Surviving lockdown: Decluttering tips to help you feel in control

Our homes are literally our fortresses at the moment – the thing that’s keeping us safe, however, spending so much time inside four walls can also make you realise that you need to take a bit more care of your surroundings.

And having a spring clean or a good old tidy session can also be mentally beneficial in these strange times.  While we can’t control what’s going on in the wider environment as we live through this pandemic, we can control our immediate environment – our home.


Sue Spencer, from A Life More Organised, is a professional organising and decluttering expert and she believes being in control of our homes is going to be more important as we live through this crisis.

She says: “It enables you to take some control of something that you’re able to do yourself, which helps as we’re currently in a global situation where we, as individuals, have no control.”

One study, done in 2016, revealed that clutter can also be damaging for our mental health and relationships. Professor Ferrari, the author of The Dark Side Of The Home said: “It’s the danger of clutter, the totality of one’s possessions being so overwhelming that it chips away at your well-being, relationships, and more, drowning in a sea of stuff.”

How decluttering improves your life

So why is everyone suddenly shorting out their homes? Aside from having more spare time, Sue believes spending more time at home has made us only too aware of how much stuff we’ve accumulated over the years.

“We’ve been living in a society of abundance – many people live in homes that are filled with stuff from shopping – which was a hobby for many, overconsumption and hand-me-downs,” she says. 

“It’s quite normal to have busy and ‘full’ homes and we definitely shouldn’t feel guilty about it, however, as we are spending more time in our homes, we are faced with them being ‘full’ on a daily basis and this can cause stress levels to rise.”

  • Cleaning and tidying can help us feel calmer. Sue says: “It’s been academically proven that clutter can cause an increase in cortisol, the stress hormone, and therefore, at times like we’re currently facing, doing something proactive like decluttering and organising your home – even on a small scale – can help to reduce clutter and minimise the stress that our homes are causing on top of all our other concerns.
  • It saves time. Not that this may be a worry for you at the moment, but if you can find your glasses first time, you save yourself time and stress at not being able to find something you need.
  • It gives you a workout. Any sort of exercise – even if it’s just hoovering the entire house – improves our mental and physical health.
  • Less clutter can also help you concentrate. This is more important now than ever with parents and children all working from home.
  • Life can feel a bit aimless at the moment. Weekdays merge into weekends – so achieving something like clearing out your loft or wardrobe will give you a sense of achievement. As Sue says: “Having a purpose and a plan for filling your time, such as decluttering can help to focus on something more positive and reduce anxiety.”
A keep and discard pile

How to declutter your home

It can seem really overwhelming to think about tidying your entire home, so where to start? Sue says before you even start sorting through your stuff, you need to think about what you end goal looks like.

“Think about what you want to achieve – how you want your home to look and support your lifestyle,” she advises. “Having a plan really helps you to focus and stay motivated. It also gives you a benchmark to compare things to as you declutter.”

Here are some other things to consider when you start to tackle all that junk you’ve accumulated:

1 Start small

Sue recommends decluttering by category, rather than room, which is what we tend to do.

“Gathering similar items together in one go allows you to see the volume of things you have that are similar and the duplication,” she says.

“Seeing this duplication helps to make decisions about what you need to keep – I would start with small sub-categories like underwear, tops, make up, crockery.”

2 Look for things you love

As a Certified KonMari™ Consultant, Sue is a firm believer of only keeping those things that ‘spark joy’.

You’re looking for those things that also work with the life you live now – rather than the one you had or the one you want.

“This really helps to focus your mind on what you want to keep in your life that supports your lifestyle,” says Sue.

Jeans stored in the Marie Kondo way

3 Store similar things together

Once you’ve chosen what you’re keeping, store similar things together. 

Sue says: “This helps as you’ll know where things are when you need them, and also makes it easier to return things to their home afterwards.”

4 Get the kids involved

Make it into a game or part of their home schooling (life lessons are just as important as Maths!). A declutter scavenger hunt can be great fun for all – get them to find five toys they no longer play with, five items of clothing that no longer fit, five toys that are broken, five books they no longer read… You get the idea. Reward them with stickers or extra screen time if they tick everything off their list.

If you’re currently drowning under a whole lot of extra lockdown artwork, Sue also has some great ideas on how to store and present these on her blog.

5 Create a designated ‘chuck it’ area

Usually, after a big declutter, you’ll have a pile of stuff to give to charity shops or take to the tip. Obviously, you can’t do that now, so our advice is to create a designated corner or area of your home to store the stuff you want to get rid of. You could also put some stuff there that you’re not sure about, and if by the time lockdown ends, you’ve not used it, you know it’s good to go!

A woman writing a to do list

6 Keep it tidy

It’s all well and good decluttering the whole house during a bit of downtime, but how do you keep on top of things, especially if you’re a parent who is now working full-time and home schooling?

Sue says in busy times like this, it’s good to have an old-fashioned to do list to refer to.

“I think having a list of the jobs around the house really helps and then space them out over the course of the week on a weekly planner,” she suggests. “It means you can tick things off once they’re done and/or assign them to different people in the house.”

All that sorting and re-arranging however should encourage you to keep things tidier.

“Having a ‘home for everything’ – even if it’s just temporary at the moment – means that things can be tidied away on to shelves, into cupboards/boxes/baskets,” says Sue.  “That way the place is tidier straight away and people know where to find things.”

While sorting out your home is good for your wellbeing, Sue advises that now might not be the right time for everyone.

“I would caution that in these strange times decluttering should be a choice that you empowered to do if you choose to do it,” she says.  “For some people dealing with the current situation is more than enough.”

Sue is still offering virtual decluttering sessions via Zoom. Find out more on her website, A Life More Organised. You can also get great tips by following her on Instagram.

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