Clear out the clutter: How to put your house in order
The tree's come down and the decorations are back in the loft, but your home is still as full as ever...
Friday 07 January 2011
Christmas brings clutter and clutter will ruin carefully crafted interiors. What's more, clutter attracts more clutter. The good news is that storage solutions have never been more practical and chic, making a new year clear-out more worthwhile than ever. "Start small," advises Sylvia Bennett, a specialist in clutter management and space clearing. "Begin with one drawer, rather than a whole room or your entire home. Once you've made a start, you will quickly become enthusiastic to tackle more."
"If you can afford it, have a wall of floor-to-ceiling push-click cupboards painted the same colour as the walls," says Romaine Lower, who runs The Clutter Clinic. "This can be subdivided with shelving to accommodate toys, DVDs, books and so on."
A quick transformation can also be achieved with a sideboard, such as the Content by Conran Wave Sideboard (£1,595, www.johnlewis.com), on which your telly can sit. Check out the Balance Shelving in the same range (from £375) and for existing shelves, use matching containers or rattan basket sets to stop all your belongings hanging off.
"Invest in a storage solution that's flexible enough to develop with your needs," advises interior designer Jamie Hempsall. "The modular USM Haller system has been available for over 40 years but still looks stylish and contemporary" (from £2,350, www.scothoward.co.uk).
Consider boxing in a bay window with a lidded window seat, and opt for coffee and lamp tables with storage, such as the Rectangular Storage Coffee Table (£349, www.dwell.co.uk) and the Stonyhurst Lamp Table (£749, www.leekes.co.uk).
For a super-cheap way to store magazines, try the Storage Crate (£18, ww.aplaceforeverything.co.uk).
"The key to an organised kitchen is to keep work surfaces clear for food preparation," says Lucy Inskip, who runs The House Doctor. "To achieve this, your cupboards need to work very hard."
Be ruthless with crockery, storing special-occasion china and accessories elsewhere, and throw away any out-of-date foodstuffs, old mismatched or chipped china and recipe books you never use. Then maximise cupboard space – Lakeland will become your new best friend for this job. Its innovative range includes Adapt-a-Shelf (£12.99) and Undershelf Basket (£9.99, www.lakeland.co.uk). Recycle or sell unused gadgets and invest in a triple bin, such as the Home Recycling Triple Bin (from £98, www.mydeco.com) to avoid overflowing boxes.
Be sure to match ease of access to frequency of use, says Cassie Tillett, founder of the Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers. "Don't use up valuable desktop space with an ice cream maker that gets used twice a year."
Children's artwork can be the biggest culprit of kitchen clutter, but keep an eye out for The Articulate Gallery frames, new for 2011 – a simple, fun way of storing and showcasing kids' pictures (from £14.99, www.tesco.com).
If you're designing a new kitchen from scratch, be sure to include a pull-out larder and corner unit.
Don't let your hallway become a dumping ground for hats, coats, shoes, post and keys. "Even the smallest hallway can usually house a slimline console table, so get one with drawers and a shelf underneath," says Lower. Have a pretty bowl on top to drop keys in as you come in, she adds, and if you only have room for coat hooks, make them a feature. The Bronze Ribbon Coat Rack (£75, www.rockettstgeorge.co.uk) is an attractive possibility.
If you have room, consider the vintage steel locker units upcycled with a plank top (£425, www.theoldcinema.co.uk) and the Byholma closed basket for hats, scarves and gloves (www.ikea.com). If space is limited, the Oak Floating Mirror – which can be swivelled round to reveal either shelves or a mirror – from the Futon Company (£195, www.futoncompany.co.uk) is innovative.
Line your understairs cupboard with shelves, and for the cupboard floor invest in one of the vast range of creative shoe storage solutions from www.houseofbath.co.uk.
"Be completely ruthless with the ridiculous amounts of paper you have accumulated," says Lower. "Keep only what you really need and
categorise it before filing it away. A noticeboard for reminders will help clear your desk, and use an intray for work needing immediate action."
