I have to make a confession straight off the bat, here. I am NOT a tidy person. When I was asked to write about decluttering, I quaked. The thought of anyone of my family members reading something I had written, giving advice about decluttering, had me imagining them rolling around the floor, holding their sides with laughter.
There was only one thing for it. I knew very little about self-storage or mobile storage when I first started blogging with easyStorage either. What do I normally do when I have those blogs to write? I ask others. I read. I research. I find the experts and I learn.
As a result, I’m sharing with you what I learned on the way to decluttering Nirvana. Thanks to this easyStorage challenge, I finally found time to read ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying’ by Marie Kondo and scoured the web for tips so you don’t have to.
As a truly messy person, who has always had a fast-escaping dream of having a presentable home, these were my essential discoveries:
1. Marie Kondo makes it simple: if you don’t need or use it, get rid of it. Otherwise, you’ll be tidying it forever.
2. Answer the question: ”What do I want my space to look like?” This rings true to me. I want my home to look like a show home. Without a little more investment it won’t. However, the first step to getting there is to clear some mess. I committed to it. It’s a work in progress, but it already feels better.
3. Start with the big stuff, the stuff that makes most difference. Don’t believe anyone who tells you to do a little each day. Oh, how guilty am I of this one? I do a whole room at a time, and everything ends up elsewhere. That’s the problem moved, not resolved. And then boredom and futility set in, until next time.
4. Address a ‘type’ of decluttering all at once. Tidy by category, not location. If you’re looking at the wardrobes for example, keep or store EVERYTHING, in all of the wardrobes, at once. It’s incredibly satisfying to take a whole case full of good clothes to the charity shop, or put them online to sell, all at once, and a whole lot less work in the long run. My stumbling point was my ‘ball gowns’ and fancy-dress costume box. I might wear them once a year, and even then, only one at a time, of course. They sit in the cupboard getting old. Part of me thinks I should sell the dresses, but I still hope, despite COVID, that I’ll have the chance to take them out. For the moment I have a pact with myself: I’ll keep them in the wardrobe in the children’s unused bedroom. Together. Covered for protection. This has released wardrobe space, allowing my everyday clothes space not to crumple.
5. Decide how to store what you want to keep. As the mother of two now fully grown boys, I will never part with their first baby booties, first pictures, school reports. This tip took the guilt of storing away immediately: decluttering isn’t just about throwing things away and donating to charity (although these are great strategies). It’s also about considering how we store what we still want to keep.
6. The painter William Morris once suggested: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”. I’m not entirely convinced that the children’s baby booties or first paintings can truly be described as beautiful (sorry boys!), but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so I get to keep them. That’s a win in my eyes. Even Marie Kondo agrees: if it gives you joy, keep it!
7. Start with something easy. Kondo suggests that the things we find hardest to ditch are those with an emotional value, a rarity value, a ‘this could be useful’ value, or things we’ve saved for information. It’s too true – the whole reason for my ballgown dilemma is that they could be used again, and they have an emotional value (all those fabulous evenings). To be totally honest, there’s probably a rarity value too (a 1980’s pink taffeta bridesmaid’s dress being the case in point. Will it ever come back into fashion? We must hope not!).
8. Packaging is important. Some packaging, like CD covers, might seem to make things easier to store. But when there are alternatives – like storage? Books? that allow you to ditch the outer case - you’ve immediately got something both attractive and space saving. Of course, going the whole hog and ditching the CDs in favour of a storage stick makes way more sense, and there are now software tools to help do that quickly. But one step at a time. (Having just given away all of my records, I find that vinyl’s back in fashion. But they were in the attic anyway, so they were never really going to make me rich.) By the same token, putting lots of little bits into a bigger container can make things tidier. So all the lads’ football cards and books have gone into their now unused football storage boxes and stored under the bed. I’m sure Marie Kondo wouldn’t approve, but it’s a big improvement on where we were!
9. Don’t let family see you tidying! I love this tip, and would add, ‘or friends’. It’s true. Let someone see what you’re throwing and it will end up either in their mess or returned to you. When I was moving to a new house, I gave a silly toilet roll holder to a friend to take on a charity shop run. She later presented it back to me. “I knew you’d miss this”, she said kindly. At least I tried.
10. A place for everything, and everything in its place. Kondo describes someone with 60 (yes, 60) new toothbrushes. My mother buys tins of tomatoes very time she shops. I confess to having stockpiled those small bottles of cosmetics that you get in hotels, thinking they’ll be great for guests or that I’ll use them later. By keeping everything in the same place, you can see just how much you’re stockpiling and stop acquiring more.
I thoroughly enjoyed my decluttering research and have been left with just two intractable tidying problems. A fabulous teddy bear coat that I love when it’s really cold, but which takes up nearly a whole wardrobe and attracts derision of my family whenever they visit. It gives me joy. I can’t part with it, and the fact that it’s way too big just increases its snuggly attraction for me. But I've sorted that problem and left it in my sister and brother-in-laws spare room. It may be on borrowed time.
The other is my business accounts (self-employed!), which I am legally required to keep for years. That’s a whole lot of paperwork.
For these things, I’m glad there’s easyStorage. In all honesty, the children’s things should probably join them, only to re-emerge when they have their own children, or for embarrassment factor at their weddings. They have so much to look forward to.
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