A professional declutterer has turned the six-step process she uses with clients into a set of cards you can use at home to get on top of your mess once and for all.
Tidying expert Helen Sanderson has created the Home Declutter Kit to take the stress out of the process and says it provides the same service you get from an expert in a box you can use yourself at home.
Her ‘deep purge’ method involves following six simple steps using her cards as a visual clue as you go to help you on your way, and she recommends clearing three to six hours for the process and sticking to it.
‘The more things you pull out and put back without resolving what to do with them, the more overwhelmed you’ll feel,’ she said. ‘Accept that this process is going to take over your morning, afternoon or an entire day and create a lot of mess at the start.’
Tidying expert Helen Sanderson has created the Home Declutter Kit, which uses simple colour coded cards to help you ‘deep purge’ your unwanted belongings
Decluttering expert Helen Sanderson recommends spending 10 minutes setting your intentions before you begin the process of ridding yourself of unwanted belongings
Step One: Set a clear intention
Spend about 10 minutes getting focused on your decluttering project in a way that works for you.
If you visualise then picture how you’d love your home to look at the end or you could meditate on it or write a to-do list if you prefer to be proactive.
Once this is done, make a list of your goals and intentions which can range from simple things such as feeling good when you walk through the front door or feeling the house looks ordered enough to invite a friend round for coffee.
Or it could be something bigger like feeling like you’ve dealt with old emotional baggage along with your clutter, or the process being the first step towards a big change in your life.
Creating a ‘sell it’ pile
Selling unwanted items is a great way to earn extra cash, but it can be the route to extra clutter if you never get round to it.
Be realistic and don’t add items you really don’t have time to get valued, take to the post office or list online.
Work out how much time and hassle it will take to sell the item and theoretically pay yourself an hourly rate. If it’s not worth your time, give it away. Charities will appreciate the money.
Write your goals and intentions down on the Goals Card and keep it somewhere prominent so you can hold them in mind while you are decluttering.
Step Two: Set out the cards and start weeding
Set out your cards in a semi-circle in front of you on a table or stick them on the furniture or to the walls.
The seven essential categories are: Bin it, Recycle it, Donate it, Memory box it, Keep it, Action it, Don’t know.
You may also like to add optional extra cards such as ‘storage’ or ‘sell it’ or ‘toy box’ if your kids’ things are taking over your life.
Get started with a pile of belongings, whether it’s a box from your home office or the contents of the bathroom cabinet and then start allocating each of the items to the card in front of you.
Although it might seem simple and obvious, how you do this part is important. You’ll find yourself wanting to sub-categorise, but don’t.
When you can’t let go
It’s a good idea to create a ‘gremlins’ pile for items that are emotionally loaded and you can’t face dealing with.
Perhaps you took a course and didn’t complete it, but don’t feel ready to let go of the hard work or experience feelings of failure when you see the stuff.
Or you might have ended a relationship and can’t face dealing with their belongings or things you associate with that person.
It’s fine to box and store these things as long as you commit to a date to come back to them – less than a year away.
This stage is just about weeding. Trust your first instinct and gut feeling and work swiftly.
You’re about to make a lot of decisions quickly, but you always have the ‘Don’t Know’ pile to rely on if needed.
Step Three: Clear the decks
Take anything for binning or recycling out immediately and put a bag for donations by the front door or in the boot of the car.
Paperwork that needs to be shredded or actioned should go into a labelled box. Set a realistic date for when you’re going to deal with it.
Step four: Box and label all piles (except keep)
If you’re struggling with a large don’t know pile, try talking through with a friend the reasons why you’re unsure about the items – or even have an imaginary conversation going through the reasons.
Sometimes just a little bit of a story needs unravelling because you can make peace with something.
Helen’s top tips for maintaining a calm, ordered home
Once you’ve managed to get on top of your clutter, here’s how you can maintain your space. Creating a haven your feel proud of can help stop clutter building up again.
1. Take 30 seconds to smooth out your duvet and plump your pillows each morning.
2. Never go to bed without doing the washing up. Starting your day with yesterday’s mess is like living in debt – always paying off spending and not having enough for today.
3. If things are getting on top of you, choose a specific room to keep tidy.
4. Put clothes back in their place or the laundry when you take them off.
5. Never let your washing pile grow higher than the top of the laundry basket.
7. Give the bath or shower a quick rinse after using. A grubby bath represents neglect and you won’t want to do it later.
8. Put shoes away
9.Keep paperwork in a neat pile and set a weekly date to go through it and do the filing when it hits the top of the in-tray
10. If you have a workspace at home, take a minute or so to tidy at the end of the day to make starting again easier and more motivating.
Step five: Sort into categories
Spread the blue cards from the pack out in front of you and start sorting your keep it pile into categories.
This step is helpful if you have collections of things in your keep it pile, such as books, photos and paperwork.
First sort and pile everything into categories, separating the toys from the cosmetics and so on. Then take each new pile and sub-categorise to create wonderful order using the blue cards.
The blue cards refer to categories such as ‘sell it’ or ‘shred it’ and there are blank cards where you can create categories of your own.
Step six: Create beauty and harmony
After a deep purge, shelves and drawers should be nearer empty than full. If you let some books go, you can enjoy putting your favourite ones back and arranging them beautifully.
Get creative – try displaying them according to your colour or size and make a visual feast. DOing this will bring joy and good energy into your home.