If you don’t use something, remove it from your life. Keep only that which is fresh, crisp, fluffy and makes you happy, and nothing that is yellow, hard, stained, thin, cheap or tragic.
You have to work out what’s important to you. Define the basics. Plates, bowls, cups, clothes, towels, beds, lamps, soaps. Then widen the circle, to add the list of things each family member really wants: the things that make your life sing: favourite books, art, rugs, cushions.
Here’s our 15-step, room-by-room plan, everyone needs!
Do a big edit of all possessions and chuck out everything that compromises your taste. Don’t be sentimental. Toss out everything that’s chipped, tarnished, dated, ugly or depressing. Antiques and heirlooms? Get them valued, and if you don’t like them, sell them.
Breaking up is hard to do. It will be painful. Be strong. Wrap your head around the task of throwing away your past. And don’t create a limbo land of storage boxes. They only encourage you to keep stuff that deserves to be thrown out. Find nifty storage solutions. But don’t let any of your house become a repository for detritus.
Line up a stylist friend to speed up the throw-away-or keep process: we often become blind to the things we live with. An outsider with a good eye will swiftly pick out things you should discard – or hang on to and display. Don’t take their judgement personally.
When you’re done with chucking out, keep things in their place. Store items where they are used, based on frequency of use. Keep the sticky tape close to the scissors, and wrapping paper. Store knives near chopping boards. Group similar items together. Put items you use once a year – such as sleeping bags or tents – in the store room or garage.
Avoid volcanoes of unsorted paperwork. Make it a priority and sort it daily, from bills to receipts, tradesmen’s quotes and newsletters: that way things don’t build up. Assign each family member a folder or drawer. If you collect clippings, rip out the pages you want to keep, put them in a binder labelled section and recycle the magazine.
A great place to begin. Head straight for the wardrobe. Sort your clothes into keep, ‘Good Samaritan’ and bin. Everything torn, shrunken, old, mouldy, smelly or stained goes straight into the bin. So do all those wire coat-hangers. Every piece of depressing underwear or sleep apparel belongs there too – even if no one else ever sees it, you do.
Everything too small, too big or unfashionable but in good condition qualifies for Good Samaritan. Don’t keep anything you haven’t wore in eighteen months: if you didn’t wear it last season, you never will. Throw away the clothes that don’t suit you – even if you think of them as old friends. Out they go, along with everything that makes you feel fat, shoes that give you blisters, the frock you made in year Six, and you school blazer. Even if a look comes back it will be subtly different. The shoulder pads in an old suit will make you look like a Star Trek or Dynasty extra and the trousers will be too narrow, wide, high or low. Off to the charity bin with them all. Do it today so you don’t have time for second thoughts.
Keep only things that fit you and present you in the most flattering way. Colour-coordinate what is left, hanging it neatly in your wardrobe – this will make it easier to get dressed. You’ll probably fine you’ve doubled your storage space. While you’re there, sort through everything else. Single earrings, broken costume jewellery, and old letters all go straight in the bin. Keep only the letters that changed your life, and pop them in a special box.
THE LINEN CLOSET
Pull it all out and keep only the things that are as beautiful as the day you bought them. Don’t hold on to stained sheets or cardboard towels. Nothing can bring a stiff towel back from the dead. Bury it in the bin. Accept the fact face washers have a short life span.
When it comes to bed linen be ruthless. If the same duvet cover has been on your bed for five years, it’s time for an update. Wash everything that’s left, then fold and stack away beautifully. Now go shopping: linen today is at a design high and a price low. You can buy a fabulous duvet cover at a lifestyle store for no more than a night out.
Don’t let a stretch of bench deteriorate into a chaos of bills, quotes, parking fines, school notes and reports, invitations, all covered with toast crumbs. Get on top of your mail every day: pay the bills, file away the newsletters, and put the invitations in your diary.
Always bulging, always a mess. But no longer. Chuck out the tin of Icelandic snacks someone bought you back in 1992; and the remains of the rice flour you purchase for a single recipe that you’ve never cooked again. Don’t keep spices longer than a year: after twelve months, you might as well be stirring dust into your food.
Get a big bin, and work through one shelf at a time. Anything tragic, past its use-by-date, battered left-over, rusty, weevil or downright weird goes straight in the bin. Put things back in logical groupings, as if it were a mini supermarket. Put things you use all the time at the front.
Decant packets into containers: it looks good, avoids mess and keeps moths away, Now you’ll have space to fill with the things you need. Your pantry should make your heart sing and your mouth water.
THE CUTLERY DRAWER
Empty it out. Vacuum out all that mysterious grit that collects in the drawer, and go through the cutlery. Everything unmatched should be chucked. So should anything old, useless or bought as a souvenir. Keep only cutlery you use every day – but make sure it’s good. If it’s light, badly designed, worn or damaged, throw it out. That includes forks with bent tines, and knives that have lost their edge.
THE TEA TOWEL DRAWER
Yes, you need a few. Buy half a dozen linen or cotton and chuck out all those ones featuring say-eyed puppies or bough as souvenirs.