I know, lengthy title. It feels like it’s been a while since I wrote about something that was on my mind. I write a lot of stuff for other people, and about various topics, but I try to steer clear of content that’s too […]
Believe it or not, I am now SIX WEEKS into Operation Declutter. That’s right, six weeks. It’s still not anywhere near finished, but you know what, that’s ok. The Easter holidays interrupted progress for a fortnight, as it was pretty impossible to do any real work on it with a small person running around mid purge. Still, it’s finally time for back to school, which means I can pull my finger back out and try and head towards the light at the end of the tunnel.
So far I’ve managed to declutter a lot more stuff than I was expecting to, and while it’s not 100% there yet, I feel like I can put together a guide of sorts for anyone wanting to tackle their own clutter mountain. So, without further ado:
The Ultimate (ish) Guide To Decluttering
Mantra number 1: this is not a Spring Clean. Yes, there’ll be some cleaning involved, but the main purpose of Operation Declutter is to cleanse and purge your home of the stuff. Lots of it. What you’ll find if you approach this task with the idea of it being a spring clean, is that you’ll have a nice smelling, tidy-ish looking home…that’s still cluttered to actual hell.
The starting point
The first day, you’ll want to blast through everything with your binbags and your charity bags. Resist this urge until you’ve got a friend with you to make a start. Otherwise, you’ll go in, get distracted within minutes and not actually get rid of anything. The starting point is a friend – someone who isn’t emotionally attached to your belongings in the same way you are. That person can be the voice of reason when you get stuck in the bags of sentimentally-charged stuff you’ve stashed for the last few years and not used.
Other people need your stuff
Remember, when you’re decluttering, you’re not being wasteful. If you allow yourself three piles – donate, bin and keep – always make sure your donate pile is bigger than your keep pile, and at least equal to the size of your bin pile. I really struggled with decluttering Small-Me’s baby clothes, but my friend reminding me that another family would get some use out of them was what really helped me to let go. I kept some things, but most of it went, and once that plaster was ripped off first, everything else became much easier.
Do one room at a time
I can’t stress this one enough, because I haven’t stuck to it at all. Things began well, and I was working on the two attic rooms for a good week, but as I moved downstairs, I started to do a bit here and a bit there in other rooms. Before I knew it, there was stuff just literally everywhere. So, if you can, do one room at a time, and be thorough.
Expect to plateau
You’re going to hit a wall, around week three or four. This is going to be hard, because it’s around the point where it gets boring and annoying. Just have a look at the progress you’ve made in the rooms you did in week one and two, and remember the greater good that’s at stake; a life of minimal clutter. It’s going to be tough to push through this bit, but even if things slow down, that’s ok, just give yourself a break and go back to it.
With less stuff, you can start to simplify your current (or lack of) storage systems. Now’s a good opportunity to think about shelving, cupboards, containers and boxes – do you have enough? Do you have too many? Can you simplify the stuff you do have left, so that it doesn’t end up all shot together and spilling out all over the place? You’ll feel a lot better with it looking organised, even if there’s now (hopefully) less clutter.
Ask yourself questions
There will be points where you get really stuck on whether or not to keep things. In that situation, you’ve got to ask yourself the following:
- Have I used this in the last year?
- Does it make me happy?
- Am I just keeping it ‘just in case’ I need it someday?
Be really brutal with your answers, otherwise you’ll just end up stuck in a cycle of keeping stuff that you’ll agonise over.
Commit to a new life of minimalism with a plan for the future. The last thing you want to do is have spent ages decluttering like crazy only for the crazy to creep back in slowly. This is where your new storage systems come into play. For example, I’ve decluttered all my make-up and jewellery bits into about three boxes. If those boxes start to get too full, they’re getting purged again. Also, if they boxes overflow, I know I’ve gone too far with buying/keeping stuff. Three box rule.
Don’t be hard on yourself
This will get boring. It’ll also get hard. Don’t be too tough on yourself if you can’t be bothered anymore. That’s fine – have a day or two away from it. But remember the greater good here, and go back to it with a fresh mindset. Even if your pace slows down to an hour a day, it’s better than nothing at all. You can do this, but changing a cluttered home is like changing an entire lifestyle, so go easy on yourself if you don’t get it all done straightaway.
Or videos! If you document your progress visually each week it is so much easier to stay motivated. On the days you feel like giving up, look back at how far you’ve come from your starting point, and remember that you can keep going. It’s a really motivating and satisfying way to get back to it after a slump.
So there you have it, a few of the things I’ve learned so far about decluttering. I’m still working on mine, but it’s definitely looking better, as anyone who’s watched my Instagram will know. Have you been planning a purge of your own? Let me know how you’re finding it, and if you’ve found this post helpful I’d love it if you gave it a share.
Writer, tweeter and illustrator. Starving artist and thrifting expert. Pen for hire and first-time author at work.
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How messy is your sleep routine? No, not your bedroom. I’m talking about your actual sleep routine. Have you got one? Have you even thought about this before? If I had a tenner for the amount of people who are always tired, I’d be Alan Sugar. Now, I’ve got an excuse (more on that later) for being consistently exhausted – but do you? If not, maybe it’s time to have a long hard look at your sleep routine, and try out my 5 ways to tidy it up a bit.
Sleep routines are for kids. I’m an adult.
