Trade for prosperity

Say goodbye to clutter once and for all with our handy guide to eradicating all the items you think you need - but really don’t, as Claire Muffett-Reece explains

To most of us, the thought of having a good clear out and getting rid of our old and unused possessions can often feel overwhelming, thanks to all the emotions we attach to our belongings. From that pressed flower given to us by our first love decades ago, to a stuffed toy we cuddled in bed as a child, it’s hard to let go of things we attach to a fond memory. However, with the average person stashing away unwanted household items worth £514 – that’s £32.7 billion as a nation! – it’s high time you took a good look at the objects in and around your home to help your health and wellbeing – as well as leaving you with tons more space to enjoy!

As a nation we spend a staggering 110 days of our lives looking for lost objects
(Source: DirectLine Group)

Decluttering is good for the body

For a start, eradicating unwanted objects from your life has a host of proven benefits to see an improvement in your health. Sufferer of asthma or allergies? By decluttering your house you’ll be able to clean areas you couldn’t get to before, be it under the bed or inside your cupboards, reducing dust, mould and mildew which can irritate your lungs and trigger an attack. What’s more, by having a good ‘spring clean’ – regardless of the time of year – you’re also being active, with vacuuming those now reachable areas alone burning around 80 calories for half an hour. Then there’s all the dusting to be done, with you again able to burn approximately 174 calories in an hour. And don’t forget about the benefit of decluttering helping your quality of sleep, with research discovering there’s a direct link between sleep deprivation and high levels of clutter. A good night’s slumber is essential for your health, with a lack of it linked to chronic conditions including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke, so saying goodbye to those never-used items once and for all is one step further to better health overall.

Decluttering is good for the mind

We’ve all heard of the phrase ‘a tidy house equals a tidy mind’ – and this in fact is pretty much the case! The facts speak for themselves, with a study revealing that women who described their living spaces as cluttered more likely to be fatigued and depressed than women who described their homes as restful and restorative. What’s more, the same research showed that women with messy or cluttered homes had higher levels of cortisol, otherwise known as the stress hormone, meaning that whether consciously or sub-consciously their messy abodes were making them anxious. Being surrounded by clutter can even make you less effective when it comes to work, due to your brain finding it harder to process information, leading to you becoming frustrated at your surroundings and leading to you putting off the tasks in hand.

Five Stress-Free Ways to Declutter

1 Start Small

Set aside a reasonable amount of time to focus on one particular room or area, sticking to a specific manageable chunk to prevent things from becoming overwhelming. It can be all-too easy to tell yourself you’ll focus on just the one drawer, only to move one item to another area and find yourself sorting through that pile as well. The last thing you need is to create more mess than you started with, so be strict with yourself and stop when the task you wanted to complete is done and dusted.

2 Be strict

Now’s the time to put those emotions we spoke about to one side, beginning by pulling out items from areas such as sheds, garages and lofts, which are spaces we typically dump items in that we aren’t too sure what to do with. With a recent survey showing that 68% of UK motorists can’t fit their cars in the garage as they were too full of junk, it’s essential you think carefully when decluttering your home to make sure you’re not holding on to items for the wrong reasons. Typical questions to ask yourself are ‘How long has it been since I last used it?’, ‘Why have I still got it?’, and ‘Does it make me happy?’. Generally speaking, some experts suggest if you haven’t used or worn the item (seasonal fashions aside) in over six months then it’s time to get rid. Go on – be strict, you’ll be thankful in the long run.

3 Get the family involved

Make sure you work as a team when decluttering your home, to prevent tensions arising when you accidentally throw something away your partner wanted to keep forever. Not only will it halve the time of eradicating unwanted possessions, but you’ll also be able to talk things through when one person wants to throw something away, but the other isn’t quite ready to commit. Be sure to add any children in to helping out. It may be harder for little ones to detach themselves from their old games, books and cuddly toys, so instead compromise and suggest you take the older items out of their room for a couple of weeks and see what they ask back for at the end of it. You’ll be surprised how quickly they forget.

4 There’s cash in the attic

You’ve most definitely been living under a rock if you’ve never watched THAT Only Fools & Horses episode, where Del Boy and Rodney discover the watch they’d stored at the back of their garage for years was in fact worth a cool £6.2 million! Heirlooms and antiques aside, it’s time to bundle up the items you think might be worth a few pounds and take them for valuation now, rather than simply holding on to them for another decade in the hope you’ll make the more at the end of it. Tea sets, side boards, cast iron radiators, clocks and front doors are all great sellers, or instead head to social media and pop unwanted items on there instead. Apart from that, stop holding on to the ‘I’ll sell it one day’ mantra, bundling things together and taking them to your local charity shop, who are always in need of help.

5 Watch out for bad habits

You’ve had a proper clear out and your house is finally back as it should be, only for you to head to the supermarket and see a whopping amount of reduced items you could easily pop in the freezer. Stop and think! The UK throws away around 9.5 million tonnes of food waste in a single year, so if you’ve no imminent plans to use it don’t buy it, meaning you’ll also save money in the process! You should also consider how and where you’ve stored items you wanted to keep. Are they in the right place so they are easy to get out and put back again? If the answer’s no it’s time to think of a new spot, to prevent items building back up again and the mess and clutter returning.

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