit some of them virtual. If you asked me now what I removed….erm out of date medicine and my emails. My emails took 15 hours (2 bags) and the medicine cabinet 30 minutes (1 bag). Other than that I’d have to check out my list of places that I had identified before I started. I know some areas I’d identified still haven’t been done (the shed!) and others have been gone through numerous times, although not in that initial flurry of activity.

It took a further 9 months before I began my consistent, step by step journey towards a more mindfully minimal lifestyle. In November 2014 I started to remove stuff/things/items/possessions. Call it what you will, it was clutter and it was getting in the way.

I actually restarted because I wanted to acquire something. A wooden 12 piece rainbow for my daughter’s first birthday. If 12 pieces were coming in I wanted to have sold sufficient ‘stuff’ to fund it. I didn’t actually need the money but it was useful having a target. I did it in 2.5 weeks. Since then I’ve used money from selling to fund two dress making classes and to buy another laptop. I can’t say replace as the previous four are still in the house but it is a replacement. I’m now saving to do a Masters degree.

I’ve tried numerous techniques along the way. Some have stayed, some have been discarded along with more clutter. These however are my top tips to get started.

1. Start

This may seem obvious, but just start. You don’t have to wait for the perfect time, or until you have the perfect strategy. Just start. Put the pile of read (or unread magazines in the recycling). Pick up 5 things that are in the wrong room and put them in the right room (preferably away but to be honest in the early days there may not be space).

2. Start with the end in mind.

Start with the end in mind and set yourself up for success. Most people know where their bin is and hopefully their recycling too. If you don’t I suggest you acquaint yourself with them as a first step as they are essential parts of a minimalist journey. It is much easier if you know where you are going to put the items you remove.

I use the four ‘box’ method – trash/recycle, donate, sell, relocate. They are not so much boxes as bags and a basket for the items for relocation. I prefer to have them all with me and then move them at the end of a period of decluttering (or when they’re full) to the end point (i.e. the bin outside/charity shop/put the relocated items away).

3.   Identify high hit rate areas

When paying off debt one school of thought is paying off the smallest debt first (while maintaining minimum payments on others) so you start to see small successes and can snowball them. I feel it is the same with minimalism. Rather than thinking I’m going to tackle the entire bathroom, focus on the medicine cabinet. Rather than the entire bedroom, do your sock drawer. Kitchen = pantry. It may sound crazy but I don’t think most people have a lot of emotional attachment to their out of date medicine or holey socks. Identifying these areas can give you quick wins as whether something needs to go is usually obvious. If you need any convincing on why it is important to get rid of out of date medicines then Anne Lene at Minimalist sometimes wrote a great piece on the very topic: Expired medication…It is important to remember to dispose of medicines safely at a pharmacy though.

4. Have a target

Having a targets has helped immensely. My original target was 40 bags in 40 days. At the rate I was going, if I had maintained momentum I would have done 40 bags in 24 days.

What I learnt was having realistic goals helped build momentum as I had a sense of achievement. The two most depressing days were the email clearing and eventually I counted it as 2 bags. It felt never ending yet on a different day, Medicine Cabinet – done. I may as well do the under the sink cupboard and pantry too. Three bags in one day!

Once I had embraced the idea of getting rid of stuff, early on I found it much easier to do  quick sweep round a room pulling out anything that I new immediately needed to go. This is great if you are wanting to do a lot quickly, however in depth decluttering will hone your skills.

Maire Kondo recommends a specific order with which to proceed as the difficulty increases. It leaves sentimental items until last and having recently been through the memory boxes in the attic, I was glad I had honed my skills as three rocks in a box and a bit of wood gnawed by a beaver could just go!

If you are at the start of a minimalist journey, the target of bin day or trash/recycling collections can be a real motivator as deowning is as important as the initial decluttering. Fill an extra bag with rubbish or recycling and get rid.

5. Take the Goldilocks challenge.

Never heard of the Goldilocks challenge? It’s making sure that you are taking the just right challenge. Rather than biting something off that is too big to chew like the entire kitchen, break it down to a challenge that is just right. You could break it down by location or type of item. Personally I’ve tended to break it down by location: the fridge; the freezer; counter tops; top cupboards; bottom cupboards. When you’re starting perhaps only doing one cupboard at a time, especially when you are time poor.

