Declutter and gain space!

With spring just around the corner, now’s a good time get rid of clutter – both physical and mental. Whatever situation you find yourself in, letting go of excess stuff will help you to feel more in control and less anxious, improving your mental wellbeing. Also a brilliant idea if a move is on the cards this year!

Rather than embarking on an ambitious (and daunting) whole house audit, try these manageable tips, courtesy of Houzz, for a quick clutter clear-up that will welcome fresh energy into your home.

The hallway and stairs
Your hall is possibly the most important space to keep clear. It’s the first room anyone stepping through the front door – including you – sees and gives an overall impression of your home. If a cluttered hallway greets you after a long day at work, then a cluttered mind will be the result.

Hallways – and not just the entrance – are the arteries of your home. If they’re blocked, it affects the flow of energy and, on a practical level, how easily you can physically manoeuvre around your own house.

Quick clear-up tips
If you must store items in your hallway, make sure you put some restrictions in place. At the entrance, examine the types of items that keep landing in this spot and make sure any organising solutions you put in place are only for the things you absolutely need to home here.

Also, try to contain storage in one area rather than having it scattered the full length of the hall. If there must be clutter, at least keep the mess to one section of the space.

The living room
Nowadays, it’s the norm to have a large portion of your ground floor open-plan. If this is the case in your home, it means your living room, kitchen and, if you have one, a toy room or play area are likely to run into one another – along with their respective clutter.

Because you can’t just close a door and ignore the mess for a little while, having scattered remnants from every member of the family on every surface can feel quite overwhelming. When you sit down at the end of a long day, you want to be able to find the remote control and not have to look at all the toys or dirty dishes out of the corner of your eye. So what can you do?

Quick clear-up tips
Sometimes, a living room has just one too many pieces of furniture; removing one large item can make all the difference. Try to identify a large piece of furniture that could be sold or auctioned.
If you have toys here, define a clear zone for them. Use an alcove, for instance. Or move the sofa out from the wall or on to a diagonal, and create a little toy nook behind it. Toys can be pulled out into the middle of the floor during the day, but hidden at night.

Finally, focus on your surfaces – coffee table, mantelpiece, windowsills, side table – and determine to keep them clear, or at least with only a carefully curated – and tidy – selection of items on display.

Take everything off each surface and only return those items you want to look at. Find a new home for the other things or, better still, clear out anything you don’t really need. If you really can’t keep your surfaces clear, at least tidy the items accumulating on them to one side.

The kitchen
The hub of many homes, the kitchen can easily become a dumping ground for paper, post, sports bags and dirty laundry among other things. A well-functioning kitchen will allow you to place your hands on what you need, when you need it, and it’s safer if you have small children around, too.

In addition, an organised kitchen looks good, and having a clean and clear cookspace to look at will nourish your soul.

Quick clear-up tips
Keep items to one side of the worktop. Having some areas totally clear is not only more aesthetically pleasing, it gives you space to actually use your work surface for cooking!

If your cabinets are full, try using the space above them. This isn’t ideal, but there are ways to make it look neat. Try using the tops of corner cabinets, so the items will appear more ‘tucked away’. Only use the space above one or two cabinets – don’t spread things out over the tops of them all, because this will make the room feel claustrophobic – the exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve.

The playroom 
Getting a grip on cluttering toys is not child’s play, and it’s likely that over Christmas the number of them has grown. Disorganised toys can be overwhelming in a home. Because they can be visually ‘noisy’, they’re the one category that needs frequent decluttering and tidying if you want to feel less stressed. Taking the time to sort them out will also give you an opportunity to get down on the floor and play along with your children, too.

Quick clear-up tips
Don’t get bogged down separating out every single toy and matching every piece together; you don’t have the time for it and it will never stay that way. If you want your kids to put their toys away into an organised system, you have to make it as straightforward as possible for them.

Group large toys together and line them up along one wall, mimicking a toy car park, as it were. It will look fun and keep them neat. Use sandwich bags to organise loose pieces from games, loose playing cards and random pieces of jigsaw. If the pieces of jigsaw are broken up, I really think life is too short to try to match them up again. However, I know many people don’t like this waste, so use the bags to gather the pieces and, if you get a spurt of energy to match them up later, they will all be together neatly.

The home office
If you feel the pre-festive rush left your workspace in chaos, it’s worth taking just a little time out to clear the decks before things get busy again. It will help you to get your new year off to a good start – and there are some small things you can do if time is short.

