Decluttering Your Attic

This week I’m taking you to a dark place in the decluttering process: the attic.

There may be several reasons you want to declutter the attic: you might want to let go of the past, you might dread going up there every time you need something, like my mum, you might feel that you’ll be too old one day to access your stuff. Or perhaps you just want the satisfaction of a nice airy space above your head.

Whatever your reasons for tackling the attic, they’re one of the most terrifying places to start the decluttering process, and not just because of the cobwebs and spiders. The attic should be the last place you declutter because, for many, it’s such a monumental task that it can drain all motivation before you even start. Just looking at years of accumulated boxes, mystery bags, and cramped walkways is enough to make most people retreat back down the ladder and vow never to look at it again.  Attics also tend to be full of emotional and sentimental objects, including those from loved ones who have passed. Items like these will need significant time to evaluate, which is another reason this room should be dealt with last.

Because attics can be so claustrophobic, and it can be difficult to know where to start, I recommend starting with one corner and bringing the contents down to be sorted through immediately. Notice I didn’t say ‘later’ because the temptation will be to just ‘pop it into the storage room for now’. And ‘now’ becomes days, becomes weeks, becomes years, until your spare room has become a second attic. This is because dumping clutter into one spot tends to act as a magnet and attract even more clutter. Therefore, it’s imperative that you sort the attic bit by bit, just like every other room, but quick enough that it doesn’t become a pile of procrastination.  

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

So what kind of stuff do you usually find in an attic?

  • Festive Decorations
  • Photo albums
  • Old journals
  • Baby and kids toys
  • Old school work or art from yourself or your child
  • Old books
  • Bags of cables
  • Objects that never got used eg.old workout equipment
  • Old furniture
  • CD’s, DVD’s and videogame paraphernalia
  • Family heirlooms and sentimental objects
  • Unwanted gifts
  • Rolls of leftover carpet or wallpaper
  • Old clothes
  • Suitcases

First things first, lets deal with the most common stuff.

Photo albums

I could go right ahead and say that these days everything is digital, but I am a minimalist who loves to flick through a good physical album, so I’m not about to tell you to scan your photos and bin the rest (unless you feel that would be best for you).

If you’re anything like me you’ve probably got a stack of photo albums boxed up, some of them not even completely filled.

To minimise a physical photo collection, invest in a high-quality photo album which holds as many photos as possible, then sort through your collection in chronological order. To free up even more space, feel free to discard of duplicates or those which didn’t turn out very well. How many photos you have will determine the time it will take, but in the end you’ll find that you’ll be down to just one or two high-capacity albums and can donate or recycle the rest.

If you still intend to keep your photos in the attic, be sure to store them in an acid-free storage container which can withstand extreme cold, damp and heat.  

Old furniture

Furniture, especially wood or fabric, won’t keep well in attic environment and is vulnerable to mould and mildew. Dismantle and recycle old furniture which isn’t looking so great, and sell or donate pieces which are still in tip-top condition. If they’re in the attic in the first place, let’s face it, it wasn’t likely you were going to use them at any time in the near future.

But what if that dresser belonged to your dearly departed grandma? In that case, have a long, deep think about what it really means to you. Is it doing any service to you in the dark confines of the attic, never to see another sock or trinket ever again? If the answer is no, and you’re never going to use it, think: was my grandma personified by this dresser or was she a human being who lit up my world for who she was? If the answer is no, take a photo of it and donate it to someone who will love it just as much.

If, on the other hand, you have great memories attached to said dresser, it makes you smile and you can’t bear to part with it, consider replacing a piece of your own furniture with it. And if you have trouble blending it in with your current decor you could even repaint it, breathing new life into an much-loved piece.

Whatever you decide, don’t keep it up in the attic where it will be subject to the extremes in temperature and humidity. It’ll only lead to guilt and upset when you go back to find it damaged.

Festive Decorations

Festive decorations, whether it be for Christmas or some other holiday can mysteriously grow in size over the years. Before you know it, you’re bringing down bags and boxes every year with no idea which decoration is in each. Every Christmas I would just rifle through my lucky bags of tinsel, baubles and other Christmas themed trinkets, some broken and some yellowed with age.

Empty out all your decorations and only keep the ones you consistently use every year. If you add any new ones to your collection then remove an older one. By doing this you will pare down your decorations and keep them at a consistently manageable amount.

Baby and kids toys

If you don’t have children you can skip this part, but if you do have kids, it’s inevitable you will end up storing outgrown toys, books, and perhaps their cot and old baby clothes. There’s a myriad of reasons you might do this including ‘saving them for baby number 2’, or being unable to let go of their babyhood, although the latter is harder to admit.  It happens, and it’s completely normal.

The thing to remember is that children grow up and you want to enjoy them as they are in the present rather than clinging onto objects from the past. The years are fleeting and are gone before you know it, and those old baby clothes and toys will get damp in the attic when they could be serving a less fortunate family.

