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Stress More! Stress Less!

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Feeling weighed down by the clutter in your home? Dorothy Veitch has some suggestions that will free you up

PHOTOS COURTESY OF Pexels

Living in DB, we’re blessed with spectacular countryside and an exhilarating city right on our doorsteps. One thing we don’t have in abundance is space – the one thing that most families tend to need the most. But before you resign yourself to the ‘small flat blues,’ here are a few ways to create order within the limited space available.

The first step towards solving any problem is admitting that you have one. Take a good, critical look around your home or ask a friend to do this for you. It can be difficult to be impartial about your own home, so ask them to be completely honest in their assessment (and don’t forget to return the favour). You’ll probably find that their thoughts echo your own – if you can see those piles of paper balanced on every surface, so can they!

START SMALL!

Once you have a ‘hit list’ of bugbears, tackle them one at a time. Focusing your attention on one area will prevent you from becoming overwhelmed and enable you to find workable solutions to each problem.

Begin at the front door – if you stumble over shoes and sports gear on your way in, consider a shoe cupboard, stacking shelves, or wall-mounted racks. Be realistic – saying that you’ll file receipts daily isn’t the same as actually doing it, so make your own life easier with a bowl by the front door to handle pocket overflow, coins and other items. Set aside three minutes per week to empty this and you’ll barely notice the time.

BE RUTHLESS!

When de-cluttering larger living spaces, preparation is key. We’ve all heard about it, but The Happiness Project by Gretchen Ruben has some genuinely helpful tips that are worth genning up on.

No time to read? One of Gretchen’s most useful tips is to sort your possessions by category, keeping only the items that put a smile on your face, before finding them a dedicated place in your home. This means saying goodbye to all that lidless Tupperware, and hello to a well-labelled spice rack that will make you look forward to spending time in the kitchen. Like William Morris said back in the 1800s, “You should have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

All in all, Gretchen devotes 10 pages of The Happiness Project to freeing up space in her home, recording how draining she finds living with clutter and how energised she feels having cleared it. She lets go of conservation clutter (23 near identical glass vases) and freebie clutter (gifts and giveaways that her family never uses). Crutch clutter also gets the cut (ratty shapeless yoga pants long past their sell by date), as does aspirational clutter (an impossible to master glue gun) and buyer’s remorse clutter (impractical white trousers).

Toss! Restore! Organise! is Gretchen’s maxim, and it’s one that’s definitely worth adopting. The idea is that clutter weighs you down, and clearing it is uplifting – bringing order to your life makes you happy. This is easy to believe when you see how good Gretchen feels having de-cluttered her home – particularly her once overstuffed closet.

“You should have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful” – WILLIAM MORRIS

ASK THE EXPERTS!

What we wear has an intrinsic association with our memories, and our own closets are often the festering heart of household clutter. If you’re struggling to part with long since outdated outfits, or have simply lost sight of what suits you and what doesn’t, an expert ‘wardrobe edit’ can help you cull dead wood. Make My Wardrobe Work will send a stylist to your home to help you curate your clothes into a workable everyday collection, saving you angst, not to mention time, in the process.

If you find that you have items –such as seasonal clothing or sport equipment – that you can’t live without but have no immediate need for, consider off-site storage. Look for units with climate control to guard against mould, and consider the added convenience of collection and drop-off services. Pakt photograph and store your clothes, so you have a full visual inventory on hand, while Spacebox can stash almost anything that has outstayed its welcome in your home, leaving you with nothing but wide-open space.

INVOLVE THE RUGRATS!

Of course, the smallest people in the household create the biggest mess. Toy storage tops almost every parent’s list of headaches, and the encroachment of plastic on living space can make you feel as though you’re living in a branch of Toys “R” Us, ransacked by tiny ram-raiders.

It’s never too early to get kids involved with tidying up, and, love it or loathe it, nobody does creative, affordable storage quite like ‘The Big Blue Box.’ A strategic Ikea shop can solve clutter woes quickly (check out the website for plenty of inspiration), with child-friendly drawers, boxes and shelves turning tidy-up time into a friendly collaboration rather than an all-out family battle. Help little ones to find the right home for their treasures by sticking pictures onto each drawer. Pull-along boxes with wheels make gathering small items easier, while Perspex drawers are great for sorting Lego into individual colours (these also work well for mum’s make-up stash). Consider keeping paint, Playdoh and other messy items on a high shelf away from little fingers, while keeping toys that they can enjoy without supervision at floor level for easy access.

AND FINALLY…

Once your pad is pristine, keep it that way! Have regular clear-outs, donating unwanted toys, appliances and furniture to charity. DB Mothers and Friends accepts good condition donations, and will collect bulky items from your home. Encourage budding entrepreneurs to sell toys and books for extra pocket money, either in the time-honoured fashion of a blanket on the ground at DB’s monthly flea market, or on one of the many local Facebook trading forums.

And the ultimate clutter-busting tips? Try to apply Gretchen’s ‘smile on your face’ principle to everything that you buy, or, failing that, freeze your credit card in a large block of ice. Forcing yourself to carefully consider each purchase will help to ensure that your cupboards remain uncluttered and save you money too. Enjoy your orderly new home!

HOME EDITING TIPS
1. Tackle one room at a time – and get ready to be ruthless
2. Clear off all flat surfaces – and keep them clear
3. Ask yourself which items you actually use – and ditch the rest
4. Set aside one drawer for ‘odds and sods’
5. Make sure everything you own has a ‘home’
6. Invest in a few well-designed storage pieces
7. Make the most of under-utilised storage spaces, like under your bed 8. Hoard less – you don’t need two of everything

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