The art of decluttering your home


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photograph of person grabbing clothing items in organised drawer

What is it about decluttering that inspires such passion in people? Most household chores, like doing the dishes or vacuuming, are dreaded. But there’s something with decluttering that gets peopled riled up.

There are hundreds of books on decluttering, featuring dozens of snappy, sometimes inspiring quotes that are somehow both practical and filled with humanity. The topic has also become more popular over the past few months, thanks to an international obsession with Tidying up with Marie Kondo, a Netflix series released in perfect timing with the start of the new year. What at first seemed like a light-hearted programme about cleaning up your home, later revealed itself as a trigger for all kinds of fiery debate on what constitutes sensible tidying. With some even discussing the wider implications of mass decluttering on the environment.

Image of very organised drawer filled with clothes using the konmari method

The Konmari method, as it’s known, is essentially about choosing which of the items you own are the most important. Tackling each category of items in your home one at a time, you gather them together in a pile, pick up each item and then ask yourself the simple question of “Does this spark joy in my life?”. If it doesn’t, it goes straight in the bin. Whatever remains when you’re finished is what you keep, and then one-by-one you make your way through everything in your house – clothes, books, kitchen wear and so on. There’s an emphasis on doing this attentively and with discipline, with the end result being that you end up with only the items that truly fit your life and home.

Image of messy desk with laptop covered in clutter, paper and mess

There are other ways to confront clutter though. If anything, the discussion around Konmari has helped highlight just how many different ways there are to tackle the task. One popular alternative is by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, the so-called Minimalists dedicated to the idea of living your life with less. Their Minimalism game involves throwing away something every day for one month, with the amount corresponding to which day of the month it is. On the 1st of the month you get rid of one item, for the 2nd it’s two, and so on all the way up to the 31st. By the end of the month you will have thrown away an impressive 496 items.

Colourful image showing the concepts of how to organise decluttering

Another is the Four-Box method, which is a little more flexible and doesn’t force you to dedicate your daily life to the great cause of decluttering. You simply set up four boxes in a room and label them ‘Put away’, ‘Give away’, ‘Throw away’, and ‘Undecided’. You can then sort things out at your own pace, whether that’s during one busy weekend or just spending 30 minutes in the morning. Having that ‘Undecided’ box is also helpful if you can’t immediately decide on what to do with something – but don’t use it as an excuse to not sort things out. Outside of the Minimalism Game and Four-Box, you can easily find hundreds of other ideas on how to declutter your home, which might work even better for you.

Image of young couple decluttering and organising their items into cardboard boxes

Marie Kondo and her art of tidying up may not work for everyone, but her Netflix series, and the variety of discussion surrounding it, has revealed that decluttering is something that clearly sparks a particular interest. Perhaps it’s just because these professional methods help us get through the dreaded task of organising our homes, or it could be that the act and result of decluttering has a clear connection to improved mental health. However you feel about this contentious topic, a philosophy for declutter can give someone a useful framework for facing the often-mammoth task of tidying. And if you’re struggling to clear things away in preparation for a major house move, that might be a very helpful thing indeed.