6. Aim for progress not perfection

As we are all so used to feeding our fantasy future self, it is equally important to not act into her when we are removing things too. She may want to live in an amazingly minimalist house, but you have to live in this reality. Even if you are on the journey it, much like a river, will ebb and flow.

For helping remind me of this I love Elsie Joy’s poster Big Things Happen One Day at a Time. It helps me to remember that even if I don’t manage to do something everyday it is the overall progress that is important. Commit to working on having a more mindfully minimal life and every day you take a stem towards it, cross a day off.

7. Get a community

I’ve already written on The importance of community on a minimalist journey. Whether virtual or real, set up your support systems (even if they don’t realise that is what they are).

It helps to have people in real life who you connect with over minimalism, whether a partner, friend or community who just get it. They understand why shopping is not, in your world, a leisure pursuit without feeling judged.

As I said, my inspiration came from a very good friend who is also an aspiring minimalist, and since then many in my local parenting community have embraced to a greater or lesser extent the idea of decluttering. Even when decluttering is taking a back seat in my life I enjoy seeing how much others are doing online but I must admit it is the face to face conversations I find most powerful. The evolution of ideas that come from dialogue rather than monologue. While on maternity leave I spent many a Friday lunchtime discussing minimalism and I now no longer get the chance to do that which saddens me.

Having said that, in the early days, in the middle of the night I gained inspiration and enthusiasm from reading blog posts. Online communities can be as powerful, sharing ideas across the globe. Many blogs are US based and it was with these I started, particularly Becoming Minimalist. However there is a growing online community in the UK and a list of UK Minimalist blogs can be found here.

Ultimately, if you want to become a minimalist (or even just a little more minimalist), start today. Tomorrow is now!

Declutter 101: How to get rid of clothing

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“Know, first, who you are; and then adorn yourself accordingly.” – Epictetus

While I have really enjoyed sharing my thoughts on mindful minimalism, I have no desire to reinvent the wheel. This week I’ve compiled a post that gathers the best resources I’ve found, in the great minimalist blogosphere, on how to achieve a minimalist/capsule wardrobe or basically remove items of clothing that are no longer required (either through fit, style or excess). Obviously one size does not fit all so I’ve included a few different links that have helped me at different stages of my journey.

This is partly in preparation for my second attempt at removing things from my wardrobe when I get back from Bonny Scotland. I completed started this task on January 1st 2015 producing 4.5 bin liners and since then a steady stream has continued to leave. Clearly I’ve not done a thorough job and my hope is that in Marie Kondo’s words if I “do it once and do it properly” the stream will cease. Until then I shall leave you with these.

  • Denaye Barahona’s post, at Dallas Mom’s blog, Why I got rid of my wardrobe, helped me believe a minimalist wardrobe is both possible and achievable (for me). I already have a wardrobe of clothes that colourwise work but taking it that step further to think about what combinations work is my next task. I love that this post has before and after photos of her closet and pictures of 12 different outfits she can assemble by simply grabbing a selection of clothes and shoes.
  • I really enjoy the accessibility of Joshua Becker’s posts at Becoming Minimalist and it is lovely to see how he has evolved as a minimalist (and writer) over time. He also includes regular guest posts. One such post was The story of enough by Sarah Peck, which resonated with last weeks post on being a Good Enough Minimalist. Sarah gave up buying new clothes for a year and discovered what she liked and what mattered to her.
  • If you’re still not convinced you can do it, then how about a look at Joshua’s post A practical guide to owning fewer clothes. He outlines 10 clear steps that are practical and applicable. I certainly need to revisit a couple of these!
  • No post on minimalist wardrobes would be complete without mention of Courtney Carter’s Project 333. Wear only 33 items of clothing, shoes, jewellery, and outerwear for 3 months. There are some exclusions such as workout gear, underwear and your wedding ring don’t count. If that is feeling a little daunting, I love her list of 33 things to eliminate from your closet.
  • And last but certainly not least is Janie Baran’s post over at Simple not plain on how to develop a minimalist wardrobe. It contains a step by step formula that combines consideration of colour, style and suggestions on what to have as your base items, secondaries and accessories. She suggests a 50 item complete wardrobewith a 33 item working wardrobe. It is a great guide to getting started and is an alternative approach rather than staring with a remove the excess approach.

