Lisa Skinner could come and sort out your house in person, but her advice is the next best thing!
If you’ve ever found yourself binge watching The Home Edit on Netflix, reading Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying or applying to fill a warehouse with the contents of your home with Stacey Solomon, then you are one of my people. I’m a Professional Organiser, I spend my week helping people declutter their lives of all that is unnecessary and replacing their chaos with order. I do this because I believe order is good and I think we all crave order in our lives. My belief that this desire for order is innate to all of us stems from the Genesis story - God takes the disorder and darkness described in the second sentence of the Bible and brings out of it order and beauty and goodness, and in doing so He makes a world where life can flourish. As God began to move in his week of creation, he formed and then he filled, there was an order to all things and He said “it is good”. In Genesis we also read that we are made in the image of this God who loves order and so that is part of who we are.
I’m not quite sure I realised the extent to which order can help us flourish physically, mentally and spiritually until 2020 when we went into lockdown due to the Covid pandemic. Suddenly many of us were confined to our homes, they became multi-functional - operating as classrooms, offices, gyms and our only place of leisure. For many of us it was overwhelming and the state of our surroundings became a source of great stress. Not many people were thriving, chaos reigned not least in our homes.
Research has found that those who describe their surroundings as cluttered experience higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in their bodies throughout the day. The order that we need to thrive can only be achieved through the means of decluttering.
The Bible doesn’t say that we have to have perfect homes but it does say a lot about our ‘stuff’. Jesus spoke about our ‘stuff’ and not letting it be a top priority in our lives. (Matthew 6:19-21)
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (ESV)
Our earthly possessions should not be our ultimate treasure, but they could aid us in storing up treasures in heaven. Decluttering can present us with an opportunity to serve others. As I’ve decluttered homes with people I’ve been amazed at the generosity of many. There are many ways to bless others with our pre-loved goods, be that by donating costume jewellery to the Alzheimer’s Society, old coins to the RNIB, stationery to enable children to access an education in Africa, unwanted toiletries to a homeless charity, bicycles to be fixed up for underprivileged children or old towels to help overcome period poverty in India. When we know our things can be used to benefit others it’s easier to part with them, it can be a privilege to serve those in need in these small but significant ways. The Bible talks about being generous and willing to share (1 Timothy 6: 17-18) and decluttering presents us with an opportunity to do just that.
The ‘stuff’ we have doesn’t make us happy not long-term anyway. The Bible contains examples of those who put possessions above their service to God (Acts 5:1-11; Mark 10: 17-22) . In our Western world, if we’re honest with ourselves, we all have too much but life does not consist in an abundance of possessions. Life is not measured against what we have but rather whose we are, a true appreciation of that truth frees us from the bonds of stuff.
Hebrews 12 says, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” The things we have can consume our time and our thoughts and even our priorities and therefore hinder us in life. Throwing off everything that hinders isn’t just about throwing out those things we no longer want or need but that may be an important part of the process.
In the course of my work I’ve found that shedding possessions can lead to more time for family and friends, more money and more energy. When we’ve less stuff to sort we’ve more time to spend with our family and friends. When we’ve less stuff in our homes we feel better about our surroundings as opposed to feeling stressed and weighed down and when we declutter it often causes us to re-evaluate how we consume and accumulate - as a result our spending habits change and we often end up with more disposable income.
You might be wondering how you might go about decluttering your life and establishing order in your own home, to equip and encourage you to do just that I want to share some of my top tips:
- Start small, be realistic with yourself – Schedule decluttering sessions – carve out small blocks of time in your diary each week to declutter and organise your spaces. This doesn’t have to be for a long period of time, give yourself 15 minutes without distraction, set a timer and tackle a drawer or a basket of socks, or your Tupperware. These small wins will all add up and before you know it you’ll have a streamlined home.
- Operate a “one-in-one-out” policy – if you tend to buy a lot of clothes/ shoes/ bags, whatever it is, make a choice to get rid of one or two items for every new item that enters your wardrobe. To ensure this happens, I suggest you tell a friend, or someone in your family of your intention to do this and ask them to keep you accountable in this area. If you can keep this practice up it will prevent your wardrobe becoming cluttered to the point of being overwhelming. It should also make you more discerning about what you bring into your house if you know there is a sacrifice to be made.
- Shop your home for storage - keep display boxes from jewellery, notelets, underwear, shoes etc. and use them within drawers for storage. Organising your home doesn’t have to cost you the earth, use what you already have!Check expiry dates regularly – this includes not only food but toiletries, makeup and medication. A good way of helping you do this is to mark each item clearly with the expiry date or the date you started using it. You could write the date on the top of tin cans/jars/packaging with a sharpie – this is easier to see, and you can store the things that need to be used sooner at the front of your cupboards.
- Keep your grocery bags in the boot of your car – you wouldn’t believe the number of bags I find taking up space in kitchen cupboards and drawers. As soon as you have decanted your shopping get the bags back out to the car immediately, then they won’t take up space in your home.
- Start folding your clothes and underwear compactly – do yourself a favour and check out the Folding Lady (@thefoldinglady). Her techniques will enable you to house more in your drawers than you ever thought possible.
- Label, label and then label some more – invest in a label maker, even write on some washi tape, and create a system of organisation through labelling jars/cupboards/files etc. Show the other members of your household the new system and try to get them on board with maintaining a place for everything.
- When you go shopping (especially when it comes to the sales) get into the habit of asking yourself: Do I need it or just want it? Do I have something similar? Could I borrow it? Do I have room for it? Will I get use out of it? (Think cost per wear for clothes)