Just get rid of it! Decluttering the house is about so much more than tidying up

It’s very clear that when you deal with your clutter, you are dealing with your head and heart and emotions

<p>Where to start? ‘Decluttering the house has given me a lift as we emerge from lockdown’</p>

Where to start? ‘Decluttering the house has given me a lift as we emerge from lockdown’

I have taken decluttering to the next level. This week I gave myself the gift of getting rid of clothes I no longer wear, including all the clothes I bought in the last couple of years that don’t fit me anymore.

Lockdown weight is harder to shift than baby weight and I’m taking the pressure off. Maybe one day I’ll be a size 8-10 again, but having a heap of clothes that don’t fit glaring at me everytime I opened my wardrobe to grab some leggings and a T-shirt was getting me down.

The thought of one day being able to slink into them again wasn’t giving me an incentive to lose weight. Their presence just made me want to eat an entire bag of Co-op sea salt and Chardonnay crisps. (If you haven’t had these by the way, they are the crisp equivalent of the magical Turkish delight inThe Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe. You know, the Turkish delight Edmund was so desperate to get, he was willing to betray his brother and sisters to an evil witch just so he could eat them again. I’m not exaggerating, these crisps are that addictive. I need to stop talking about them as I’ve not had them for two weeks and talking about them puts me in danger of falling off the wagon.) 

So off went five bags of my clothes to the charity shop and my world is a lot happier, lighter and more activewear-heavy. Decluttering isn’t just about tidying up. It literally takes the weight off. I’m processing a huge amount of Big Life Stuff at the moment and I’m finding that taking chaos and clutter and unnecessary objects out of my house is giving me the head space to dealing with some pretty sad stuff (which I will probably write about in a future column, as is my way, but for now, it’s all about cupboards).

After my wardrobe, I tore through the kitchen cabinets and got rid of so much stuff, the place echoed. “If in doubt, throw it out” was my mantra, as surplus pots and pans and teapots were chucked into the charity box.

My father, too, has been decluttering his garage after decades of it being so full of old things that you could only walk through it like you were in one of those square puzzles, constantly moving the one gap there is around so that you fit.

“Everytime I looked at the garage I felt depressed,” my hoarder father told me. The garage had been in that state for more than 15 years. Fifteen years of your junk making you unhappy is too long. There was no sign of the bicycle I’d left in there all that time ago. I think it was there so long under so much stuff that it either escaped or disintegrated.

I once sent professional declutterer Sarah Mcnaught, who I’d met on a Radio 4 show on the subject, photos of my dad’s garage. She looked at them and immediately asked if he had lost someone close to him. I told her he’d lost his father when he was seven.

The idea of a “professional declutter” might just make you think of Marie Kondo, but a good one like Sarah actually understands how much of our emotions are locked away in the stuff we hoard. It makes complete sense when she said that grieving and hoarding are often connected. It’s very clear that when you deal with your clutter, you are dealing with your head and heart and emotions. It’s important not to let them get lost under the debris, like my poor bike.

No good comes of storing things you don’t need but don’t want to throw away. The decluttering continued to my attic where I found my son’s blue “it’s a boy!” cuddly bear. I thought about washing it and keeping it, but there was no need. He would not be interested in it. As Marie Kondo, the declutter guru would put it, it did not “spark joy”.

I thought what does spark joy is my actual son, now a brilliant and funny 13 year old, who was in his bedroom. A tatty old toy with mice droppings on it didn’t need to live with us anymore.

I once moved house three times in a year and few things make you go, “why do you have an ornamental frog collection?” more than having to pack the fiddly things and put them in the moving van. The frogs served a purpose no longer and by house number three, they went to live in the charity shop.

I even worked brutally through my bookshelves. I kept a few of the sweetest books of my children’s early years and chucked the rest in the donation pile. There are many books I have kept, the ones that are old friends, but out went all the others I’ve read and the ones I’ve pretended to read but know I never will.

The odd knick knacks that lived on my shelves purely because I had got used to them being there, have gone too. Big Life Stuff is much easier to navigate when you know there are no longer the bright pink G-strings you wore in 1998 cluttering up your drawers, now happily replaced by exceptionally comfy big pants.

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