There’s nothing wrong with keeping one or two things from that period in their lives (I have a beautiful baby memory box with the special things in which are warming to go back to). A potential issue arises when you are keeping a hoard of their old stuff which they have no chance of returning to. Just as your value as a human being is not tied to your stuff, your child’s true essence is,ultimately, in their personality, actions and love for you.

If, however, you’re keeping the stuff for another child, you’re best not to keep these things in the attic unless they’re tightly sealed in an acid-free container which has no chance of damaging the contents.

Photo by Lauren Lulu Taylor on Unsplash

Old school work or art from yourself or your child

I used to keep every bit of my old schoolwork in several boxes. I rarely looked back on it but it was there because I was clinging to that painful part of my life. I liked to look back on the praise I had got from teachers because I had such low self esteem, and I liked to imagine a happier school life and what I would do differently.  More on this part of my story here: https://minimalistmojo.blog/2019/02/04/anchors-of-the-past-my-hoarding-story-and-how-i-woke-up-to-my-mess/

If you’re keeping old pieces of your own work, keep only one or two pieces which really mean something to you, otherwise just let it all go. I guarantee you won’t miss any of what you do let go, but you will appreciate the lightness, especially if it was linked to unpleasant memories or being used to fill a void.

When it comes to your child’s schoolwork (if you have children), keep a few meaningful pieces or curate it all into a scrapbook for pleasant viewing. I recently bought my child a scrapbook and printed a personalised cover for him and he loves it. When they get older you can ask your child which pieces they want to keep and then arrange them into a beautiful, personalised scrapbook which they can browse at their leisure or show off to friends and family.

When special pieces of work are kept in a beautifully presented way, they don’t even have to be kept in the attic and can be kept on a bookshelf, in a cupboard or in your child’s room. As always, if you choose to keep it in your attic, keep it in an acid-free storage box just like you would with photos.

Objects that never get used eg.old workout equipment

You know the kids of stuff I’m talking about here: those weights you kept ‘just in case’ you decided to work out, that guitar you’re saving for when you take those lessons you will get around to ‘someday’.

Here we are again with the ‘just in case’ words that derail every attempt at decluttering and simplicity. If such items are in the attic, the chances are extremely high that they will still be there for the next generation to sort out after you’re gone. Such items are kept for the ‘dream version’ of yourself (which we all have to some degree) and quite often doesn’t align with who you really are. I kept my work out clothes for a few years, seeing a version of myself jogging through my neighbourhood with headphones on and my running trainers pounding the pavement as I got fitter and fitter. It never transpired, and I realised that with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, it wasn’t viable for me. I’m not saying it’s not doable for anyone else with a chronic condition, but for me, personally, that vision didn’t align with the gentle pace I have set for my body.

Do away with anything you’re keeping from the you in an alternate reality and breathe in the space for the person you really are.

Unwanted gifts

I know how hard it is, when you receive a gift and feel too guilty to get rid of it so you keep it on display for a while then stow it away in the attic.

By storing unwanted gifts you are storing negative emotions including guilt and obligation. In most cases, the giver wouldn’t want you to feel this way, and it’s mostly in our minds. If you know that the giver would be offended, it might take some more careful consideration and some gentle words, but you should never be forced to keep something which doesn’t add value to your life. People who are easily offended when it comes to gift giving may well have issues with showing their emotions and attach their feelings to the stuff they give and receive, so do be sensitive and mindful about the process if you’re in that kind of situation.

Otherwise, lift the burden by regifting to someone you know will love it, or by donating to a charity for the less fortunate.  

CD’s, DVD’s and videogame paraphernalia

This kind of stuff, particularly discs, will not do well in an attic. For starters, discs eventually get what’s known as disc rot, and will eventually cease to play. Being stored in an attic speeds up the process as I discovered when I looked at some of my old PSOne games. https://www.lifewire.com/what-is-dvd-rot-1845719

Electronics that are of value to you shouldn’t be stored in an attic if you can help it due to the extremes in temperatures. Recently I decluttered my gaming room https://minimalistmojo.blog/2019/04/04/how-i-minimised-my-gaming-room/ and that gave me the space to bring down and display my beloved Sega Mastersystem II.

If you don’t have any such space, and you know you rarely access or even love the item ,then sell it on or donate it. Otherwise, invest in decent storage that will protect it in a harsh environment.

Old clothes and books

Over time, in an attic, clothes will get damp and grow mildew, and books will rapidly yellow.

Last year I came across some bin liners of old quilts and maternity clothes, and they weren’t in any fit condition to be donated. Not only were they damp, they stunk. Even the seasonal clothes I had been keeping in plastic containers had a funky smell to them.

For that reason I suggest you keep seasonal clothes on top of your wardrobe in a wicker storage box or under your bed. And for any clothes you’re keeping for the ‘alternate reality you’, don’t. Just get rid.

As for books, if you’re keeping them in the attic, you’re not likely to ever read them and they will quickly degrade if not stored in an acid-free container. Books are there to be read, to impart knowledge and entertain, and they aren’t doing much of that in your attic – donate them.

