This is a post I’ve been dying to write for the last few months. As any self confessed thrifter will know, keeping on top of your clutter (aka beloved pride and joy wardrobe) can be a bottomless task. I’ve tried every trick in the book to declutter, but having recently read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and I’m a total convert. I’ll be honest – I’m not yet living as a zen minimalist, but I did get rid of over half my belongings, and I’m not done yet. Read on to see how you can do the same (100% pain free – I promise!).
1. Work within categories not rooms
Rather than starting with your bedroom and getting immediately unstuck on reading old diaries and laughing at photos, Marie Kondo recommends start with ‘clothes’, then moving on to books, papers, and finally sentimental items. It helps you get a feel for how much you have in each category and what purposes they all serve (if any!), and also sets you up to be more ruthless over time. I separated my clothes into ‘jackets’ ‘dresses’ etc as I had so many but it’s up to you how detailed you get.
2. Put everything in a pile – and prepare to be shocked
The reason you do categories rather than rooms is so that you can be get a real shock moment of how much you truly own. If you’re walking around your hallway you’ll see a couple of coats and be like “well, I need both of those”… but if you pull every coat from your car/the attic/your boyfriend’s/your wardrobe you’ll suddenly realise you have ten. Ditto for gloves, plates, mugs, lipsticks, everything! I’m going to go ahead and predict that some of them will serve the same purpose, or haven’t been used for ages. This was a part of the technique that I found really effective so I’m sure you will too!
It’s also why she claims that none of her clients regress – it really is supposed to be a life changing process where you become a clutter free person for life. For that reason she recommends doing the clear out in as shorter time as possible. I did all my clothes, shoes and homeware in a weekend, with the rest of my room the weekend after. Of course if you have a whole house to do it might take you longer – but block out entire days of time and really get on with it. The idea is that you see such a huge mound of belongings, and then such a drastic change immediately afterwards that it’s a formative moment and you never regress. If it’s gradual you won’t have a defining experience and will gradually refill the clutter.
3. Pick everything up and follow your heart
This is really the central theme of the book. Marie is very emotionally in touch with physical items and feels that they should be treated with respect and joy. If you have something in your home that’s neglected or buried it’s essentially cruelty. It’s a little fluffy but I can kind of relate – if it could be happily rehomed in a charity shop then it does seem mean for you to hoard it.
The idea here is that you pick up every single item individually, channel your attention into it, and decide if it ‘sparks joy’. Does that top make your heart beat faster and want to rip off what you’re wearing to put it on and go to a party? That may sound extreme but after this book you honestly should feel like that towards every single item you own. When I look around my room now I’m like “Wow, I love that lamp, and that rug, and boy is that scarf perfection. Wait – how did I forget that incredible hat?!”. My whole room is full of joy and passion.
A part of this that really stood out to me was about feeling your value – I’m too good to wear things that don’t make me feel amazing, or waste time with foundation that’s not quite the right colour. I’ve done Project Use Up before and that’s amazing for getting rid of things, but sometimes it’s better just to admit it’s not the right item for you and throw it away, or donate it to a charity shop.
4. Banish the guilt!
She talks a lot about things that were expensive, gifts, or unworn and how you should get rid of those too. If you’ve bought something and never worn it then don’t feel guilty, just recognise that you enjoyed buying it and that was the item’s purpose – then donate it to a charity shop and give it a new life. Similarly, if it was a gift you’ve never used, don’t feel bad, but notice that they enjoyed giving it and that was the purpose. By realising all these negative reasons to keep things you can start actually only saving belongings that Spark Joy.
5. Take it to your local charity shop
Another reason to banish the guilt is that we’re lucky enough in this country to not have to throw things away. When I did my clear out I gave a lot to my local charity shops, freecycle, homeless shelters (sleeping bags etc), recycling plants, and even makeup recycling charities. You might want to offer some to your friends, or even sell it. Whatever you choose though try to make it quick – as I mentioned earlier you need the transformation to be palpable. If you’re going to see things then don’t let them sit in a pile for months because you didn’t get round it to.
6. Give everything a home
Now you’re down to just the things you absolutely love and adore they all need a cosy new home. It’s amazing how true it is that your storage matches what you need. If you’re shoes won’t fit on your shelves then set yourself a challenge to get rid of a few more until they do. Every single thing you own should have a home, and you should PUT IT THERE! This is the only way to keep the clutter down, and also stop yourself buying new things that won’t fit. Take your time choosing where everything should go and why.
7. Only buy things you truly love
The next step is going back into the world of shopping and not ruining all your hard work. The first piece of good news is that you’re naturally going to buy less because you now know what you have, you can see what you have so you won’t forget (because it all has a home), and you love what you have so you’re not buying to fill an emotional void. As long as you ask yourself in the shop “Does this Spark Joy” you’ll be absolutely golden. From now on, you are too good to buy things that are ‘ok’ or ‘good enough’ – you buy things that are pure divine perfection. It doesn’t mean you have to buy things you’ll keep for a lifetime, or spend a lot, but they should make you smile and excited when you bring them into your home.
Similarly, I try to keep on top of things now by continuing my previous declutter techniques of having a permanent ‘donations bag’ on the back of my bedroom door to put things into and keep the turnover moving.
10. Revel in your achievement
Once you’ve touched every single item in your home and pondered it’s worth to be there, you should be surrounded by pure joy. When you look around your lounge you’ll be torn between adoring your vintage coffee table or gazing at your family photos displayed artfully in frames. Even cleaning products can bring you joy… I promise!
One of the things I loved most about the book was that it let you follow your own heart. I now only own 5 books, because although I love reading the physical item itself doesn’t excite me. However, I still have more clothes than a lot of people would feel they ‘need’ because they make me happy. The ‘decoration’ of my bedroom is mostly composed of a clothing rails with my favourite pieces on, a book case of bags, and a rack of shoes. I just love to have everything on display so I can look at it and adore it.
A photo posted by Louise Croft (@louisecroft) on