Quick clear-up tips
Don’t worry so much about any decluttering, simply focus on tidying the desk surface and floor. Write a to-do list for the first couple of weeks back and number the items to indicate priority. Taking the time just to get your thoughts down on paper will help your stress levels.

If you do attempt some decluttering, focus on filing. Don’t tell yourself you need to action or study in depth everything you come across just yet – too overwhelming – but if you scan-read things and get them sorted into types, it will all feel much more manageable.

Put everything that needs dealing with this month in a separate pile, then longer-term projects in another one, and shred anything you no longer need to keep or are never going to action. Be honest with yourself!

Finally, make sure you back up your computer if you haven’t done it for a while or don’t have an auto back-up system in place. I do this regularly. It’s quick and easy to set up and it can be working in the background as you do something else.

The garage/shed/under-stairs cupboard
At this time of year, it’s probably too cold to do any extensive decluttering in a garage or shed. However, I can almost guarantee there are several items throughout your home that should be designated to these spots – or, indeed, to that cupboard or understairs area where items such as tools, inflatable mattresses and paints are kept if you don’t have either a loft, a shed or a garage.

Quick clear-up tips
Take a tour around the house and gather up any DIY or gardening items that have been accumulating. While it’s handy to have a few tools close to hand, it’s not necessary to keep every item in your main living space; take these things out to your garage or shed. Don’t worry if these areas are a mess – you’ll get to them as the weather improves. For now, these smaller items are taking up space in your home and would do just as well outside.

Another quick clear-out that will affect your designated storage space or garage is your entrance to it. If you have to fight your way in there, you’re less likely to bother putting things away – you’ll just add them to the clutter piling up outside or, worse still, inside your home.

The bathroom
The bathroom is the one room in the house that can go from cluttered to clean with very little effort.

Quick clear-up tips
Nothing clutters up a bathroom quicker than a load of toiletries and shampoo and shower gel bottles scattered over surfaces, around the bath or in the shower.

To instantly make things look tidier, give them an edit: anything you don’t use daily can be tidied away into a cupboard or storage basket. For the rest, if you have bath toiletries you honestly use daily, then gather them to one corner, ideally in a wall caddy to contain them.

In the shower, again, putting everything in one corner is a good start, but ideally tidy things into a good caddy. If yours doesn’t do the job, seek out a more suitable design. Again, do edit out items not in daily use.

Keep a sponge and bathroom cleaner in the bathroom itself, too. Every now and then, give the basin and tap a polish – it’s amazing how a quick wipe of this area can instantly brighten up the whole room.

The bedroom 
The bedroom should be a comfortable space where you can relax, be yourself and recuperate. It’s going to become untidy every now and then, but if you’re fighting with a lack of space and too much stuff daily, it’s time to sort it out and create the haven you need.

Quick clear-up tips
Having a chair in the bedroom can be a lovely addition to the room. However, chairs are huge clutter magnets and if you find yours is used more often as a dumping ground than for relaxing, it might be time to remove this magnet! A chairs should only be in a bedroom if you have the space and you don’t mind frequently clearing it.

Also tidy the tops of bedside cabinets, and clear behind the back of the cabinets and the bed. These areas can get very dusty and items can fall down behind them easily. What’s the point of having beautiful bed linen if the surrounds are cluttered? Replace bedside clutter with a small vase or glass and a stem or two. It’s a quick trick that will give a lovely lift to your bedroom.

The guest room
Most of us, if we have a guest room, find it often doubles up as excess storage space – a more accessible mini loft. Your Christmas guests may have come and gone and hopefully it wasn’t too stressful getting ready for them. However, if it was, here are some tips to make sure you get the most storage out of this space as possible while also being ready to accommodate your next guest in a jiffy.

Quick clear-up tips
The most important thing here is to clearly zone the wardrobes, a section of which will also be needed when you have guests. So declutter at least one rail and two cubbyholes or shelves; keep those clear for guests. Place some spare towels and linen on the empty shelves so it’s ready to use when friends or family come to stay.

Now you can see clearly how much space you have to work with and use for storage. By zoning the wardrobes like this, your guests won’t need to touch the areas storing your excess items. And by having a clear area for guests, you won’t have to rush around and stress about finding space for them every time arrangements are made for their stay. It will already be done and dusted!

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