Updated: May 8
Can you believe it is 2021! Where has the time gone? The beginning of a new year is a fantastic time to make those new year resolutions - what you want to focus on in the coming year and what to let go of. It is also a great time to get organised in your home and give it refresh. If you're anything like us, we love to have a clean and clear feeling area which helps with a clear feeling mind and sense of wellness and balance. So how do you go about a new year's sort out? We've put together our easy and eco-friendly steps to a stress-free and refreshing clear out.
Why declutter and have a cleanout?
Decluttering can have a huge number of benefits to you and anyone in your household. With more of us spending more and more time at home, a cluttered home can make us feel anxious or stressed - you may also find it hard to find things or worse, end up bumping into things or tripping over. Decluttering things you no longer want or need and keeping those you do can help bring a sense of calm and balance in your home. Decluttering also makes keeping the house clean and less dusty much easier, which in turn can have positive benefits on your physical health too. You'll hopefully find it easier and quicker to find things post a good clear out and organisation as well.
Tips for a good clear-out
Below we've put together our tips for a hassle-free and good clear out.
Prioritise the areas that bother you
The bathroom bothering you? Is it the kitchen cupboards that you know have spices in from the 1980s or perhaps you can never find anything in that drawer which is stuffed full of bric-a-brac? When having a clear-out, don't try to tackle everything at once; it can be overwhelming. Take each area one by one and look at your achievement with every little bit of progress made. You may want to make a planner and tackle one room a month to spread it out and to help form new habits. Make sure you set aside time even just a few minutes, take your time, there is no pressure to get it all done in a day.
Do a little bit each day
Along with prioritising, try starting with just 5 minutes of sorting out or cleaning per day. You'll be amazed at just how much you can do in 5 minutes and how much this adds up over just a week.
Another technique, if you are looking to have a clear-out, is to set yourself a goal to get rid of one item per day for a month. If you have watched The Minimalists on Netflix; you can be even more ambitious and try one item on day one, two items on day two etc. for an entire month.
Find more space
It might be that you don't want to get rid of much stuff, but you just feel cluttered. Look at options to bolster your storage or easier organisation so it feels less cluttered. Stackable boxes, kitchen cupboard racks, back of the door cupboard organisers are some easy and inexpensive options to give you that extra space. You'll likely also have spaces in your home which are under-utilised space-wise. Under the sink can be a great place for storage - under sink bathroom cupboards or simple beautiful wicker baskets make great storage solutions. Under the bed is another good space for any extras you really don't want to part with. We have storage boxes with small wheels to make it simple and easy to get to anything we have stored away. Under the bed is perfect for items such as holiday/luggage items you may not use frequently.
One In One Out
When decluttering, it is worth trying to leave a little space to grow. Or, if you are looking for a more minimalistic approach going forward, try experimenting with a one in one out method - great for clothes, toiletries and makeup as well as décor.
Organise into piles or boxes
When having a clear-out, separate items into different piles or boxes. Some people use the four-box method: Rubbish, Give Away, Keep and Re-locate. Others use labels such as Put-Away, Recycle, Fix/Mend, Rubbish, Donate. This is a good way of organising while having a cleanout. It also helps you decide what to do with the item. If you think you want to get rid of something but are worried you might regret it - put the item away where you won't see it for a few months. We've done this and put items in a box in the garage. More often than not, we didn't miss it and donated it a few months later without any regrets.
Try moving items and rearranging
Sometimes we get bored and tired of how a room or an area looks. You may think you need a complete refurb when all you need is a swap around and maybe a few additions or changes to décor without needing to change everything. Try moving a few pieces from one space to another. We did this recently and the whole house felt refreshed. Moving a vase from one room to another, swapping art or photos around, changing the way the room is organised and flows. It can also make you appreciate something you had before that maybe was hidden away before.
Get The Family Involved
The thought of getting your loved ones involved in decluttering may be fun or may sound...well... terrifying. We suggest starting with 'your' areas of the house beforehand. That way they can see what you've done, know you are making similar choices they will need to make and be inspired. Try the four-box method to make it easier. With kids, you may bargain with them - extra playtime after decluttering or a fun activity. If donating items - why not let them choose a cause and charity they want to donate too? That way they can really feel apart of what you are doing, feel good about what they have done and lead to other family activities to learn more about that cause. Your family can also help you make decisions on what you want to keep or get rid of - kids can be brutally honest which can sometimes help (sometimes not).
