Spring Cleaning Made Simple
If you desperately long to declutter your home, but don’t know where to begin, help is at hand. We asked professional declutterer Vicky Silverthorn for advice on the most efficient, systematic way to go about a thorough, mind-clearing spring clean.
“I really feel that as a nation we are sick to the teeth of stuff,” says Vicky Silverthorn, the organisational dynamo behind in-demand decluttering company You Need A Vicky. “I’m finding that many of my clients are now dreading birthdays and Christmas because they bring yet more items to households already at full capacity. It’s sad really, we shouldn’t be dreading happy occasions!” Whether she’s clearing out post-house move or streamlining a chaotic family home, Vicky is a constant witness to the anxiety-inducing effects of surplus possessions and a lack of solid storage structure. “It’s not necessarily at clinical levels, but a disordered home definitely brings stress. How can it not if you can’t find something of a morning? If your house makes you feel muddled, your head space is smaller.”
Despite having never read a decluttering book, Vicky praises Marie Kondo (of the famed ‘KonMari’ method of house editing) for bringing attention to an often ignored everyday discipline. “Decluttering, like cooking, cleaning and housework, should be incorporated into your week,” stresses Vicky, whose recently penned book Start with Your Sock Drawer offers a practical, achievable guide – using her own tried and tested methods – to tackling what can feel like an impossible job. “It’s not about being minimalist or OCD, but about really friendly levels of organisation in the home. People should be set up so they are able to whizz through their home and get everything ship shape. That’s where the problem lies, and that’s the point I need people to get to.” Read on for Vicky’s key steps to attaining that calm, ordered place…
Don’t think ‘I must tackle my whole house this weekend’, and never put a time frame on tidying. Instead of seeing your entire home as one big project, view it as a mass of little jobs to complete in bitesize chunks. Only spend a maximum of 30 minutes on each task, then take a break.
For instance, my book recommends you start with you sock drawer. Come home from work, empty the contents on the floor, and wipe the inside clean – this symbolises a fresh start. Sort the good from the worn, then put them back in categories such as sports, pop socks etc. You don’t need to fold them in a fancy way, life’s too short – it’s a sock drawer, they’re socks! It’s better to start and complete one drawer then to give up on the mess in your bedroom because you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. Remember, it’s always a case of bit by bit, slowly but surely.
You’re more likely to finish quicker (and stick to half hour sessions) if you tackle your space alone, uninterrupted. If you are finding editing your wardrobe space stressful, choose your most organised friend or family member to assist – not the person who will pull out a bottle of wine after two hours. That should be saved for the end, not the beginning!
Feel the guilt and do it anyway
There is a certain amount of guilt attached to buying something and wasting it (for instance, that top hanging in your wardrobe with the tag still attached). Don’t pretend you don’t feel guilty – you have wasted your money, so yeah, feel guilty. All the time you can’t confront your emotions, you can’t make progress. By bagging it up and taking it to the charity shop, you won’t have to feel bad each time you see it – it’s gone. This kind of mindset means you’re less likely to buy something on a whim the next time you go shopping – saving you money and wardrobe space.
Many people find that during their first decluttering attempt they do not get rid of as much stuff as they hoped. While this is to be expected, and you can always persist with a second sweep, keeping excess amounts of things means that you’re much more likely to relapse into uncontrollable levels of clutter. Be brutal with your living space – it’s good to remember that most things are replaceable.
I always suggest placing sentimental items into a pile and leaving them until last. Going through old photos and mementos should be enjoyable, not work. Buy a beautiful box to keep your memories in and gradually add to it over the course of your cleaning out process. You must make sure that you don’t use the box as an excuse to hold on to the things you can’t let go of, so that one box turns into five crates of children’s shoes and teddy bears! That’s not the idea, and it won’t be fun to look back over in years to come.
Resist excess storage
It might sound counterintuitive, but don’t use storage for the sake of it. If you have completed a deep declutter, everything should have found its natural place and space with no need for outside storage methods. Additional boxes and units can become a hindrance – you’re back to struggling with too many objects again – so utilise what you already have.
Temporary mess is OK as you long as you know where it will eventually go. Everything should have its place. If you find that your existing storage solutions just aren’t making this possible, there are a few essentials I rely on time and time again. Firstly, skinny hangers, which will double the amount of clothing you can fit into your wardrobe. Bigso boxes from The Holding Company are equally indispensable – you can use them for everything. Another item I implement into almost every home is the Bisley cabinet (10 or 15 drawer) – the most simple and effective filing cabinet out there.
Start with Your Sock Drawer: The Simple Guide to Living a Less Cluttered Life by Vicky Silverthorn (out September) is available to pre-order at Little, Brown.