Photo by Aliis Sinisalu on Unsplash

I could go on with the many other categories of stuff you find in an attic, but some, like sentimental items and heirlooms, deserve their own post.

The benefits of decluttering an attic are whatever you make it. You can revel in the newly created space, relax in the knowledge that your family won’t have to deal with it all when you’re gone, feel the lightness as you live for the future, and enjoy accessing your treasures.  If you wanted to and you had the money, you could even convert your attic into a study or a spare bedroom for guests.

I hope this post has given you the boost you needed to climb that ladder and come back down it a lighter person. As always, if there’s anything you want to ask, please drop me a message in the comments session. In my next post, I will be talking about dealing with sentimental items.

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash


Curating your Kitchen

Kitchens tend to be one of the most clutter-filled rooms in people’s homes. They should be a pleasant space to cook and make drinks; instead, they end up as stress hotspots with rammed drawers, bursting cupboards and barely any space for food prep.

But how and why do our kitchens end up so cluttered in the first place? The answer is simple: unneeded cumbersome appliances, barely used cookware, clones of accessories, an excess of silverware, food or condiments you rarely access, and an overwhelming amount of cleaning supplies.


Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

So much clutter in the kitchen can make mealtimes into a nightmare and make you much more likely to spend money eating out or ordering takeaways. It’s hard to find what you need, hard to access what you use the most, and hard to decide what to cook. Deciding what to cook is an extremely common issue with couples and families, but most people don’t consider that it might be due to decision fatigue and the stress of an overbearing kitchen. To jump-start you in reclaiming back a harmonious space you can’t wait to get cooking in, let’s start off with the simplest place: surfaces.

Surfaces in a kitchen should be spacious with as little clutter as possible as they are used for serving and preparing food, and can even be used to host a spread at parties. Lots of surface clutter is also hard to clean under, so could be harbouring more grime and bacteria than you care to imagine. Things you may want to consider removing are:

  • Breadbin -bread can be stored in a carefully curated cupboard.
  • Tea and coffee caddies – teabags, coffee and sugar can also be stowed away in a cupboard in their original packaging.
  • Keys, notebooks and pens should never grace a kitchen work surface. Instead, invest in a nice wipeable board for the wall, and hang keys up in the hall or keep them in your bag.
  • Recipe books or folders – Keep just one and store in a cupboard where it is easily accessible.
  • Medicines-These should never be kept out on a surface and should be kept locked up in a suitable container, but I’ve encountered exposed pills and bottles many times. Due to fluctuating temperatures in the kitchen, medicines are perhaps best kept in a lockable bathroom cabinet.
  • Hair products – Believe it or not, I’ve come across hair and beauty products being kept in the kitchen. For hygiene reasons, keep styling and beauty products in the bathroom or bedroom.

Things that are fine to keep on the surface include kettle, microwave, and toaster. Although, I could argue that if you have a grill, you could easily get by without a toaster. If, like me, you’re prone to forgetting that you have food under the grill , by all means keep it. Your most used appliances will depend on yours and your family’s personal preferences.

“Are you mad?! I can’t possibly stow any more in my cupboards!”, I hear you panic. If that’s the case for you; you could be pleasantly surprised or even flat-out shocked by how much you’re keeping in your cupboards that you don’t need. Once you’ve cleared your surfaces as much as possible, it’s time to evaluate everything behind those doors and become ruthless.

Clear out:

  • Outdated food, spices and condiments (goes without saying).
  • Food you don’t think you’ll ever touch but has a long sell by date – donate to a food bank. There’s much less fortunate people out there who could be delighted by your unopened, unused consumables.
  • Ingredients you swore you’d get round to using ‘someday’ but are still waiting for that day to arrive.
  • Unused appliances that haven’t been touched for over a year. Things like toastie makers, and novelty appliances made to save you time that only end up taking space.
  • The partyware that comes out once every few years – that includes cake stands, paper plates, plastic cutlery and beakers etc.
  • Cups and glasses which are rarely used, if ever. Think: How many cups and glasses do you really need? Consider how many people are in your household and how many visitors you entertain at any one time. And do you really need a glass for every type of alcoholic beverage? Too many of us keep enough to host our own mini-bar and cafe, and as a result we run out of space.
  • Plates and cookware. Evaluate what you use the most and how many plates you really need for your household. For sentimental crockery that you don’t like to use, either start using it for its intended purpose, or display across a wall. Get rid of old pots and pans if you have since acquired new. If you have a tonne of baking equipment, think about how often you use it and for what.
  • Cleaning supplies: you’ve probably got spray polish, bleach, a dozen cloths, furniture spray and just about everything you can think of under your sink for every probable scenario. Just like with bathrooms, whittle down your supplies and seek all-in-1 solutions that can do just about every job. You might want to consider using all natural products which are less harmful for the environment, safer if you have kids or pets, cheap, and easily concocted 1.