I’ve no idea how to approach my next cull. Perhaps I should start with Marie Kondo’s ‘what sparks joy’ and then use Janie’s advice as a follow up. Whatever I decide, I’ll let you know what else I discover when my task is complete. Who knows, I may even find Narnia!


Items de-cluttered this week – From the depths under the sink I’ve disposed of 6 partially used bottles of cleaning product I don’t use, 2 brushes, several items that I’ve no idea what they were for and part of the fridge we replaced two weeks ago. I’ve also (finally) defrosted the freezer and in the process have disposed of a bag of food I would prefer not to admit to or think about!

A blog I’ve enjoyed – I love coming across posts that take ideas that I’ve had and extend them. This weeks post is one such blog. I’ve recently discovered the writing of Francine Jay over at Miss Minimalist and I have loved every post I’ve read thus far. Her post, Declutter your fantasy self, chimed so clearly with my post a few weeks ago about tomorrow is now that I had to share it. Her idea of seriously asking yourself what your fantasy self is like, and then being honest about our real self has already begun to help me think about the task of going through the wardrobes again when I get back from holiday.


Photo: 2015-02-14c Ideal for things to wear — index card/Sacha Chua/

Tommorrow is now – crafting the life you want.

craft room

Last week I wrote about the associations to the past that made it difficult for me to let go of the little black dress. This week I discovered when it comes to crafting, it’s the future that trips me up. Eleanor Roosevelt said “The world of the future is in our making. Tomorrow is now.” Mindfulness is all about being in the moment by moment experience of right now, yet our behaviour when it comes to possessions (and clutter) is driven by feelings about the future or the past rather than our present day experience. If you’ve ever kept something you didn’t like because it was a gift and you’d feel guilty disposing of it you know what I’m on about. Feelings about the future can be equally problematic when removing possessions. I no longer get tripped up by the anxiety of ‘just in case’, but the sneaky twins Someday and One day are liable to get me every time.

I’ve always loved using my hands as much as my brain but I’ve only this week accepted that there is a limit to how much I can do and want to do in the future. Letting go of some of my crafting materials has been hard. VERY hard. I’ve had to face the harsh reality that I’ve been fantasising about a future which seems to consist of 30 day weeks, and 60 hour days. This idealised future does not exist. I live in the reality of now (together with 7 day weeks and 24 hour days).

Minimalism is not about being static, it’s about having the freedom to choose where and when to invest our energy. If something no longer matches my passions and values then it can be disposed of leaving room for other things (not necessarily material possessions) to enter my life. Deciding to leave medical school after 4 years allowed me to discover occupational therapy. OT matches both my passions and values, and it brings me immense joy to see clients crafting a ‘Life worth Living’ that they never imagined possible. Saying no to prestige allowed me to discover passion.

I’m not going to feel guilty about making choices, letting go or changing my mind. I want to be able to be in the flow of whatever crafty occupation I choose. Lets face it, it’s not as though there is going to be a crafting supply shortage even if I do limit what is available in my immediate environment.

So I’ve chosen to keep 20% of my wool and half my knitting needles, my paints (acrylics and watercolours), three embroidery kits, 2 papercraft books & all of my fabric. What I chose not to keep was 4 bags of wool, the other half of my knitting needles, 200 skeins of embroidery silks, tester pots of paints, 10 paint brushes, scrapbook paper, 4 packs of beads and jewellery wire (the rest of the jewellery making stuff went a while ago), vintage knitting magazines, 3 cross stitch books, a knitted dinosaur book & a box of charcoal. I’ve not yet tackled paper-based crafts yet so there will be more but that feels like a good start.

I realised while I was sorting my ‘I could use this in the future’ thoughts were simply another brand of ‘just in case’ thinking. Since coming across The Minimalists post on ‘just in case’ items I have been liberated. Their hypothesis is anything we truly need and have disposed of, we can replace for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes. It is such a simple idea. It is ok to replace things we truly need. Not rocket science but it feels like permission to make mistakes. I have no doubt at some point I will dispose of something I truly need but it hasn’t happened yet and when it does it’s not the end of the world.

Rather than living in the idealised future I choose to craft the life I want now. After all tomorrow is now!

