Updated: Oct 8
Last week, I finally got around to decluttering my children's wardrobes and I can honestly say it has transformed our mornings. Now the children can find the clothes that they need (and want to wear) and actually get themselves dressed without much fuss in the morning.
Before, there were constant shouts of: 'Mum, where's my PE t-shirt?' or, 'Mum, I don't have any clean knickers left, what do I do now!?' And I'd spend much of my morning rushing around, looking for items that were missing and helping everyone get dressed.
Doing the washing was also a nightmare - there was just SO MUCH STUFF to wash and then put away - which I started to dread, as the wardrobes were already overflowing with clothes so there was no space to put anything, let alone see what you've got to wear....!
Anyway, long story short, I finally managed to make the time to declutter and organise my children's wardrobes and now I (and they!) love (well that's maybe an overstatement, but you get my gist!) putting their clothes away, picking what they are going to wear that day and knowing that what is in their wardrobe is the right size and the style they like.... and the washing has become so much easier too. Not only is there less to wash, but I have a much better handle on knowing what needs to be prioritised (in terms of uniforms and sports kits) each week and I don't dread putting the clothes away anymore either, as I know there is the space for everything...
Before I did this, there were a number of 'blockers', or 'excuses' that made me feel like I just couldn't find the time to do this. My lovely friend Suzanne, who runs Finally Sorted, is a specialist at helping families declutter and get organised. And she helped me work through some of my barriers, too.
I've highlighted my main 'excuses' below and what Suzanne recommended in each instance.
I'm always worried that I'll throw something out that I'll later need or want back. That's a huge blocker/ fear of mine and often stops me from even starting or being as ruthless as I should be (which in turn make the results far less satisfying)
Suzanne's response was: "I completely understand where you’re coming from. The fear of "I might need that" holds many back, and understandably so; none of us want to be wasteful.
Rather than focusing on potential loss or what might be needed in the indeterminate future, I encourage you to shift your perspective to the present benefits. What are you gaining by letting go? The emotional and physical burden of clutter can sometimes outweigh the potential cost of replacing an item in the future. In decluttering, you're not just making space in your home but also allowing for mental clarity and peace. And in the off-chance you do find yourself missing an item, there's always the option to replace or borrow. You might be surprised to find that, often, we don't miss the items as much as we anticipated.
Another mindset shift is pivoting from "what if I need it" to "what if I don't need it?" Think about the freedom and benefits that come with having less.
If the idea of letting go is genuinely anxiety-inducing and if you have the space, the 'Maybe Box' technique can be a gentle introduction. When you're unsure about an item, put it in this box and set it aside. Give yourself 6 months or even a year, and if those items remain untouched or unthought-of, it might signify that it's time to part ways."
Time - I'm worried about getting started and then ending up in a huge mess (the bit when you've pulled everything out but don't have enough time to put everything back in order
Suzanne's response was: "That's a valid concern many face when contemplating a decluttering project. The messy middle is not a very nice place to be in and it really can put anybody off decluttering for good.
I always encourage busy mums to start small. Instead of tackling an entire room or pulling the entire wardrobe out on the bed, start with a single drawer, a shelf, or a small corner. This approach makes the task more manageable and less overwhelming. As you gain momentum and confidence, you can take on larger areas.
Allocate specific blocks of time for decluttering. Even setting aside 20-30 minutes can lead to significant progress. Using a timer can be a great way to stay on track and ensure you have enough time to wrap things up neatly.3) I worry that whatever system I pick isn't sustainable and I'll end up in a mess really quickly again... and therefore the incentive is low to begin with."
I worry that whatever system I pick isn't sustainable and I'll end up in a mess really quickly again and therefore the incentive is low to begin with.
Suzanne had the following advice for me: "Your concerns are valid and very common. Every individual and household operates differently. What works for one person may not work for another. The trick is to create a system based on your family’s habits, routines, and preferences. When the system feels natural and intuitive, it's more likely to be sustainable. Make it as easy as possible to follow the system for example, if the dirty clothes keep going on the bedroom floor instead of in the laundry basket in the bathroom, consider moving the laundry basket to the bedroom.
When it comes to systems, we also have to be realistic. A family’s needs change all the time, so there is no ‘set and forget’ magic system. It is to be expected for systems to be constantly changed and tweaked and that is normal. However, the best systems are the ones that are simple. As soon as we start to overcomplicate things, especially if there are other family members involved, things will quickly fall apart.
Another reason why systems don’t work is often because more decluttering is required. The less stuff, the better the system will work. If a system is not working, it might be worth considering more decluttering - it sometimes is all the system needs.
The emotional work that I find is attached to sorting through stuff - having to decide what I want to keep 'as memories' and what can go and why. Sometimes this can be really hard work and draining.
Suzanne had the following suggestions for me: "Sentimental items are by far the hardest items to go through and let off. Objects aren’t just objects—they often carry memories, represent periods of our lives, or are tied to people we love. It's completely natural for the process to bring up strong emotions. Here's some guidance on navigating this emotional journey:
Firstly, give yourself permission to feel whatever emotions arise. Decluttering can sometimes be a healing process, allowing you to process past events or memories.
While objects can hold memories, it's essential to recognise that the memories themselves reside within you, not the items. Sometimes, just acknowledging this can make it easier to let go. If you really struggle to let go, consider taking a photo.
Instead of keeping many items from a particular time or person, consider selecting one or two that best represent that memory or relationship. These can serve as a token, encapsulating the essence without crowding your space.
Create a Memory Box: Designate a special box for sentimental items you choose to keep. This box can serve as a collection of your most cherished memories.
Engaging with a trusted friend or family member during the decluttering process can provide emotional support. Their presence can offer a fresh perspective and make the journey less lonely."
I want to say a huge thank you to Suzanne for taking the time to support me on my decluttering journey. If this is something you struggle with, or an area in your home you want to tackle, you can check out her website here that includes lots of really helpful tips, tools and resources.
And, if you simply don't have the time (or inclination) to do some of the decluttering yourself and are based in the South East, Suzanne can come and help you with this herself. You can get in touch with her here.