How to de-clutter your home for Christmas
Ask most of us what our number one wish is for Christmas, and it's going to be along the lines of peace on earth and keeping loved ones healthy. But, ask again after a mulled wine and you will potentially uncover a nagging anxiety that has been festering all year - a clutter-free home. Because is there anything more (low-level) anxiety-inducing than everyone else's 'stuff' EVERYWHERE? School jumpers on kitchen chairs, shoes in the hall, by the sink, next to the loo, books, phones, hats, scarves, gum shields, barbies, fidget spinners, keys. STOP!
To aid you in your endless, and frankly thankless, fight against the never-ending waves of flotsam and felt-tip pens, we offer you this - our unholy, do it while they are out - guide to de-cluttering your home in time for a Christmas filled with love, chocolate, family and...very little else.
Marie Kondo, knock yourself out.
The entrance (shoe) hall
'It often receives corridor status, but it is, in fact, an important space. As the place for arrivals and departures, it sets the tone for the rest of the house" Rita Konig.
If the hall sets the tone for the rest of the house, then your home smells of something nasty that was walked in on someone's wellies (we're looking at you, Mischa) and has a shoe mountain to rival the local Primark. So, where to start? First, check that footwear. If you've not had your eye on the ball for the last few months, and let's face it - who has? - you may just hit the jackpot and find shoes that no longer fit small children. On the downside, they don't fit! But on the upside... they can now leave the house forever. Where they go is entirely up to you but, if they still have some wear in them, charity shops are the best place to take them. If you suspect they need new soles, or laces, you should still donate them. Yes, that sounds mad but when you think that on average we buy seven pairs of shoes a year, with most ending up in landfill (where they leach plastic and all manner of nasties back into the land) then donating them to a charity means that even if they are beyond your standards for wear, they might well be useful to someone less fussy.
If there are any bags on the floor, get some sturdy hooks in the wall and Voila! You have a place for them. Keep a rule that only one bag can be hung on that peg and it will stop things getting out of control.
If that doesn't work, banish bags to bedrooms. Except yours. Because it's full of really important things. Like money.
'If they don't drop it in the hall, the kitchen gets it' - Every mother. Ever.
Is it the smell of freshly baked cookies or the fact that you are usually to be found in there, stirring a pot of bolognese sauce with your foot, while writing a press release with your other? Hands are clearly otherwise engaged tidying everyone's mess up, and playing finger puppets with the one year old. One way or another everything that gets past the first dumping ground, ends up here. School blazers, empty crisp packets, left so tantalisingly close to the bin you can almost Jedi mind-trick them the last few steps...
There is no easy way out of the kitchen bottle neck. Half way to a better home, half way out of the door. So, you need to be ruthless. Because the quickest way to get the jetsam and junk modelling off the kitchen table is to announce confidently (but calmly) that, if anyone has left anything in the kitchen that doesn't belong there ( school blazers, half made cardboard light houses/robots/combine harvesters) then that person doesn't get fed. It's that simple. If you can let go of the fact that if they really want to eat (and yes, this technique can backfire) then they will probably just chuck the unwanted items on the floor in a different room. But, in that moment, you're fighting for your life, you're Princess Leia, and if it moves out of the kitchen, the Force is clearly strong with you.
The Living room
'I haven't been in there since last Wednesday and that was only to tell them to turn the TV off. Why don't I get to lie around doing nothing and everyone else does? Where did I go wrong? Why, Why, WHY!' Dark days. What's going through your mind.
Laughingly called the Living room, or Sitting room, this is the room we most want to look lovely. It's a place where you can live, or sit, or even Lounge (in your growing wardrobe of elasticated trousers). It's the one room in the house you are meant to really kick back and relax. But the only times you get to go in is to clean up the dog wee, tell the kids it's dinner/bed/digital detox time, or to hang all the school shirts on the radiators praying they will dry by 7.45am. Just let it go. This room is not for you. You're in a Disney version of the Handmaid's Tale here, so, you'll have to either wait it out (they can't live at home forever right?) or get across the border to Canada. We hear Mounties are Super-Tidy.
While this one may be unwinnable, one day, all of it will be yours (you'll just look a little older than the lady in the picture below. And you still won't be able to play the ukulele).
So we come to the final showdown, the bedrooms. Unless you're super lucky of course, and have all kinds of other rooms like a boot room, a library and... a smoking room (racy!). If this is the case, you can probably afford a cleaner and You are Living the Dream - so go and run a daytime bath. You are one of those people crushing it in the Lucky Lane. Send cake.
For the rest of us, we are left staring into the cluttered abyss of the bedroom areas, spaces with floors so well hidden by dirty clothes and discarded 'things', that it's only the memory of having once travelled unhindered around that room in bygone days, that saves you from writing it off as a giant junk drawer from which will hopefully emerge an offspring, at some point. Maybe.
The best thing about bedrooms is that aside from the beds, these rooms are all about storage. So plan A is to super-size your storage. Just imagine, a place for everything, and everything in it's place. Talk about putting the Va Va Voom back into date night! Furniture need not cost much either, sell the small child-size wardrobes (like that was ever a good idea) and upgrade it all courtesy of eBay, or Facebook Local, or gumtree. Borrow a mate's estate car to transport it all around, and you really will change your life.
(Plan) B is for Bribery. We're not proud, but taking a bag full of toys and clothes the children (or significant other) never wears or uses, off to the charity shop with a promise of one bag out, one 'new' item in, usually works as a great incentiviser.
Plan C? Just don't go in there. You'll only upset yourself. Just pretend, like the living room, that you live in a one bedroom, one kitchen, one hallway home. And you're continuously visited by people who must live, like tiny wee Borrowers, under the floors and in the walls.
If only all their belongings were as small.
For all the moaning we do about our homes being messy and cluttered, many families will be struggling this Christmas. So, if you are having a clear out, please consider how your unwanted items can help other families. Take your donations to your local Shelter shop - you can find it here.