Items de-cluttered this week – Craft items (see above), 2 duvets, 60l rucksack, 4 holdalls, 3 candle sticks, 3 boxes of candles, red sand, metal bowl, 2 shoe boxes of glass beads, 3 bags of rose petals, bag of pine cones, box of autumn leaves, 2 records, 18 spare lightbulbs (83% of the ones I had!), 1 bin liner of scarves, hats & gloves, hen party decorations, baby shower quizzes.

A blog I’ve enjoyed – Canadian Cait Flanders over at Blonde on a Budget has just completed a year long shopping ban after repaying $30,000 of debt in 2 years. The year I embraced Minimalism and completed a yearlong shopping ban offers her reflections and insights on the year and has made me feel that a shopping ban might actually be possible (I’ve always thought it would be useful). While I doubt I will go straight for a year (perhaps a month), I have begun to think about what my “rules” would be. If you were to have a month long shopping ban what would your rules be? What would be your potential downfalls?

Photo Craft Room/chrissy.farnan/CC BY

Aim for progress not perfection…A progress report

Holding It

So last week I wrote about some of the things that were weighing me down and that when de-cluttering and minimising it’s not done until it’s done. I made a commitment to focusing on de-owning rather than simply decluttering . This blog is going to be a progress report mainly so I can look back and remind myself what I can achieve when I put my mind to it. I’m not affiliated to any of the companies or charities I’ve included links to but figured it might help inspire others regarding where it is possible to de-own possessions to in order to help a variety of people (including yourself). So in the last week…

  • 5 bags of baby clothes, toiletries and toys have gone to my local Besom who make up hampers for families living in extreme poverty.
  • A floor lamp and mirror have gone to the Community Furniture Store.
  • 3 boxes of books have been sold. I use Momox, Ziffit and Webuybooks. I compare prices between them and I’ve never had any problems with them.
  • 3 bags of books to a charity book shop who I gift aid with.
  • 1 bag of bric-a-brac and a few clothes to a different charity shop I gift aid with.
  • Door catch that broke and a few items I’d purchased and hadn’t used were returned to a chain hardware store for a credit note which I used to purchase a roller blind to replace one I cut incorrectly. If you have unused items still in their packaging from a large chain store, it is worth seeing if they’ll exchange for a credit note. I recently returned stockings we didn’t use at our wedding (3 years ago!) and received a credit note which I used to buy balsamic vinegar – something we actually needed.
  • The aforementioned poorly cut blind has gone to a mum from my local parenting network.
  • I’ve listed more things on ebay and in local selling groups.
  • Arrangements have been made with three friends to return/pass on/give/lend things to.
  • I visited the local household waste centre to recycle batteries, metal items, light bulbs, electronics and 6 mobile phones! We had a mobile phone grave yard that was worse than our laptop grave yard (which is pretty horrific and still exists).
  • I’m in the process of arranging a drop off of old bedding to a local homeless charity.

As for how I feel this end of the week…Like a weight has been lifted! There is now room in the loft so that I can start to declutter more. Perhaps I’ll even declutter some of the loft it’s self! Hmmm. Where to start with that just right challenge?

Items de-cluttered this week (while focusing on de-owning) 

Roller blind, Bamboo wind chime, pot of bamboo, 4 drinks coasters, 1 pair of shoes, 1 dress, 4 tops, 1 cd & the content of the basket!

