The Insider: How to have a good clear-out

I recently moved from a rented office to one at home – and so daunting was the proliferation of stuff I had accumulated that I just bundled the lot, unfiltered, into the garage. I now flinch at the thought of it. Clutter already impinges on the harmonious interior of my dreams. But how does a hardcore hoarder start to sift?

Face up to the truth

"Picture a small child in the throes of a tantrum, screaming: 'It's MINE!'" says junk-buster Romaine Lowery of clutterclinic.co.uk. "And realise that, if you're a hoarder, that's you." Yuck. Feeling appalled at oneself is a good motivator.

Clear the air

"People hold on to things for negative reasons," adds Lowery. Guilt is common – the never-worn expensive shirt, the once-used pasta maker given as a present. "Yet seeing it only increases the guilt," she points out, sensibly.

Outside help

That said, disposal difficulties are a barrier in the age of recycling: will you really ever flog it on eBay? Be realistic, Lowery says, and try stuffusell.co.uk, which will do it for you for a fee, or anyjunk.co.uk, which collects/recycles cast-offs. And Gumtree is ace for eBay-phobics – I even shifted a pile of rocks via the "freebies" page.

Be true to yourself

Clear-out over, how do you break your hoarding habits? Identify clutter hotspots and devise strategies for each, says Lowery. "Some people, say, keep torn-out recipes for decades but never use them, going online instead. Start by being honest."

Clean and serene

Terence Conran has a great catch-all for too-much-stuff-syndrome: take everything out of a room, then put back only what you need. Use William Morris's mantra: "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." Kate Burt

Find Kate's blog on affordable interiors at yourhomeislovely.com

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