Spring Cleaning Tips
Is clutter taking over your life? Then follow these tidy rules from Japanese clean-up queen, Marie Kondo.
Effective tidying involves only three essential actions. All you need to do is take the time to examine every item you own, decide whether or not you want to keep it, then choose where to put what you keep. Designate a place for each thing.
It is essential that you go through all your possessions at the same time, rather than attempting it piecemeal. When you tidy your entire living space, you transform the scenery around you. The change is so profound that you will feel as if you are living in a totally different world. The key is to make the change so sudden that you experience a complete change of heart.
How to choose what to chuck
It’s easy to get rid of things when something breaks; much more difficult when there is no compelling reason. So turn it around and choose what you want to keep, not what to get rid of. Take each item and ask, ‘Does this spark joy?’ If it does, keep it; if not, chuck it out.
Are you happy wearing clothes that don’t give you pleasure? Do you feel joy when surrounded by unread books? Now imagine yourself living in a space that contains only the things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard the rest. Think in terms of category: the best sequence is to tackle clothes first, then books, papers, miscellaneous items and lastly sentimental items and keepsakes.
If you can’t throw something out…
It’s human nature to resist throwing something away. Thoughts such as ‘I might need it later’ or ‘It’s a waste’ make it impossible to let go. That’s precisely why we need to consider each and every possession with care and not be distracted by thoughts of being wasteful.
Ask yourself why you have that object in the first place. Why did you buy certain clothes if you never wear them? Was it because you realised that they didn’t suit you when you tried them on at home? If so, then they have taught you what doesn’t suit you – so they completed their role in your life. Let them go.
To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose. And if you no longer need them then that is neither wasteful nor shameful. Can you truthfully say that you treasure something buried so deeply in a cupboard or drawer that you have forgotten its existence? And break the habit of downgrading clothes that don’t thrill you to loungewear. The real waste is not getting rid of clothes you don’t like, but wearing them at all just because nobody is there to see you. Wear clothes you love all the time because what you wear in the house will have an impact on your self-image.
Books are some of the hardest things for people to throw away – ‘I might read it’, or ‘I might want to read it again’. Take a moment to count the number of times you have reread a book. You read books for the experience of reading. There is no meaning in them just being on your shelves. Instead, take each book in your hand and decide whether it moves you or not – and only keep the ones you really love.
Avoid paper piles
A basic policy is to divide papers into two categories – those that need to be saved, and those that need to be dealt with. I have one special corner for forms that need to be filled in, letters that need answers, newspapers that I intend to read, but I never let that pile spread to other parts of the house. All the rest should be thrown away.
The only point of a credit-card statement is as a means of checking how much has been spent in a particular month. Once you’ve confirmed that is correct and perhaps logged it in your accounts, do you really need the statement? Can you think of any other time you might need your credit-card statements? If not, bin them.
All electrical appliances come with a warranty, but most people seem to save not just the warranty but also the operation manual in the same file. Take a look at them. Have you ever used them? In general there are only a few manuals that we actually need to read, such as the one for a computer or digital camera. All the other manuals stored in your files can probably be discarded.
Let go of gift guilt
A plate received as a wedding present that still sits in its box; a key ring you received as a souvenir from a friend that now lives in a drawer – someone precious to you used precious time to pick them out and buy them for you. You can’t just throw them away, right? But let’s consider this more carefully. The true purpose of a present is to be received. Presents are a means of conveying someone’s feelings. When viewed from this perspective, you don’t need to feel guilty about giving them to the charity shop.
Ditch the phone pack
Discard the box your phone comes in as soon as you unpack it. You don’t need the manual or the CD that comes with it either – you’ll figure out the applications you need through using it. And if you do have a problem, it will be far quicker to consult a pro at the shop where you bought it than struggling to find the solution in the manual.
Lose unwanted leads
If you see a lead as you tidy and wonder what on earth it is for, the chances are that you will never use it again. Your collection most likely contains quite a few that belong to defunct machines you have long since discarded.
Bin spare buttons
You will rarely use spare buttons. For coats and jackets that you want to keep for a long time, why not sew spare buttons into the lining? But when a button falls off, people usually don’t bother to sew on another one, even when they have kept the spares. Instead they either keep wearing the item without the button or leave it lying around at the bottom of their wardrobe waiting for one. So if you’re not going to use spare buttons it shouldn’t matter to you if you throw them out.
Say bye to boxes
Some people save appliance boxes because they think they will get more money for the items if they ever sell them. But if you consider the rent you pay turning your space into a storage shed for empty boxes, that probably costs you more than you would earn selling an appliance in a box. You don’t need to keep them for moving either. You can worry about finding suitable boxes when the time comes.
Stop saving samples
Do you have a collection of cosmetic samples that have been hanging around for a year or more unused, thinking you’ll save them for trips? I contacted various manufacturers to enquire about the shelf life of these products. When the quantities are small the quality deteriorates faster. To use possibly outdated beauty products when you are supposed to be enjoying your travels seems rather foolhardy.
Don’t cling to crazes
Slimming belts, glass bottles for making aromatherapy oils, a weight-loss machine that mimics the movement of riding a horse – it seems a waste to discard these expensive items although they are never used. The exhilaration you felt when you bought them is what counts. Thank it for helping you get just a little fitter and then find a new home for it.
Forge the freebies
A mobile phone screen cleaner that came with a canned drink, a pen engraved with the name of your bank, glasses bearing a beer company logo. None of these are going to bring you any pleasure. Throw them out without qualms.
Only you can know what kind of living or working environment makes you feel happy. The act of picking up and choosing objects is extremely personal. The fact that you possess a surplus of things that you cannot bring yourself to dispose of doesn’t mean that you are taking care of them – in fact, it’s the opposite.
By paring things down to the volume that you can handle, you revitalise your relationship with your belongings. You do not give up past experiences or your identity when you give or throw something away. Through the process of selecting only those things that inspire joy, you can identify precisely what you love and what you need. Then give each of these precious things a special place. Clutter has only two possible causes: too much effort is required to put things away or it is unclear where things belong. With less around to tidy, these hurdles disappear. Putting your house in order is the magic that creates a more vibrant and happier life.
Save space by learning the art of folding
Hanging clothes just can’t compete with folding when it comes to saving space. You can fit 20-40 pieces of folded clothing in the same amount of space required to hang ten. If you fold them compactly they should be stored standing up, rather than flat. The goal should be to organise things so that you can see where every item is at a glance, just as you can see the spines of books on your book shelves.