As the festive season approaches many households are faced with another influx of gifts and belongings. This can be a blessing or a curse depending on how crowded your home is already. Taking time to review your belongings and letting go of the surplus can save time, money, stress and allow you to enjoy the celebrations as well as everyday living.
Have you ever had these thoughts?
I'll hang onto this until it fits me again
I’m sure I’ll use it one day
That thing was a gift and I'd feel bad giving it away
I spent loads on that thing – it's far too good to give away!
Well you’re not alone! We’ve asked local professional organiser and declutterer Katherine Blackler of SortMySpace Ltd for some practical ideas on how we could get more organised in our living and working spaces.
How do you even start decluttering?
The getting started is often the hardest part but you need to start somewhere!
Focus on just one area, perhaps a cupboard or a smaller room in the house like the bathroom (which usually has the fewest sentimental items in). Expired medicines and congealed toiletries are an easy target for decluttering and help you build confidence with the process.
Take photos of your starting point. It’s easier to forget how far you’ve come when you hit a wall and don’t feel you can go on.
Allocate a box for sentimental stuff or really difficult decisions and just pop things in there so you don’t grind to an almighty halt. Decluttering does get easier with time and practice so you can return to those items when you’re feeling stronger and enjoying the clearer space you’ve created.
Reward yourself for your decluttering efforts - but with experiences rather than more things!
What should I be thinking about when I’m looking at all my stuff?
Ask yourself the following questions:
Have I used or worn this in the last 6 months?
Will I use or wear this in the next 6 months?
Would I buy this for myself or my family now?
If the answer to these is ‘No’, consider selling, donating, recycling or, as last resort, ditching.
For items you do use, but only infrequently, ask yourself
Do I need to own this myself? Could I hire / borrow it on the odd occasion I do need it?
If I kept this item, can I lend it to others to justify the space it takes up between my usage?
If that job needed doing in future, would I be likely to hire a tradesperson who’d bring their own tools or equipment?
Will the technology have been superseded by the time I’m likely to use this?
Will I know exactly where to find this when I do need it?
Can I afford to re-buy it if I happened to need my very own version of this in future?
Where can I let go of stuff I don’t want?
Selling: This tends to be the first port of call for many when decluttering. It’s a natural response bearing in mind the money invested in belongings to start with. Be mindful however your time has a value too so set yourself a time limit to list it and sell it. Have a ‘Plan B’ if it doesn’t sell.
Donating: I often hear clients say “that’s too good for charity”. There’s no such thing as too good! Many charities will now sell top-end designer stuff online and still benefit from the proceeds. It’s also worth noting:
Charities can often earn money per kg of scrap fabric so bag up your threadbare socks as they’ll be shredded for cushion stuffing etc. Kindly bag these up separately and label as scrap fabric to save shop volunteers valuable time sifting through what’s sellable or not.
Certain charities (such as Emmaus on Knights Hill SE27) can do PAT testing so will accept white goods and electricals that you believe to be in working order.
Don’t have a car? Try the ‘Gone for Good’ app. It will pick up both large and small items from your doorstep and take them to a charity of your choice.
If you have spare tools or unfinished DIY projects try Men’s Sheds which provide an environment for men to regularly gather and fix, repair and upcycle things. You can find them in SE15, SE16, SE17 and SE20.
Recycling: Many local recycling facilities will take way more than we first think of, Southwark’s recycling depot on Devons Road for example will take half used cans of paint. The facilities are incredibly well organised allowing you to dump stuff straight into the relevant bins.
You’ll need to show local ID such as utility bill or driver's licence to use the council facilities and commercial vans need a business waste licence.
You can also recycle your clothes through ‘swish’ events or clothes swaps. You take along any good quality items you’ve grown out of and are given a token for each item to then redeem against other people’s contributions! It’s usually a good giggle and a new look for you afterwards.
Ditching: As last resort there’s your usual rubbish bin or, for bulk waste and unsellable furniture, the local council can arrange bulk waste collections.
Charges vary from borough to borough but in Lambeth, it costs £21 for up to four separate items or bags and an additional £6 for each extra item collected. It’s often up to 10 working days from booking to collection so remember to book ahead if you want a clear doorstep!
Good luck with thinning out and enjoy the festive season!