For the rest, Tillett recommends magazine files. "They keep masses of stuff tidy and under control – not just magazines, but stationary and all types of paperwork."
For stylish office storage furniture, try the Snow Office (£1,215, www.twentytwentyone.com) and Alex range from Ikea (from £79, www.ikea.com).
Bathrooms never have enough storage space. "But you'll probably find that at last half the contents of the bathroom cabinet are out of date, so before you do anything, have a good clear out – and this includes the first aid kit," says Sam de Mello, founder of Waste of Space.
Buy the largest wall cupboard you can fit in – or several smaller ones – and make sure they have lots of shelves to house all your lotions and potions, none of which people want to see. The Inside Out Bathroom Cabinet (£275, www.wheredidyoubuythat.com) offers a quirky alternative and the Bali modular furniture range (from £150) and the Rotating Mirror Wall Cabinet (£453.72) are stylish options, both from www.shadesfurniture.co.uk.
Invest in a smart laundry bin, such as the Birch (from £125, www.heals.co.uk) and if floorspace is limited, hang a laundry bag behind the bathroom door.
Tackle your wardrobe first. "Everything you have not worn for two years is clutter," says Bennett. "Once you chuck it out, your other clothes, shoes and accessories will look a million times more appealing."
If you still lack space, separate your clothes into a summer and winter set and store away the set you don't need now, says Ingrid Jansen, founder of Organise Your House. Pack-Mate VacuSac Bags (£11.99) will shrink them down to practically nothing and the Underbed Box (£19.99) comes on wheels, both from www.lakeland.co.uk. "Shoes belong in the bottom of the wardrobe and if you have a lot, buy clear plastic boxes so you can stack them but still see what's in them," she adds. The Holding Company does stacking drawer boxes for shoes at £10 each or six for £43 (www.theholdingcompany.co.uk) and the Shoe Lounge sells clear shoe boxes for just 74p each (www.theshoelounge.co.uk).
A large bed on high legs, such as the Squigalina (from £825, www.andsotobed.co.uk), gives you plenty of under-bed storage. Better still, buy a bed with drawers.
"Do your bedside tables have storage space? A table without any drawers is a wasted opportunity," says Tillett. "And if you read a lot in the bedroom and have books scattered everywhere, the Argos Value Range White Effect Baby Bookcase (£12.99, www.argos.co.uk) is an instant solution. If you're a magazine and paper junkie, get a magazine rack in the bedroom – they're not only made for living rooms."
A blanket box or ottoman with cushions on top gives you a seat with space underneath for bedding.
Children's areas are a whirlwind of activity. To contain the games, toys and homework projects, keep things simple and fun, and make sure there is plenty of it. Start with built-in storage, then make sure you have plenty of baskets, canvas bags and plastic tubs so you can tidy quickly and easily, and just possibly persuade them to as well.
Lego Storage offers lego-shaped tubs in primary colours (from £8.99, www.firebox.com), while Ikea's highly practical Trofast Storage Combination adorn many a children's room (from £74, www.ikea.com). Rooms You Love does a great range of themed children's toy bags in 100 per cent cotton (£34.95, www.roomsyoulove.com) and if you're really lacking space, Room to Grow offers a wide range of cabin beds (www.roomtogrow.co.uk), while Mamas and Papas does some timeless tallboys and tall shelving systems (from £202.50, www.mamasandpapas.com), which take up l floor space.
For older children, the Library System from Aspace provides a stunning combination of shelving units, cupboards, desks and drawers (from £1,055, www.aspace.co.uk).
* Store like with like so you can find things easily.
* In a small home, buy furniture that doubles up as storage.
* If you buy something new, get rid of something old.
* Remember beautiful baskets and racks can be part of the decor and don't need to be hidden away.
* Why not start decluttering by getting rid of unwanted Christmas gifts?
* Some of the handiest storage solutions are the simplest – an old fashioned plastic-bag dispenser, for instance.
* If you're wondering whether to keep something, ask yourself, "Does this have any positive value in my life?"
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