You may be surprised at how you can improve your home’s space and liveability, smooth your move and boost your finances by getting organised and clearing out the clutter.
Less is definitely more for organising guru Marie Kondo. She’s found international fame and fortune by teaching people how to ditch the mess and tidy their homes.
In her books and on her shows, the Japanese minimalist states that cleaning and cutting back on possessions can be a spiritual experience. Although this claim can be disputed by anybody who has ever tackled a mouldy shower with a bottle of Jif, she does have a point: we all own far too many things.
Most family homes are crammed with assorted stuff, much of it with no practical use other than to provide somewhere for dust to settle. On a day-to-day basis, we get used to our own jumble of collected knick-knacks and furniture. We are oblivious to the disorder until it comes time to sell up, when cleaning out and cleaning up becomes a necessity.
For homeowners making a move, decluttering is the first step towards a profitable sale. It is why before the marketing pictures and interior styling takes place, vendors can be seen packing boxes of assorted books and bric-a-brac into self-storage containers parked in their driveways.
For downsizers and retirees, reorganising a lifetime’s accumulated possessions is even more important. If you are leaving a large, family home and moving to somewhere smaller, space is at a premium.
So as you cut the ties with your old family home, you’ll need to work through sentimental attachments and cut the clutter too.
To bin or not to bin
While Ms Kondo’s approach to leading a minimalistic life is spartan – and involves a lot of origami-like folding of socks and underwear – the basic tenet of her cleaning philosophy is heartfelt: throw out anything that doesn’t bring joy to your life. As you go through your home, room to room, it is a great measure of what you don’t need to carry over to the next chapter in your life.
On a practical level, if you’re downsizing, you must also be realistic about just how much furniture will fit into your new home. Start by assembling the pieces of furniture that are essential to your lifestyle: a dining table, something to sit on in the lounge, foot stools, beds, bedside tables, chests of drawers, office essentials... Discard anything that’s not functional or regularly used.
Next, measure your items of furniture and consider how they’ll fit in your new home. It is impractical – and often impossible – to fit oversized items into a small living area. There’s no point shifting a huge lounge or dining suite into your new home only to have to pay for its removal at a later date. It’s better to start afresh and buy something new that makes better use of the available space.
Also consider the logistics of a move: will your furniture fit through doors or up stairways? This is of extra concern if you are moving into a townhouse or apartment.
From furniture, move on to smaller items: art, ornaments and possessions such as books and CDs. Like Marie says – if something fills you with joy, keep it; if it’s a dog-eared Dan Brown novel you once read on holiday, let it go. As a basic rule of thumb, if it’s not something you’ve used or admired in the past year, you won’t miss it.
Trash or treasure
For many people, unburdening themselves from unwanted material baggage brings emotional or spiritual rewards – but it can have economic benefits too. By shedding superfluous possessions before starting the process of selling your home, you’ll not need to pay to put them into storage; your moving costs will be lower and, ultimately, your new home’s contents insurance policy should be cheaper.
The Salvation Army will remove large items of good-quality furniture free of charge, and there are myriad charity shops that will take your smaller items. Even broken and redundant e-waste is valuable, so check your council’s website for details of free recycling drop-off points in your area.
To boost your own bank account put unwanted items on Trade Me (job lots are quick and easy to list) or hold a garage sale – though if you choose the latter, be very clear about your sale’s start time; you don’t want overeager bargain hunters knocking on your door at 6am on sale day.
A new beginning in a home is the perfect opportunity for a thorough clear out and spring-clean. However, the key to success is ensuring the disorder doesn’t creep back over the coming months, and that you have enough storage for your remaining possessions.
When moving to a smaller home, consider all the available storage options when purchasing new furniture. In bedrooms, mattress bases can include drawers for linen, and daybeds and ottomans should also have storage space. For living areas, choose a sofa with inbuilt storage, a coffee table with space inside and ensure your TV cabinet can hold all your electronic devices. Most importantly, once you’ve moved in, resist any urges to bring new, unnecessary items into your home.
Moving home is always stressful, but by cutting down on your possessions you can help streamline the whole sale process, from the marketing to the move. Plus, once you’re settled, a neat and ordered home will ensure you can move forwards with a clean slate, spending less time tidying up, and more time enjoying the benefits of a new uncluttered lifestyle.
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