Thursday, 18 August 2011

Hi =)

After an impromptu blogging holiday (probably bad for my blog stats, definitely good for my soul) I'm back. I'm 2.5 weeks into my 4 week holiday - I was thoroughly refreshed by a week long event run by the charity I'm a trustee of (lots of very interesting access chat, which I'll come back to) and now we're getting our teeth into a proper pre-finals clearout. It's immensely cathartic, and we've got rid of a lot. Seriously - about 100 books and several bags of assorted other stuff. De-cluttering is one of my favourite activities. I'm trying, day by day, to live more simply - it's healthy in so many ways.

Anyhow. Sensible stuff tomorrow, I promise - who's for a ten top tips for a proper clearout? You thought I was joking...

So, you have a few days off, the flat is a bit of a state, you've run out of space and a bit of a list of DIY chores has built up. It's time for a bit of a non-spring clean (unless you are reading this in the spring, in which case, nobody likes a show-off.

1) It's easier with a friend (and more pleasant). Ideally, if you're a spend-an-hour-arranging-a-drawer kinda person, your friend will be a get-the-room-looking-tidy (and-shove-the-mess-in-a-cupboard) kinda person. It's far easier for a friend to sort that box under the bed into 4 piles - destined for memory box, keep, throw/recycle, charity shop - and for you to just go through the piles they've made.

2) Be systematic. Before you start, give yourself 15 minutes to wander round the flat / house and make a brief list of what needs done (e.g. : bedroom - quick tidy up, clear out bookshelves, clear out boxes under the bed, switch bookshelf for chest of drawers...). Don't get too caught up in this, and be realistic about what time you have.

3) Be systematic part 2. Go through the list with the highlighter and highlight the big jobs and those you're least looking forward to. It's easy for every 'find a new mirror for the sitting room' to consume tidying time. Start with the biggest / least fun job - it'll feel good when you get it done.

4) Be systematic part 3. That being said, it's immensely satisfying to take one room at a time, because seeing the gleaming tidyness of the sitting room will help prod you through the bathroom cabinet. If taking this approach, tackle the biggest / most put off job in the room first, and then start in the corner furthest from the door and work back towards it.

5) Come back to things. If you're getting too bogged down in a big job (for me it's spending hours making the entire contents of a drawer sit at right angles to each other...) or you can't decide whether you're quite ready to get rid of a certain book, put it down and come back to it. It works for bastardly exam questions, and it works for a clearout, too.

6) Piles are your friend (not the bottom kind). Clearouts get messy pretty quickly. I would recommend starting a bin bag, a paper recycling box, a memory box, a charity shop box and an 'inbox' (things that need action taken on them) before you start. To save energy, tidy things into piles (e.g. needs to go back to the kitchen, supposed to be on bookshelf in the hall) or into these boxes rather than running back and forth with each item.

7) BUT don't leave the piles to grow into mountains by the end of the day. Every time you take a break (we'll get onto that) move the relevant piles wherever they need to go. If that room's already been tidied, put the stuff away. If it's not, put it somewhere you won't trip over when you get round to it. Ditto, don't accumulate thousands of boxes to take to the charity shop, every day or two, take some stuff round, or ask them to come and collect.

8) Be sensible. Tidying is hard work. Take regular breaks, fuel properly and be aware of how you're carrying out each task (are you standing to do something that could be done sitting, attempting to do something that's epic hard for you but easy for your flatmate or lifting from the back and not the knees?).

9) Switch types of job. Switch between physically heavy and less physical tasks (e.g. hoovering and sitting down to sort out stuff in the boxes under the bed, assembling flatpack, folding clothes). You don't have to finish each job before switching to the next - I often run two tasks in parallel, switching every few minutes.

10) Be nice to yourself =) Many things fall under this point, including what's above, but most importantly - don't beat yourself up if you don't get everything done that you wanted - any amount of clearout is great, and you can carry on little by little at weekends or evenings. In that spirit, reward yourself at the end of the day - a lie down with a wheat bag, a Cointreau-spiked hot chocolate or a nice bath (or all all three!).

Does anyone else enjoy clearing out, or am I strange in that regard?


  1. Just been clearing out my office ready for two weeks away - one holiday and one at a conference. Very therapeutic, even if I am a messy so-and-so most of the time.

    Impressed you are 25 weeks into a 4 week holiday - can you tell me how to do that? ;-)) I thought it was only me who managed funny typos like that.

    PS the code word was 'slumie' is that trying to tell me something?!

  2. Wow, 25 weeks holiday. That'd be nice. Managed to get ill again so I'm curled up on the sofa feeling sorry for myself. You know it's a bad day when the wheat bag's been in the microwave 6 times and counting!...