Lastly, we get to the drawers. When you get to editing your drawers, it might be easier to dump everything out and go through everything piece by piece. Kitchen drawers can be nightmarish to rifle through the dozens of spatulas, speciality knives, cutlery, medicine spoons, bottle openers, cheese graters, pizza cutters, ladles, corkscrews, and every utensil in the cooking world. This is because when people buy new cutlery, they tend to keep the old ‘just in case’, or buy a duplicate because the original was hiding beneath clutter. It’s also too easy bend to the mindset of ‘I spent good money on that’ – cookware can be costly, after all. But, if you’ve been reading my posts up to this point, you already know that is a dangerous and limiting mindset that ensures we remain trapped and weighed down by our possessions. Realise that you’ve had your use out of the object (or that you made a mistake)  and either let it go or donate it. Remember: things rarely hold their monetary value, especially once used. And even if there is something of value – if you don’t use it, your time and space is far more valuable.


Photo by Jarek Ceborski on Unsplash

As with most other rooms that get minimised, one of the immediate benefits you will notice is how effortless cleaning is. And once you know where everything is and exactly what you own,  you will likely feel more inclined to meal prep, and therefore, become healthier and calmer. With space to be more creative, you might even discover a new joy for cooking.

How I Minimised My Gaming Room

It’s been a busy week – one of selling my excess on Ebay and frantically going and back and forth to the post office. This is a direct result of purging the excess that was in the gaming room,and the attic. Despite this post being about decluttering games, I can assure you that it applies to anyone with any hobby that involves collectables. I recognise that there are minimalists out there who list gaming as one of the many time sinks alongside Netflix and social media, but I believe that as long as your hobby is intentional and brings true value to your life, there’s nothing wrong with that.

I’ve always had a passion for gaming, so I had a grand library of games and figures permanently on display. Even though I thought I had already sold or donated the ones that no longer held value to me, I recently had another look around at my collection. Beautiful and organised, but still too much.

There were more games that I could never hope to play in a lifetime, and it wasn’t all adding value to my life like I had originally thought. You see, I’m not perfect, but the more stuff I purge on my journey, the easier I am able to see the things that don’t matter.  

I came across games I hadn’t touched in years, games I had bought years ago for the sake of collecting, games I already owned digitally, and games that I owned improved versions of. There were also figurines that had long since been out-favourited, and a few shelves of CD’s I hadn’t opened in years. So, I went through the usual process of evaluating every object, and as I went along I started pulling things out and piling them against the wall where it eventually formed a mountain.Then I did something that my old self would have found abhorrent just a few short weeks ago – I put all of my treasured CD’s and their booklets into a CD binder, and threw all of the cases away; even the ones I’d had since I was a teenager. One might argue that there’s no point in keeping CD’s at all in an age where everything is digital: that’s down to you to decide. But I will say this: if one of the services ever went down or one of the companies decided to revoke licensing for any of the tracks, I still have access to my favourites on those discs. It also prevents me from repurchasing songs if I can’t find them on Spotify.

A curated shelf in the gaming room

Going back to my mountainous sell pile; it was astonishing to think of the weight these items were adding to my life, both physically and metaphorically. All of them had been sitting on shelves collecting dust, or hibernating in storage boxes never to grace another surface again.

Through further minimising the gaming room, not only did I find myself not needing my CD tower anymore, I made a nice amount of cash out of the items which were worth a significant amount. Cash which I’m learning to be mindful about. While on the subject of money, I’d just like to remind you not to get caught in the trap of keeping things due to a made-up monetary value in your mind. Do your research, and if it’s not worth the effort to sell it, donate, instead. Let go of the guilt of spending money from years in the past and make a new start, today.

Since freeing up all that extra space I’ve been able to display things which do mean a lot to me, that I had no space for before. Things like my Sega Mastersystem II which has a lot of happy memories attached and makes me smile whenever I see it. After all, why should my treasures have been collecting cobwebs in the cold, dark attic, while superfluous things took the spotlight? There may come a day when I decide I no longer need half the stuff that I find valuable to me now. And that’s OK. Because when it comes to letting go I will be ready and,hopefully, so will you.

Photo by Darius Bashar on Unsplash

Reclaiming Power For Your Future Self

While decluttering and pursuing minimalism, you may notice that you think about your stuff more than you ever did before. Not only do you find yourself evaluating every object in your home, but when you go shopping, you’re hyper aware of everything in your basket and turn the willpower up to max. But it’s only temporary -you’re aiming for your future self to live a much simpler and more serene life by doing the hardest work in the present. The mindful shopping will become far more natural over time and the decision making will become faster and faster until it’s almost instant. Depending on your mindset and circumstances, it can take a few months to a couple of years to reach a state you’re happy with. Once you’ve reached that state, all you need to do is remain mindful of future purchases and stay vigilant with the things which enter your home, be it junk mail, takeaway menus, paperwork or a new set of knives. Today, for example, I bought a new bag, but I did this with the bag in mind that I was going to get rid of. In fact, when I brought it home, I ended up purging two bags in its place. I always aim to do this for every new thing that I purchase; books, clothes, shoes, and recently, my video games.

