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Cleaning up after Christmas: How to Declutter without the Stress

Gina Narramore

Gina Narramore



The period after Christmas is a great time to declutter. Here, McCarthy & Stone have spoken to a number of experts to discover the best decluttering tips.

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but during the post-holiday lull you also have a great opportunity to improve your home and your lifestyle. While you’re taking down the Christmas decorations this year, you should also think about decluttering your home. After all, you know what people say: ‘new year, new start!’

At McCarthy & Stone, we don’t think that decluttering should be stressful. So, to help you declutter without the stress, we’ve consulted three experts for their best decluttering tips. But first, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of decluttering.

The Benefits of Decluttering

The benefits of decluttering extend far beyond just making some more space. If you’re stressed about how cluttered your home has become, then it can lead to things like anxiety; especially if you have guests coming to visit.

For this reason, decluttering your home can have physiological benefits and the process of decluttering is also likely to make you feel calmer and less anxious.

When you declutter, you may also find lost treasures. This can include things that you’ve spent the last weeks, months and years looking for, as well as items you’d genuinely forgotten you own. From old family photos to ornaments, you’ll be surprised at what you can uncover.

This makes decluttering a great opportunity to bond with your family. During the process, you may want to pass on heirlooms or items from your children's childhood, or you may find things your grandchildren or friends want to have instead.

Plus, you can also use this opportunity to do something good. If you’ve found items that you no longer need while decluttering, then why not donate them to charity? This way you don’t have to worry about losing any precious items and you can live safe in the knowledge that they’re raising money for a good cause.

Ask the Experts: How to Declutter Without Stress

To help discover the best decluttering tips, we consulted three experts.

We spoke to Angela Butcher (AB) from Helping Hands for Hoarders, Charlotte Keen (CK) from and Lisa Pantling (LP) from Clutter Free Living.

Here’s what they had to say:

Firstly, what is defined as ‘clutter’?

AB: Clutter is a collection of stuff that generally has no sense of order and isn’t needed. Some of these items may be broken beyond repair, or there could be multiple items of the same thing. Clutter is something that creeps up on us and we may well even be ‘blind’ to it because it has been there a long time.

What common items frequently end up being thrown out? What can be recycled/donated?

CK: You’d be surprised at how many notepads I have uncovered in a variety of homes. Some used, some half used and some with only a few pages written in. These can be donated to charity or paper recycling depending on how used they have been.

Clothes are another popular form of clutter. I generally ask some stock questions when it comes to clothing, such as:

  • ‘Do you love it?’
  • ‘Does it fit you?’
  • ‘Do you already have more than you need of this item?’

If we then decide the item is needed, we find somewhere to display it so that it can be used. My clients often tell me that they feel as if they have a whole new wardrobe after clearing their clothing in this way.

I always offer people a choice of what happens to unwanted items. Things with value can be sold on online selling platforms such as eBay, or people can choose a charity to donate their items to. If clothes have been heavily worn and you don’t think they can be resold, they can still go to a clothing bank for bulk recycling.

If you’re decluttering larger items, then a number of second-hand furniture shops will usually take them. Anything else can then be taken to the tip or recycling centre, but landfill is a last resort.

Should I get any extra help first?

CK: If you hire a professional declutterer, you may find that you have more motivation and they’ll help you to focus on the task at hand.

People often tell me that they would’ve given up hours ago if I wasn’t there. But, because we work together and we have a clear plan, they can bear it without feeling overwhelmed.

If you are thinking of going down the route of hiring a professional declutterer, it’s worth approaching someone accredited by The Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers (APDO). Professional bodies make sure that all the people that they endorse have insurance and have been checked. APDO have a nationwide website where you can find a ‘declutterer’ nearest to you.

 What are the best approaches to decluttering?

AB: The best approach to decluttering is to start with the room furthest away from the most precious items. Generally, the further away the items are from where you sit or sleep, the easier they are to tackle.

Always start in one room and work around it in a methodical manner. It is a very slow process as each item will potentially hold a memory that will need to be explored before an item can be discarded. If it is particularly difficult to decide about an item, put it in a pile and keep it for a week. If after a week you decide you don’t want it, then let go.

What should I do for items I don’t want to throw out but don’t want cluttering up my home?

LP: It’s a great idea to make a memory box for smaller sentimental items that you may like to look at occasionally in the future, but don’t want to have out on show all of the time. Plus, taking photos of items before donating them is also helpful, so that you preserve the memory without the items taking up physical space.

Alternatively, you may like to offer some items to younger members of the family to enjoy, or if you really can’t bear to part with some things, you may decide to store them in an attic or cupboard out of the way. But, try not to fall into the trap of just storing lots of stuff away that is too hard to decide on, because you may end up still feeling stressed by all the ‘stuff’ even if you can’t see it all of the time.

What can I do to avoid clutter accumulating again?

LP: Do regular audits of your possessions, around once every three months. This keeps decluttering manageable and maybe even fun!

Get used to asking yourself some simple questions such as:

  • Do you need enough plates for eight people if you only have room for four around the table?
  • Think about the future, is there enough room to walk around your home safely without tripping or knocking over piles of items?
  • Is your paperwork in order? Can you put your hands on anything you might need without having to go through lots and lots of out of date documents?
  • If you were out shopping today, would you buy those trousers? When was the last time you wore that jumper, and is that because you don’t really like it that much?

Monitor your shopping habits; do you panic buy or go shopping when you feel down? Look at other hobbies, or ways to fill your time that don’t involve bringing more items into your home. Write a list when you go shopping and stick to it.

Declutter and Downsize with McCarthy & Stone in 2020

As well as decluttering, if you’re looking for a fresh start in 2020, then why not consider downsizing and moving into a McCarthy & Stone property?

Making the move could make you feel 10 years younger in your retirement and in January and February our ‘Grow Young with Us’ campaign  could see prospective residents enjoy one month of free rent or save up to £5,000 on selected properties.

Our offers end on 29th February 2020, so take a look at our retirement properties for sale today and get in touch on 0800 201 4811 to find out if your chosen apartment is included in our offer.

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