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Finding the time to:


A clear-out. Feng shui. Tidying. Decluttering. Whatever word you use, whoever’s gospel you follow, emptying our homes of unnecessary ‘stuff’ is one of the hot topics du jour. Admittedly, a lot of it is to do with the reign of Marie Kondo, the Japanese organising consultant who’s taken the world by storm. While we read her book with a certain glee, we don’t necessarily agree with her entire philosophy. Certain households suit ‘organised chaos’, i.e. mess. It shows personality, lifestyle, and evidence of a home being lived in. Everyday life brings with it a great deal of paraphernalia and it’s ok to have some of that on show. Kondo also advises family shouldn’t see the discard bags as they’ll undoubtedly want to look and stop certain things from being thrown away. Should they not be a part of that decision though? We think yes.

The truth is, the ritualistic ridding of clutter is a practise many a home has performed for years. It just seems particularly heightened at present. Some of us look forward to it, finding it almost cleansing. Others find it comes hand in hand with a feeling of dread. Wherever you fall, whether it’s this weekend or next, seize the moment, turn your phone off, and allocate some time to the deed that is decluttering.


The one-hour blitz

First decide: are you going to deal with a certain type of product (books, clothes etc.) or are you going to focus on a particular room? Be sensible and don’t decide to take on books when you know you own hundreds, don’t choose the room that needs the most work, and don’t pick something that’s full of nostalgia as those decisions take much longer. You only have an hour, and that will fly by. So be realistic and stay focussed so you can actually get it done. You’ll feel much more of a sense of achievement that way.

Next decide if you can do it alone or if it’s going to need a joint decision – if you’ve committed to clearing out mugs and glassware but know full well you plan to just throw out all of your partner’s awful mugs that have crept into your carefully curated collection over the years, you may find doing this without them ultimately more painful. Decluttering of joint possessions needs to be done together, and if not, you’ll need some form of binding contract that gives you full consent to bin whatever you like with no repercussions.

Decisions made, time ticking, you need to throw yourself in. If you can, take reusable items to a charity shop – keep a sack for items to donate and another destined for the bin. Start a timer, think fast, tidy as you go, and honestly ask yourself how often you use it and whether you think you’ll use it again. If you have an ice cream maker you’ve never used because your freezer is never empty enough to fit the enormous container in, question whether that’s ever likely to change. Thought so.

When your 60 minute countdown is over, take the bags outside and don’t look back. If you didn’t get as far as you like, just be glad you’ve done something. You’ll undoubtedly have made a difference.


The one-day clear out

An awful lot can be done in a day. Like with the one-hour blitz, you need to start by asking yourself the same two things:

1. Category by category or room by room: there’s no right or wrong here. Either you go about the process by looking at books, then clothes, then DVDs etc., or you wind your way through the rooms.

2. Flying solo or better together: if you live alone, do you want to invest a friend or family member’s help? If you live with others, decide if you’re going to tackle this by yourself (if so, make sure you get their go ahead for you to have free reign on the decision making) or as a team.

Give yourself a start time; these sorts of tasks work better with some structure. But also give yourself some time for a break. Mid-morning, lunch, and mid-afternoon are often natural pauses when our brains want to be left alone for a bit.

We think it’s best to do a smaller amount properly, rather than rushing through. So think bigger than what should I keep and what shouldn’t I. Consider organisation too. Let’s look at the bedroom as an example, specifically your sock drawer. All socks that look tired, worn or you simply just don’t enjoy wearing, should be thrown away. Then all the socks that remain should be sorted in a way that’s easier to use. Pairs together is a basic sock right, but pairs laid out rather than balled look so much more appealing and it takes seconds longer to sort. Time we think is worth investing. Buying drawer liners or scented pouches is also a really lovely touch, and this is the perfect time to do it.


The full weekend detox

Trust us, if you don’t consider this, chaos will unfold before your very eyes. Chaos caused by you. The best way to do this is calmly, like with most things. Some like to focus on an entire room first, not leaving until the overhaul is complete. Then they move onto room number two and so on. Others prefer tackling a type first (all books, then clothes, then CDs). We prefer room by room, Kondo prefers category by category. The choice is yours.

Decide on a start and end time. You want to make the most of this so be disciplined while remembering it is still your weekend. Clocking off at 4pm should definitely be allowed as far as we’re concerned.

Now, time is on your side, so you can afford to tame at least one beast. An attic or garage can be a good option for you full weekenders. They’re often the dumping ground. “Just put it in the loft” is a phrase we find ourselves saying far too often. So bite the bullet and free them of all the stuff you’ve been holding on to just because you can. Suitcases, fine. Christmas decorations, sure. Inflatable dinghies and lilos when your children are now at university, not so much. Indulge yourself in a moment of nostalgia, then bin them.

Talking of nostalgia, any thing or any room that calls for a good amount of reminiscing is a yes for this weekend too. These are the things that perhaps take the longest because you want to allow yourself time to feel. Baby clothes and toys, mementoes from family holidays, folder after folder of essays from university that just might come in handy one day – these are all things bound to emotion and memories that want to be revisited. So do. (This part is best enjoyed with music playing, cushions on the floor, and a pot of tea on a tray nearby.) If at the end of it, you don’t want to remove them from your life then don’t. Box them up, label them and find a place to store them. (Why not in your newly organised attic?) Yes you need to be ruthless but we don’t believe in decluttering by extreme force. When you’re ready to let go of these particularly emotionally-charged items, you will.

Whichever rooms or categories you work through, make sure you’re organising as you go. Decluttering is best done when you improve how you’re storing the things that remain. At the end of the weekend you want to feel like a weight has been lifted and there’s much more space, but also that everything is in order.

Whether you’re still on Saturday at this point, or well into Sunday, take a break and look at how much time is left. Don’t forget you may need to factor in time to go to the charity shop and/or local tip. Then it’s completely up to you to decide what you take on next, if anything. Two meaty jobs may fill up your entire weekend and if they do then that’s absolutely fine. But if you’ve had less to remove, you could still have time to move onto another task. The key thing is to keep going. Stamina, dedication, focus. This is essentially a workout. Stick to your goal and when Sunday afternoon comes into view, you know you’re on the home straight.

Happy tidying.

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Take a before and after and send it to  journal@neptune.com and tell us all about it.
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