As time goes on, I find myself purging more and more stuff that no longer complements my lifestyle, but sometimes it can be difficult and take a significant amount of time to let certain things go. Quite often, these are objects with an aura of sentimentality or gift status attached. Such decisions often require a plentiful reserve of emotional energy and inner calm, but it is amazing how once the decision has been made, said object will usually lose the hold of guilt or nostalgia it had over me.


Photo by Javardh on Unsplash

With perseverance and a calm mind, you too, can reclaim that power and one be step closer to a freer, happier, more mindful you.


Making Space to Live: Clutter and Living Rooms

What do you see when you imagine a living room? Most likely, you think of an organised and stress free room for being with family and entertaining guests. A place to put your feet up, make memories with the ones you love, and not have to be tidying every five minutes. Yet living rooms are usually the one room people overwhelmed by clutter most want to do something about. Magazines, letters, kids homework, books, kids toys, DVD’s, games consoles, spare cables, shoes, trinkets and photos, are all stuff which tend to take over most living rooms. And with so many things, there’s usually many pieces of furniture to accommodate it all, leaving little space for living.  Quite often magazines, books, letters and small miscellaneous items such a toys or pens end up strewn all over the coffee and dining table, so it becomes a like a game of chess, negotiating your next move so that you can place your cup down or make space to eat.

However, before you read any further in this post, I want you to think once again about why you are minimising. I’ve listened to so many people rejoice in having tidied their living spaces, only to throw their arms up in despair when they’re back to the same old mess in the space of a week. “I give up!”, they say. “It’s a waste of time and energy!”. This is because people tend to tidy and organise, but don’t confront the main issue: too much stuff. Precious spare time gets spent on cleaning under and around objects, maintaining them, and tidying up again and again and again. Meanwhile, invitations and other more fulfilling endeavours get turned down because things inside the home end up taking priority.

Think about what it is you want from your living space? What does it mean to you? What value will the increase in space provide to you?  Why have you been holding on to the objects that keep taking over your space? Without answering these questions, you’re likely to end up throwing your arms up in despair once again as your space gets taken back over.

Back when I was renting a house,  I used to have several consoles hooked up and video games displayed in the TV unit -there was nowhere else for them to go.  I had a bookcase which was so full of books, the books started acting as a shelf for more books, and so many DVDs and Blu-rays that I ran out of space. Yet I rarely watched or played any of them. My window ledges were lined with too many photos and candles. Cleaning took forever because I had to move and manoeuver under and around all the stuff I owned. The one place that was always clear, though, was the dining table, because as an adult I’ve always strongly believed that families should be able to come together to eat. Growing up, the only time my own family tended to use the dining table to eat together was at Christmas;the rest of the time everyone would just gather around the TV and sit on the sofa to eat.  As you know, before I was forced to confront my hoarding, everything was rammed into drawers and cupboards – anywhere that was out of sight. I started to clear up my act but hadn’t yet discovered minimalism, and as a result, I still had far too much stuff. That much became apparent when my family moved from renting to owning our own home.

When we bought our home we entered into the unique situation of cohabiting with my parents. So that everyone continued to have their own space, we had a 2 storey extension built which would be our living room and bedroom. Those rooms now occupy where the side of the house where the garden sheds used to be, so as you can imagine, they are long and very narrow. At the time, all our excess belongings were being stored in the attic until we had furnished the rooms. Where on Earth would I put all of this stuff?

When I was searching for new furniture for our living room, I saw so many photos and showrooms of beautiful living spaces, and I always thought ‘Why can’t mine be like that?’. I’d gaze at the photos or walk around the showrooms and imagine myself totally relaxed on the sofa with a book in my hand, and with a clear mind, then I’d look at all my unpacked books, DVD’s and trinkets and come back to reality, thinking,  ‘It’s for show, of course it isn’t realistic, my living room’s too narrow, and it’ll never fit all my stuff’. I was wrong.

My problem was, I was more focused on the decor and on the furniture pieces themselves, than on the real reason these rooms were so appealing; the airy amount of space that was being showcased. Dressers with nothing on them except for a small lamp, coffee tables with a single decorative piece or nothing on at all, a bookcase with just a few books which were shown off by carefully selected ornaments. The rooms were completely clutter free.

It took me so long to figure out that simple concept because I was still so attached to my things that I couldn’t imagine being without any of it. While I’d successfully cleared out the relics of my childhood, I couldn’t imagine my shelves and surfaces being completely clear of all the mugs, soft toys, books, DVD’s, gothic figures, candles, and Disney snow globes that lined them. And it was horrific for me to even think about parting with any of my books. All I could think was  ‘I need a bigger room so that I can get more furniture to space my things out more’. I was stuck in a consumerist trap, looking to buy the illusion of more space instead of create it.

