Many of us are spending more time at home, and may also be working and schooling kids from home as well.
If our homes are disorganised and untidy, being at home all day, every day can add to our mental load – which none of us need right now.
Professional organiser Kirsty Farrugia, who co-owns The Art of Decluttering, says we would all get more enjoyment in being at home during COVID-19 restrictions if we have less stuff around us.
“Decluttering and putting things away can make your home much more pleasant to be in when you’re in it full time.”
Why decluttering helps our mental health
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by a messy home, and even have trouble concentrating on other tasks because the mess is distracting?
“Decluttering is so helpful for your mental health,” says Farrugia.
“It’s not a cure for anxiety or depression, but it lifts your spirits when you have finished the decluttering by getting things out of your house.”
If your house is decluttered and clean, there’s more white space for our eyes to land on and not be distracted.
“In a decluttered home, you’re not always trying to avoid looking at the mess. It takes a lot of mental effort to ignore the clutter,” Farrugia says.
How to declutter your home
If you feel like decluttering your home is too hard, here are some simple steps to follow.
1. Start with a vision
Think about how you want your house to look, how you want to feel in your home, and how you want others to feel.
“Discuss it with your family so you can all get on the same page, then work towards that,” Farrugia says.
Having your vision in mind will help inspire you if you lose motivation. Do you want to have more free time for hobbies, exercise, or spending time with your family?
Decluttering allows you to spend time doing what you enjoy, rather than spending hours of your spare time cleaning and tidying, Farrugia says.
Remember that your value lies in yourself, not the things you purchase and have in your home.
2. Find a home for everything
Farrugia says there are two types of clutter: unnecessary items that we have outgrown but are holding on to, and visual clutter from items that haven’t been put away in the right places.
In fact, a lot of clutter in homes comes down to one simple thing – the lack of a habit of putting things away.
“People put things down and never get around to putting it in its home, or sometimes it doesn’t have a home.
“My number one tip is to not put things down, but put them away. To do that you need a home for everything. That will reduce the visual clutter.
“Look around your home with fresh eyes and think about whether you need as much as you have, or if your family has outgrown it.”
3. Lead by example
Start with your own behaviour and establish good habits of putting things away in the right place.
If you lead by example, chances are other people in your household will follow when they see how easily you find things.
If you have children, help them find homes for all their belongings so they always know where to put them – and where to find them.
4. Sell things you don’t need
Some items such as appliances, technology and furniture are more likely to sell for a good price. But often, clothes and shoes don’t sell for as much as we hope.
Try to be realistic about what items will sell and what price people are willing to pay, Farrugia says. We tend to put a higher value on our own possessions than other people do.
5. Make a deadline for sales
Once you’ve listed items for sale, set a short timeframe for them to sell.
“Set a time frame, and if it’s not gone in two weeks, reduce your price or take it to the op shop.”
6. Don’t put off going to the op shop
If you’ve gone through your house and gathered bags and boxes of items to take to the op shop, that’s great. But you won’t feel the relief of decluttering until you physically donate those items.
“For your mental health, it’s often better just to get it out of your house as quickly as possible,” Farrugia says.
“It’s not decluttered until it’s actually gone from your house, because you’ve still got that mental tab open.
“When you finally get it to the op shop you’ll feel like the job is done, and you never have to think about those items again.”
7. Pack away when working from home
Many of us are working from home, and in an ideal world we would have a home office that’s separate from the rest of the house.
If you don’t have that extra space and have to work in the living room or kitchen, have just the bare minimum equipment that you need to work.
“At the end of your working day, pack everything away out of sight - such as in a laptop bag - so you can mentally switch off,” Farrugia says.
8. Use these checklists
Be thoughtful about what you bring into your home so you’re not always decluttering, Farrugia says.
As you’re decluttering your home, ask yourself these questions:
- Does this item support my values or my priorities?
- Does this item fit with the vision I have for my ideal space?
- Does this item feel essential and meaningful to me?
- Have I used it in the last year?
- If I broke it, would I buy this item again?
- Do I have a realistic plan to use this in the future?
- Is this item really worth the space it’s taking up in my home?
- Could this item be of more use and helpful to another person?
- Do I have a similar item that serves the same purpose?
- Would it impact my daily life not to have this item?
Before you buy anything new, ask yourself these questions such as: Do I need this item now? Where will I store it once I get home? You can download the full checklist here.
The Art of Decluttering also has a podcast about working from home during COVID-19 restrictions – listen here.
Read some more tips on how to cash in on clutter.