How to declutter and organise your home

Tidy Living Room

In her work as a Professional Organiser at Tidylicious, Hester helps people to declutter and organise their homes and offices, using the method developed by Japanese tidying expert Marie Kondo. In this blog she will share some tips on how to declutter and organise your home, based on her method. She will give some general suggestions, as well as some specific recommendations for if you live with other people. 

Why tidy?
Before you start, think about why you want to tidy. What will your ‘new’ home look like? How will you feel? What things will you be doing at home once you’ve finished tidying? Thinking about this deeply will get you going, keep you motivated, and help with deciding which items to keep/discard. Tidying can at times be exhausting, physically as well as mentally. Having a picture in your mind of what you’d like to aim for, will help to keep you going until all your belongings are organised.

Benefits of tidying
Research has been undertaken to explore the benefits of decluttering. Being aware of these benefits can be very motivational. You could bring it up in your conversation when you’re trying to inspire someone you live with to declutter as well. I’ll briefly touch on some of these ‘positive side effects’.

– Studies have shown that decluttering and organising your space can save you time, money and the environment. Think about when you’ve wasted time looking for a lost item and possibly even bought a duplicate when you couldn’t find it. You lost time and money, and buying duplicates creates unnecessary waste.

– Living in an uncluttered environment can also benefit your mental and physical health. When surrounded by clutter, our brains can be so busy registering everything around us, leading to increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can result in mental and physical disorders.

– Living, and working, in a clutter-free space can make us feel calmer, better able to relax, and more focused and in control.

Tidy by category
Now that you’ve visualised your ideal home and lifestyle and given some consideration to the benefits of decluttering, it’s almost time to get stuck in. Just a few words on where to start. It is important not to tidy one drawer or room at a time, but to work in categories. Tidying by location can be a stopgap solution, whilst you want to aim for a permanently tidy home. Tidying up by category, rather than location, will make you see the true volume of what you own, help you identify any duplicates, and compare similar items.

Tidy in the right order
Start with clothes, then move onto books and magazines, followed by papers. After that, it’s probably the largest category of them all, ‘komono’ or miscellaneous. This is everything that doesn’t belong in the previous categories. Divide this category into subcategories, such as stationery, kitchen items, hobby related items, and personal care products. Go through your sentimental items last.

Tidy other people’s stuff
When you live with other people, you might be tempted to also go through their belongings, or at least drop a hint here and there to let them know that you think they should also get rid of some stuff. My advice is to purely focus on your items. Tidying can be contagious, and in a lot of instances, the other person/people will start discarding their items too, once they start seeing the pleasing results of your efforts. If not, fear not. When you’ve put your stuff in order, you might find that your clutter threshold increases and that you’re less bothered by other people’s clutter.

Keep items that belong to you and your housemate(s) to one side, and decide together which items to keep/discard.

What to keep
When decluttering, I always suggest to focus on what you’d like to keep, rather than on discarding, as this gives a more positive focus. The basic strategy for deciding what to keep/discard, is to hold each item and ask yourself ‘Does this spark joy?’ If it does, you keep it. If it doesn’t, you let it go. When you find it hard to part with an item, show it some gratitude. For example, say or think “Thank you lovely cardigan for keeping me warm on cold days, but you’ve got one hole too many now.” Sometimes an item doesn’t spark joy, but its purpose does. This could be the case with a bread knife. It might not be particularly pretty, or in any other way special, but it makes slicing your favourite sourdough bread super easy. In this instance, the joy-factor shifts to the purpose of the item.  

Now a few words about effective storage. Store everything by category and subcategory. Do not spread out the items that belong to one (sub)category over several places. This will avoid ‘rebound’ (you don’t want to declutter and organise again in a few months’ time!), and it will help you to remember where everything is (no more searching for items!).

Store items upright where possible, rather than piling things up. It makes it easier to see everything at a glance, and to grab items without having to move other items. 

Marie Kondo has lots of tips on how to organise your wardrobe. You might have heard about her clothes folding technique. There are some helpful videos on her official YouTube channel. If you’ve got 10 minutes to spare right now, why not have a go at folding your socks à la Marie Kondo. A neat sock drawer can give a little spark of joy when putting on your socks in the morning, and enjoying the results of an easy task can motivate you to continue with the rest of your wardrobe/home.

When sharing a home with someone else, it’s best if every person has their own designated storage space for their items. Other areas should be allocated for shared items, so that individual and shared items don’t get mixed up.

When you’re going through the process of deciding what to keep/discard, make sure the unwanted items leave your house as soon as possible. This will make you see, and feel, the results of your efforts much better.

Enjoy your declutter journey, and once you’ve reached your destination, enjoy your ‘tidylicious’ home!  

Vase Home Decor

Hester Van Hien – Professional Organiser


Register to receive our newsletter. You can manage and cancel your subscrition in Account details.