Reader columnist Zoë Fiander, 26, a civil servant living in London, has declared war with clutter and she brings us along on the road to victory.
Clutter. I am engaged in a war against clutter. Wardrobe-bursting, bookshelf-breaking, surface-hogging clutter.
In my experience, people fall into a scale as far as their tolerance for clutter goes; on one end of the scale, you're living in something that looks like a hotel suite but is actually your apartment, selecting clothes from your (impeccably co-ordinated) 12-piece capsule wardrobe. You discard, and then you discard some more. At the other end of the scale, you haven't seen the carpet in several years, you've lost the dog in the living room, and the people from Channel 4 are calling you to ask if you’d like to feature in a documentary. Most people are somewhere in between. I'm there too, wavering between the rival poles of 'I've got too much stuff', and 'I'd really like that in green, too, please.'
Some forms of clutter seem more justifiable than others; it should go without saying that you can never have too many books. They're educational. Up until the point where they collapse in a literary landslide and you die, horribly, by crushing. Hmm.
I love books, but I didn’t fancy death by clutter, and the bookshelves were starting to look a little dangerous. So, as a start, I sorted through them looking for candidates to evict. They ranged from the nondescript (free chick-lit from magazines) to the impenetrable (I'm sorry, but I really did give Finnegans Wake my best shot) to the frankly bizarre (Sloane Ranger handbook; tips on taxidermy). Then I gave them all away courtesy of our work intranet. Yes, even the one about taxidermy.
The thing is with clutter, the occasional blitz is not enough; it’s an ongoing battle. If I'm not careful, I find myself going into shops and emerging, glassy-eyed, with an abused wallet. Dealing with the temptation to buy books has been easier than I expected; I joined the local library and enjoyed feelings of nostalgia (library card! actual stamps on books!) coupled with the discovery that I must at some point have become a responsible adult , because I’ve been a member for almost a year now and haven’t accrued a single fine.
Every time I manage to get rid of something, I feel like I’m one step closer to being a ‘together’ person – you know the type, the sort of person who’s in the gym every morning at 5am and only wears matching underwear.
Decluttering my wardrobe has been a harder project. I thought I’d have a go at making a capsule wardrobe. Google has countless tips on how to construct one, but so far, the only thing I’ve learnt is that it’s impossible unless you’re willing to throw out everything you own and start again with scrupulous colour-matching and a blind eye to trends. I’m not, although I did make an attempt to ‘buy more essentials’ – you can see where this is leading – at last count, I owned 5 pairs of ‘essential’ smart cropped trousers and at least 10 pairs of ‘essential’ smart black shoes. I obviously can’t get rid of them, because, you know, they’re essentials.
Jokes aside, what drives the urge to declutter? While it’s comforting to be surrounded by possessions, I’ve always had a nagging feeling that life might seem a little more straightforward, a little less confusing and chaotic, if I could manage to streamline what I own. Decluttering is therapeutic. Every time I manage to get rid of something, I feel like I’m one step closer to being a ‘together’ person – you know the type, the sort of person who’s in the gym every morning at 5am and only wears matching underwear. Decluttered environment; decluttered mind. It’s a bit of an illusion, of course – every time I’ve met one of these minimal, ‘together’ people I’ve found them either a) extremely boring or b) entirely annoying. However, with a bookshelf that is still overflowing and 10 ‘essential’ pairs of black shoes, I don’t think I’m likely to turn into one of them any time soon.
Picture credit: Rex Features
Could you do like Zoe and get rid of the little things that clutter your life? Share your thoughts in the comments below.