It was while I was researching the best way to organise my stuff yet again, that I discovered the term ‘minimalism’. Fascinated and delving further into it, I came across a whole plethora of books, websites and groups dedicated to this way of living. Excited and intrigued to discover that there was a much simpler and fulfilling life to be lived, it wasn’t long before I found myself filling up bag after bag with stuff for the charity shop. I didn’t need all those candles and every single photo on display. Nor did I need the sheer amount of books I was keeping, most of them yellowed with age. That familiar feeling of weight lifting from my shoulders, of being able to breathe like I’d never breathed before was immensely exhilarating. And I found that the more I donated, the more stuff I realised I didn’t need.

At first, that set of statuettes on your window ledge may not seem like clutter. But when held in the hand and evaluated, you realise that not only do they not match your current theme, you bought them on a whim in an ‘end of year’ sale. Those books which are using the books below them as a shelf: how many of them have you read? Did you enjoy them and will you really read all of them again? You can enjoy a great sense of accomplishment by donating books you won’t read, or books that are pre-loved so that somebody else can enjoy them. I found that by donating so many of my books, I was actually reading more than I’d ever done with three shelves full. Now I only keep the books I will read again that added something special to my life. The rest I either buy on Kindle or do the ‘one in one out’ method where if buy a book I get rid of an older one or I donate it when I’m finished. It’s the same story for DVD’s. In an age where most movies are available digitally, do you really need five shelves crammed with them? When was the last time you put a disc into your machine? And do you intend to watch them again? If you do, and your joy comes from being a movie buff and showing off your collection, that’s totally fine. But if you said ‘someday’, realise that word is one of the top reasons people end up overwhelmed with their possessions. Magazines are another thing which can turn into unruly piles. You can get rid of old issues, but if there’s a series you can’t bear to part with you can buy magazine cord binders which will keep your collection pristine and like a giant book. I did just that with my Writers Forum collection, now it sits proudly on my bookshelf where I flip through for occasional bouts of inspiration.

Part of my living room. Since this photo was taken, I removed one of the photo frames on my room divider so that I was only displaying the photos most important to me and moved the nut bowl (which was being kept away from my dog).

Remember: minimalism isn’t about getting rid of the things you love, but about only keeping the things which add value to your life in the present day.

By going through every object in your living room, it’s possible you might end up not needing as much storage or as much furniture as you first thought.Through evaluating and donating so many of my possessions I was able to get rid of two large pieces of furniture which were being used for storage and display. Now, despite the living room being so narrow, there is plenty of airy space to relax, to be with family, to pursue hobbies, for my son to play, and to entertain guests. And there’s nothing I like more than to put my feet up at night, light a candle and read a good book. None of that would be possible if I still had all of my possessions from before. What’s more – cleaning and tidying is effortless and takes a third of the time it used to.

You may be wondering where the ‘how to’ guide is in this post. The truth is that living rooms are such personal spaces that it’s hard to write a specific ‘How and what to declutter’ guide. Walking into our living room, one can instantly tell that I love books, specifically books about writing. One can also instantly tell that we love our family and our space. It is my hope that you will come away from this post better equipped to think about what is truly important to you, and therefore, discover what isn’t. Only then can you make true and lasting progress.

In my next post, I will talk about the bedroom, and how to make it into a haven of peaceful sleep and relaxation.

Entrancing Entrances

How to declutter and create a welcoming entrance to your abode

When people first think about decluttering they automatically tend to think of the living room; the knick-knacks, newspapers, books, toys, mystery objects and paperwork left laying around. What people rarely mention is the hallway or entrance to their home. The entrance to your home is the first thing you see after a long, hard day, and the last thing you see after leaving. It makes an impression on everyone who walks through it, especially you.Therefore, your hallway or entrance should be one of the most welcoming places in the home, there to remind you that you will soon be able to put your feet up, be yourself, and spend time doing what matters. Walking into your home should be like a warm embrace, yet I’ve seen a lot of these spaces being used as open-storage for things which don’t otherwise have a place, or being overrun by eight coats and twenty pairs of shoes.

Hallways and entrances should only contain the things that you need for leaving home such as coats, shoes, hats and umbrellas. Of course, you can have decor which adds a vibe of your choosing- everyone has their own style. But there shouldn’t be an overabundance of clothing or objects.

Let’s talk about the issues with having too many coats and shoes. You and I both know, that such attire tends to take up a lot of space – so much, in fact, that when guests arrive, you just tell them to sling their coats over the stair post, or leave them draped on your dining chairs. Not to mention, each time you leave the front door you have to make a decision about what to wear, which takes precious time and energy.

Imagine walking into a spacious hallway with plenty of free coat hooks and space for guests to leave their shoes. The feeling of airy spaciousness and nothing for you to tidy when you walk through the door. Imagine being able to quickly made a decision about which coat and shoes to wear when you leave, no visual clutter stressing you out and no worrying about the impression on visitors. Relaxing, isn’t it?

