Declutter your life in six easy steps (and improve your wellbeing)


Hoarding for those who are caught in its trap is a frightening cycle of obsessive and damaging behaviour. To the person who is doing the hoarding, it is not always detected early on. You only realise you have a problem when you’re deeply ingrained in the behaviour

Hoarding is associated with anxiety and depression. The act of hoarding itself gives a degree of relief from that fear that infiltrates different areas of their life. It is creating an insulating layer which protects them. It is for this reason that it takes some time to actively recognize the hoarding as a problem. The leap from simply being a bit lazy and not bothering to have a clear out, to acknowledging a full blown psychological issue is a challenging and difficult one to make for someone who is possibly reeling from the after effects of a traumatic event. 

It is for this reason that it is important to get into the habit of regular decluttering. If you are struggling then make sure you reach out to someone who can support you. In the meantime, the following tips are designed to help you get to grips with decluttering before it gets too overwhelming.

  • Before and after pics

Before you start, take a series of photos of the area you are planning on decluttering. This will act as a reminder to you as to how bad things were getting before you took back control. 

  • Recycle, re-purpose, re-sale

Chances are you have some items sitting in a pile that could be of value to someone else. That pile of coats and suits on the armchair in the corner – take them down to your local Chelsea dry cleaners then list them on a re-purposing site for resale. Those bags of new clothes that still have the label on them can be worth quite a bit.

  • Take it bit by bit
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Depending on the amount of stuff that has built up over the years, you need to set yourself realistic targets. Don’t start on a Monday morning and expect to have it all finished by the end of the week – you’ll likely procrastinate until you decide not to even bother.

Set yourself short term, achievable goals. It might be the corner of a room, a particular piece of furniture like a desk that has accumulated piles of papers and rubbish. Set yourself to simply do this one area first, and do it thoroughly. 

Celebrate small wins. Once you have achieved that one small area, take some photos and give yourself a congratulatory pat on the back. It is important to recognize these small wins. The more you focus on positive affirmations for yourself, the more you will work towards changing your life around. 

  • Ask yourself these two simple questions

When sorting through all the stuff that has accumulated over the years, there are two questions that you really need to ask yourself.

  • Have you needed the item at any point in the last couple of months?
  • Does the item belong in the room in which you are currently working?

If the answer to both questions is a simple ‘no’ then you need to exert discipline to get rid of it. This is the most difficult part of decluttering, as it is easy to fall into the trap of convincing yourself that you need something when you really do not.

Saying no takes practice. At first, it will feel strange, and unnatural. But if you think of it merely as a habit, rather than a state of mind, it will start to get easier. Cognitive dissonance is that feeling you get when something feels not quite right. Smokers feel cognitive dissonance when they give up smoking. 

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Understanding this, learning not to catastrophize it, toning down the volume, and approaching it with the mindset that it will take some effort but it is achievable will enable you to take the pressure of yourself, and be more successful as a result.

  • Be ruthless

Within this exercise of learning to say ‘no’, is the need to cultivate a more ruthless state of mind. Decluttering is actually an extremely liberating activity. Imagine a world in which you are not weighed down in any way by external detritus. Keep this in mind and start to see you clutter as the enemy that is stopping you from enjoying your life. 

  • Bring in support

Most important of all is to make sure that you are supported throughout this entire process. It is going to be difficult – of that you can be sure. It will be extremely easy to slip back into old bad habits. Avoid the enablers, and enlist the help of a friend who is not afraid to challenge you.  These are the friends who will insist on the ‘nos’ when you start wavering and telling yourself a different narrative. 


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