How to declutter once and for all

Mess and chaos at home can have a negative impact on your physical and mental wellbeing. Try these expert tips to clear up clutter for good.

Does the thought of visitors induce panic because your home is full of clutter?

Clutter can increase anxiety, negatively affect our sleep and ability to stay focused, says Sydney clinical psychotherapist Julie Sweet.

“As brains prefer order, disorganisation can be draining and exhausting to our nervous system,” she says.

Reasons behind clutter can include low self-esteem, depression, fear, grief, indecisiveness and overwhelm, Julie says.

Our physical environments can also greatly affect our emotions, thoughts and behaviours, and in turn, influence our relationships with others and ourselves.

Why decluttering is good for us

Decluttering can make us feel better by empowering us to take control of a situation, Julie says.

It can also reduce stress by moving from chaos to structure and order.

“The simple task of making our beds each morning before the day begins for instance, has been proven to have a positive impact on our functioning and behaviour,” she says.

How to get started on decluttering

First, establish your goal and be realistic about the time and energy you can devote to decluttering, says professional organiser Veronica Kennedy.

“It’s not about perfection, it’s about being able to find what we want, when we want it,” she says.

Start by focusing on the space annoying you most, even if it’s as small as needing a nook for your keys and handbag.

“The reality is we can’t do everything,” says Veronica. “The area to tackle first would be the one that would make the most impact on daily life.”

Easy tips to successfully declutter

Sort your stuff out

Box up items you want to keep but not display, and pass on items you’re no longer using and have no room for.

Use different bags for rubbish and donations to avoid mix ups.

Finally, work out what kind of home you are comfortable with, rather than the perfect picture you imagine it should be, Veronica says.

Create a routine for order

Routine is key to decluttering because there is constant movement of items in and out of the house, according to Veronica.

“Items come and go, kids’ ages change and our body shapes change,” she says.

“It’s about maintenance, routine, or what I call finishing the loops. Practise finishing your loops.”

Go ‘paper-less’

Despite the digital age, paper remains a big cause of clutter.

The question to ask about any item is whether it must enter the house in the first place, when things like bills, for example, can be received online.

“If something doesn’t have to come into the house, then you don’t have to make a decision on it,” Veronica says. “It’s one less thing you have to do.”

Make decluttering a social affair

Enlist the help of a friend or family member who is non-judgmental, has a good ear and is happy to pull up their sleeves without telling you what to throw out, Veronica advises.

“It’s so much more fun. You get to share stories and have a laugh about how ‘I can’t believe I used to wear those earrings in the ‘80s’,” she says.

“That just really helps with the process of letting go.”

Written by Melissa Iaria.