The weeks either side of New Year always involve some sort of clearing out. Whether you’ve hosted over the season, been a guest somewhere else or stayed at home for a quiet one, there are cards, wrapping, boxes and bottles to throw out, and decorations to take down and put away.
New Year is also a catalyst for change and the increase in energy makes it the perfect time to declutter your home, regardless of whether you’re staying or selling. It’s one of those jobs that gets easily put off, but once you begin, you’ll find the sense of accomplishment quickly grows.
Before you get overwhelmed, a quick note on what decluttering really means. It’s not about becoming a minimalist or having everything correctly displayed, but neither does it mean filling your loft, cellar or garage with things you no longer use.
Author and TV star Marie Kondo began a whole new trend with her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which helps people identify items that “spark joy. Taking her stance, decluttering means keeping what you love, giving it a place to shine and having more space in your mind, as well as your rooms.
However you do it – selling, donating, or rearranging (yes, it can sometimes come down to simple presentation) – there’s no need to read an entire book to get your house in order: all you need is our room-by-room guide to decluttering your home for good.
Nowhere sets the mood for the rest of your home quite like your hallway, so how would you describe its greeting? A warm welcome that’s easy to navigate, or an obstacle course of boots and sneakers below a jumble of jackets, coats, scarves and bags?
If you’re struggling with how to streamline the bulk, think seasonally. Right now you don’t need summer jackets and shoes, so move them to a wardrobe or box. But first, hold them in your hands and decide if you’re ever going to wear them again.
If there’s a cupboard in your hall, could your coats or shoes live there? Alternatively, a narrow unit that stores your footwear in vertical drawers can be a stylish and space-saving solution.
And if you’re worried about your walls being too bare without coats, hang a picture or even some photos in a gallery of friends and family – the one place they won’t overwhelm a potential buyer!
LIVING & DINING ROOMS
Books and magazines can bring a real sense of home to a room, but they can multiply beyond capacity if you’re a keen reader. On shelves, they look great but piled on tables or the floor they make a room feel smaller and chaotic.
Marie Kondo is big on vertical filing because it looks neater and uses less space, so take a leaf out of her book – pun most definitely intended! If there are particular articles, recipes or ideas that you want to keep, tear them from magazines and keep them in a smart binder before the rest goes off for recycling.
Contrary to popular belief, personal photographs on display are fine when selling your home, so long as they don’t overwhelm your rooms or sit in a dusty collection. Pictures of friends and family are proven happiness creators, but grins from every corner can leave viewers wondering where to look. So consider putting some frames away while you are selling, or hanging them in the hall.
Now let’s take a look at your accessories: are they there because you love them, or because you feel guilty about removing then, or because you’ve forgotten about them? Keep only those you love. And maybe there’s more space for something in another room if this one’s looking crowded?
If your dining table is doubling as an office, paperwork can quickly build up and leave you eating among your workload. A few box files can help you get your work off the table to reclaim your mealtimes.
As the hub of the home, the kitchen can gather far more than people. Worktops, breakfast bars and tables disappear under papers, while cupboards fill with all manner of forgotten food and gadgets.
Start with the cupboards, removing old food that’s found its way to the back with the loose rice grains. Not only will cooking be more efficient, enjoyable and healthy, but your viewers will marvel at the effortless storage space.
A stainless steel Kitchen Aid or Dualit toaster can add a lifestyle element to a kitchen, but having too many gadgets on surfaces can look mismatched and conceal the available workspace. Look at everything you have: are you actually using the bread maker and rice cooker, or could they find a happier home? And does that blender deserve pride of place or a place in a cupboard?
If your kitchen is the administrative centre of your home, keep a shelf or cupboard for box files. But first, do you need all that paperwork? Online billing and statements can stem the incoming flow; manuals for appliances can be found online and taking photos of correspondence you want to keep means you can shred everything else.
There’s nothing like a mess to disturb the magic in a bedroom, with wardrobes, chests of drawers, nightstands and even under the bed all competing to help you hoard.
Clothes are the easiest things to accumulate, and Marie Kondo’s method involves piling everything on the bed and then individually picking each item up. Does it spark joy? You’ll surprise yourself at how many don’t.
Potential buyers may look inside built-in wardrobes, so they need to be presentable and roomy for viewings: an apparent struggle for space just isn’t a selling point. If your clothing edit doesn’t free up enough room, get vacuum bags for anything you’re not wearing right now and store them somewhere out of sight.
TIP: rotating your vacuum bags with the seasons will keep your wardrobe continually free of excess.
For nightstands, those little drawers can hold a lot! Entertainment and travel tickets; expired credit cards; various leaflets, and, if we’re honest, old tissues. Remove anything that’s no longer of use and, if you’d love to be reminded of what you’ve seen and where you’ve been, make a pinboard of your tickets to hang in the loo.
With its gleaming fittings, tiles and brassware, your bathroom could well be another highlight in your home, but there is hardly anyone who doesn’t have some level of unused medicines or lotions lurking in a cabinet. So first things first, remove all your out-of-date products along with any you’re just not going to use.
If you’re selling your home, the only items to have on display are those that add a sense of style and comfort: think soft bathrobes and luxury-branded products like Rituals or Jo Malone.
Open shelves and freestanding caddies look sumptuous with soaps and fluffy towels, but they’re dust traps for everything else, so move bottles, pots and brushes into the space you’ve just created in the cabinet.
GARDENS & BALCONIES
Balconies are an outdoor escape, but they can quickly become a home storage compartment that ruins a room’s view.
If you need to keep household items outside, you probably have too much stuff, so take a good hard look at what’s there. Balconies are for chairs, tables, plants and lights; everything else should go somewhere else. If there’s truly nowhere else for your bike or clothes airer, fix them to a wall to increase the available floor space.
In gardens, sheds can be a magnet for junk like disused buggies, old bikes and dismantled shelves, but side returns and other paved areas can also be a hoarders’ paradise. If you have spare building materials from a new patio, planters or fencing, they can go into the newly cleared-out shed. Any leftovers from the look you’ve replaced should immediately leave the premises.
Decluttering is mostly a matter of ‘deal with it now’ rather than ‘deal with it later’: instead of something going into hiding, could it go into a new home?
If you can’t decide, do a Marie Kondo: hold it in your hands, think of the memories and ask if it sparks joy. If it does, find a place to make it part of your life. If it doesn’t, thank it kindly for its service and say your goodbyes.
If you have a property in Durham, Darlington or the Dales and you’d like to know more about readying your home for viewings, why not get in touch?. You can call us for a chat on 01388221005 or email us at email@example.com: we’d love to help you put your moving plans into action today.