Decluttering Organisation Tips
With more and more of us working from home, your home office space is key for decluttering. If you have an office space, keep your desk nice and clear. A clear desk will help you feel more balanced and in control. If you don't, try and find a space where you can work which you can easily keep decluttered. Upcycle an old candle or jar for a simple stationary pot - using a little twine and glue, you can create a beautiful natural design. Go through your old paperwork and file it. Shred any confidential documents. As long as the paper is not glossy or coated - use it in your compost heap or add to a flower bed help protect the flowers from weeds and improve your plants. Switch where you can to paperless bills. When clearing your office space, it is worth doing a digital clear out as well - getting your computer files organised, deleting old emails and archiving ones you want to keep, decluttering your desktop. You can also opt-out of junk mail for free with the Royal Mail to reduce the waste you get through the door.
Kitchen Herbs and Spices
We love cooking different cuisines and have accumulated quite the spice collection. Spices and herbs over 4 years old will likely have lost their fragrance and flavour so it will be time to be out with the old. Be sure to put them in your food recycling or compost heaps. Spice racks are an easy way to help keep spices organised. We like to keep them in alphabetical order so we can easily find them in the cupboard, or you can organise them by cuisine. Got a pestle and mortar? Easily grind up your own spices to avoid buying seeds and ground versions of the same thing - this can be more cost-effective too.
Bits of paper everywhere? Try keeping them in stackable boxes; you can buy so many gorgeous designs or how about making your own from old boxes and use old cards, spare wallpaper or fabric to cover them. If you have a draw full of pens - check each one still works and get rid of any that may have dried up. Try draw dividers as you would with your cutlery to keep it organised and easy to access. Pens or stationary you are going to use daily - keep organised but at hand and easily accessible. How about all those Christmas and birthday cards we haven't sorted out over the past few years? Make sure you go through them too - this can be a lovely way to go back through great memories. Check out our guide to recycling cards for lots of creative and inexpensive ways to recycle and upcycle them.
Where do you start? This can feel like the most daunting of all the areas to declutter. Like with everything - start in small chunks. We suggest decluttering by type of clothing - t-shirts, trousers, shoes, coats, suits etc. That way, it helps you see how much you have of the same type of clothing. You may realise you have 20 pairs of jeans or 10 little black dresses. The general rule is if you haven't worn it for a year, you are unlikely to wear it again. Put your clothes back into the cupboard or drawers in type order - we also like to organise it into colours (white t-shirts, neutrals and bright colours for example). For dresses, we separate them into occasion - formal, informal, summer/beach etc. We like to roll-up socks to keep them organised and easy to find pairs and we roll up our PJs to keep the draw tidy and easily see matching tops and bottoms. If you have work attire or uniforms, keep them separate in the cupboard so they are easy to find. If you have lots of scarfs, belts or ties - try an organiser hanger which will keep them tidy and take up a lot less storage space. Don't forget to look through underwear, hats and accessories as well. You can donate your clothes even if they aren't in great condition (see below).
My partner seems to have all sorts of gadgets - and with that seems to come a myriad of cables (and spare cables). Use cable tidies to help keep them tidy and easier to clean (you'll find they attract dust). Try a bedside organiser if you don't have lots of space for a bedside table - you can pop cables, remotes, gadgets, notebooks etc in them and many have ports for charging cables so you can charge your items easily and without a mess. If like us, you have lots of cables you don't need frequently or maybe they are spares - use a storage box to keep them in one place. Use a little washi tape, twine or rubber bands to keep them tidy. You can check out our natural pine cable box for a fun personalised and eco-friendly cable storage solution.
It's amazing just how many things you can accumulate in a bathroom cabinet. Take everything out of the cabinet so you can easily organise when putting what you want back in. Start with medicines and check the expiry dates; most pharmacies take back expired medicines so be sure to contact them and check they can take them back. You should avoid putting them in the rubbish and avoid flushing or tipping down the sink as they can leach into the environment - check the NHS for more information. Organise cabinets, putting the items you use frequently on the shelf or area easiest to access. Small wicker or wire baskets are a great way to organise make-up and toiletries. Throw away (recycle) items of make-up which are open and old - make-up grows bacteria so mascara should be thrown away after 3 months (see below on what to do with old makeup).
