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Five ways to declutter and feel happier while you’re stuck at home

Decluttering during a time of crisis, like the current pandemic we're experiencing, can actually be beneficial to your mental health

In these uncertain times, it’s never been more important to look after our mental health.

While there are obvious connections between exercise and feeling more positive – thanks to the release of the happy hormone, serotonin – it seems our homes could provide us with many more opportunities to keep sane during the lockdown.

Gretchen Rubin, a happiness expert, believes organised homes reduce anxiety. In her book Outer Order Inner Calm, she says that while it feels trivial, tidying up or decluttering can really help us feel “more in control of our lives generally”.

Gretchen Rubin has written a book Outer Order Inner Calm on the power of tidying!

Living through a pandemic, as we’re doing now, is unprecedented – and something we have no control over – so she believes during these times it’s important to take control of those areas we can.

READ MORE: What is Swedish Death Cleaning - and why is it causing such a decluttering buzz?

“We may be deeply worried about the problems of the world, and we’re right to be worried,” she writes in her 2019 book.

“Yet the promise of outer order is something that we can tackle on our own right now. By doing so, we help restore our equanimity – and this isn’t a futile or selfish gesture, because that equanimity makes us more effective when we seek to address the problems of the world.”

Transforming your home – and your mood

Dilly Carter from Declutter Dollies knowns only too well the power of decluttering. She’s built her business out of sorting homes, but her love of organising is rooted in a sad time of her life.

Talking on White Wine Question Time, Dilly told podcast host Kate Thornton that her career began from “finding my mum in the chaos that she was in”.

Dilly Carter and Melissa Hemsley appear on the latest episode of White Wine Question Time

Her mum, who was in and out of psychiatric units for most of Dilly’s life, was living in a chaotic house. 

“She'd just gone downhill and she hadn't visited me because she was hiding everything,” she told Kate. 

“When I finally went to her house and saw the chaos she was living in, I transformed her house over that weekend. That was the beginning of the Declutter Dollies – that was me taking a horrendous situation and turning it around and thinking I can help other people.”

READ MORE: 9 simple ways to declutter your life

Podcast host and keen cleaner Kate shares Dilly’s love of being neat and tidy.

She said: “Cleaning has always been my therapy and people don't understand it. My Dustbuster, which I love, was my gift to myself on my 40th birthday”

Fellow guest, chef Melissa Hemsley, said that she feels “safer and more zen” when everything is tidy. 

Why decluttering makes you feel better 

It alleviates stress Cluttered spaces can make you feel unsettled. If your home is tidy and you’ve got rid of things you no longer need, it frees up mental headspace and stops you getting stressed. Just think of that feeling when you can’t find something, and you really need it. That will stop instantly if your home is more organised.

It’s cleaner COVID-19 appears to live on surfaces for a length of time, so Government advice is to clean if someone has the illness. If you’ve got lots of clutter, it’s harder to clean, so a streamlined environment could help you stay fit and healthy.

READ MORE: Care home is calling for virtual volunteers to ‘adopt a grandparent’ and tackle loneliness

It cheers you up A study by the University of California showed that those people who described their homes as messy actually produced more cortisol, a hormone that responds to stress. The same study showed that women are more adversely affected by clutter and those that live in a tidy house are less depressed than their messier counterparts.

Having a tidy and decluttered home can make you feel happier

It helps the planet: Once you’ve tidied and sorted, you can actually see what you have. Then there’s no need to buy yet another stripey top or packet of pasta (if you can actually find it in the supermarket!). You’ll consume less, which is a good thing for your pocket and the planet.

It makes you feel in control: Life outside your front door is pretty unsettled, so in times like this you need to make your home safe and secure. Tidying up, sorting through things or just cleaning can all make you feel more in control of your life. 

How to declutter like Dilly

We’re all going to have more free time over the coming weeks and months, so why not use this to make your home into your sanctuary? Here are some top tips from Dilly to start you on your path to decluttering: 

1. Sort out your cupboards

Dilly’s top tip is to start decanting stuff from packages into containers to sort out messy kitchen cupboards.

“Use glass containers, use containers of any sort,” Dilly said on White Wine Question Time. “Instead of having cupboards full of pulses, pastas, rices that you can't see, that you're scrambling through all the time… Emptying those things into containers so that you can see, stops us overspending, stops us overbuying.” 

2. Keep like products together

“Not only does it look aesthetically pleasing it helps you find things easily,” says Dilly on her Instagram account Declutter Dollies. “You can choose what works for you, colour, style, genre, brand, but like with like is the rule.”

3. Sort out your clutter traps

We’ve all got them – whether it’s the dining table or the bedroom chair – these traps accumulate clutter on a daily basis. Allow yourself ten minutes every day to do a quick tidy of these areas, otherwise it will get out of hand. If that doesn’t help, then what’s Dilly’s advice?

“Get rid of the clutter trap!,” she says on Instagram. “If you cannot maintain it for its purpose move it, clear it, but don’t just use it to throw everything and anything on!” 

READ MORE: The sofa is your multiplex: how to keep cinema alive in the age of coronavirus

4. Only buy what you need

This is something that’s never been more relevant in these days of panic buying – we should only be buying what we need there and then. Don’t buy more cutlery than what you family needs. Don’t buy another pair of leopard print shoes. And stop buying so many cleaning products.

“The number of homes I go into that stockpile products in excess is sadly more than less,” says Dilly. “What is under your sink and why? Reduce your plastic; buy refillable where possible.” 

5. Teach them young

As we’re all home-schooling at the moment, what better lesson to teach your kids than how to be tidy and organised? This is something Dilly feels very passionate about. 

READ MORE: Children are painting rainbows to place in their windows to raise the spirits of passers-by

“Sitting and sorting with your kids is valuable in so many ways,” she says on an Instagram post.

“Teach them about donating and why their old toys/clothes can go to families in need. It will teach them the value and importance of their belongings and why we should look after what we have and why organising saves times.”


Listen to Dilly Carter talk more about decluttering, alongside chef Melissa Hemsley, who talks about using comedies to deal with grief. Hear them now on iTunes and Spotify.