So if you find yourself drowning in your hallway and rushing through it to escape the clutter,it’s time to take action. I realise that many people have issues with their families’ belongings when it comes to the decluttering process, but unless your significant other or family member is already on-board with the idea, just focus on your own stuff for now.

Firstly, take down all your coats and evaluate each of them. Ask yourself; how often do I wear this coat? Do I enjoy wearing it? Do I really need three different coats for a rainy day? If you struggle to get coats to match your outfits, the trick is to get a coat that is neutral and will go with most things you wear. It may even be worth checking your wardrobe for the clothes you wear the most (more about wardrobes and clothes in later posts).   

One of the best methods you can adopt when it comes to clothing is an ‘in with the new, out with the old’ philosophy. That way, when you buy a new pair of shoes or a new coat, you do so knowing that you intend to donate, sell, or trash the old one. Failure to follow that simple rule will ensure that you’re always drowning in decision making, tidying and searching. And nobody wants to live life like that.

Aside from coats and shoes, there’s another thing that tends to clutter up hallways and imbue a feeling of dread or procrastination  -paperwork and unopened mail. I’m not talking about the mail that simply lands on your mat as it comes through the letterbox, but the mail that is left to pile up in the next available space. Some people leave it lying around on hallway consoles and on window ledges so it is bugging them as they leave for work and greeting them with a ‘to do’ list as soon as they re-enter the home. My recommendation for mail, is to have a specific drawer, cupboard or folder where everything can be effortlessly accessed at a moments notice. “But I need a reminder to pay my bills”, you say. In that case, I recommend using a calendar, either physical or digital. Personally, I use a physical diary, preferring to cut down on the digital cacophony that has become part of modern life.  Everyone’s methods will be slightly different.

Lastly,  don’t leave kids toys, rogue bags, receipts or any other miscellaneous items hanging around your entrance. If anything is out of place, put it back where it belongs immediately, preferably before you even leave your home. That way, you know you’re leaving the place exactly as you want to return to it (unless, of course, you have messy family members, in which case, further posts about living with other people’s clutter might be for you).

But what about creating a relaxing vibe that you’ll always be happy to walk into? If you’re worried about things looking too sparse or are worried about other issues such as lighting, there are several things you can do:

You can’t go wrong with some healthy, homely greenery
  • Plants and greenery do wonders to spruce up any room, and having one or two in your hallway can make the environment feel fresh and airy.  You can also use a diffuser to ensure you are constantly greeted by a pleasant aroma of your choice, although you’ll want to keep them in a spot where they won’t get knocked over or explored by tiny hands.
  • Personalise with photos of friends and family, or give the walls some character with a few select pieces of art – don’t go overboard with this, however, as too much can make a room feel cluttered.
  • Furniture doesn’t have to be boring – for example, you can buy stylish and decorative umbrella stands for a very affordable price. Having an umbrella stand will also take away the temptation for people to leave wet umbrellas draining over the floor.
  • Think about lighting – a hallway struggling for light may benefit from a strategically placed mirror. Mirrors can also help make narrow spaces look a little wider. Failing that, a beautiful or stylish lamp can make a big difference. In my own home, we had the living room and kitchen doors replaced with glass panelled ones so that the light from those rooms would filter through.

The most important thing, however, is to treat the entrance to your home with love and respect. Doing so can and will make a big difference to your mood and your attitude to the rest of the house.

Next, I will be talking about how to declutter your living room and make the perfect respite for you and your guests.

If you have any questions or if there’s something I haven’t covered, feel free to leave a comment.

Things You Must Know About Decluttering

Over the years there are many lessons I have learnt when it comes to decluttering, and it is these lessons I will share with you before going into decluttering specific rooms and furniture.  Without these small nuggets of wisdom, it is easy to lose motivation or even hamper your attempts to live a clutter-free life.

 Firstly, it’s counter-productive to buy more storage. Once-upon-a-time, whenever I ran out of storage space I would either buy one of those plastic under-the-bed boxes, or I would buy larger pieces of furniture.  At the time I didn’t realise that all that was doing was encouraging me to keep stuff that no longer served me. I was organising and re-organising my clutter again and again, whilst telling myself that more storage was the answer. It isn’t.

 Secondly, clutter is something that you need to keep on top of every single day, because clutter accumulates over the years as our tastes change, as Christmases, birthdays and other celebrations fly by, and as paperwork comes into the home. Once you become complacent and allow the odd piece of paperwork or the occasional old t-shirt to remain in storage, before you know it, the paperwork has become a mountain of overwhelm and the clothes are back overflowing the drawers.  You’re back living in Clutterville and all your hard work feels completely meaningless. I’ve watched people despair that they had an all-day tidying session, only for it to look ‘as if a tornado passed through the house’ days later.  To truly be in control of your environment, not only must you be mindful of what goes into your shopping bags and what you already own, you must continue to be in tune with your emotions, and the tendency to hold on to your possessions. As I discussed in my previous post, it is of utmost importance that you understand the relationship between you and your stuff.

