Lose it or reuse it: Decluttering the easy way
It’s becoming a bit unruly in my household. Junk drawers and cupboards are overflowing, and with spring-cleaning looming, plus a renovation coming up later in the year, it means it is time to reassess what I ‘believe to be useful’, or believe to be beautiful.’ [William Morris’ wise words].
I wouldn’t exactly term myself a hoarder, but I’m not cut-throat enough to throw things out willy-nilly either. I also love to find new uses for old things. A friend of mine, Malen Pierson, takes this idea to a whole new level. He seeks out old metal, from old cars or machinery, creating incredible works of art from things which others have thrown on the scrapheap.
Obviously it takes a huge amount of skill to create Malen’s sculptures, but while I’m decluttering, I’m also thinking about what to do with that clutter. The possibilities of what to do with it are endless, and dependent only on your imagination.
But first, you need to purge. Here are some tips to get you underway…
Decluttering the easy way
I find it easiest to go room by room when I’m decluttering. I like the sense of completion when I’ve filtered and sorted through a whole room. Others disagree and say it’s best to go by category – paperwork, clothes, that type of thing. However, you want to do it is fine, but I recommend having five large containers marked:
1. Keep (things to put back neatly and in order)
2. Donate or sell (charity shops, friends, family, yard sales, or be part of a car boot sale – see a list of suggestions at the end)
3. Recycle (check what your local authority recycles)
4. Reuse or Mend (this is the fun part, but don’t let it sit there forever)
5. Rubbish (the last resort, and obviously this should have the least amount in it)
So what stays, and what goes? The Kon Mari method, by author Marie Kondo, has a nice ethos; ‘items should bring us joy, and if it no longer does, we should pass that joy on elsewhere’.
There’s also joy, and a sense of relief, in finding space in a cupboard or a drawer where there wasn’t any before. A good rule of thumb is if you were moving house, could you be bothered to pack it, and then unpack it again? Are you keeping it solely because someone gave it to you? Or will it ever fit again? Really?! If you’re not using it – whatever ‘it’ is – it’s all just going to waste sitting there, collecting dust, and taking up precious space. So, lose it or reuse it.
In the kitchen
1. Start by pulling out the things you use every day, or at least on a regular basis, and put them to one side. Consider getting rid of the rest.
2. Donate old kitchen utensils that are still in good nick. Replace old non-stick pans that are losing their non-stick coating, as the chemicals can leak into your food as you cook.
3. Trays can be used to group things together in an orderly fashion. A tray on the kitchen bench with cooking oil, salt and pepper, a jar of utensils keeps everything handy, and the bench clean.
4. Random keys, from the bottom of the junk drawer – where do these come from? Why not bend the toothy end, and turn them into hooks – maybe even for the keys you use. If the key is really pretty, pop it on a chain and wear it as a necklace.
My top tip:
Use old pans either to water plants, or remove the handles, and paint or decorate them as you wish, and use them as plant pots.
I use chipped crockery to stand outdoor plants in, so they don’t dry out, and seedlings are quite happy in old tea cups, or even eggshells. Keep your glass jars, and tin cans – more on that later; there’s no need to put them in the recycle bin just yet.
1. Clear out everything that is out of date, but remember some things have other uses. Oats for instance are an excellent exfoliator. Simply put some in a jar by the shower, grab a handful, moisten, and scrub for lovely soft skin. A very quick blend to break down the oats beforehand makes this easier.
2. Old pulses, such as lentils or split peas can be used as stuffing for kids toys, bean bags or draught excluders.
3. Cinnamon, bay leaves and lavender are a good, natural, moth repellents, so make some small bags from old pieces of fabric, and pop in your drawers of woollies.
In the Bathroom
1. Go through your bathroom cupboards and consolidate all of those half-used lotions, shampoos and bubble baths into single containers, if their intended purpose is similar – you’ll gain a lot of space.
2. Take your saved glass jars from the kitchen, remove all the old labels, and paint the lids and use them to house small items – cotton buds, scrubs, nail tools etc.
3. Towels take up so much space, and if you’re keeping some that are a bit past their best, ‘just in case’, consider cutting them up and using them as reusable cleaning cloths. Refold, or even roll the others neatly.
4. Make-up, Medicine and Vitamins: toss anything out of date. Make-up harbours bacteria, while meds and vitamins turn either toxic or useless with time.
In the Office area
I really hate paperwork, so this is the area I really have to psyche myself up for.
Shredding is however, very therapeutic, so destroy any bills and bank statements that are over a year old, and while you’re at it, go online to view these electronically, cutting out the need to do it at all. Also get rid of any receipts you don’t need for any tax returns, or any warranties. Remember to put your shredded paper in the recycle bin.
It’s part of my job to read magazines by the dozen, and I hate to waste them. I keep only the beautiful ones, which look lovely when stacked neatly in groups (a pile of yellow National Geographics on a shelf, is a beautiful thing). The rest I flip through for beautiful images which I will keep for inspiration in scrapbooks, or use to cover sketchbooks, or interesting wrapping paper. I saw this on the internet for how to make coiled boxes using magazine pages, which I will be trying soon.
And this is where you can use those tin cans you saved from the kitchen. Obviously clean them, and make sure there are no sharp edges, before painting them, drilling a hole, attaching a hook, and hanging over a towel rod. I never have enough clear desk space, so this keeps all of my pens, pencils and brushes organised and out of the way.
A quick recap:
1. Shred and recycle old bills, receipts and magazines you no longer need.
2. Sign up for online statements (if you haven’t already).
3. Upcycle your clean food cans into pen pots. (It’s so easy).
Anything that hasn’t been worn for two years needs to go. Offer it to a friend, or donate it to charity. Check out this post from January for more helpful tips on clearing out your wardrobe.
1. If something’s in bad condition and beyond mending or altering, it is the ideal candidate for reusing – make it into a cushion, a bag, or a part of a patchwork quilt. You can also create ‘yarn’ by cutting it into strips, to then create rag rugs – also an ideal use for old sheets and towels too.
2. You may not like something because of the colour, or the colour has faded. It’s less polluting and much cheaper, to re-dye something, rather than buy brand new. Faded black pieces, en masse in the washing machine makes them like new again. And it doesn’t ruin or leave colour in your machine.
3. As for jewellery, try and mend anything that is broken, and sell anything of value you no longer want. Unworn jewellery with no place of its own looks great pinned into an old picture frame with cork, mesh or fabric in the middle. What to do with broken pieces that are beyond repair? Make gifts look extra pretty when a little sparkle tied on top, or perhaps group jewels altogether, and make another necklace, or cover a bag you no longer like.
4. Get the kids involved in their own bedrooms. Let them decide what to keep, and what to let go of. They may need some help, and grumpy teenagers may need some motivation (pizza for dinner, or turning off the Wi-Fi…), but if they see you doing it first, they’re more likely to join in.
For those items you’ve let go of, and wish to donate, here are some suggestions on top of your local charity shops:
I hope this helps make it easier for you. Just think how satisfying it’ll be when you’re done.