Header photo Holding it/JD Shippel/CC BY

It always seems impossible until it’s done

Finish

At the weekend my wife and I had a conversation about expectations. Chiefly about when we imagined our decluttering efforts would be coming to a close. Turns out our expectations were different…like an entire year! She hoped to be done by next summer and I plan to be done with the major efforts in 3 months. I think on her part, she did not dare to dream it could be done so quickly for fear of disappointment but as Nelson Mandela said “It always seems impossible until it’s done”. Gestalt theory talks about “The whole is other than the sum of the parts”. While I dream of the day the whole of our home and lives are minimised to contain only that which maximises our mindfully minimal lives, completing “the parts” is as essential as having the long term goal. The ‘whole’ is other, not necessarily greater but definitely more than simply the sum of the individual parts. I cannot yet fathom what the ‘other’ might be, although if today is anything to go by it involves sewing and a random solo dance party in the kitchen (think Callie from Grey’s Anatomy and you get the picture). Completing the parts along the way however helps to build momentum, motivation and gives you glimpses of what could be. This weekend we completed the decluttering of our “spare” room. We now have a room that is a pleasure to sleep in. It has been transformed from a campsite to a restful space which makes me excited to go to sleep (yes I realise that is an oxymoron). However the removal and relocation of several items from the room reinforced, it is not done until it is done. I use the bin/recycle/donate/relocate system, although I also have an extra category of selling as I’m attempting to self-fund further study. I have dedicated areas for each type of item and if it is necessary to relocate the item I deal it then and there rather than it accumulating into another area that needs to be sorted again. This doesn’t always work. I’ve a basket on the kitchen table that has been there for three weeks full of bits and pieces. Some bits would be easy to relocate, others require decluttering and it feels too much right now. My donate/sell items end up in the loft and despite having a large floor space it is not possible to see the floor. It is buried under

  • things that have been relocated to the attic but need to find homes which isn’t possible until the attic is decluttered,
  • 3 bin liners of items for selling,
  • 3 boxes of books ready for shipping (finally),
  • 3 carrier bags of books for a charity bookshop,
  • a bag of household bits to take to work for clients who are moving on,
  • the start of a generic charity shop bag,
  • pillows and toiletries for the local homeless shelter,
  • a bag of art supplies that I keep adding to,
  • a bag of books, curtains & table cloth for a friend to collect,
  • 5 bin liners of children’s toys, books, and clothes for a local charity.

It will come as no surprise that I’m feeling rather weighed down by it all. Despite decluttering unless you de-own the stuff it doesn’t make a difference. This week I’m going to focus on de-owning. Actually removing things from the premises! Joshua Becker over at Becoming Minimalist wrote a lovely blog that I read at the end of last year entitled “Don’t just declutter, de-own”. He highlighted the major shortcomings of organizing our possessions rather than removing them and that ‘owning less is better than organising more’. With these in mind I can move closer to my mindfully minimal life in the knowledge that by actually removing my possessions (soon to be former possessions)

  • It will benefit others.
  • It will get me closer to my further study.
  • It will be assisting me to turn back my desire for more.
  • It is forcing me to evaluate my life, forcing questions of values, passion, and what is truly important.
  • It is paving the way for other changes (which I’m already starting to see).

Once I have achieved what currently feels impossible, I intend to remember my own advice!

  1. Start with the end in mind

Decide before you start what you are going to do with the possessions you remove. Refuse and recycling are usually fairly straightforward either at kerbside or at the local household waste centre. Find out what they recycle at your local centre. If you want to donate, work out where it is going so you only have to sort once. I currently donate to 5 charities regularly (with 5 different locations in the attic). At Christmas this increases as I also donate to toy appeals and the local women’s shelter. I’m currently developing a list of charities in my local area and what they collect/accept. There may already be a list in your local area, why not check? Similarly for the items you are selling. Work out where you’ll be selling them before you start. Be warned: selling takes time! Lots of it, both to list items and arrange collection/dispatch. It is far easier to donate unless you need the money.

  1. Start as you mean to finish

Set time aside in the process to physically remove the possessions you no longer want. An artist must put as much effort into selling art as making it and similarly to declutter fully you need to put effort into de-owning. Make the phone call to arrange for things to be collected. Plan when you are going to the tip or the charity shop. Then do it!

  1. Be a completer-finisher

Less is more as they say. Break down your overall goals into smaller, manageable chunks with a just-right challenge so you can finish them. It is better to accomplish three discrete areas of the kitchen than to become demotivated by the whole kitchen feeling impossible. Aim for progress rather than perfection and the rest will follow. My under stairs cupboard is broken into over 10 areas of which I have done 5. The last area I did was the alcohol (yes, I decluttered alcohol) over three months ago. The whole cupboard may not have been decluttered but I still have a sense of achievement and progress. That said there is no time like the present to finish. I’m off to de-own boxes of books! Items decluttered this week: Brand new shower curtain, 34 books, pair of curtains, 14 stuffed animals, 1 (broken) lampshade, floor lamp, 2 pillows, dried rose petals, 1 glass tumbler, 2 carrier bags of baby clothes and 1 sippy cup. Header photo Finish by Jeff TurnerCC BY