The Garage and Shed
Decluttering doesn't just mean indoors. Quite often we can declutter indoors simply by cluttering up the garage or shed. Go through the garage and get rid of anything broken. Organise nails, screws and bolts by type. One tip is to try and keep the floor free of clutter - it helps you make decisions on what to keep and gives you room to store any seasonal furniture away etc.
What to do with the items you don't want anymore
Donate items you don't want to charity. As a volunteer at Oxfam, we know what a huge difference these make to these causes. Oxfam and the British Heart Foundation are just some charities that may also accept electrical items. You can also donate old clothes even if they are torn as they can sell the fabric with their recycling partners to raise funds. Sometimes charities may also appreciate items such as storage boxes, hangers, packaging/cardboard boxes etc which can be useful in their stores. Be sure to check with the charity you want to donate to, what items they accept and their donation times. You can also check with local schools and community organisations. We've previously donated furniture and musical instruments to clubs and schools in need.
It might not be that you want to get rid of an item, but it may just look a little old and tired. Whether is it reupholstering a stool, adding a pattern to a plain lampshade or giving a piece of furniture a new lick of paint or wax, it can hugely change the look and feel or an item and room. We recently sanded down an old sideboard that had water stains and scratches, we re-waxed it with a different tint and fell in love with it again.
Can you use that old item for something new? Candle jars can be used for all sorts of things - new candles, storage, pencil pots, planters etc. Old pencil stubs can be glued onto old photo-frames, jars and boxes for fun creative kids décor. Make your own toiletries and use old toiletry jars and tubs to store your DIY beauty items. When you're decluttering, you may find a box/container for something else is perfect for storing another item.
Changing curtains, towels, or clothes? Why not use the fabric for future craft projects? They can be great for your kids - whether as a fun craft project or a school or kids club project; they can be great resources.
Old Mascara Wands: Did you know you can donate old mascara wands? Some Wildlife Sanctuaries use them to help groom premature and orphaned baby animals. Check online to see if any of your local sanctuaries are accepting donations.
Old Make-Up: You may be surprised to know that only 50% of recyclable bathroom waste is actually recycled. Unfortunately, a lot of make-up and toiletry containers cannot be recycled in your normal household recycling. Always check with your local council on what they can accept. The good news - you'll find toiletry recycling points at Boots, Tesco's, Sainsbury's, Superdrug and many other supermarkets...and the best thing - you can donate items of any brand.
New Make-Up and Toiletries: We all buy products we then don't use or perhaps have been gifted something we don't want. If the product is new and hygienic, you can donate these items to help those in need and for the homeless. Check out The Hygiene Bank for more information and your local donation points.
Sell old items online
It is amazing what you can eBay. What is your trash can be another person's treasure. We've even personally sold/donated empty bottles online for other's to use for their upcycling and craft businesses. Many places will let you list items for free, so you can always try listing for a month and recycle it if it hasn't sold. With some platforms, you may also be able to donate the funds raised directly to a charity.
Freecycle or neighbourhood communities
Freecycle and neighbourhood forums can be a great way to easily offer items for free to those in your community. On Freecycle, you may also see items that community clubs and organisations are looking for - a great way to avoid sending a piece of furniture to a tip.
At Honeste, we donate our ink cartridges to raise money for Whale and Dolphin conservation and you can do the same. Check out The Recycling Factory for more information on how to donate your used ink cartridges and choose the cause you want to donate to.
If you can't donate, reuse or sell them item try and recycle it. Check with your local council for items that can be recycled or take a look at Terracycle that accepts an amazing array of items previously not recyclable.
Final Thoughts On A New Year's Clean Out and Declutter
These are just some of the tips and tricks we have tried and tested over the years. We would love to know your favourite decluttering techniques and what works for you. Did you like this guide? Check out our guide to 9 completely free and easy ways to be more eco-friendly at home. You can also sign-up for our newsletter to get other tips, guides and of course, exclusive offers right to your inbox.