I apologise for the photo. Messy eh!
Yep. I'd agree and it's got my heart rate up even looking at it. So, just imagine what it's been like living with it. Indeed the scene that you witness here is what used to be my plastic film storage area, which until quite recently resided in a haphazard manner behind our kitchen door.
Since I discovered I could take plastic film packaging, such as rice bags and pasta bags, for recycling at our local HWRC I've simply kept stuffing them into bags upon bags until I was next passing. But because I don't pass very often, my storage space got rather unwieldy.
So when a company called simplehuman invited me to road-test their recycling bins, I most definitely bit off their hand. Although I would have loved to have got my hands on a set of these lovely bins, I had to admit that I was already sorted in that area, so instead I opted for this little baby to help me with the clutter shown in the photo above.
The aim was to attach it to the inside of our kitchen cabinet, so it could stay out of sight but due to the design of the panelled doors, it wouldn't fit, so I had to wait until I conjured up the enthusiasm to tackle the area behind the kitchen door, so we could attach it to the wall.
And look, here are the results. It's like a sight for sore eyes. Simple, but very effective. All I need to do now is bundle each full bag into my car boot, ready to take to the HWRC, in an attempt to keep this area clear.
But it's not just my recycling area that's been given the decluttering treatment this month. In fact, the rest of the kitchen has been the target of heavy action too. And it is the first step to tackling the whole house, as well as my car and the kids' garden shed.
It almost brings me to tears when I say I've hit crisis point, but that's the truth of the matter. I have been so busy during the last couple of years, that I've not had chance to attend to the stuff that's hanging about and it's got so bad I've even managed to lose my new reading glasses, not to mention a book that I bought a few years ago about the benefits of decluttering. Oh the irony!
However, since recognising the problem I have worked hard to stop new things coming into the house, by reducing the amount of presents we get and by buying less, but we've still got piles of unsorted crap everywhere due to my lack of time and inclination to deal with it. Throw in a "waste-not want-not" approach for good measure and the result you get are feelings of stress and disorganisation, with a good dose of lethargy, inadequacy and numbness to boot!
Clare Baker from the ClutterClearing consultancy describes the process of managing clutter as a conveyor belt and highlights the problem of things coming onto the Clutter Conveyor Belt faster than they are coming off.
I can relate to this issue, especially with the problem zones that exist in our home. For example, with the number of toys that the children get from friends and family, the kids find it even harder to release older toys that they still love to make room for new ones they get. That's why we now encourage people to choose smaller things such as books or lego that can easily fit into their small bedrooms. Vouchers for the cinema or local attractions also work well.
But there are other areas too. For example when I cleared the kitchen cupboards the other week, I discovered so many glass jars I could have screamed. The irony is that when I started my zero waste challenge, I promised I would NEVER EVER EVER start collecting jam jars. For starters we just don't have the space (point proven). Secondly I am hardly a domestic goddess who makes chutney or jam, and finally I get frustrated that there are very few flat-bottomed jars that can balance a bloody tea-light in position. But having hooked onto the idea of "reuse" being better than "recycling", I gave into my natural inclination as a horder. In fairness, some have come in useful for food storage, loose coins and home-made Christmas presents, but the message here is to KNOW YOUR LIMITS! And once you've got enough of what you need, it's OKAY to let go of the surplus.
So the kitchen has been my starting point on my mission to declutter the house. I needed to start somewhere and this felt the most important place in the house. When my kitchen is cluttered, I feel less inclined to cook and I certainly don't want to spend any more time there than I have to. As a result, I snack more and pick up bad habits such as skipping lunch and letting chores pile up.
Of course, my aim is to get through this process without throwing things into landfill, which is a really good job, not just because of my zero waste philosophy but Clare Baker, who founded the decluttering consultancy, also used to work for WRAP, so she's the kind of person who would also discourage things being skipped just for the sake of extra space.
No doubt there will be items that I will give away on Freecycle, or drop into a charity shop, but my ultimate aim is to collect unwanted things in a box and commit to selling them off at a carboot sale in March, to celebrate Suffolk's Waste Reduction Fortnight.
Just from doing the kitchen alone I've already uncovered the following items:
1 Hand-levered heavy-weight citrus press, replaced by a juicing machine
1 Small glass juice press
2 Plastic egg trays, that came with the fridge.
4 espresso cups, which haven't been used in the 6 years we've lived here.
1 toddler's wash&wipe dining mat
1 party nibbles dish
1 water filter jug, which we can no longer be bothered to use
1 small wooded cutting board
1 vegetable julienne peeler, which is too fiddly.
The challenge now is to store it all away somewhere, before I have the urge to just take it to the charity shop.
So do you want to see some before-and-after-shots of how I got on during my first attempt at decluttering? If you're a nosey-parker like me, I bet you'll want to.
Easy-peasy! This lot just needed tidying away into the cupboard!
Before / After
The Kitchen Table
Having cleared out the cupboard, I created extra storage space to finally shift some clutter off this table. The broom and mop, you see to the right now fit behind the kitchen door. The kids' drawings that are balancing on top of the shelf have been recycled or inserted into their artwork folders. And the teddy-bear which had taken up residence on the kitchen table, has finally been sent to his room. So at last there is somewhere to eat our breakfast!
Before / After
During the next week, I'll be focusing on the dining room, which is a constant source of frustration thanks to the number of uses it has. It really is a clutter magnet in more ways than one and I'm already getting stressed at the thought of it.
If you want to join me in this crusade, you'll find some excellent tips over at ClutterClearing.net. The site has got lots of free information, including videos to motivate you along. That's the strategy I'm following for the moment, because I can't afford a consultation, but if I get stuck, I might just need one!
And if you've got any decluttering experiences of your own, please share your wisdom as I'd love to know how you got on. In fact, I need all the help I can get.