Yes. Yes you are. An adult who’s probably completely run-down every day from a life of constant work-based, life-based stress. An adult who more than likely stays up way too late watching pointless documentaries on 90s’s love triangles, Gavin and Stacey repeats on Dave and only mildly amusing re-runs of 8 Out of 10 Cats.
You also fall asleep on the sofa watching said TV bilge and then wake up in a small but disgusting puddle of your own drool at 3am, don’t you?
Sleep routines are for kids. They exist for a reason…but that reason is valid for adults too. We neglect our sleep health as soon as we can. It’s the one routine that almost all of us forget to take care of. And yet, it’s the one routine that can make the biggest difference to our health and wellbeing. Most adults need at least six to nine hours sleep a night, and many of us just aren’t getting that on a consistent enough basis.
When I was first diagnosed with narcolepsy, I had to work so hard to reset my clock and actually cultivate a sleep routine. It’s all gone to pot in recent years, I’ll be honest, but it genuinely made such a difference to my life when I stuck to it. I felt awake. Actually awake, and not just dragging my battered carcass through each day until Dave o’clock.
When was the last time you felt truly awake?
If you fancy giving it a whirl, here’s 5 ways you can get started with cleaning up your sleep hygiene. That’s what it’s called, by the way, I didn’t make that up.
1. Ditch the TV.
I know. WHAT ABOUT GAVIN AND STACEY?!
Look, you’ve seen them about 400 times. You can recite the ‘2 steaks Pam’ routine with your fingers in your ears and still do the Essex accent to boot. You look fabulous, and you feels it, alright?
Turn the television off at least an hour before you go to bed. It’s the same thing that you’d do with the kids, and it does actually work. Your brain needs wind-down time, especially with the level of mental and online processing it does on a daily basis.
Use this TV-free time to relax, have a bath or do something relatively concentration-free to help your brain tell your body that it’s time to switch off.
2. No caffeine after 3pm.
I know. This one was a much bigger one for me to combat that I realised. I used to drink about ten cups of tea a day. This was before I knew I had a sleep condition, and just thought I really loved PG Tips. Crafty old brain. Basically though, you can’t expect your brain to chill out for bed properly if it’s wired off it’s neurological tits with caffeine, nicotine or sugar.
The hormone that tells your brain it’s night-time and time to wind down is called melatonin. Foods that contain an amino acid called tryptophan boost the production of melatonin and therefore induce a better quality of sleep.
Things to eat and drink that can help relaxation and promote sleepiness are:
- tryptophan-rich proteins such as chicken, turkey, nuts and seeds
- milk and dairy products which also contain tryptophan
- decaf (horrible I know) tea or coffee if you have to drink it
Make sure you’re not eating a massive dinner just before you plan to go to bed either. Digesting it will push your body temperature up and delay your brain’s ability to start the sleep process, plus you’ll feel really uncomfortable trying to sleep on it straight away.
My advice on this point is to try and reduce your caffeine intake gradually. It’s not easy, but it is achievable!
3. Pick a bedtime and stick to it. No deviating.
Again, this is a tough one. I had to train myself to be in bed and actually asleep by 10pm. Also this was in the pre-child days, so much, much easier. However, if you’ve got one that’s in a fairly stable nighttime pattern now, you can give it a whirl. I used to start my wind-down at 9pm and then be in bed, on my way to falling asleep by 10pm. To begin with it was incredibly hard work, but after a while I started to wake naturally at 7am.
Without the alarm clock.
You know that when you’re waking up before your alarm goes off, and you don’t feel like actual death on toast, then something is going right somewhere.
It’s not easy, and temptations to work, catch up on emails or mess about on Facebook will always be there, but trust me, this one really does reap it’s own rewards. I need to start doing it again myself.
4. De-stress your bedroom.
You might not realise it, but your bedroom might be causing you more than your fair share of bad dreams. According to sleep specialists, your bedroom should be used for two things only; sleep and sex. As an aside, a moment of passion is one of the other things that can induce quality sleep, so that’s one to just make a side note of and file under FYI for later.
Your room needs to be quiet, dark, tidy and a cool temperature. Most importantly, it should be free of any electronics. My room has a bed, a chair and a chest of drawers in it. That’s it. No TV, no gadgets, literally nothing else. If you’ve got a television in your room, get rid of it. It could be playing major havoc with your brain’s ability to properly switch off.
Trust me on this, it makes a big difference.
5. Don’t fixate on a magic cure.
If you’ve got any sleep issues, like me, then it’s really important to know that they’ll take time to sort out. It’s never going to be as easy as following a list of tips and tricks to magic away insomnia or eye bags.
Proper cleaning up of your sleep routine takes time and perserverance, but also a pinch of salt. It’s important to take your sleep cycle seriously – not enough of us really consider the long term implications of poor sleep and the constant mental stimulation we all endure thanks to our tech-heavy lifestyles.
However, it’s not something to fixate on if it doesn’t all go to plan straightaway. You’re not going to definitely develop Alzheimer’s just because you’re using your iPad before bed each night! Like everything else in life, it’s about moderation and evaluation.
I hope you’ve found some of this helpful and that if you’ve been looking into your own sleep issues at all it provides a bit of food for thought. If you’ve got any questions about sleep disorders, sleep hygiene or narcolepsy, feel free to pop them in the comments below or drop me a tweet over on Twitter.
Anyway, I’m off to watch a bit of Dave. Sweet dreams.
Writer, tweeter and illustrator. Starving artist and thrifting expert. Pen for hire and first-time author at work.