Thirdly, it does get easier. The more you declutter, and the more of your true-self that emerges, the easier it will become to discern between what’s important to you and what can go to be loved by somebody else.

So how exactly does one go about decluttering so many years of stuff? You start off small, and with what is immediately in your line of sight.

For example; if you’re more like I was, and drawers and cupboards are hiding the mess, then start off by emptying one. Just one. By setting yourself that one small challenge to begin with, you’re much less likely to become overwhelmed and give up. Tasks are much more do-able and easier to stick to when they are chunked. However, if you feel the motivation to keep going, then definitely do so! Just focus on one small part of the room or on one piece of storage at a time.

If surfaces are an issue for you and are crowded with years old trinkets that have gone through many themes of decor in your home, it can feel almost impossible to get started. In that case you need to ask yourself some serious questions: How many of them do you really need? Do they add anything of value, or do they make you feel stressed and uncomfortable? Do they have memories attached? Were they just on sale at the time? Were they an unwanted gift? Go through each item and feel for which ones truly make you happy to display.

As you get into a flow of decluttering, you’ll naturally start to notice other objects that completely eluded your attention in the past. Perhaps you’ll discover handfuls of ballpoint pens and several pads of unused paper – I did. And what about those old books? Should you donate the ones you know you will never touch again so that somebody else may enjoy them? Why have you still got that old chipped mug?

With all this in mind, please remember that you don’t have to get rid of everything all in one go, even if you are just working on a small corner. If getting rid of one object a day is all you can manage to begin with, then go with that. Any progress is better than no progress at all. For many people, the path to minimalism is a challenge because of the deeply ingrained beliefs that come from marketers, a consumerist society, sentimentality, and guilt. If you struggle with letting go, it is a lengthy and emotional journey, and it is important to tackle large projects with a calm mind, in bite-size chunks.

Persist in the journey towards minimalism,and you will find that the long-term rewards will far outweigh the allure of material objects.

My upcoming content will be a series of ‘how to’ posts to declutter specific rooms, starting from when you enter your front door. Stay tuned for my next post about hallways and entrances.

So Much More Than Stuff – Finding Your Why Amidst The Clutter

Before we get into the details and all the nitty-gritty of decluttering, I want you to know that the process can seem very difficult at first. If you’ve been reading my posts up to this point, you’ve probably acknowledged that you have too much stuff, and maybe you can’t wait to get started – if so, that’s great – but know that at some point you’re likely to meet a wall of resistance and feel overwhelmed. Minimalism is a lifestyle choice, and it’s not just your clutter that you will be dealing with, but your whole mindset.

Once you feel the journey becoming difficult ,don’t despair. It will get easier, and it’s completely natural to experience those feelings. We’ve spent our whole lives being convinced by companies and advertisers that we need more,bigger, better, newer and shinier to be happy, when what we really crave, are satisfying moments, relationships, careers, and experiences. Most of society is sold on the idea of happiness and success being a bigger house and a posher car…all in the pursuit of storing and acquiring even more stuff. When does it stop?

It doesn’t.

Many years ago, I saw a TV program (that I can’t remember the name of) which was showing the lives of people who were rich enough to afford gold-encrusted toilets and gold-flecked perfumes. Some had priceless works of art. The kicker? Most of these people were more miserable than some of the poorest people I know.

As long as your belief remains grounded in material objects being the key to satisfaction, the mission won’t ever end. It’s like eating a slice of gooey chocolate cake: you’re satisfied for all of half an hour and then the lingering aftertaste has gone and you want more. There will always be a bigger house, a smarter phone, a better gadget, a shinier car, a new craze, a newer fashion trend, and a sale on ‘must have’ items. Always.

Let’s admit it, keeping up with all that is not only a permanent leak in the wallet, but exhausting to keep up with, which ultimately leads to feelings of emptiness and intense dissatisfaction in the long-run. Sometimes, it can even cause feelings of guilt which leads to you desperately trying to justify your latest purchases to others – I’ve been there. Chasing happiness through material goods is a vicious circle. A never-ending sprint up a backwards escalator. You see, happiness doesn’t start with what’s in your wardrobe, but what’s inside you.

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Because our possessions are so often entrenched in our emotions and core beliefs, before you start the decluttering process, I want you to clear your mind and think about your buying habits and the items you already own. What caused you to hold onto all your stuff in the first place? If you find yourself always buying more stuff, think about what it is and why? Do you really need it? How does it make you feel afterwards? And the most important question of all: Why do you want to change? I recommend writing it all down and letting your mind go as free as a butterfly. Nobody has to see it but you. Your ‘why’ is so important to understand in anything that you choose to pursue in life because without it, there’s no strong motivation and you will find yourself giving up before you’ve even started.

In upcoming posts I will finally get down to talking about the decluttering process itself, and you will learn how to let go, as well as how to cope with sentimental objects, and how to live with someone else’s clutter. I’ve been there, so I will be with you all the way.