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Planning Retirement Online

No more clutter in later life

Top tips for a clutter-free home   

If your new year resolution is to do a big clear-out, here’s all the advice you need  from Sue Kay who runs the organisation no more clutter.  

A recent survey found that we have become three times more affluent since the Second World War. Yet overall people are no happier. We live in consumer driven times when more is better. Yet we are still influenced by wartime beliefs – be frugal, use things up and keep thing in case they may be useful. So our homes are becoming more and more cluttered. As we grow older we also have a lifetime of memories and may find it hard to let go of sentimental items. 

Don’t let clutter stand in the way of you having the life you want.  Maybe you want to downsize into a smaller home, so you can spend more time travelling or you want to clear your spare room so there is somewhere for your grandchildren to stay. Follow the tips below and get started today.  


What is clutter?  

Clutter is the stuff you no longer use or love. It’s stuff that reminds you of a difficult time in your life. It’s stuff you liked ten years ago but your tastes have changed. It’s broken TVs, piles of unopened junk mail and old newspapers, hundreds of plastic yoghurt pots that might come in useful one day, pots of dried up paint or nail varnish, unused shelves, old light fittings, pieces of hardboard. All these things are potential clutter.  

How do you deal with clutter?  

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed so you walk away and have a coffee instead. Here are some tips to help.  

  1. Start today

Procrastination is the major obstacle to decluttering. So start now.

  1. Choose a small area to begin with  

Say you decide to sort out your linen cupboard. Set a timer for 30 minutes. Put on some upbeat music and you’re ready to go. Then completely empty the cupboard and give it a quick clean. As you pick up each item ask yourself do I ever use this?  Is it tatty? Count how many towels and sheets you have. Do you really need them all?  

  1. When the timer goes  

Well done. You’ve made a great start. If you feel energised then keep going. But always work on one area at a time, or one pile of papers or a drawer or wardrobe,  and finish it before you start somewhere else. Decide to do a set amount a day such as 30 minutes.   

4.  Letting go of old stuff  

Once you have decided to let things go, it’s crucial to get them out of the house as soon as possible. Unwanted items can be given to charity, friends or family or they can be recycled. Or you might be able to sell them at a car boot sale or second hand clothes shop or advertise in your local newspaper.  

  1.  How does it feel?  

As you put things in the bin or charity shop bag, you may feel a huge sense of relief. Or you may feel you are wasting money by throwing things away. You may also feel guilty that you are letting go of unwanted presents. I know many people feel it is wrong to ever discard a photo, even if it is blurred.   

People are often scared that the minute they part with something they will need it and consequently hold on to copious junk. I call this the “ghost feeling”, it takes a while to get used to a newly decluttered home.

All these feelings are a completely normal part of the decluttering process.They often stem from what you were taught in your family. Many of my clients come from families where hoarding is a common problem.  

  1. How do  you cope with these feelings?  

i.                     Sentimental items  As we get older we accumulate a lifetime of memories. Be sentimental but selective. Choose a beautiful box in which to keep cherished items. Put photos into albums, but only keep the best ones and let the others go.  

ii.                    Broken things Give yourself a deadline for broken items  to be fixed, and if you don’t meet it, discard them.  

iii.                   Presents – if someone gives you an unwanted gift and there is no polite way to refuse, accept gracefully and respect the other person’s feelings. But remember it is your home and if you do not  like something, it will irritate or drag your spirits down every time you look at it. So dump the guilt and let it go.  

iv.                 Paper  Be ruthless with paper. Put junk mail straight in the recycling box and make a rule about how long you will keep newspapers. Remember no-one has time to read everything.  

v.                  Fear  The “what if” thoughts are some of the hardest to deal with. I call these clutter thoughts. I recently bought a new lightweight vacuum cleaner. Then the thought crept into my head, what if this new one breaks down. Perhaps I will keep the old one. But I overcame my wobble and gave away the old one. A useful tip is as you buy something new, let something go. “One in, one out”  

If you really feel panicky about letting go of something, then store it somewhere for six months  - in the loft or shed if you have one.  Put the date on it and put the future date in your diary. If you haven’t used it in six months then give it away.  

  1. Storage   

Once you have decluttered and decided what to keep, it’s time to look at storage. To maintain a clutter-free home it is essential that everything has a home, so it’s easy to find. Store like with like, such as all vases together. We use 20 per cent of our possessions 80 per cent of the time, so put this 20 per cent in the most accessible places. Treat yourself to storage items such as a filing cabinet, a shoe rack or a pretty box in which to keep sentimental items. Buy big plastic storage boxes that stack to save space.  

  1. The benefits  

There are so many benefits to decluttering and letting go of old stuff. You get a  more relaxing home where you can find things when you want them. You enjoy the lighter feeling you get when you look around. Next time you indulge in a little retail therapy you’ll have a much clearer idea of what you own and what you actually need.  

Sue Kay works with individual clients in the London area. A free newsletter with hints and tips is available from  

 For more information contact Sue Kay on 020 8444 5149 or email:        



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