Now that January has limped to its conclusion, many New Year resolutions – if they’ve beaten the odds to survive this far – will be hanging in the balance. If you’ve read any other part of this blog you’ll have learned that I do like a nice home. It’s an unfortunate fact however that no interior, no matter how beautifully designed and styled, will look good untidy. Hence my own New Year’s resolution: to banish clutter build ups.
Shirley Conran, writer, ex-wife of Terence and mother of Jasper and Sebastian, probably knows a thing or two about nice homes. She once quipped:
I make no secret of the fact that I would rather lie on a sofa than sweep beneath it. But you have to be efficient if you’re going to be lazy.
That’s a sentiment with which I readily identify. Not that I consider myself as lazy exactly. I might be if my life choices allowed. However with a busy job, the boys, the dog, (I could go on), sofa opportunities in my world are strictly limited. So when I do have some time to myself the last thing I want to be concerning myself with is tidying up.
Yet family life has an uncanny ability to generate seemingly infinite amounts of stuff. And somehow that stuff rarely seems to be in the right place. Despite being wholly unrelated to my actual paid job, I sometimes wonder if my principal occupation isn’t in fact that of a haulier, routinely employed in the transportation of an interminable stream of stuff from one part of the house to another.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave you might have noticed that decluttering is trending the world over. I’m intrigued by the concept, but far too busy tidying to get involved.
Further to my resolution to spend less time tidying and more time on the sofa, I recently undertook a stuff analysis. This provided a basis for implementing some simple strategies to control the stuff, rather than the other way around. In the hope of inspiring you to wage your own war against displaced stuff, here’s a step by step guide:
1. Identify your problem stuff hot spots. These are the most troublesome areas in your home where stuff which doesn’t belong there accumulates. Decide which you’re going to tackle. I wouldn’t be ambitious about this. Start small and build from there. I’ve only really tackled the worst offender in our place and that’s been enough to make an overall impact.
2. Analyse your problem stuff hot spots. What’s in your pile and ask yourself – why is it there? There’s a solution to every answer to that question. Create a sub-pile for each issue.
3. Implement solutions. There’s probably no more that a handful of possibilities behind the clutter build up. Here are the ones that I found in my own piles of stuff, with the solution I came up with to tackle each. Solutions which happen to involve a little shopping. Online, from your sofa; my kind of tidying.
Issue: No where to put the stuff
Solution: Create a place. The storage options for stuff you need to keep are almost infinite. Get some keepsake boxes. Cheapie ones for under the bed or in a cupboard will do (see 4 below). Or invest in a pretty suitcase for the top of a wardrobe (3 below). Whatever you choose, make it easily accessible so there’s no excuse for leaving things you don’t need but can’t bear to part with lying around. The other essential if you’ve got kids in the family is a children’s art frame which is open at the side so you can slip new creations in easily. Other every day objects like keys, coins and so on should have dedicated places. If you haven’t got a key rack, get one now. Seriously. Life is too short for even a single “where are my keys??” drama. (5 below would make a pretty choice.)
Issue: Need to refer to it soon
Solution: This would include notification of appointments, school trip slips, bills you need to pay when you have a minute etc. Stick these on a pin board. Or stack them in a letter holder. The options at 2 and 6 below are stylish enough to display anywhere in your home so that they are always on hand when you deal with mail/decant handbags/schoolbags etc.
Issue: Need to refer to it later
Solution: This might be stuff like concert tickets, party invitations and so on. Organiser calendars are a perfect solution for these. (See 1 below, one of a fabulous collection at Busy B.) A more budget conscious option is a ring binder with plastic pockets organised into months. That’s also a good way to file take away menus and business cards of tradespeople you might use again or recommend to friends.
Issue: Don’t actually need it at all
Solution: You don’t need to be a decluttering guru to know the answer to this one 😉
Issue: Don’t have time to put it away immediately.
Solution: This will probably include stuff in all of the categories above at different points and some more general life detritus besides. The answer to this issue is the creation of a “hidden holding bay”. A hidden holding bay is a temporary storage solution which forms part of a planned clutter-free strategy. I emphasise “planned” because without thinking about it you already probably already have some ad hoc holding bays in your home, at the bottom of the stairs or in the hall perhaps. These are likely to be adding to your clutter issue rather than solving it. But by identifying a proper place for stashing stuff out of sight until you have time to deal with it properly, you will create the illusion of order and remove any guilt for opting to lie on the sofa when there is displaced stuff in your home. If your hidden holding bay is to be on display, it should perform another useful purpose. A footstool or storage bench are good ideas. Obviously, if its out of sight, in a cupboard for example, then any old box or bag will suffice. The important issue to consider here again is ease of access; the closer to your natural stuff hot spots, the more likely this solution will work for you. It would only be fair to mention that it will unfortunately still be necessary to deal with the stuff in the holding bay at some point. However my experience is that it’s astonishing how much stuff you can cram into a space when the alternative is actual tidying.
- Family calendar 2016 – Birds, £9.99, Busy B
- Hexagonal Notice Board, £16, House Junkie
- Storage suitcase, £75 (due in store Febrauary 2016), Oliver Bonas
- Storage box with coloured lid, £1, Poundland
- Large painted key rack, £35, Ella’s Kitchen Company Limited
- London Skyline Letter Rack, £20, www.redcandy.co.uk
Has this this strategy really worked for me? Full disclosure: My problem stuff hot spot as at this morning.
My new year’s resolutions for 2017? Practice what I preach.
Did you have a new year’s resolution involving decluttering? How’s it working out? Please share your own strategies for maximising precious sofa time.