A place for everything, and everything in its place – sound advice on decluttering

— by Antonia Cunliffe

Antonia Cunliffe ‘Mrs Tonia’ portrait by Claire Pepper


It may just be the time of the year but like others I’ve caught the tidying and self-improvement bug. Only partly in jest, I suggested to Alyson that the urge to Take Control of one’s cupboards may be a reaction to the UK’s rudderless politics. In an era of unprecedented chaos, tidying a kitchen drawer is one small thing we can take charge of. Whatever. She agreed and suggested that I take a look at the newly published Declutter by Debora Robertson.

One of the many sound suggestions I’ve taken on board, in order to organise my time and tidy my house and possessions to greater effect, is to create a Declutter Journal (a notebook of portable size in which to record progress). Debora Robertson thinks it important to write this by hand, rather than using an electronic device. So be it. Rather than go shopping, I find a dull grey one with spiral binding among my collection of stationery. This I customise my collaging sections of art postcards on the front and back. Easy-to-find scissors, glue and cards are already in their drawers. Now, what is my overall objective? The ideal would be the saying attributed to the 19th century writer Mrs BeetonA Place for Everything and Everything in its Place. No mean achievement if one isn’t a natural neatnik. Could I emerge from a decluttering process, be it KonMari or other less draconian methods, to be more like this? Put simply, I would like to be able to put my hand on a specific book, a kitchen utensil, sewing kit, pair of shoes or scarf when I want it. And without faff and bother.

According to the helpful suggestions in this decluttering book, organising activities can be broken down into any available fifteen minutes, half an hour or longer period. This has greater appeal than tipping all of my clothes or books in a big pile to sort all at once.



Since I started writing tasks or aspirations in my dedicated notebook, I’ve organised my sewing kits so I have all darning wools and the correct size of embroidery needles together, that enabled me to attack a pile of repairs one by one. Then I moved on to my bookshelves. Great satisfaction in finding several tomes on Surrealism all grouped together. When I go to see the Dorothea Tanning exhibition later this winter at Tate Modern I can read up on it easily and even write a review. Books are important to me, in no way do I want to embrace the Kondo ideal of maintaining a modest thirty books. Why? I have mostly books on art and design and dictionaries and reference books and guide books. I like travelling with both printed maps in addition to apps. Maybe it’s generational. I also donate and recycle books and have just hauled a bag of twelve novels (unwanted and in good condition) to the Oxfam book shop. And Robertson is of this persuasion: keep the ones that you find meaningful or useful and get rid of the remainder. I’m totally with her advice there.

We have a way to go in my smaller downsized house. I’ve had to rewind to eighteen months ago in my photographic archive stored on a tablet to see how clean and uncluttered it looked then. Proof that this is attainable. Subsequently we have cleared our storage units of the good possessions and are now uncovering unloved things that once resided in a more capacious home. Children’s toys and books will be given away or recycled (my sons are both grown-up now). It’s going to be a long process to have a tidier, orderly house with less in it. But I believe we can get there in the end and live in a more sustainable way. With greater reduction, reuse and recycling of possessions overall. The advice here is bound to be helpful on this path.


Declutter: The get-real guide to creating calm from chaos by Debora Robertson available HERE

Keep Reading

New views on dying – and a visit to a Death Cafe

  It may just be the time of the year but like others I’ve caught the tidying and self-improvement bug. Only partly in jest, I suggested to Alyson that the urge to Take Control of one&#8217…