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I'm Heather McGarrigle and this is my blog - a colourful celebration of culture, crafting and creativity in Northern Ireland and beyond.

How to declutter for good

How to declutter for good

It was the 18th November 2015 when I decided it was time that a self-employed woman in her thirties needed to stop living like a student who's just survived freshers' week.

Ladies and gentlemen - my bedroom:

Or, as my boyfriend aptly dubbed it, 'The Floordrobe'.

Enough was enough. My office and sewing room were in similar states and the physical chaos was beginning to feel suffocating.

I don't know about you, but I can't relax or be productive and creative in messy surroundings. For someone who runs a blog and a writing business from home, this ain't good.

I felt like I was spending most of my free time tidying or doing housework and yet at the end of every week I was chin deep in clothes and unfinished to-do lists, with a kitchen sink full of dishes.

It finally occurred to me that I had Too Much Damn Stuff and it was time for a long-overdue audit.

Turns out I owned nearly 50 pairs of shoes! On an average week, I wore maybe four of them! A couple had actual MOULD on them! Superb!

I have one pair of legs, that spend about 87% of their time inside trousers. Yet here we are, looking at my eighteen pairs of tights.

As well as hoarding, I wasn't storing things efficiently. Putting things away involved clothes and shoes simply being stuffed and flung into drawers and cupboards.

Everything was out of sight, rooms were technically 'tidied', but I never achieved that calm, in-control sense of everything being where it should be.



Over the next six weeks, I went methodically through everything (E V E R Y T H I N G) I owned, sorting it all - clothes, shoes, underwear, make-up, jewellery, books - into three categories:


The things I use or wear all the time; the things I love.

"I'd wear it if..." This was for anything I'd use or wear tomorrow if only for a repair or alteration.


The instant 'no' s! Too big, too small, hideous, never wear or use it, worn out.

This group was subject to a further audit - but more on that later...


Anything I couldn't make an immediate decision on.

Needed to try it on, didn't hate it but didn't love it, forgot I owned it, bit 'meh' but useful for work..


One by one, a storage area/item category at a time (eg shoes; the t-shirt drawer), I carried out a simple three step process:

This obviously doesn't include the keeps that needed mended or altered. More on what I'll do with those and the 'Out' and 'Maybe' piles later.

I was about four weeks in to The Great Life Laundry of 2015/16 when the internet - or at least the corner of it where I hang out - suddenly exploded with chatter about decluttering, most of it centred around Marie Kondo and her 'KonMari' method.

The "professional cleaning consultant with a three-month waiting list" has just followed up best-seller The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up with Spark Joy.

Her methodology seems to be based on two key concepts:

1. If you don't truly love it or need it; if it doesn't 'spark joy' - out it goes. 

2. The stuff you keep around should be tidy, organised and easily accessible.

Reading about Marie's work and her passion for the power of tidying, I felt prophetic, vindicated and Very On Trend Indeed. Perhaps if I had stumbled across her books sooner, my decluttering efforts wouldn't have eaten a month and a half of my life, but I found the process cathartic, so no regrets.

While some might think it's ridiculous to describe 'tidying up' as life-changing, what I did during that six-week purge was more than just a nice spring clean; it has already led to a complete change in my mindset, behaviour and energy.

Taking control of my environment in this way - really thinking about the things I live with and their place in my life - has been transformative.

This pro-active, getting-things-done approach is spilling over into my work, my creative projects and my personal life, and it feels great.

So - with my keeps chosen and carefully stored so everything could be seen at a glance, I still had two categories to process.

The Maybes

Step 4 mostly involved trying on clothes to see if they still fit or if I still liked or suited them. If you put objects (eg books, ornaments, CDs) in the 'Maybe' pile, I believe you've already made your decision.

If you really are struggling to make a decision, a good tip is to use the 'one year box'. Put all your maybes into a box, store the box somewhere out of sight - the attic for example - and set a reminder on your phone to check the box again in exactly twelve months from now.

Anything still in it then needs to be chucked, donated or stashed away in a memento box if it has sentimental value.

For clothes you can't make a decision about, use the coathanger test. After a year, you will have been through every season and hopefully most occasions that you might be 'saving' clothes for - so no excuses!


The Outs

Most of the 'Out' pile was donated to charity, however a significant amount of the clothing ended up in a box in my sewing room, beside my box of 'Mends and Alterations' from the keeps.

But that's for another post - watch this space...


Have any of you had a major purge of possessions or read any of the KonMari books? Leave a comment and let me know if you have any tips and tricks!

Monday Makes: Sock it to 'em!

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